Meeting Wayne Macauley

Sadly, the refrain when I said that we were meeting with Wayne Macauley was – “who”?  Four weeks ago I fell into the same category, but two books later and with a signed copy of his short story collection Other Stories I am a convert.

Robyn and I made our way to the rather flash Langham Hotel and waited somewhat nervously in the lobby for our allotted half hour of his time.  I was busy looking at the restaurant beside us,  full of people gainfully making their way through tiered plates full of gorgeous morsels when we spotted Wayne Macaulay coming out of the lift and pounced! I hope he wasn’t too taken aback.

Robyn launched in with a question about his unique writing style. There are few if any commas, no speech marks and a rollicking sense of wanting to keep reading – fast.  She was curious as to how this style developed.  It turns out that Wayne is a true craftsman.  His writing gets worked and then reworked, he hones it down gradually until you get the sense he is completely satisfied. Two and a half years seemed to be the average time to produce a book and he makes use of copious notes and journals that he has compiled while working on the outlines of the story.

IMG_0715I asked Wayne if he knew the ending of his book The Cook before he started. I was quite taken aback when he said he did, probably because the ending came as such a surprise that I couldn’t imagine how he could have just dreamed it up. However having already decided on the endings to his books Wayne feels that this gives him the impetus to keep the story moving forward. His other skill is to stretch believability.

He was happy to hear that I had read Caravan story feeling quite comfortable with the premise that a group of artists, writers and actors could all be uplifted from their homes and transported to the country. It wasn’t until I was half way through the book that I suddenly thought – wait a minute – people wouldn’t really let that happen? It turned out that this was just the reaction he was wanting, as her termed it the “unreality in reality”. I felt quite proud that I was the ideal reader!

The half hour was over before we knew it, which was a shame because you get the sense that Wayne Macauley has a lot to say. We had touched on Arts funding, urban sprawl, the foodie culture and pop idol reality TV. Wayne talked about aiming high and having a low boredom threshold and that to be a good writer he, as well as the reader need to be stimulated by what he is writing about.

I wanted to discuss how New Zealanders seem to have little knowledge of Australian writers, and if it was the same in reverse for Australians, but our time was up, so that will just have to wait until next time!

Down with cupcakes: Everlasting Feast with Lauraine Jacobs

How can sitting all day listening to other people talk be so tiring?  Two more sessions at the end of the day, and I was in need of something to perk me up a bit. The Lauraine Jacobs session entitled Everlasting Feast – the title of her new book, unfortunately didn’t quite do the trick.  Perhaps it was because her interviewer Graeme Beattie had suffered an accident and couldn’t be there, so everyone was thrown a bit, or maybe it’s because I was feeling a bit jaded about cooking,  endless hours of watching My Kitchen Rules had taken its toll! I only had myself to blame.

Lauraine’s interviewer Nicola Leggett was also her publisher and was reluctant for Lauraine to go into too many details about stories from the book, she thought that it would be much better if we went out and got a copy for ourselves – not surprisingly! I found this to be a shame, if I had heard more about the stories and recipes it would have probably enabled me to feel a bit more enthusiastic, what we did hear however assured me that it is jam-packed with wonderful tales of Lauraine’s life, the people she has met, Julia Child being one of them –  the characters, events and of course food that she has enjoyed.

I did pick up a few tips. There is butter and then there is BUTTER apparently and it should be kept in tin foil, and if not used at once then freeze it. Bakers and cooks don’t usually converge – you are generally one or the other, Lauraine always has smoked salmon, eggs and a great piece of cheese in her fridge, her favourite ingredients are lemons, butter, salt, and  herbs. Eclairs could well be the next big thing, cup cakes are definitely out!