Chatting with the locals

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With Laurence Fearnley in Christchurch

Have you ever fantasised about having a chat with any of our local authors?

Whether this would be a dream come true for you, or your worst nightmare, you might enjoy having a look at some of the interviews that intrepid librarians have already conducted with local authors on your behalf.

What’s it like to get up-close-and-personal with an author whose work you love?

First read that author’s books! Sounds obvious, but… interviewers have been caught short before. You’ll start to feel confident. At this point, don’t be tempted to read other interviewers with their super cunning questions, it will crush you. The day of the interview dawns and you walk with boots of lead to the venue thinking all the while: Why, why, why do I do this to myself? The interview starts and amazingly, the esteemed author is a lovely, interesting talker as well as a gifted writer. At some point there is interview lift-off and you feel high. Back home, you transcribe the interview (this is so much easier to do if you remembered to switch on the recorder). And then it is all over. Until next time.

I counted at least twenty interviews with New Zealand writers at this library link; here’s a couple to get you started:

  • Paul Cleave Christchurch-based author of taut, psychological thrillers who has achieved international recognition
  • Sarah-Kate Lynch and Bronwyn talk food, drink, love and white pj’s in this fun interview
  • Laurence Fearnley  and I love the same book – one of hers – so that was a good start!
  • Fiona Kidman talks friendship and writing with Rachel

Top of my list of Kiwi writers to interview in the future would be Lloyd Jones and Shonagh Koea. How about you? Any New Zealand author you’d like to chat to, and what would you really like to ask?

Handsome agreeable people: a conversation with Sarah-Kate Lynch

Sarah-Kate Lynch and Bronwyn10am – it’s the first session for me today, and it almost feels more like I am just hanging out in a friend’s lounge.  Maggie and Sarah-Kate are old friends, and this is really clear from the way they are chatting and sharing memories together.  The atmosphere is warm, although the room apparently is not – Sarah-Kate feels the cold, and has packed pashminas ‘just in case’ – a red one for her and a lime green one for Maggie.

I need to point out at this stage that Sarah-Kate has hands-down won the award for best-dressed festival speaker: an impeccable LBD, perfectly accessorised bracelet, handbag, shoes and necklace, and yes, even the emergency pashmina matched.  “Colour-coordinating to a fault”, as Maggie points out.

In her introduction, Maggie comments that Sarah-Kate has ” … the knack of writing books that we wish we could be in …”, and the room thoroughly agrees.  Her latest book Dolci di love is about families and friendships, babies and biscotti. Set in Tuscany, it’s a warm read, with gorgeously drawn characters:  “All my books are full of handsome agreeable people”, she notes; and like all of her novels, it makes you laugh and cry and laugh again.  There are some tough issues to deal with in this book, but somehow, as always, hope wins out.  As Sarah-Kate herself points out, “I want to believe that there’s hope and that there’s a happy ending for everybody.”

As well as talk about Dolci di love, there’s also some discussion of her next novel – set in Manhattan and Charleston, South Carolina, it’s about bees, she says.  And a character called Honey, or Sugar, or something else sweet (I forget which!  I am a note-taking failure!). 

There’s talk about blogging – after years of disparaging blogs, Sarah-Kate has fallen under their spell, and now has her very own blog.  She recommends a book (Blood, Bones & Butter, by Gabrielle Hamilton), recalls her earlier days in journalism, mentions her editor’s jobs, her new role at Next magazine and her columns in Women’s Day magazine, and generally makes me feel like I am the laziest, most unachieving-est person in the world.

At the end of the session I go and introduce myself – we did an email interview a month or so ago, and it’s great to be able to go and say hi face-to-face – and I skip off to my next session a very happy festival-girl indeed.

A limitless supply of hope – Sarah-Kate Lynch and Dolci di love

CoverWhen a friend asked me out for the evening to a fundraiser at the Oxford Working Men’s Club, I said yes without really listening.  By happy accident, it turned out to be an evening with international bestselling author Sarah-Kate Lynch on the first stop of a tour to launch her new book Dolci di Love.  Tickets sales along with proceeds and royalties from the evening were donated to the Red Cross Canterbury Earthquake appeal.

For me, an incurable romantic is a person blessed with a limitless supply of hope. They are not brought down to earth by the ordinariness of everyday life. Their joie de vivre is not snuffed by sadness.  They are not put off by adversity, but instead see challenge. They use escapism to recuperate. Look for beauty in pain. Seek light where there is dark. They read romance when things are tough.

Sarah-Kate  is such a woman. She talks of happy accidents, including her accidental career as a writer, and the “happy” accident that occurred when her husband “the Ginger” lost his job when the film he was working on got cancelled. They used the opportunity to tour around Italy, finding themselves in Tuscany. She thought of Tuscany as overhyped, and was  delighted to find it was a “fairytale waiting to happen”, with “hillptop medieval towns like jewels atop a crown”.

Inspired, she decided to return there to write her latest novel. With  romantic notions swirling, she arrived in a Fiat Bambino, baby blue to match her cinched-in-at-the-waist suit.  She had enrolled in an Italian language school and was ready to eat every meal with her new Italian family.

To her horror, the sun was not shining. No,  it was raining, and not just light rain, but a “biblical downpour”. Her suit was soaked and she was freezing. She drove on to the house where her lovely Italian family lived. It was in a run down part of town, with graffiti on the walls, and there was no “family” –  just one 80-year-old-lady who didn’t speak any English. Sarah-Kate is a vegetarian, and had to explain this to her host in Italian. The closest she could get was  “I don’t eat dog”.

It was cold, there was only a single blanket on the bed, no heating and … well, you get the picture.  So, being the incurable romantic, she booked herself into a nice room down the road, and started writing anyway.

So, if you’re an incurable romantic, visit one of the libraries that we have already re-opened and have a chat with one of our friendly staff for some inspring reading, or simply browse our collection of Sarah-Kate Lynch novels.

We hope to have an interview with Sarah-Kate in the next few days – in the meantime read more on her facebook page.