Wellington author interview: Pip Adam

Author image by Victoria Birkinshaw

Spacious open plan living. Nest or invest. Classy urban retreat. If you’ve spent a bit of time browsing real estate brochures, you’ve probably read these words before. But there’s another, darker story of renting and home ownership in New Zealand, one without floor plans or glossy full-page photos: The New Animals, by Pip Adam.

Adam’s work has appeared in a range of journals and anthologies, with her short story collection Everything We Hoped For published in 2010 and her debut novel I’m Working on a Building in 2013. She’s been described as “the woman who is making literature subversive fun in this country again… The most wired-in to the seething discontent below the housing bubble.” So put down the brochure and get a copy of The New Animals today!

The blurb for The New Animals references intergenerational tension, however the story also looks at tensions of class, wealth and gender. What was it like shaping a story around these conflicts?

I always think conflict and complexity give ‘life’ to stories. It seems like a boringly obvious thing to say but it is also constantly a surprise to me. I often use writing to sort out things that confuse me about life and I guess confusion is often a state of conflict for me – one idea against another, or maybe things acting in ways that don’t gel with my world view that cause a disruption to the things I believe and understand. For me it is always scary writing about people who I am not, but I have always loved the idea of trying to imagine myself into a mindset that seems confusing to me. Like often I might see someone do something and I have this idea that people always act in ways they see as ‘good’ or ‘right’. I’ve met lots of people and no one ever seems to make decisions by thinking ‘this is wrong thing to do’, even people who have broken the law. So yeah, I am always interested in trying to imagine myself into a mindset that would see decisions I see as odd as the ‘right’ decision.​ I enjoyed it particularly in this work because it was a bit like Sudoko or those tile puzzles, where someone would act and there would be a domino tumble of other people being forced to act.

You recently talked about your relationship with fashion – its power and ability to answer societal questions, but also its environmental impact. How did you approach this in The New Animals, especially with fashion playing such a large role in the story?

I am really interested in design of all types, particularly the form and function, or form versus function. Before I started the book I had this love of fashion which I think was a hangover from my hairdressing days. Like I loved seeing how fashion changed and yeah, also I really like looking at beautiful things. For this book I started taking a more intense interest. I became a rampant foll​ower of fashionable people and people in the fashion industry. I just consumed everything I could. I visited shops as well, touched the clothes, saw them on the hangar and on people. I was also really interested in the history of fashion and some of the theories around fashion. I am especially obsessed with the work of Rei Kawakubo and the way she deconstructs the human form. I love the play of her work but also the real seriousness and almost horror of some of her work. I am also quite obsessed with Alexander McQueen’s life and work – in a lot of cases the violence of it. One of the hard things about writing about fashion is that it is often talked about in quite ‘light’ ways. I had to read very deeply to find the language that had weight and importance. There is a risk that fashion can seem shallow because, I think, it is ephemeral and seems to be about adornment when often it is about so much more.

The New Animals is very grounded in Auckland. How do you think the city’s geography helped with the story?

I really love Auckland. I grew up there and I visit a lot.​ It’s interesting you ask about geography because I think it is a really interesting city that way. Like you have that massive volcanic basin that is the harbour and then you have that network of volcanoes that have formed Mt Wellington and Mt Eden and, yeah, I often think of Auckland as this volatile place. My parents live close to Stonefields which is a development built on the site of an old quarry. Auckland has this feeling for me of land acted on. Land in flux, land in change and to me this book is a lot about that, about change and fluidity and evolution and I think walking around Auckland, travelling over it which I did heaps of for this book it’s impossible not to feel that. For instance, the train I catch a lot from Glen Innes travels over the Orakei Basin, this incredibly changeable place. If the tide is in, it looks like a body of water, but when the tide is out it transforms into this muddy almost wasteland. Everything that was covered by the water is exposed. I like that as an image as well, the way things can be exposed by changes in environment. Tides are a big part of my thinking around this book. The way the moon pulls these huge bodies of water around, the way they kind of create these weather patterns deep below us. And then don’t even get me started about how humans began as fish, how the ocean must have some strange pull on us still.

One aspect that really stood out was the friendship between Carla and Duey, with the contrast between their interactions and their personal thoughts, and their awareness of the friendship’s decline. Was this relationship a difficult one to write?

For a long time, in the writing process, Carla and Duey had been lovers and it just wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do. We so often place the ‘sex’ relation above all other intimate relationships. I am really interested in friendship. I find it so interesting. What keeps friendships alive is so complicated but also so purely unselfish. I liked the idea that Carla and Duey were at a stage where the relationship (as if it were a separate thing from the two people in it) was in decline, like despite all their care and thought for each other nothing was going to save it. It was difficult to write because I don’t read many books about friendships that are like that, so in a way the models I had were very much about love and sex relationships. So it took some sorting out, like some real close work. The other thing that I loved about writing that relationship is that I think it is pretty cool how humans can think one thing and then act in a better way. I love how we do that for each other. I guess also, finally, I was interested in deconstructing some of the ‘work’ we do in human relationships. Like, I find people pretty confusing sometimes, a lot of the relating stuff doesn’t come automatically to me. So, I am often thinking a lot about what the right thing to say is or what a person is saying (like actually saying). It was fun to make some of that work apparent, to sort of uncover that and show it.

Reviews of The New Animals have generated some discussion about New Zealand literature and the reviewing process. What has it been like seeing the passion your work has brought out in people?

Writing is a weird thing. I really like the part of writing that takes place in a room by myself. I love working on something, like really working on something – crafting it and messing it up and having to fix it and ​living with it. I find I get so ‘into’ that work (like I literally feel like I climb inside the story) that I forget that other people will read it. So yeah, sometimes publication is a bit of a shock. Like I remember after my first book was published someone I didn’t know said to me, ‘I read your book,’ and I was like, ‘I never said you could.’ I just forget that people will read it. So, it’s pretty amazing when people I respect say they like what I’ve written. People will email me and tell me in person and it means heaps because I’ve sort of ‘shown my hand’ as a human. I’ve said, ‘I made this. I think this is how life is awesome,’ and when someone says, ‘I see what you’ve made and it made me think this is how I think life is awesome,’ that is just incredible. I love how art can do that and I’m not sure much else can. I put a lot of stake in passion. I love the way, in my life, I have been granted the opportunity to come into contact with many people who make me feel passionate and I just get fired up about the idea that our work sort of sparks off each other. Like no matter what is going on. No matter what other people are saying about our work, we can sustain ourselves. It’s like the biggest collaboration. Because although I love those times by myself working, I am never far from the work of others, I will be reading those writers to keep me going, to keep me passionate.

Pip Adam's The New Animals

Ngaio Marsh Award winners announced for 2017

Syndetics book coverRecently the 2017 Ngaio Marsh Award winners were announced. The Best Crime Novel was awarded to Fiona Sussman for her novel titled The Last Time We Spoke.
The Best First Novel prize was awarded to Finn Bell, for his novel titled Dead Lemons.
The Ngaio Marsh Awards originated in 2010 for excellence in New Zealand crime, mystery, and thriller writing. In 2016 the award for best First Novel was added and in 2017 another category was also added for the Best Non Fiction.

Come write in @ WCL for #NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is an international event where novelists from around the world pledge to write 50,000 words in the month of November. Anyone can take part, and you can write anything you want (it doesn’t even have to be a novel).

To help support all of our budding NaNoWriMo writers across the city, Wellington Central Library will be available as a ‘Come Write In’ venue and have special places reserved just for you to come into to the library, get together, get writing and smash that word count!

To really help kick things off with a bang, on the first Saturday of November (Nov 4th),  come along to the Central Library for ‘Let’s Get Writing – NaNoWriMo 2017′!

This event will be hosted by your Wellington Municipal Liaisons in the Mezzanine Room of the Central Library (upstairs on the same level as Clark’s Cafe) between 1-4pm.

So come along to get a massive head-start on your novel, meet some fellow writers, get some free stickers, and make it to 50,000 words!

So what about the rest of November?

After that first write-a-thon, NaNoWriMo writers can convene on the 1st floor of the Central Library every Saturday & Sunday in November between 1-4pm, where the computer books area (at the north end of the floor) will be reserved especially for you!

To help you organize you’re writing schedule, we’ve put together the handy table below:

Date Time Central Library Location
Saturday 4 Nov 1-4pm Mezzanine Room
Sunday 5 Nov 1-4pm 1st Floor – Computer Books Area
Saturday 11 Nov 1-4pm 1st Floor – Computer Books Area
Sunday 12 Nov 1-4pm 1st Floor – Computer Books Area
Saturday 18 Nov 1-4pm 1st Floor – Computer Books Area
Sunday 19 Nov 1-4pm 1st Floor – Computer Books Area
Saturday 25 Nov 1-4pm 1st Floor – Computer Books Area
Sunday 26 Nov 1-4pm 1st Floor – Computer Books Area

You will need to be registered at www.nanowrimo.org and have Wellington set as your Home Region to take part in NaNoWriMo. If you have any questions about the event you can post them in the Wellington Regional forum too.

Stay tuned for a special blog post with librarians’ resource recommendations, and happy writing!


The Man Booker Prize winner for 2017 has been announced!

Syndetics book coverThe award winning short story writer George Saunders has now become an award winning novelist, with his debut novel titled Lincoln in the Bardo being awarded the 2017 Man Booker Prize. The Texan born Saunders originally trained as a geophysicist. His first of six collections of short stories was published in 1996, titled CivilWarLand in bad decline. He won the 2014 Folio Prize for the collection Tenth of December: stories.

Must reads from this month’s fiction selections

The following titles have been chosen from our monthly new fiction selections. They are all highly recommended for great reading.

Syndetics book cover A wonderfully rendered retelling of this exciting classic novel.

Syndetics book coverOne of the best apocalyptic science fiction novels yet.

Syndetics book coverA gripping highly charged mystery.

Syndetics book coverA suspenseful, almost gothic story of family, love and disappointment in one New Zealand family.

Syndetics book cover An emotionally deep novel about survival, fear and courage.

Win with Excio!

Have you discovered Excio yet? You can enjoy a rotating collection of fantastic book cover images for your device wallpaper, discover new authors, check out OverDrive eBooks and audiobooks, and share your favourites on social media. Plus, if you download Excio and use it for the next four weeks, the more you share the higher your chance of winning one of our great prizes!

Each week, the top 10 users who share the most book images will receive a voucher for a Clark’s cafe muffin and coffee combo at Central Library. On the 10th of November we will select 3 supreme winners and reward their efforts with Unity Book vouchers:

  • First place – $100
  • Second place – $50
  • Third place – $30

To get started, head to Google Play to download the Excio app for your device.
The app is currently only available for Android devices, an iOS app is still in development.

For more information check out our earlier blog post or the Excio FAQs – if you need further help, email us at enquiries@wcl.govt.nz.

Terms & conditions apply:

  • This competition is open to all Wellington City residents
  • You may enter as many times as you like.
  • Entries will be accepted from 11th October 2017 until 10th November 2017.
  • Only entries received on or between these dates will be considered.
  • Winners will be selected and notified by 17th November 2017.
  • Wellington City Libraries will make reasonable attempts to contact the winner. Another winner will be drawn if contact cannot be made.
  • The winning prizes cannot be exchanged for cash or similar, or another prize.
  • Your contact information will be kept confidential by Wellington City Libraries and not disclosed or sold to any other party.


Kazuo Ishiguro wins the 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature

Syndetics book coverThe Swedish Academy has awarded this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature to British writer Kazuo Ishiguro. Born in Japan in 1954, his family moved to Britain in 1960 and he became a British citizen in 1982. After studying English and Philosophy, he went on to study creative writing, for which his thesis became his first published novel, A Pale View of Hills, in 1982.
He has since had seven novels published and much short fiction, four screenplays and several song lyrics. His work has received many awards including the 1989 Booker Prize for The remains of the Day; this was adapted to film in 2003. His novel Never Let Me Go, published in 2005 was also adapted to film in 2010.
Kazuo Ishiguro’s most recent novel, titled The Buried Giant was published in 2015.

We have Gurgl boxes in our libraries this week

If you haven’t heard of Gurgl before, it’s a new social enterprise that is a library for preloved infant clothing. It provides a platform for parents to recycle their children’s wardrobes and then borrow more, selecting the items they would like to borrow online. The longer you are a member of Gurgl, the more clothing items you can borrow. Gurgl recently won Massey University’s Go Innovate! competition for 2017.

There are Gurgl clothing collection boxes in all our libraries until 14th October: they welcome children’s clothing donations whether or not you would like to become a member of this new service. If you’d like to learn more the service this not-for-profit organisation is offering, visit their website at www.gurgl.nz

Did you know we have Britannica Online?

Encyclopaedia Britannica is amazing! You get access to three sites in one: Children, Young Adults, and the Reference Center for older students and adults. This means you get to choose the level that best meets your needs, whether you are conducting research, completing homework for school or simply wanting to learn something new.

Within each of the three sites, you have access to tens of thousands of encyclopaedia entries, curated magazine articles, images, videos, audio clips, primary sources, maps, research tools, recommended websites and pop-up access to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus. And Britannica Library works on any device—PC, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Check out this video to get an overview of all the amazing features:

If you have any questions about Encyclopaedia Britannica, please let us know.

The Zinio for Libraries app is coming to an end!


On Monday 11 December, the Zinio for Libraries app will stop providing access to our RBdigital magazines.  From that date it will be locked to users. Previously the app was going to finish in October, but the date has been extended.

When you open it, the app will display this message:

“Zinio for Libraries has merged with RBdigital.

To access your magazine collection, please download the new RBdigital app now by clicking here [this will be a download link for either IOS or Android, depending on your device].

Note: Your username and password will remain the same.”

“The old Zinio for Libraries app will remain on your device until you delete it.”

From mid-July if you opened your existing Zinio for Libraries app you will have been prompted to download the new RBdigital app.  Otherwise, you can visit your app store (Apple store or Google Play) and search for “RBdigital” in the store.  All your login details will remain the same.  The new RBdigital app will have all your previous checkouts available – read our earlier post for more information or check out the RBdigital app user guide.