How long can it take to write an epic young adult fantasy novel ? How do you go about creating an immersive and detailed fantasy world ? How do you go about writing believable and compelling fantasy creatures ? What does it take as a writer to bring such a huge project to a successful fruition ? What is it like to win a PitDark publishing competition ? And indeed what is a PitDark publishing competition ?
Well, our interview with debut fantasy novelist Nikky Lee reveals the answers to all these questions.
Fantasy novelist Nikky Lee has just released her first full length novel, The Rarkyn’s Familiar. The book is a thrilling, young adult high fantasy epic tale (the first in a series), set in a wonderfully imagined and detailed fantasy universe. The tale revolves round a young girl, Lyss, who accidently gets magically bonded to a half bird half person creature called a Rarkyn; A bond that threatens to drive her mad. The book is a quest tale that features various forms of magic, and a narrative where different types of worlds intersect . At its core, the novel explores themes of acceptance, revenge, redemption and how to deal with anxiety.
Lee grew up in Western Australia and now lives in Aotearoa New Zealand with a husband, a dog and a couch potato cat. Whilst The Rarkyn’s Familiar is Nikky’s first novel, it is far away from her first published work. Nikky has already won a whole host of awards for her short stories, as well as being published in numerous magazines, anthologies. Nikky has also had works broadcasted on the radio.
We are thrilled that Nikky Lee took time out from her very busy schedule to discuss her new book, and we wish to extend our heartfelt thanks to her. For more information visit www.nikkythewriter.com.
This interview was done in conjunction with Caffeine and Aspirin, the arts and entertainment review show on Radioactive FM. You can hear the interview below. You can also place a reserve for The Rarkyn’s Familiar which is due into the library soon, for details see below.
Rarkyn’s Familiar. / Lee, Nikky
“A perfect story for fans of Sarah J. Maas’ THRONE OF GLASS. An orphan bent on revenge. A monster searching for freedom. A forbidden pact that binds their fates. Lyss had heard her father’s screams, smelled the iron-tang of his blood. She witnessed his execution. And plotted her revenge. Then, a violent encounter traps Lyss in a blood-pact with a Rarkyn from the otherworld, imbuing her with the monster’s forbidden magic-a magic that will erode her sanity. To break the pact, she and the Rarkyn must journey to the heart of the Empire. All that stands in their way are the mountains, the Empire’s soldiers, and Lyss’ uneasy alliance with the Rarkyn. But horrors await them on the road-horrors even Rarkyns fear. The most terrifying monster isn’t the one Lyss travels with. It’s the one that’s awoken inside her. Monsters of a feather flock together.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Amongst many other things Maggie Rainey-Smith is a poet, novelist, and short story writer. And just recently Maggie released her latest collection of poetry called Formica.
Formica is an honest and humorous collection of poems written in an unsentimental fashion that both speaks of Maggie herself and her individual history but also the wider issues that envelope individual lives. The poems in the collection are rooted in the 1950s, avoiding the pitfalls of nostalgia, the poems instead give the reader a more precise and unsentimental look at life.
The collection moves from youth to warrior crone and also pays homage to love in its various forms.
Maggie uses as her raw material the lives of all women of her generation – “lives too often defined by their fertility and kitchen appliances when there was fun and fulfilment to be had elsewhere. Not that Maggie doesn’t adore her Kenwood mixer, but it lines up with abiding friendships, granddaughters, travel, sex and the joy of words.”
She is a remarkable talent and when the opportunity to interview her about Formica arose, we leapt at it. This interview with was done in conjunction with the Caffeine and Aspirin arts and entertainment review show on Radioactive FM and was conducted by Caffeine and Aspirin host, Tanya Ashcroft. Below is the podcast of that interview for your enjoyment:
We are thrilled that Maggie took time out from her very busy schedule to talk to us about Formica, her life, and her writing career. We wish to extend our heartfelt thanks.
Content warning: interview includes adult themes
Maggie’s books are available to borrow from the library.
About turns: a novel / Rainey-Smith, Maggie
“Irene has a secret. It slips out inadvertently during book club when the wine has been flowing too freely. Her teenage years as a marching girl are not something she had wanted her friend Ferrida to know about. She’s always wanted Ferrida’s approval, for her friendship is as important and fraught as the one with Paula, when they marched together all those years ago. But friends don’t necessarily march to the same beat, and Irene finds it hard to keep step. ABOUT TURNS, with its humorous insights into New Zealand women and their allegiances, will have you and your friends laughing in unison.” ( Adapted from Catalogue)
Turbulence / Rainey-Smith, Maggie
“Adam is fortyish, coasting along and relatively content while his glamorous partner, Louise, takes centre stage. But half a lifetime ago, his aspirations were higher and he was certain about the future he’d share with Judy. When an unexpected invitation arrives, uncomfortable truths resurface and the secrets of the past spill out. How will Adam manage to attend a reunion in the company of both Louise and Judy – not to mention stepfatherhood and a state of siege at work? ” (Catalogue)
Daughters of Messene / Rainey-Smith, Maggie
“Your history, Artemis, is full of female warriors.” Artemis has the name of a goddess, but she has trouble living up to it. Instead she usually just runs away. She’s running now … away from the married man she’s been seeing, and the Greek community in New Zealand who think they know what’s best, and into the arms of family in the Peloponnese that she’s never met. She carries her mother’s ashes and an ipod with recordings, which bit by bit tell the shocking story of what happened to Artemis’ grandmother during the Greek Civil War.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
The longlist for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction (the fiction element of The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards) has just been announced. And as always it reflects the rich, diverse, and vibrant literary scene in New Zealand. In this blog we are going to take a very quick look at the ten fiction contenders, but we strongly recommend a close look at the equally excellent Non-Fiction categories.
In the longlist this year we have…
Gigi Fenster’s A Good Winter; a gripping dark and, in some respects, demanding thriller set in an apartment block among a group of women. The novel was initially abandoned by the author who said “The lead character took over the work in not-so-good ways.’ Gigi eventually submitted it to and won the Michael Gifkins prize. Aljce in Therapy Land by Alice Tawhai is the debut novel from the acclaimed short story writer. Online relationships, stoned characters and logic, workplace bullying, quantum physics all overlayed with aspects of Alice in Wonderland in this smart, funny, and complex work. Entanglement by Bryan Walpert is a multi-layered, multi-faceted work that weaves big ideas about the nature of existence and time into the integral fabric of the plot, whilst also being very personal about the characters’ inner lives. In Stephanie Johnson’s Everything Changes the central characters buy a rundown motel as a way of restarting their lives in this moving and funny work. A brother and sister from a Māori-Russian-Catalonian family negotiate the stormy waters of modern romance, largely from the Auckland apartment they share, in Greta & Valdin by Rebecca K Reilly, described by one reviewer as “part Shakespeare, part Wes Anderson”.
In Whiti Hereaka’s Kurangaituku a part bird, part woman central character “the Kurangaituku” retells her life from her inception till her death and beyond. This mythological tale is about love, in both its destructive and creative aspects. Sue Orr’s Loop Tracks is set in two time periods; the late 1970’s in Auckland and 2019 in Wellington, and centres around young sixteen-year-old Charlie’s choices and decisions in 1978, and how they flow into her 2019 future. She’s a Killer by Kirsten McDougall is set in the very near future in New Zealand where the effects of climate change are really beginning to bite and affect both our physical world but also our society in this sharp and darkly funny work. Confidence tricksters, compulsive liars and jumbled up childhood memories all feature in Emma Neale’s excellent first collection of short stories Pink Jumpsuit: short fictions, talltruths. And to round up the list is Clare Moleta’s Unsheltered; a powerful tale of a woman’s search for her daughter set against a background of destructive weather and social disintegration.
As always there are several novels that might have made the cut but didn’t, the most notable being Jacqueline Bublitz’s wonderful Before You Knew My Name.
We have also had the recent pleasure of having Kirsten McDougall in conversation with Rajorshi Chakraborti and interviewing Bryan Walpert about their nominated books; you can watch these interviews at the end of this blog.
A good winter. / Fenster, Gigi
“I looked after Lara. We both looked after Sophie and her baby. We had to. It’s not like Sophie was going to look after that baby herself. All she was interested in was weeping and wailing for her dead husband. She was so busy weeping and wailing for her dead husband that she rejected his baby who was right in front of her. When Olga’s friend Lara becomes a grandmother, Olga helps out whenever she can. After all, it’s a big imposition on Lara, looking after her bereaved daughter and the baby. And the new mother is not exactly considerate. But smoldering beneath Olga’s sensible support and loving generosity is a deep jealous need to be the centre of Lara’s attention and affection—a need that soon becomes a consuming, dangerous and ultimately tragic obsession.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.
Aljce in therapy land / Tawhai, Alice
“On her first day the sky had a salmon tint to it; after the rain, and before the cloud entirely cleared, as if it had been put into a washing machine with roses. Someone was probably really annoyed at the way they had run. Aljce parked in the asphalt car park outside the Therapy Hub. She was looking forward to her new job. It would be an exciting adventure with new challenges.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Entanglement / Walpert, Bryan
“A memory-impaired time traveller attempts to correct a tragic mistake he made in 1977 when, panicked, he abandoned his brother on a frozen lake in Baltimore. Decades later, in 2011, a novelist researching at the Centre for Time in Sydney becomes romantically involved with a philosopher from New Zealand. Another eight years on, and a writer at a lake retreat in New Zealand in 2019 obsesses over the disintegration of his marriage following another tragedy. Are these separate stories, or are they one? Is the time traveller actually travelling? Can the past be changed? As the answers to these questions slowly emerge, the three tales become entangled, along with the usual abstractions: love, desperation and physics.” (Catalogue)
Everything changes / Johnson, Stephanie
“Buying a rundown motel to start a new life — what could possibly go wrong? In this funny and moving novel, prize-winning author Stephanie Johnson turns her wry eye on us.‘What a fabulous read. Stephanie Johnson’s characters choose an old motel with little to offer except an amazing view in order to start a ‘new life’. Their first guests are a classic cast of the sorrowful and dysfunctional that every-day life throws at us these days. This is her best book ever, and I loved every page of it.’ – Fiona Kidman” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.
Greta & Valdin / Reilly, Rebecca K
“Valdin is still in love with his ex-boyfriend Xabi, who used to drive around Auckland in a ute but now drives around Buenos Aires in one. Greta is in love with her fellow English tutor Holly, who doesn’t know how to pronounce Greta’s surname, Vladislavljevic, properly. From their Auckland apartment, brother and sister must navigate the intricate paths of modern romance as well as weather the small storms of their eccentric Māori-Russian-Catalonian family” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.
Kurangaituku / Hereaka, Whiti
“In the void of time, Kurangaituku, the bird-woman, tells the story of her extraordinary Life – the birds who first sang her into being, the arrival of the Song Makers and the change they brought to her world, her life with the young man Hatupatu, and her death. But death does not end a creature of imagination like Kurangaituku. In the underworlds of Rarohenga, she continues to live in the many stories she collects as she pursues what eluded her in life. This is a story of love – but is this love something that creates or destroys?” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.
Loop tracks / Orr, Sue
“It’s 1978: the Auckland abortion clinic has been forced to close and sixteen-year-old Charlie has to fly to Sydney, but the plane is delayed on the tarmac. It’s 2019: Charlie’s tightly contained Wellington life with her grandson Tommy is interrupted by the unexpected intrusions of Tommy’s first girlfriend, Jenna, and the father he has never known, Jim. The year turns, and everything changes again… written in real time against the progress of the Covid-19 pandemic and the New Zealand General Election and euthanasia referendum” (Adapted from Catalogue)
She’s a killer / McDougall, Kirsten
“The world’s climate is in crisis and New Zealand is being divided and reshaped by privileged immigrant wealthugees. Thirty-something Alice has a near-genius IQ and lives at home with her mother with whom she communicates by Morse code. Alice’s imaginary friend, Simp, has shown up, with a running commentary on her failings. ‘I mean, can you even calculate the square root of 762 anymore?’ The last time Simp was here was when Alice was seven, on the night a fire burned down the family home. Now Simp seems to be plotting something. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Pink jumpsuit : short fictions, tall truths / Neale, Emma
“In Emma Neale’s first collection of short fiction, the tales range from the surreal to the real; from the true to the tall. This collection includes some of her internationally recognised flash fiction and more extended examinations of the eerie gaps and odd swerves in intimate relationships. There are confidence tricksters, compulsive liars, emotional turn-coats, the pulse of jumbled childhood memory still felt in adult life, the weird metamorphosis of fantasy hardening into reality…” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Unsheltered / Moleta, Clare
“Against a background of social breakdown and destructive weather, Unsheltered tells the story of a woman’s search for her daughter. Li never wanted to bring a child into a world like this but now that eight-year-old Matti is missing, she will stop at nothing to find her. As she crosses the great barren country alone and on foot, living on what she can find and fuelled by visions of her daughter just out of sight ahead, Li will have every instinct tested. She knows the odds against her: an uncompromising landscape, an uncaring system, time running out, and the risks of any encounters on the road. ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.
“You know, a lot of strange things happen in this world.” ― Kōji Suzuki, Ring
Welcome to our first selection of newly acquired Science Fiction and Fantasy titles for 2022. We’ve kicked the year off with a very varied selection of new titles; including two from our own fair shore, David Hair’s World’s Edge and Trisha Hanifin’s The Time Lizard’s Archaeologist.
Another title that caught our particular attention was Strange tales from Japan: 99 chilling stories of yokai, ghosts, demons and the supernatural by Nishimoto, Keisuke. This is an excellent collection of spine tingling tales about hauntings and strange goings-on in Japan. Japanese culture has long been steeped in legends and folklore surrounding the supernatural world, including a rich vein of modern urban legend supernatural tales. These tales have inspired many contemporary books and films, one notable example being the blood chilling novel Ring (originally published by the title Ringu). Follow this link to find Ringu on our online catalogue.
The roots of Japanese supernatural beings can often be traced back to the ancient idea of animism, in which spirits are believed to reside in all things, both natural and created. This rich supernatural culture is resplendent with many beings, such as Yokai, which are defined loosely as strange apparitions. One of the core categories of supernatural beings in Japan (there are several others), these suspicious and mysterious spirits range from just being benevolent or mischievous to being malevolent and harmful. Yokai can have animal features, be humanoid, have no discernible shape or even occasionally possess shapeshifting powers. During the Edo period, woodblock artists such as famed Katsushika Hokusai created prints of Yokai. In these prints, artists occasionally even invented Yokai of their own.
World’s edge / Hair, David
“Renegade sorcerer Raythe Vyre went off the edge of the map, seeking riches and redemption but he has found the impossible: a vanished civilisation – and the threat of eternal damnation! Chasing a dream of wealth and freedom, Raythe Vyre’s ragtag caravan of refugees from imperial oppression went off the map, into the frozen wastes of the north. What they found there was beyond all their expectations… ” (Adapted from Catalogue)
The time lizard’s archaeologist / Hanifin, Trisha
“2016. Auckland psychologist, Jason Winston, grieving over the death of his sister and increasingly disorientated by dreams and visions, begins to experience an alternate reality. Here he encounters Aja, a woman on a mission to discover who destroyed her village by stealing their powerful source of fuel. 2026. Auckland suffers an ecological crisis: the bee population is almost wiped out and the human population exposed to a debilitating virus. Isolated camps are established in the bush for those infected. 2036. A time of increasing food shortages, growing unrest and the influence of ‘The Flock’, which promises a haven for young people fearful of their future.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Destroyer of light / Brissett, Jennifer Marie
“The Matrix meets an Afro-futuristic retelling of Persephone set in a science fiction underworld. A violent warlord abducts a young girl from the agrarian outskirts of Dusk leaving her mother searching and grieving. *Genetically modified twin brothers desperately search for the lost son of a human/alien couple in a criminal underground trafficking children for unknown purposes. *A young woman with inhuman powers rises through the insurgent ranks of soldiers in the borderlands of Night. Their stories skate across years, building to a single confrontation when the fate of all-human and alien-balances upon a knife’s-edge. Warning: This book is designed for audiences 18+ due to scenes of physical and sexual violence, and themes that some may find disturbing” (Adapted from Catalogue)
This weightless world : a novel / Soto, Adam
“When a mysterious signal arrives from outer space, first seen as a symbol of hope, three people, forced to reckon with its aftermath, begin to feel the weight of past mistakes in order to move towards the future.”A debut novel subverting a classic sci-fi trope set in gentrified Chicago, the tech boom corridors of Silicon Valley, and across the vastness of the cosmos. ‘The Weightless World’ follows a revolving cast of characters after a mysterious signal from outer space upends their lives. Sevi is a burned-out music teacher desperate for connection, fighting to find meaning in rekindled love. Ramona, his on-again, off-again computer programmer girlfriend is determined to build an AI to prevent mankind’s destruction. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Along the Saltwise Sea / Baker, A. Deborah
“After climbing Over the Woodward Wall and making their way across the forest, Avery and Zib found themselves acquiring some extraordinary friends in their journey through the Up-and-Under. After staying the night, uninvited, at a pirate queen’s cottage in the woods, the companions find themselves accountable to its owner, and reluctantly agree to work off their debt as her ship sets sail, bound for lands unknown. But the queen and her crew are not the only ones on board, and the monsters at sea aren’t all underwater.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
A Clockwork River / Emery, J. S.
“Lower Rhumbsford is a city far removed from its glory days. On the banks of the great river Rhumb, The once torrential Rhumb has been reduced to a sluggish trickle. The fortunes of the Locke family are similarly reduced. In a once fashionable quarter of the once great city, siblings Samuel and Briony Locke distract themselves: Sam tends to his vast lock collection instead of finishing his engineering thesis; facing the prospect of a disagreeable marriage, Briony occupies herself with alchemical experiments. Until one night Samuel leaves the house carrying five of his most precious locks and doesn’t come back.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
The hand of the Sun King / Greathouse, J.T
“All my life, I have been torn between two legacies: that of my father, whose roots trace back to the right hand of the Emperor. That of my mother’s family, who reject the oppressive Empire and embrace the resistance. I can choose between them – between protecting my family, or protecting my people – or I can search out a better path . . . a magical path, filled with secrets, unbound by Empire or resistance, which could shake my world to its very foundation. But my search for freedom will entangle me in a war between the gods themselves…” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Strange tales from Japan : 99 chilling stories of yokai, ghosts, demons and the supernatural / Nishimoto, Keisuke
” The captivating tales in this volume include: The Vengeance of Oiwa-The terrifying spirit of a woman murdered by her husband who seeks retribution from beyond the grave The Curse of Okiku-A servant girl is murdered by her master and curses his family, with gruesome results The Snow Woman-A man is saved by a mysterious woman who swears him to secrecy Tales of the Kappa-Strange human-like sprites with green, scaly skin who live in water and are known to pull children and animals to their deaths And many, many more!” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Beyond the hallowed sky / MacLeod, Ken
“When a brilliant scientist gets a letter from herself about faster-than-light travel, she doesn’t know what to believe. The equations work, but her [a[er is discredited – and soo the criticism is more than scientific. Exiled by the establishment, she gets an offer to build her starship from an unlikely source. But in the heights of Venus and on a planet of another star, a secret is already being uncovered that will shake humanity to its foundations.” (Catalogue)
The Animals in That Country is a speculative fiction work about a pandemic that causes inter-species communication. A stunning work; McKay’s debut novel is clever and darkly humorous, with carefully drawn characters and a deep empathy for some of the most important social and environmental issues of our time. One of the most remarkable aspects of this novel is the way in which Laura portrays the consciousness of our fellow creatures, exploring deeply into the limits of how we as humans can understand and comprehend (or not) other types of consciousness.
In a weird example of synchronicity, another of one the novel’s core themes is that of a contagious pandemic. Written before COVID-19, it was Laura’s own experience of contacting the chikungunya virus at a writers festival in Bali that inspired this aspect of the book.
To celebrate her exhilarating and profound work, we approached Laura about the possibility of a written interview, to which she very graciously agreed. We wish to extend our heart felt thanks to Laura for taking the time to do the below interview, and for providing such illuminating answers to our questions. You can borrow The Animals in That Country from the library by clicking the link at the end of this feature.
The Animals in That Country is a truly remarkable achievement on so many levels. It is fierce and funny and brilliant. In the novel, after being infected by a virus, people start to understand animals. Some people embrace this new ability, and some fear what they will hear from the animals when they are talking. I say talk as shorthand, the animals don’t really talk, they more communicated through “hallucinogenic haikus”. In some ways this book might seem a bit bizarre, but is also strangely still very believable and in places also funny. Can you tell us a little bit about the creative origins of the book?
The Animals in That County came together (or came at me?) in a few ways. The whole time I was writing the book I was asking: ‘what would happen if we could finally understand what other animals are saying?’ and this really came from the encounters I was having with other animals – a kangaroo, a chimpanzee, a mosquito (who I’ll talk about later). In Australia, I came face-to-face with a full-size rouge male kangaroo on a dark bushy path at night and had this lovely moment of benevolence, where we regarded each other calmly and then went on our way. I thought, if I could have this moment with another species, what would happen if we could actually communicate clearly? I had a similar experience in Florida, where I went to meet the ex-show chimpanzee and orangutan stars of films and TV, like Mickael Jackson’s old companion chimpanzee Bubbles. Often these stars are cast out to road-side zoos and laboratories when they grow too big for show biz. There are a few sanctuaries in the States who track them down and offer a home. I wandered through the enclosures at one such centre, feeling such a recognition for chimpanzees who are really very very similar to us in DNA and I thought about the terrifying lives they’ve had at the hands of humans. Would we treat them differently if we could communicate?
Using this animal Haiku allows you to communicate some very beautiful and, for the want of a better description, alien views of the world? Can you tell us how you went about getting to those strange animal places? Was it just pure raw imagination?
So funny to see the nonhuman animal dialogue described as haiku! Haiku is gorgeously structured, so I wonder if it could possibly apply to what I have done? There is of course an intentionality to the dialogue, but it’s more to do with font and punctuation than poetic structure. I tried to make the rhythm as awkward as possible to move the dialogue out of a human state (while still using written English). The insects came first, especially the mosquito. I thought, how does a mosquito express themself on a page? CAPSLOCK of course. After that came the birds speaking in italics. Then Dingo Sue (in parenthesis). That sort of structure gave me some parameters to play with the idea of nonhuman dialogue.
There is a real balance in the novel between the humans understanding what the animals are communicating and incomprehension of those messages. How did you decide where that balance rested, in other words, when to make something understandable and when to make it alien and incomprehensible?
I was really conscious of avoiding the nonhuman animals as prophetic characters sent to the humans to solve their problems, or of being too poetic or meaningful. Characters need to be full on the page and being full is to have a life beyond the other characters and beyond the scope of the story. The disease in the novel – zooflu – enables the humans to understand that other animals are communicating and to translate that into human language, but it doesn’t give humans extra empathy, powers of observation or the ability to look beyond themselves. The nonhuman world is there right in front of us all the time and many from my anglo tauiwi cultural background don’t listen to this world or to the people – especially First Nations People – who do understand that humans are part of a bigger picture. Climate change, mass extinction, factory farming and habitat destruction prove that. I didn’t see a reason that many humans would completely listen even if they could finally understand other animals!
Jean, your lead human protagonist, is a fabulous creation and not without her flaws. Can you tell us about how you went about creating her?
Jean was a long time coming. For hundreds of thousands of words she was a middle-aged man, then a young woman who worked in a lab, then a cat, then a farmer. I needed someone who had the strength to hold the weight of this story and none of them could bear it. I realised that only a middle-aged woman – someone who had been through life and has learned to lose and love with a certain ferocity – could carry this narrative. Like the other animal characters, Jean needed to be full and – as humans are flawed – so too is Jean. I wanted her to love fiercely, be loyal to a fault, be curious and brave. At the same time she needed to be self-absorbed, substance-reliant, bigoted and unable to listen.
Moving on from that, can you tell us about Sue, your lead animal protagonist, and the relationship between Jean and Sue?
In western literary criticism, animals are often seen as mirrors for human meaning. But in many books (including Animals), humans can be mirrors for other animal meaning too. Jean and Sue reflect each other. They are different but they’ve experienced similar things. They’re both females of their species dealing with loss, searching for kin. I was struggling with how to find Jean, but when Sue appeared on the page (influenced by dingoes I met in the Northern Territory) she made sense of Jean. They took off together.
I know you became ill with Chikungunya (a severely debilitating mosquito born virus) just before you started writing. Can you tell us how this influenced book and its creation?
The other game-changing animal encounter I had was with a mosquito in Bali who bit me (the nerve!) and gifted a disease called chikungunya, which brought fever, delirium and serious arthritis for months and long-term symptoms for years. The most amazing thing about that was that I learnt how very powerful this tiny creature was. If a small creature could be that impactful in life, what could they do to the page?
Can you tell us how long the novel took to write, and the difficulties of completing a work over that sort of time span?
The novel took about 7 years to write (through to publication) but I was thinking and writing around it for three years before that. I did a PhD in Creative Writing in that time and the novel was part of that. The beauty of taking that long on a work is that you have space to restructure and build. I rewrote the novel completely three times. There were a few years (years!) where the book was awful and messy – I could see where I wanted it to be but it took a long time to get there. It was always going to be a slow write. Partly that’s because it’s three books: it’s a gritty realist novel about a woman struggling with life; it’s a speculative fiction novel about a world where humans can understand other animals; and it’s a nonhuman dialogue. I’m not a clever enough plot writer to do an interweaving structure told from different voices chapter by chapter so I had to make it all work at once. And apparently, that takes ages!
Your portrayal of animals in the book is, in many senses, profound, Can I ask you how you avoided the pitfall of Anthropomorphising the animals?
My initial technique for avoiding anthropomorphism was to render them silet on the page, with the humans reporting their meaning. That was terrible. Then (through my research into literary animal studies) I saw that it’s not anthropomorphism that’s the problem, but anthropocentrism: the centering of humans to the detriment of all else. As the plot goes on, I increasingly shove the humans to the side and the nonhuman animal dialogue comes through. It’s still anthropomorphism, but (I hope) a respectful one that honours the agency of all characters.
The book is about a viral pandemic and features lots of the things we have sadly got used to, for example mask wearing and fear of infection. However, the book was conceived and written long before the present Covid 19 outbreak, which is both strange and startling. Can I ask you where you got your detailed knowledge of endemic viral outbreaks from?
In another life I was an aid worker doing communications writing for international aid organisations. I started in response to the 2004 tsunami and worked on lots of emergencies, including the SARS epidemic. Even though that wasn’t a conscious experience in writing Animals, it was something I gravitated towards. In bald craft terms I needed for a lot of characters to gain the power to be able to communicate with other animals at the same time – an outbreak with weird symptoms was familiar to me. I could write that. At the time though, I kept that plotline secret from people because it seemed too far-fetched. Now of course …!
The title of the book comes from a Margaret Atwood collection of poems, can you tell us why and what led you to choose it as the novels title?
For a long time the novel manuscript was simply called ‘Animals’. I came across Atwood’s incredible poem after a few years. I love how she talks about animals in the poem as having ‘the faces of animals’ (animals as animals) and later ‘the faces of people’ (the categorisations we attribute to them). I was so thrilled when Atwood granted permission to use a line from the poem in the epigraph, so that people could see the original context and hopefully seek out the poem themselves.
Can you tell us about authors you admired or influenced you as you grew up?
Our household in regional Australia was a big Footrot Flats comic book house. We blasted the movie theme song on camping trips. When I was little I thought it was an Australian comic (typical!) – but of course it’s so Aotearoa! When I moved to New Zealand I started collecting them again and realised what an influence these stories had on me and The Animals in That Country: talking animals, environmental themes, outcast characters. I owe Murray Ball a lot. In my early uni days I read a lot of Janet Frame and Raymond Carver – I’d attribute any writing technique I have to those incredible stylists. Carver is very out of fashion now, probably because his work cast too big a shadow over creative writing studies (there are other writers!), but I learned to edit my work by reading his and that’s a skill I’m forever grateful for. I got back to Frame’s short stories again and again to remember the importance of dialogue, style and heart.
The book is also a celebration of animal bodies and their extraordinary abilities. Is this something we need to as a society embrace more?
Absolutely. The celebration of other animals as animals rather than our categorisations of pet, food, wild, vermin etc would chart a big shift in human relations with other animals, I think. What would happen if we celebrated the insatiable curiosity of cows instead of treating them as milk machines?
The animals in the book refer to humans as “it”, echoing the way we dehumanise our fellow creatures. What you tell us about approach?
As I said earlier I often feel like I wrote three novels in one … There’s a gritty realist narrative about a woman going through a rough time; there’s a speculative fiction about a dingo (also going through a rough time!) in an epidemic world where humans can communicate with animals; and there’s another thread which is the interspecies communication itself – the animal dialogue. Animals in literature are so often equated with objects: as things to use and dispose of at human will. I thought it would be interesting to turn the tables. ‘It’ is a tiny word, but when a nonhuman animal character calls humans ‘it’, a big statement is made. I love how language works that way. Tiny changes can be powerful.
How does it feel to have the novel so well received? It has already received several major awards and glowing reviews!
The most honest word I could use is: relief. Anyone who has put a book out knows the terrifying silence that follows publication where you wonder if it will get reviewed or even read and if so, will people like it? My first book was a short story collection lucky enough to get on some shortlists and a few lovely reviews, but it didn’t set the world on fire. Still, I was encouraged and excited to write the second. When it became apparent that The Animals in That Country would be released into the pandemic I was terrified. All the book shops in New Zealand were closed in the first big lockdown and I didn’t know how people would even read it. The support that New Zealand and Australian readers, festivals and book shops showed for books published in that time was incredible. And thanks to the hard work of my amazing publisher, Scribe, the book got in people’s hands early, and has since been released in the UK and US and is now in translation. It was such a strange feeling when it became apparent that this wasn’t going to be a quiet book – a relief, a thrill and an ongoing privilege.
You have a PhD in literary animal studies, can you tell us how that informed the book?
Once you start looking into human-nonhuman animal relationships, you fall down a series of rabbit holes. With every word I wrote, every thing I read, every thought I had about Animals, a new question would come up. I was so lucky to be held by amazing supervisors (Kevin Brophy and Amanda Johnson) who not only thought this relentless questioning was okay, but encouraged it. In my time as a PhD student I also came across an amazing network of people in what is known as the animal studies field. One of these people was Siobhan O’Sullivan who welcomed me into the Knowing Animals reading group and later interviewed me for her podcast. I’m now a passionate committee member of the Australasian Animal Studies Association, who work to help scholars like me to access information in the field.
Our final question is, have you got any future plans to write something else ? Would like to share some aspect of those plans with us?
A novel manuscript and I are currently circling each other. At some point one of us will strike.
The animals in that country / McKay, Laura Jean
“Hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, and allergic to bullshit, Jean is not your usual grandma. She’s never been good at getting on with other humans, apart from her beloved granddaughter, Kimberly. Instead, she surrounds herself with animals, working as a guide in an outback wildlife park. And although Jean talks to all her charges, she has a particular soft spot for a young dingo called Sue. As disturbing news arrives of a pandemic sweeping the country, Jean realises this is no ordinary flu: its chief symptom is that its victims begin to understand the language of animals – first mammals, then birds and insects, too… ” (Adapted from Catalogue)
One of our favourite annual anthologies (and an excellent way to find rising stars of the genre) is the wonderful award-winning The Year’s Best Aotearoa New Zealand Science Fiction & Fantasy (now in its third volume). An excellent all-in-one survey of the latest in New Zealand Science Fiction and Fantasy; these anthologies continue to provide a fabulous platform and spotlight on the wide variety of talent and diversity in the Aotearoa.
This year’s anthology contains numerous award-winning and award-nominated stories, such as “For Want of Human Parts”, by Casey Lucas, “Salt White, Rose Red” by Emily Brill-Holland, “Synaesthete” by Melanie Harding-Shaw and “How to Get a Girlfriend (When You’re a Terrifying Monster)” by Marie Cardn. Not to mention another particular highlight, Paul Veart’s Florentina.
With this in mind, we decided it was long overdue to interview the editor of the series Marie Hodgkinson and ask her a few questions about the anthology. We wish to extend our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Marie for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer our questions, and for providing such an illuminating insight into her world and work. For more information about the anthology, check out the Paper Road Press website.
Links to borrow the various anthologies from the library can be found at the end of following interview.
The line between contemporary fiction and speculative fiction is often blurred. I was wondering how you went about navigating those definitions?
Sometimes, there are fairies, which should make the distinction easy to make – but sometimes the fairies are metaphorical, which complicates things again. In the end I think it is about the author’s intent and the reader’s interpretation of that intent. Many SFF readers have the experience of coming across books in their childhood in which the fairies were and only were metaphor, possibly for drugs, or dying of cancer. If there is space in a story, no matter how small, for the supernatural or one-second-ahead tech to exist within the scope of the story’s world, then I count it as speculative fiction.
The Year’s Best Aotearoa New Zealand Science Fiction & Fantasy has now made it to Volume Three, can you tell us a little bit about the origins of the series and its overall aims?
I started the anthology series because it became clear to me that Aotearoa authors were writing and publishing incredible short speculative fiction – but that local readers rarely heard about it because most of the stories were published overseas. My initial goal was to bring those stories back to be read and enjoyed here. Over the three years of the series so far however I am seeing more and more mainstream NZ media publishing short speculative fiction, such as Stuff’s Forever Project commissioning short climate fiction stories. So now it’s both a way to bring stories back home, and to celebrate the openness of local media to publishing speculative fiction.
There is a real diversity in the stories included. Could you tell us about that diversity, and how it is represented in the collection?
The diversity in the anthologies reflects the diversity of this country’s writers – perhaps seeing them all in one place just makes it more obvious!
How do you go about the selection process?
I read as much as I can throughout the year, and also contact publishers, writing groups and make public calls for submissions – because there’s no way I could find all the stories on my own, and I don’t want the anthologies to be limited by my normal reading. Once stories are sent in I read them several times. If a story sticks in my mind after multiple readings, it goes on the list.
We love the book cover this year! Can you tell us a little about the artist and the brief you gave them ?
This is the first year I have not briefed an artist to create a work for the cover – because the perfect artwork already existed! Rebekah Tisch painted ‘Goodbye 2020’ in response to – well, it goes without saying doesn’t it – and frankly I couldn’t imagine anything better for the anthology.
Are there any particularly precedent themes or topics that have come through this year? Perhaps stories revolving around to pandemics, environmental collapse etc…
Climate change is a perennial theme; several stories in this year’s volume, such as Renee Liang’s ‘The Waterfall’ and Tim Jones’s ‘The Double-Cab Club’, are about people living in a post-environmental-collapse world. Ecological collapse/change also features in PK Torrens’s ‘Crater Island’. I haven’t noticed either a sudden glut or lack of stories about pandemics – but where those themes do appear the focus is on individual, interpersonal response to events that seem overwhelming or incomprehensible, such as the infectious flora in Paul Veart’s ‘Florentina’ and the central positioning of the relationship between two old friends in Anthony Lapwood’s ‘Wild Horses’.
Is Science Fiction and Fantasy, in your opinion, the best literary genre to hold up a mirror to our existence? I was thinking about how it can easily be used to examine big, complex and seemingly strange ideas.
I think it’s the perfect genre to act as a warped mirror – science fiction and fantasy can help us explore concepts one step removed from our own reality, which can make them easier to play with or take to logical or illogical extremes.
Can you tell us about your impression of the current state of Science Fiction and Fantasy scene in New Zealand?
Science fiction and fantasy writing in Aotearoa is flourishing – particularly with the rise of self publishing. I’m cheerfully following the careers of authors like AJ Lancaster and Steff Green, who are thriving as indie publishers, as well as what feels like the constant rise of support for speculative fiction by traditional publishers. One of my top reads this year has been Butcherbird, a horror novel by Cassie Hart published by Huia.
And finally, with your crystal ball in hand, what do you think will be in store for Volume Four of the anthology?
I can’t know for certain, but I’m very excited to find out!
Year’s Best Aotearoa New Zealand science fiction and fantasy, V3
“When borders closed last year, Kiwi science fiction and fantasy took readers on flights of imagination through space and time. This anthology contains a selection of the best short science fiction and fantasy stories published by Aotearoa New Zealand writers in 2020. Inc.. New Zealand gothic by Jack Remiel Cottrell, Synaesthete by Melanie Harding-Shaw, Kōhuia by T Te Tau, Death confetti by Zoë Meager, For want of human parts by Casey Lucas ,How to get a girlfriend (when you’re a terrifying monster) by Marie Cardno , Salt White, Rose Red by Emily Brill-Holland , Florentina by Paul Veart ,Otto Hahn speaks to the dead by Octavia Cade, The waterfall Renee Liang — The Double-Cab Club by Tim Jones , Wild horses by Anthony Lapwood , You and me at the end of the world by Dave Agnew , The secrets she eats by Nikky Lee , How to build a unicorn by AJ Fitzwater , Even the clearest water by Andi C. Buchanan , You can’t beat Wellington on a good day by Anna Kirtlan, The moamancer (a Musomancer short story) by Bing Turkby , They probably play the viola by Jack Remiel Cottrell , Crater Island by P.K. Torrens, A love note by Melanie Harding-Shaw and The turbine at the end of the world by James Rowland.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.
Year’s best Aotearoa New Zealand science fiction & fantasy. V2
“Ancient myths go high-tech a decade after the New New Zealand Wars. Safe homes and harbours turn to strangeness within and without. Splintered selves come together again – or not. Twelve authors. Thirteen stories. The best short science fiction and fantasy from Aotearoa New Zealand in 2019. With works by: Juliet Marillier, Nic Low, Rem Wigmore, Andi C Buchanan, Octavia Cade, A.J. Fitzwater, Nicole Tan, Melanie Harding-Shaw, Alisha Tyson, James Rowland, Zoë Meager, and Casey Lucas.”–Publisher description.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.
Year’s best Aotearoa New Zealand science fiction & fantasy. V1
“For the first time ever, the best short SFF from Aotearoa New Zealand is collected together in a single volume. This inaugural edition of the Year’s Best Aotearoa New Zealand Science Fiction & Fantasy brings together the very best short speculative fiction published by Kiwi authors in 2018. Explore worlds of hope and wonder, and worlds where hope and wonder are luxuries we wasted long ago; histories given new life, and futures you might prefer to avoid.” (Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.
Bryan Walpert is a professor in creative writing at Massey University, a poet, novelist and a creative thinker. His work so far encompasses nine books including four collections of poetry: – Etymology, A History of Glass, Native Bird and Brass Band to Follow being the most recent. His short novella called ‘Late Sonata’, won the Seizure Viva La Novella Prize and he was also recently a contributor to the Dante project More Favourable Waters.
‘Late Sonata’ was praised for its “seamless melding of the emotional and the intellectual”, something his new novel Entanglement does too.
Entanglement is Bryan’s first full length novel and revolves around various threads: A memory-impaired time traveller and his attempts to correct a tragic mistake, a novelist researching at the Centre for Time in Sydney, and a writer at a lake retreat in New Zealand in 2019 obsessing over the disintegration of his marriage following another tragedy. Are they separate stories, or are they one?
Entanglement is a multi-layered, multi-faceted work that weaves big ideas about the nature of existence and time into the integral fabric of the plot, whilst also being very personal about the characters’ inner lives. It was recently listed in the Listener’s Best Books of 2021 list and when Bryan agreed to talk to us about Entanglement and its creation and themes, we jumped at the chance.
We wish to extend to Bryan a huge thank you for letting us interview him about Entanglement and giving us such a fascinating insight into your creative process. Read more about Bryan Walpert here and more about Entanglement by clicking here.
Entanglement / Walpert, Bryan
“A memory-impaired time traveller attempts to correct a tragic mistake he made in 1977 when, panicked, he abandoned his brother on a frozen lake in Baltimore. Decades later, in 2011, a novelist researching at the Centre for Time in Sydney becomes romantically involved with a philosopher from New Zealand. Another eight years on, and a writer at a lake retreat in New Zealand in 2019 obsesses over the disintegration of his marriage following another tragedy. Are these separate stories, or are they one? Is the time traveller actually travelling? Can the past be changed? As the answers to these questions slowly emerge, the three tales become entangled, along with the usual abstractions: love, desperation and physics.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Brass band to follow : poems / Walpert, Bryan
“Bryan Walpert’s fourth collection of lyric poems ranges in its focus from flowers to infinities, from laundry to eternity, but is founded most fully on what it is to move into middle age – to wait for life’s promised brass band to arrive. Whether writing from the perspective of a parent watching childhood slip away or ventriloquising the 17th-century scientific language of Robert Hooke and Robert Boyle to craft surprising love poems, he engages the world with a keen and often witty perception, a deft juggling of the sentence, and a sense of wonder. Frequently playful in approach, the poems are always serious in their engagement with the bewildering nature of time passing – of growing up and growing older.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
More favourable waters : Aotearoa poets respond to Dante’s Purgatory
“An anthology of contemporary poets from Aotearoa New Zealand commemorating one of the world’s great poets, Dante Alighieri (1265–1321), 700 years after his death.
Each of the 33 poets has written a poem of 33 lines inspired by and including a short passage from one of the 33 cantos of Dante’s Purgatory, the second part of his epic The Divine Comedy.” ( Adapted from Catalogue)
Strong words 2019 : the best of the Landfall essay competition
“Judging her first Landfall Essay Competition in 2018, Landfall editor Emma Neale was seriously challenged. The overall high quality of the 90 submissions made it impossible to choose. After a nails-bitten-to-the-quick struggle, she optimistically submitted her ‘shortlist’ of 21 essays. The publisher had some strong words with her. Emma was told a shortlist needed to be shorter than 21. A lot shorter. In the end she pared the list back to 10 but it seemed so wasteful not to be awarding many more prizes. That’s when this book was born … Strong Words is a striking collection of essays that celebrates an extraordinary year in New Zealand writing.” (adapted from catalogue)
This December we have a real treat for book lovers, centering around Patricia Grace’s iconic novel Potiki.
We have two ways you can celebrate and get involved with this outstanding novel, including unlimited download access to Potiki for everyone from Wellington City Libraries or, if you are lucky, finding your own specially hidden copy.
We want to make this the biggest read in Aotearoa’s history…
For more details read on.
From TODAY until 21st December, Wellington City Libraries are offering unlimited downloads of Potiki eBooks! All you need to take advantage of this fantastic opportunity to read Potiki is a valid library card. Click here to access your copy, available from 7 –21 of December.
Our book fairies are also hiding physical copies of Patricia Grace’s Potiki around Wellington City and Porirua City. Just keep your eyes peeled to see if you can spot a copy.
Since it was first published in 1986, local and international readers have been spellbound by Potiki. This captivating story follows the struggle to protect indigenous land against developers, who are threatening to destroy a community and a whole way of life.
So why not join Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts and Wellington City Libraries, with Penguin Random House New Zealand and take this opportunity to read one of Aotearoa’s great novels: Potiki.
Find, read and pass it on!
Then you can hear from the author herself at the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts, 25 February – 20 March 2022.
Potiki, Patricia Grace (ebook)
Patricia Grace’s classic novel is a work of spellbinding power in which the myths of older times are inextricably woven into the political realities of today. In a small coastal community threatened by developers who would ravage their lands it is a time of fear and confusion – and growing anger. The prophet child Tokowaru-i-te-Marama shares his people’s struggles against bulldozers and fast money talk. When dramatic events menace the marae, his grief threatens to burst beyond the confines of his twisted body. His all-seeing eye looks forward to a strange and terrible new dawn. Potiki won the New Zealand Book Awards in 1987. (Overdrive description)
This December we have a very special treat for book lovers.
We want to try get as many people as possible to read the iconic New Zealand novel Potiki by Patricia Grace. Since it was first published in 1986, local and international readers have been spellbound by Potiki. This captivating story follows the struggle to protect indigenous land against developers, who are threatening to destroy a community and a whole way of life.
And to help make this happen, we have two ways people can celebrate and get involved with this outstanding novel: Unlimited downloads of the book and a chance to find your own hidden copy.
Between 7 – 21 December Wellington City Libraries are offering unlimited downloads of Potiki eBooks; all you will need to access a digital copy is a valid Wellington City Libraries card. Available from our eBook platform Libby, our Overdrive app.
Or if you are up for a bit of fun, our book fairies are hiding copies of the book throughout the city. So if you fancy the chance of finding your own hidden copy of Potiki, keep an eye out for more details soon. So why not join Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts and Wellington City Libraries, with Penguin Random House New Zealandto read one of Aotearoa’s great novels: Potiki.
We want to make this the biggest read in Aotearoa’s history…
Find, read and pass it on!
Then there is the opportunity to hear from the Patricia Grace herself at the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts 25 February – 20 March 2022.
Potiki, Patricia Grace (ebook)Patricia Grace’s classic novel is a work of spellbinding power in which the myths of older times are inextricably woven into the political realities of today. In a small coastal community threatened by developers who would ravage their lands it is a time of fear and confusion – and growing anger. The prophet child Tokowaru-i-te-Marama shares his people’s struggles against bulldozers and fast money talk. When dramatic events menace the marae, his grief threatens to burst beyond the confines of his twisted body. His all-seeing eye looks forward to a strange and terrible new dawn. Potiki won the New Zealand Book Awards in 1987. (Overdrive description)
We are totally stoked to announce the release of our recent interview with Kirsten McDougall in conversation with Rajorshi Chakraborti about one of the most talked about and acclaimed novels of 2021, She’s a Killer.
Welcome to two of New Zealand’s finest authors engaging in a dynamic, fascinating, entertaining, and illuminating conversation, mainly about Kirsten McDougall’s highly acclaimed new novel She’s a Killer, but also sharing opinions about their respective writing practices, the vagrancies of being an author in the 21st century and passing on some writing tips and hints; not to mention discussing the merits of office meetings.
Our interviewer was the inimitable, highly acclaimed author Rajorshi Chakraborti. Rajorshi Chakraborti was born in India and has lived in England, Canada and Scotland and now lives in Wellington, New Zealand. He is the author of six novels including Or the Day Seizes You, Derangements, Balloonists, The Man Who Would Not See, which was longlisted for the 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, and Shadow Play: A Mystery. His latest novel Shakti is a supernatural magical realist mystery thriller set in India, that delves into the murky and dark waters of modern Indian politics in a carefully chosen, considered and unique fashion.
Award -winning Wellington author Kirsten McDougall’s books include the critically acclaimed Tess, “a wonderful, multi-layered can of worms” and The Invisible Rider, as well as short stories and non-fiction in a range of books and journals. She’s a Killer has been heaped with praise since its release from the likes of The Listener, The Dominion Post and Radio New Zealand and is already one of this most talked about and highly regarded novels of recent years.
She’s a Killer is set in the very near future in New Zealand where the effects of climate change are really beginning to bite and affect both our physical world but also our society. The main theme of the book might be heavy, but the book is often very funny in a dark way, contains layers of twists and turns and is a fast-paced thriller with great characters to boot.
The resulting interview is a wonderful insight into the book, its themes and obsessions as well as both these writers’ practices, and for anyone interested in modern fiction in Aotearoa and beyond is totally unmissable.
Find more info about Kirsten McDougall and her work here,
and more info about Rajorshi Chakraborti and his work here.
She’s a killer. / McDougall, Kirsten
“Set in a very near future New Zealand where the effects of climate change are really beginning to bite and affect both our physical world but also our society.Full of spicy and fresh characters that leap of the book’s pages and a plot effortlessly moves from razor sharp humour to Climate fear driven sure shot action. ” ( Adapted from Catalogue)
Tess / McDougall, Kirsten
“Tess is on the run when she’s picked up from the side of the road by lonely middle-aged father Lewis Rose. With reluctance, she’s drawn into his family troubles and comes to know a life she never had. Set in Masterton at the turn of the millennium, Tess is a gothic love story about the ties that bind and tear a family apart.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
The invisible rider / McDougall, Kirsten
“This delightful collection of linked short stories focuses on Philip Fetch, a lawyer with an office in a suburban shopping mall who feels increasingly out of step with his society and neighbours. At once surreal and whimsical, and fired by a quietly burning moral engagement, The Invisible Rider is an antipodean cousin of Calvino’s Marcovaldo” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Shakti / Chakraborti, Rajorshi
“Amid a climate of right-wing, nationalist politics, three Indian women find themselves wielding powers that match their wildest dreams. There is one catch: they come with a Faustian price.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
The man who would not see / Chakraborti, Rajorshi
“As children in Calcutta, Ashim and Abhay made a small mistake that split their family forever. Thirty years later, Ashim has re-entered his brother’s life, with blame and retribution on his mind. It seems nothing short of smashing Abhay’s happy home will make good the damage from the past. At least, this is what Abhay and his wife Lena are certain is happening. A brother has travelled all the way from small-town India to New Zealand bearing ancient – and false – grudges, and with the implacable objective of blowing up every part of his younger brother’s life. Reconciliation was just a Trojan horse. But is Ashim really the villain he appears to be, or is there a method to his havoc?” (Catalogue)
Shadow play / Chakraborti, Rajorshi
“An international conspiracy thriller in the vein of The Parallax View— a Salman Rushdie-esque figure uses his latest novel to explain his own disappearance after a journalist’s murder Raj Chakraborti, internationally renowned novelist and commentator, has disappeared from public view. What’s worse, the police want to question him about the murder of a young journalist. Raj claims to explain everything in chapters from his latest work of fiction about a serial-killer-turned-hired-assassin. Is Raj right to believe that he is being hunted, or is it his past that has finally borne down to haunt him?” (Catalogue)
Lit : stories from home
“Home-grown literary heroes, established contemporary authors, and award-winning emerging writers have been brought together in this new short story collection. Exploring ideas about identity, activism awareness, coming-of-age, society, and family in Aotearoa, New Zealand” (Catalogue)
And below as an additional bonus treat Kirsten herself reading a brief extract from She’s a Killer.
Recently author Andrew Laking very generously gifted us some free copies of his wonderful book The Empire City: songs of Wellington.
Andrew’s book traces the history of Wellington from the mid 19th century to the present day and is beautifully illustrated using photographs and specially commissioned paintings by Bob Kerr. It also contains a free C.D. featuring some of Aotearoa / New Zealand’s finest musicians including Bret McKenzie from Flight of the Conchords, Riki Gooch from Crowded House and Toby Laing from Fat Freddy’s Drop.
We only have a few copies for each branch, so this freebie offer is strictly on a first come first served basis. All you need to do to be in with a chance of picking up a free copy of this book is pop into one of our branches on Friday 22nd Oct and look for the display of free give away copies of this fabulous title left. EASY AS.
(Limited to one copy per patron whilst stocks last. )
We wish to extend our heartfelt thanks to Andrew for his very kind donation.
The empire city : songs of Wellington / Laking, Andrew
“The Empire City traces the history of Wellington, from the middle of the 19th Century till the present day. Stories are told through song, text, paintings and photographs … The book includes a CD with original songs by Andrew Laking … The songs are given context by historical notes and illuminated through a number of previously unseen archival photos, and over 20 new paintings by Bob Kerr” (Adapted from Catalogue)
For your delight, edification, and enjoyment our very special interview with debut crime novelist and author of The Leaning ManAnne Harré in conversation with Dame Fiona Kidman.
Filmed at her publisher’s office by Wellington City Library staff. This wide-ranging interview with Anne covers The Leaning Man’s origins and creation, her love of Wellington and how Anne approaches her writing, not to mention how it feels to release your first novel.
Anne Harré’s debut novel The Leaning Man is a newly-released, gripping, suspenseful page-turning thrill ride of a book (you are very likely to stay up very late to see what happens next). It is set in our very own windy Wellington and in some respects is a love letter to the city with its perfectly visualised, vivid, and evocative descriptions of the capital. And to top it all one of the locations in the book is our very own Te Awe Library, with accompanying fictional librarian.
The book has already gained glowing reviews in The Listener, The Dominion Post as well as RNZ.
We wish to extend our heartfelt thanks to Anne Harré, Dame Fiona Kidman and Mary McCallum for making this interview happen. This interview was done in conjunction with The Cuba Press and Creative New Zealand.
The leaning man / Harré, Anne
“It’s Saturday night down on the wharf. Celebrations are in full swing for the Westons’ fortieth wedding anniversary. Their daughter Stella has returned from London to attend. Once shoulder-tapped as detective material, a few bad decisions and a questionable ethical dilemma saw her leave the force under a cloud. She’s now a private investigator in London, reduced to filming errant husbands for court cases. She doesn’t want to be home. Later that night her best friend Teri is found dead in a lane in the central city. Her phone is missing. It looks like suicide, but Stella won’t believe it.” (Catalogue)
This mortal boy / Kidman, Fiona
“Albert Black, known as the ‘jukebox killer’, was only twenty when he was convicted of murdering another young man in a fight at a milk bar in Auckland on 26 July 1955. His crime fuelled growing moral panic about teenagers, and he was to hang less than five months later, the second-to-last person to be executed in New Zealand. But what really happened? Was this a love crime, was it a sign of juvenile delinquency? Or was this dark episode in our recent history more about our society’s reaction to outsiders.” (Catalogue)
Written in the late middle ages, ‘The Wife of Bath’s Tale’ by Geoffrey Chaucer is definitely one of the best known of The Canterbury Tales. The tale gives a rare, if skewed, insight into the role of women at that time and illuminates the changing social structure in a society that was very heavily male dominated. At a time when women were defined only by their relations with men, the tale depicted a person who was unashamed of her sexuality, was more than capable of holding her own amongst bickering pilgrims and was living a very unconventional life for the time, though Chaucer’s tone was often mocking. Some critics have speculated that Chaucer may have written the tale in part to ease a guilty conscience and as a partial critique of misogyny in the literature of the time, though the tale still contains elements of that misogyny.
Karen Brooks’ reimagining of the tale takes a very different tack – in The good wife of Bath: a (mostly) true story she puts the narrative very firmly in the lead protagonist’s voice, and in doing so highlights the caustic results of leaving male power to run unchecked on both society and individuals. The resulting book is often ribaldry, funny and picaresque and examines issues that are just as pertinent to the present day as they were to Chaucer’s time. As well as The Good Wife of Bath we have a wide selection of newly acquired fiction titles including two fabulous Aotearoa titles.
The good wife of Bath : a (mostly) true story / Brooks, Karen
“In the middle ages, a poet told a story that mocked a strong woman. It became a literary classic. But what if the woman in question had a chance to tell her own version? Who would you believe? England, The Year of Our Lord, 1364. When married off aged 12 to an elderly farmer, Eleanor Cornfed, who’s constantly told to seek redemption for her many sins, quickly realises it won’t matter what she says or does, God is not on her side – or any poor woman’s for that matter. But Eleanor was born under the joint signs of Venus and Mars. Both a lover and a fighter, she will not bow meekly to fate. A recasting of a literary classic that gives a maligned character her own voice, and allows her to tell her own (mostly) true story.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Crazy love / Allan, Rosetta
“It has been 28 years since Vicki last sent a letter to Robert Muldoon. Last time she wrote, he was Prime Minister, while she was living with her loser-boyfriend and wanting to know why people like her had to exist in such dire straits. Back then, Muldoon sent her a dollar, but it was the irrepressible Billy who turned up and transformed her life. This time Muldoon is dead and it is Billy who has made her so desperate she doesn’t know where to turn. Since running away with Billy, Vicki has barely looked back. Together they have become a family and prospered. They have survived so much, but can they survive Billy’s increasingly erratic behaviour, especially when he seems so set on pulling them apart?” (Adapted from Catalogue)
The last guests / Pomare, J. P.
“What do you do when you think no one is watching? Lina and Cain are doing their best to stay afloat. Money has been tight since Cain returned from active duty, and starting a family is proving harder than they thought. Putting Lina’s inherited lakehouse on Airbnb seems like the solution to at least one of their problems. The secluded house is more of a burden than a retreat, anyway, and fixing up the old place makes Cain feel useful for once. But letting strangers stay in their house might not be the best idea. Someone is watching – their most mundane tasks, their most intimate moments – and what they see will change everything.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Sistersong / Holland, Lucy
“535 AD. King Cador’s children inherit a land abandoned by the Romans, torn by warring tribes. Riva can cure others, but can’t heal her own scars. Keyne battles to be seen as the king’s son, although born a daughter. And Sinne dreams of love, longing for adventure. All three fear a life of confinement within the walls of the hold, their people’s last bastion of strength against the invading Saxons. However, change comes on the day ash falls from the sky – bringing Myrdhin, meddler and magician. The siblings discover the power that lies within them and the land. But fate also brings Tristan, a warrior whose secrets will tear them apart. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Sisters of the resistance : a novel of Catherine Dior’s Paris spy network / Wells, Christine
“Gabby Foucher hates the Nazis who occupy Paris. As the concierge of ten rue Royale, she makes it a point to avoid trouble, unlike her sister Yvette. Both women are recruited into the Resistance by Catherine Dior, sister of fashion designer Christian Dior. Gabby discovers an elderly tenant is hiding a wounded British fugitive, and Yvette becomes a messenger for the Resistance. As Gabby begins to fall in love with her patient and Yvette’s impulsiveness lead her into intrigue at an ever-higher level, both women will discover that their hearts– and their lives– hang in the balance. ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also Available as an Audiobook.
Painting time / Kerangal, Maylis de
“An aesthetic and existential coming-of-age novel exploring the apprenticeship of a young female painter, Paula Karst, who is enrolled at the famous Institut de Peinture in Brussels. With the attention of a documentary filmmaker, de Kerangal follows Paula’s apprenticeship, punctuated by brushstrokes, hard work, sleepless nights, sore muscles, and long, festive evenings. After completing her studies at the Institute, Paula continues to practice her art in Paris, in Moscow, then in Italy on the sets of great films, all as if rehearsing for a grand finale: at a job working on Lascaux IV, a facsimile reproduction of the world’s most famous paleolithic cave art and the apotheosis of human cultural expression.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
The inheritance of Orquídea Divina : a novel / Córdova, Zoraida
“The Montoyas know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low or empty, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers, even for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. When Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead Orquídea is transformed, leaving them with more questions than answers. Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways …….” (Adapted from Catalogue)
A slow fire burning / Hawkins, Paula
“Laura has spent most of her life being judged. She’s seen as hot-tempered, troubled, a loner. Some even call her dangerous. Miriam knows that just because Laura is witnessed leaving the scene of a horrific murder with blood on her clothes, that doesn’t mean she’s a killer. Innocent or guilty, everyone is damaged. Some are damaged enough to kill.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
“A library of books is the fairest garden in the world, and to walk there is an ecstasy.”
― E. Powys Mathers, The Arabian Nights
Historical fantasy is a genre of fantasy where fantastic elements such as magic are incorporated into a realistic often historical narrative. The genre is one of the oldest forms of fiction around with many early examples such as One Thousand and One Nights and spans a wide diversity of cultures and time periods. These days the genre itself is split into numerous sub genres from wuxia (a martial arts version of historical fantasy) to gunpowder fantasy (an offshoot of Steampunk), prehistoric fantasy to Celtic fantasy.
And this month’s newly acquired selection of science fiction and fantasy titles have two very fine examples of this genre – She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan, set in China in 1345, and A Radical Act of Free Magic by the fabulous Aotearoa / New Zealand author H.G. Parry, set during the time of the Napoleonic war (you can hear H.G. Parry talk exclusively to us about this novel by clicking the link below.) We also have a very small selection of non historical fantasy newly-acquired science fiction and fantasy titles as well.
A radical act of free magic : a novel / Parry, H. G.
“The Concord has been broken, and a war of magic engulfs the world. In France, the brilliant young battle-mage Napoleon Bonaparte has summoned a kraken from the depths, and under his command the Army of the Dead have all but conquered Europe. Britain fights back, protected by the gulf of the channel and powerful fire-magic, but Wilberforce’s own battle to bring about free magic and abolition has met a dead end in the face of an increasingly fearful and repressive government. But there is another, even darker war being fought beneath the surface: the first vampire war in hundreds of years…” (Adapted from Catalogue)
She who became the sun / Parker-Chan, Shelley
” In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected. When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. …..” (Adapted from Catalogue)
A song of flight / Marillier, Juliet
“After a violent encounter with masked men and the sinister Crow Folk, Prince Aolu of Dalriada disappears without a trace, and his companion Galen is seriously injured. Liobhan and the Swan Island warriors seek answers to the prince’s abduction. For Liobhan this mission is personal, as Galen is her beloved brother. While she and her team investigate, Liobhan’s younger brother Brocc is in serious trouble. Brocc’s secret attempt to communicate with the Crow Folk triggers a shocking incident, and sends him on a path which endangers the one he loves above all else. What brought the Crow Folk to Erin? And who plots to use them in an unscrupulous bid for power? ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.
Paris by starlight / Dinsdale, Robert
“Every night on their long journey to Paris from their troubled homeland, Levon’s grandmother has read to them from a very special book. Called The Nocturne, it is a book full of fairy stories and the heroic adventures of their people who generations before chose to live by starlight. And with every story that Levon’s grandmother tells them in their new home, the desire to live as their ancestors did grows. And that is when the magic begins…” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Thread needle / Thomas, Cari
“Within the boroughs of London, nestled among its streets, hides another city, filled with magic. Magic is the first sin. It must be bound. Ever since Anna can remember, her aunt has warned her of the dangers of magic. She has taught her to fear how it twists and knots and turns into something dark and deadly. It was, after all, magic that killed her parents and left her in her aunt’s care. It’s why she has been protected from the magical world and, in one year’s time, what little magic she has will be bound. ………..” (Adapted from Catalogue)
In the watchful city / Lu, S. Qiouyi
“The city of Ora is watching. Anima is an extrasensory human tasked with surveilling and protecting Ora’s citizens via a complex living network called the Gleaming. Although ær world is restricted to what æ can see and experience through the Gleaming, Anima takes pride and comfort in keeping Ora safe from harm. When a mysterious outsider enters the city carrying a cabinet of curiosities from around with the world with a story attached to each item, Anima’s world expands beyond the borders of Ora to places–and possibilities–æ never before imagined to exist. But such knowledge leaves Anima with a question that throws into doubt ær entire purpose: What good is a city if it can’t protect its people?” (Adapted from Catalogue)
The past is red / Valente, Catherynne M.
” The future is blue. Endless blue… except for a few small places that float across the hot, drowned world left behind by long-gone fossil fuel-guzzlers. One of those patches is a magical place called Garbagetown. Tetley Abednego is the most beloved girl in Garbagetown, but she’s the only one who knows it. She’s the only one who knows a lot of things: that Garbagetown is the most wonderful place in the world, that it’s full of hope, that you can love someone and 66% hate them all at the same time. But Earth is a terrible mess, hope is a fragile thing, and a lot of people are very angry with her. Then Tetley discovers a new friend, a terrible secret, and more to her world than she ever expected.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Notes from the burning age / North, Claire
“Ven was once a holy man, a keeper of ancient archives. It was his duty to interpret archaic texts, sorting useful knowledge from the heretical ideas of the Burning Age–a time of excess and climate disaster. For in Ven’s world, such material must be closely guarded so that the ills that led to that cataclysmic era can never be repeated. But when the revolutionary Brotherhood approaches Ven, pressuring him to translate stolen writings that threaten everything he once held dear, his life will be turned upside down. Torn between friendship and faith, Ven must decide how far he’s willing to go to save this new world–and how much he is willing to lose” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Anne Harré’s debut novel The Leaning Man is a newly released, gripping, suspenseful page-turning thrill ride of a book (you are very likely to stay up very late to see what happens next). It is set in our very own windy Wellington and in some respects is a love letter to the city with its perfectly visualised, vivid, and evocative descriptions of the capital both its light and darker sides.
The main protagonist in the novel is Stella; a complex, engaging, and damaged individual on a mission to get to the bottom of her friends’ mysterious death.
And to top it all one of the locations in the book is our very own Te Awe Library, with accompanying fictional librarian.
The book has already gained glowing reviews in The Listener, The Dominion Post as well as RNZ. So, when the opportunity arose for us to interview Anne about The Leaning Man’s origins and creation and how Anne approaches her writing, not to mention how it feels to release your first novel, we jumped at it.
And when it was confirmed that one of the most respected and acclaimed of all our authors, Dame Fiona Kidman was to conduct the interview we were over the moon.
It will be available on our library social media platforms soon after. We wish to extend our heartfelt thanks to Anne Harré, Dame Fiona Kidman and Mary McCallum for making this interview happen. This interview was done in conjunction with The Cuba Press and Creative New Zealand.
The leaning man / Harré, Anne
“Wellington. The land dips and rolls, the wind has a life of its own. Dig a little deeper and the city is unforgiving and unrepentant. Forget the politicians, they’re poor amateurs in deception and crime. It’s Saturday night down on the wharf. Celebrations are in full swing for the Westons’ fortieth wedding anniversary. Their daughter Stella has returned from London to attend. Once shoulder-tapped as detective material, a few bad decisions and a questionable ethical dilemma saw her leave the force under a cloud. She’s now a private investigator in London, reduced to filming errant husbands for court cases. She doesn’t want to be home. Later that night her best friend Teri is found dead in a lane in the central city. Her phone is missing. It looks like suicide, but Stella won’t believe it. Stella Weston is relentless, foul-mouthed and tenacious. She’s not above taking big risks to find the truth about her friend and the shady world she appears to have been dragged into. The race is on between those who want the phone, the homeless man who’s pocketed it, and Stella.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
This mortal boy / Kidman, Fiona
“Albert Black, known as the ‘jukebox killer’, was only twenty when he was convicted of murdering another young man in a fight at a milk bar in Auckland on 26 July 1955. His crime fuelled growing moral panic about teenagers, and he was to hang less than five months later, the second-to-last person to be executed in New Zealand. But what really happened? Was this a love crime, was it a sign of juvenile delinquency? Or was this dark episode in our recent history more about our society’s reaction to outsiders.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson.
New Zealand writer Andy Southall has just released his second novel Both Feet in Paradise. Andy’s mysterious, compelling, suspenseful thriller is occasionally surreal and chock full of unexpected twists and turns. It is set in Samoa, and along with its other attributes, is also a love letter to the island.
Andy has already published two travelogues: One Hundred Days in Samoa and 28 Days in Sri Lanka. His debut novel Making Meredith was about an amateur genealogist traveling to the north of England hoping to research his mother’s father.
During our interview with Andy we talked about his travel writing, the processes he uses whilst creating his work and how his mentorship with Pip Adam helped him finish the book. The resulting interview is a fascinating insight into Andy’s writing practice and also a great non plot spoiler accompaniment to Both Feet in Paradise. Andy was interviewed in conjunction with Caffeine and Aspirin arts and entertainment review show on Radioactive FM.
Both Feet in Paradise, Andy Southall (ebook)
“After months of researching butterflies in Sāmoa, Adam is looking forward to returning home to his family. Then his transfer to the airport doesn’t arrive. Worse, a hastily arranged taxi takes him not to departures but an empty field in the middle of nowhere, and he misses his flight. As he fails to find alternative ways off the island – other flights, ferries, even seagoing yachts – he grows increasingly frustrated, especially as all overseas phone lines and emails seem to be down as well. In a café, he meets Eve, who offers to help him. Adam decides he has to trust her, for there is no one else. Yet he has a strange feeling he’s met her before …” (Adapted Overdrive description)
The Only Living Lady Parachutist is a remarkable novel by Catherine Clarke based in fact about aerial acrobat daredevil, Lillian (aka Leila Adair). Leila was a smoke balloonist who was billed on flyers of the time as ‘The Aerial Queen’; she toured New Zealand in 1894 and her performance included aerial acrobatics followed by death-defying parachute jumps from her balloon. A risky endeavour at the best of times, and one that was often fraught with danger. Catherine’s book takes much of the historical information available about Leila and turns it into a compelling, fascinating, fictional page-turner of a read.
As well as being a compulsive read, the book is a fascinating insight into New Zealand and the wider world of the time, not to mention society’s perceptions of pioneering daredevil women who pushed the boundaries of what was perceived as acceptable for the time.
So, for your delight and edification, this is our exclusive, in-depth interview with Catherine Clarke, where she talks about her novel in detail, the fascinating historical and societal context behind aerial acrobats of the time, her research methods and a whole host of other topics. For anyone interested in New Zealand history, or how to create captivating historical based fiction, the interview is unmissable.
We’re excited to see that our good friends at Verb have just announced the details of their eighth annual festival!
This year’s festival takes place between 3-7 November and includes the ever-popular LitCrawl on Saturday 6 November. For inspiration, this year the Verb team have chosen the theme of “Coven” to explore ideas of community, magic and circles of knowledge both ancient and new.
You Can get Full programme details (including how to book) by clicking here. Specific LitCrawl details can be found here.
To get you in the right place to enjoy the many magical treats on offer, we have a wide range of related books. Below is just a small selection of those titles:
Surrealist Sisters: Writers Respond: Sunday, 31 October, 2pm Te Papa – Te Marae, Level 4 (Free event). Click here for event details and to book.
Aroha: Hinemoa Elder: Sunday, 7 November, 2:30pm – 3:30pm National Library of New Zealand, Auditorium | Taiwhanga Kauhau. Click here for event details and to book.
Aroha : Māori wisdom for a contented life lived in harmony with our planet / Elder, Hinemoa
“Ki te kotahi te kakaho ka whati, ki te kapuia, e kore e whati. When we stand alone we are vulnerable but together we are unbreakable. Discover traditional Māori philosophy through 52 whakataukī – simple, powerful life lessons, one for every week. Each one is retold by respected Māori psychiatrist Dr Hinemoa Elder to show how we can live a less stressful daily life, with more contentment and kindness for each other and the planet.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Fresh Ink: Friday, 5 November, 1:00pm – 2:00 pm St Peter’s on Willis. Click here for event details and to book.
Auē / Manawatu, Becky
“Taukiri was born into sorrow. Auē can be heard in the sound of the sea he loves and hates, and in the music he draws out of the guitar that was his father’s. It spills out of the gang violence that killed his father and sent his mother into hiding, and the shame he feels about abandoning his eight-year-old brother to another violent home. But Arama is braver than he looks, and he has a friend and his friend has a dog, and the three of them together might just be strong enough to turn back the tide of sorrow.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Political Fiction: Saturday, 6 November 6:00pm – 6:45pm Meow, 9 Edward Street. Click here for event details and to book.
” Kirsten McDougall’s latest novel is a brilliant new speculative fiction climate change novel set in Wellington in a very believable and near future ”
( Adapted from Catalogue)
Silence Is…: Saturday, 6 November, 6:00pm – 6:45pm St Peter’s on Willis. Click here for event details and to book.
Tōku pāpā / Solly, Ruby
“‘This book sings a song of connection and disconnection. It moves between the light and the dark as all living things must, and it stretches back to our ancestors and forward to our descendants, while exploring the difficulties of loving those who we should be closest to. This is a searching and generous collection of toikupu that slow time to a trickle…’ — essa may ranapiri.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Nature Cure: A Forager’s Treasury with Johanna Knox: Friday, 22 October 2021, 6:00pm – 7:30pm, The Innermost Gardens 31 Lawson Place. Click here for event details and to book.
A Clear Dawn: Wednesday, 3 November, 6:00pm – 7:00pm, Meow, 9 Edward Street. Click here for event details and to book.
A clear dawn : new Asian voices from Aotearoa New Zealand
“This landmark collection of poetry, fiction and essays is the first-ever anthology of Asian New Zealand creative writing. A Clear Dawn presents an extraordinary new wave of creative talent. With roots stretching from Indonesia to Japan, from China to the Philippines to the Indian subcontinent, the authors in this anthology range from high school students to retirees, from recent immigrants to writers whose families have lived in New Zealand for generations.” (Catalogue)
What We Talk About When We Think About the Future: Saturday, 6 November, 8:30pm-9:15pm, St Peter’s on Willis, 211 Willis Street. Click here for event details and to book.
Reading the signs / Freegard, Janis
“The poems in Janis Freegard’s new collection take their starting point from the poet’s daily ritual of reading the tea leaves while writing in the Ema Saiko room in the Wairarapa. This leads to unexpected discoveries about the world around her, from spider visitors to the writing room and a papyrus-fine gecko skin in the nearby wildlife sanctuary, to news of the ancient bdelloid rotifers that defy natural disasters and the recently extinct amphibians that did not.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
This year the fabulous Laya (Rose) Mutton-Rogers aka Laya Rose won two Sir Julius Vogel Awards. One in the category Best Professional Artwork for the cover art for “No Man’s Land” by A.J. Fitzwater and the other for Best Fan Artwork for Blue and Red (This is How You Lose the Time War), as well as being a finalist in The New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
Laya is no stranger to such accolades, winning NZCYA Te Kura Pounamu awards in both 2020 and 2021. Three previous Sir Julius Vogel Awards, not to mention being a finalist for the Chroma Comic Art Award in 2019 for her truly marvellous web comic Overgrown.
So, for your delight and edification we have an exclusive in-depth interview with Laya Rose; one of the most talented, creative, innovative, and versatile illustrators, graphic artists, comic creators in Aotearoa, where she talks in detail about her work, inspirations, background, and a whole host of other topics. For anyone interested in Laya’s work or, indeed, what a creative illustrator leading edge graphic artist comic creator does, the interview is unmissable.
“Above all things — read. Read the great stylists who cannot be copied rather than the successful writers who must not be copied.”
― Ngaio Marsh, Death on the Air and Other Stories
The shortlist for this year’s Ngaio Marsh Awards has just been announced and what a powerful and diverse shortlist it is. Included amongst its illustrious ranks we have Brannavan Gnanalingam’s Sprigs, the debut novel sensation The Girl in the Mirror by Rose Carlyle, which already has its film rights snapped up by Hollywood, and a whole host of other stunning works.
The Ngaio Marsh Awards began in 2010 with an aim to recognise and proclaim excellence in New Zealand mystery, crime, and thriller writing. It is presented to the best novel, best first novel, best nonfiction work, and this year a whole new category has been launched for novels for younger readers. Each of the books in all the categories need to have been published the preceding year.
We wish to extend our congratulations to all this year’s nominees and we don’t envy the judges’ task in selecting the final winners.
Best Nonfiction (biennial):
Weed: A New Zealand story (James Borrowdale)
Rock College: An unofficial history of Mount Eden Prison (Mark Derby)
From Dog Collar to Dog Collar (Bruce Howat)
Gangland (Jared Savage)
Black Hands: Inside the Bain family murders (Martin Van Beynen)
Inaugural Prize for Novel for Younger Readers:
Katipo Joe (Brian Falkner)
Red Edge (Des Hunt)
A Trio of Sophies (Eileen Merriman)
Deadhead (Glenn Wood)
The murder club / Crutchley, Nikki
“When the first letter arrives saying that ‘tonight it begins’, journalist Miller Hatcher ignores it. But then the body of a murdered woman is discovered, strangled, a scarf around her neck. Cassie Hughes has always vowed to find the man who murdered her mother. Cassie knows he’s out there and wants him to pay, and Miller agrees to bring the cold case back into the public’s eye. Logan Dodds has been obsessed with true crime ever since his sister was murdered thirty years ago. He has turned his obsession into a career and has created the True Crime Enthusiasts Club and his newest venture, True Crime Tours.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Sprigs / Gnanalingam, Brannavan
“It is Saturday afternoon and two boys’ schools are locked in battle for college rugby supremacy. Priya – a fifteen year old who barely belongs – watches from the sidelines. Then it is Saturday night and the team is partying. Priya’s friends have evaporated and she isn’t sure what to do. In the weeks after ‘the incident’ life seems to go on. But when whispers turn to confrontation, the institutions of wealth and privilege circle the wagons.”(Adapted from Catalogue)
The tally stick / Nixon, Carl
“Up on the highway, the only evidence that the Chamberlains had ever been there was two smeared tyre tracks in the mud leading into the almost undamaged screen of bushes and trees. No other cars passed that way until after dawn. By that time the tracks had been washed away by the heavy rain . . . It was a magic trick. After being in the country for only five days, the Chamberlain family had vanished into the air. The date was 4 April 1978. In 2010 the remains of the eldest Chamberlain child have been discovered in a remote part of the West Coast, showing he lived for four years after the family disappeared. Found alongside him are his father’s watch and what turns out to be a tally stick, a piece of wood scored across, marking items of debt. How had he survived and then died? Where was the rest of his family? And what is the meaning of the tally stick?”–Publisher information.” (Catalogue)
The secrets of strangers / Norman, Charity
“Five strangers, one cafe – and the day that everything changed. A regular weekday morning veers drastically off-course for a group of strangers whose paths cross in a London cafe – their lives never to be the same again when an apparently crazed gunman holds them hostage. But there is more to the situation than first meets the eye and as the captives grapple with their own inner demons, the line between right and wrong starts to blur. Will the secrets they keep stop them from escaping with their lives?” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.
Tell me lies / Pomare, J. P.
“Psychologist Margot Scott has a picture-perfect life: a nice house in the suburbs, a husband, two children and a successful career. On a warm spring morning Margot approaches one of her clients on a busy train platform. He is looking down at his phone, with his duffel bag in hand as the train approaches. That’s when she slams into his back and he falls in front of the train. Margot’s clients all lie to her, but one lie cost her family and freedom.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Best First Novel:
The girl in the mirror / Carlyle, Rose
“Identical twins only look the same … Beautiful twin sisters Iris and Summer are startlingly alike, but beyond what the eye can see lies a darkness that sets them apart. Cynical and insecure, Iris has long been envious of open-hearted Summer’s seemingly never-ending good fortune, including her perfect husband Adam. Called to Thailand to help sail the family yacht to the Seychelles, Iris nurtures her own secret hopes for what might happen on the journey. But when she unexpectedly finds herself alone in the middle of the Indian Ocean, everything changes. Now is her chance to take what she’s always wanted – the idyllic life she’s always coveted. But just how far will she go to get the life she’s dreamed about? And how will she make sure no one discovers the truth?” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.
Where the truth lies / Kilmore, Karina
“When investigative journalist Chrissie O’Brian lands a senior job at The Argus, she is desperate to escape the nightmares of her past. Her life has become a daily battle to resist numbing the pain. But her job is something she can do better than anyone else – and the only thing that keeps the memories at bay. A face-off on the waterfront between the unions and big business is just the kind of story to get her career back on track. But after a dockworker who confided in her turns up dead, Chrissie becomes obsessed with unravelling the truth. When a gruesome threat lands on her desk, it’s clear someone is prepared to do anything to stop her.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook
For reasons of their own / Stuart, Chris
“Robbie Gray, a talented but troubled Detective Inspector stationed in Melbourne, who has fallen foul of police bureaucracy, is called to a investigate a dead body found in a rural wetland swamp. Under-resourced, with a corpse that cannot be identified and no apparent motive for the murder, she fails to make headway. The Federal Police take over the investigation and ASIO becomes involved, focusing on a terrorism angle. Convinced they are misinterpreting the evidence, or worse, DI Gray begins her own investigation assisted by a young Aboriginal policeman….” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Also on the list is The Beautiful Dead by Kim Hunt and While the Fantail Lives by Alan Titchall.
Here lies Arthur, King that was, King that will be.”
― Thomas Malory
The myths legends and mysteries surrounding King Arthur and the knights of the round table have for a very long time held a particular fascination on the imagination of writers, artists and film makers.
So, it is fabulous to see in this month’s list of recently acquired Science Fiction and Fantasy titles another author joining these illustrious ranks. Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian brings a fresh and new feminist reimagining of the Arthurian tale, whilst retaining much of the original source material such Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur at its core, pleasing both newbies and Arthurian buffs alike. For details of Half Sick of Shadows and our other selected recently acquired Science Fiction and Fantasy titles, please see below.
Half sick of shadows / Sebastian, Laura
” Everyone knows the legend. Of Arthur, destined to be a king. Of the beautiful Guinevere, who will betray him with his most loyal knight, Lancelot. Of the bitter sorceress, Morgana, who will turn against them all. But Elaine alone carries the burden of knowing what is to come — for Elaine of Shalott is cursed to see the future. On the mystical isle of Avalon, Elaine runs free and learns of the ancient prophecies surrounding her and her friends — countless possibilities, almost all of them tragic. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)
The stranding / Sawyer, Kate
“Ruth lives in the heart of the city. When a new romance becomes claustrophobic, Ruth chooses to leave behind the failing relationship, but also her beloved friends and family, and travels to the other side of the world in pursuit of her dream life working with whales in New Zealand. But when Ruth arrives, the news cycle she has been ignoring for so long is now the new reality. Far from home and with no real hope of survival, she finds herself climbing into the mouth of a beached whale alongside a stranger. When she emerges, it is to a landscape that bears no relation to the world they knew before. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)
The crow folk / Stay, Mark
“As Spitfires roar overhead and a dark figure stalks the village of Woodville, a young woman will discover her destiny…Faye Bright always felt a little bit different. And today she’s found out why. She’s just stumbled across her late mother’s diary which includes not only a spiffing recipe for jam roly-poly, but spells, incantations, runes and recitations… a witch’s notebook. And Faye has inherited her mother’s abilities. Just in time, too. The Crow Folk are coming. Led by the charismatic Pumpkinhead, their strange magic threatens Faye and the villagers. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)
The weight of a thousand oceans / Webster, Jillian
“In a world where cities sprawl like half-submerged skeletons, Maia has spent her entire life hidden within the mountains of New Zealand. Her only companions being her ailing grandfather and a nomadic dog named Huck, Maia resents being alone. She spends her days wandering the ruins of a population long-gone, dreaming of a place where the few humans left behind can start again-a place her grandfather insists is a myth. But Maia cannot escape a strong and mysterious force calling her out into the world, as well as bizarre events following her around the island. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)
This fragile earth / Wise, Susannah
“Signy and Matthew lead a dull, difficult life. But they’re surviving, just about. Until the day the technology that runs their world stops working. Matthew assumes that this is just a momentary glitch in the computers that now run the world. But then the electricity and gas are cut off. Even the water stops running. And the pollination drones – vital to the world, ever since the bees all died – are behaving oddly. People are going missing. Soldiers are on the streets. London is no longer safe. Determined to protect her son, Signy will do almost anything to survive as the world falls apart around them. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Appleseed : a novel / Bell, Matt
“Eighteenth-century Ohio: two brothers travel into the wooded frontier, planting apple orchards from which they plan to profit in the years to come. As they plan for a future of settlement and civilization. In the second half of the twenty-first century: climate change has ravaged the Earth. Having invested early in genetic engineering and food science, one company now owns all the world’s resources. In a pivotal moment for the future of humanity, one of the company’s original founders returns to headquarters, intending to destroy what he helped build. A thousand years in the future: North America is covered by a massive sheet of ice. One lonely sentient being inhabits a tech station on top of the glacier, and sets out to follow a homing beacon across the continent in the hopes of discovering the last remnant of civilization.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
A psalm for the wild-built / Chambers, Becky
“It’s been centuries since the robots of Panga gained self-awareness and laid down their tools; centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again; centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend. One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered. But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how. They’re going to need to ask it a lot. ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.
Strange beasts of China / Yan, Ge
“In the fictional Chinese city of Yong’an, an amateur cryptozoologist is tasked with uncovering the stories of its fabled beasts, which draws her deep within a mystery that threatens her very sense of self.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
In this series of blogs, we want to focus on some small element of our fabulous resources and in this blog, we would like to place the spotlight on our very own podcast collection, which features a wide diversity of recordings made especially by the library, often in conjunction with partners.
The recordings vary in length from 15 mins to an hour; from concise, in-depth one to one interviews with award winning authors, to recordings of some of our many and diverse public events. They include a wide range of content: African poetry readings to Ngaio Marsh mystery fiction panels to Comicfest panels and beyond. Click here to access the full list but for a small taster of what we have on offer just look below. Perfect long or short term lockdown distractions.
The Sir Julius Vogel Awards are New Zealand’s very own annual celebration of home-grown science fiction and fantasy — with awards covering books, dramatic presentations, fan publications and much more.
Octavia won the Best Novel category with her book The Stone Wētā, a novel set in a time when the cold war of data preservation turns explosive. Trying to overcome this disaster and working in a claustrophobic network, a group of dedicated and isolated scientists are each faced with the question of how much they will risk for their colleagues, the future and the truth.
Our heartfelt congratulations to all the winners and shortlisted authors! Have a browse and a bit more of a read below!
The stone wētā / Cade, Octavia
“When the cold war of data preservation turns bloody – and then explosive – an underground network of scientists, all working in isolation, must decide how much they are willing to risk for the truth. For themselves, their colleagues, and their future. A claustrophobic and compelling cli-fi thriller by Octavia Cade”” (Adapted from Catalogue)
These violent delights / Gong, Chloe
“In 1926 Shanghai, eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, heir of the Scarlet Gang, and her first love-turned-rival Roma Montagov, leader of the White Flowers, must work together when mysterious deaths threaten their city.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
No Man’s Land, A.J. Fitzwater (ebook)
“While her brother fights a war on the other side of the world, Dorothea ‘Tea’ Gray joins the Land Service and is sent to work on a remote farm in the golden plains of North Otago, in the South Island of New Zealand. But Tea finds more than hard work and hot sun in the dusty North Otago nowhere—she finds a magic inside herself she never could have imagined, a way to save her brother in a distant land she never thought she could reach, and a love she never knew existed. Inspired by feminist and LGBTQ+ history and family wartime memories.” (Overdrive description)
The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper, A.J. Fitzwater (ebook)
“Dapper. Lesbian. Capybara. Pirate. Cinrak the Dapper is a keeper of secrets, a righter of wrongs, the saltiest capybara on the sea and a rider of both falling stars and a great glass whale. Join her, her beloveds, the rat Queen Orvilia and the marmot diva Loquolchi, lead soprano of the Theatre Rat-oyal, her loyal cabin kit, Benj the chinchilla, and Agnes, last of the great krakens, as they hunt for treasures of all kinds and find adventures beyond their wildest dreams. Let Sir Julius Vogel Award-winning storyteller A.J. Fitzwater take you on a glorious journey about finding yourself, discovering true love and found family, and exploring the greatest secrets of the deep. Also, dapperness.” (Adapted from Overdrive description)
Year’s best Aotearoa New Zealand science fiction & fantasy. V2
“Ancient myths go high-tech a decade after the New New Zealand Wars. Safe homes and harbours turn to strangeness within and without. Splintered selves come together again – or not. Twelve authors. Thirteen stories. The best short science fiction and fantasy from Aotearoa New Zealand in 2019. With works by: Juliet Marillier, Nic Low, Rem Wigmore, Andi C Buchanan, Octavia Cade, A.J. Fitzwater, Nicole Tan, Melanie Harding-Shaw, Alisha Tyson, James Rowland, Zoë Meager, and Casey Lucas.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Poet / artist Sam Duckor-Jones has so far released two collections of poetry; People from the Pit StandUp and the recently released Party Legend. As a poet his works are widely varied, wickedly clever, often poignant in an understated way and often displaying Sam’s mischievous sense of humour.
The starting point for his poems is often eclectic:- from dissections of lying, and overhead commuter conversations, to the subtle sensibilities of the works of Maurice Sendak or poetic allusions to Bach’s Allemande in G, not to mention the tensions between the options of lustful pursuit or putting your feet up in front of a warm comfy cosy fire. Sam has a natural poet’s awareness of rhythm and line and a razor-sharp intellect as this interview shows and is a radical, fresh, and distinctive voice in the poetry world.
His artwork shows the same breath of intellect and consideration and is unbounded by convention or the desire to follow any movement or school. You can see more of Sam’s artwork by clicking here.
We recently had the great pleasure of interviewing Sam to ask him all about his latest collection of poetry Party Legend and the various other projects he is involved in, including his Greymouth church project, not to mention doing a fabulous poetry reading for us.
This interview was done in conjunction with Caffeine and Aspirin arts and entertainment review show on Radioactive FM. The interview was conducted by Caffeine and Aspirin host Liam Wild.
Party legend / Duckor-Jones, Sam
“Sam Duckor Jones’s first poetry collection was a tour of small towns, overgrown lawns, and giant clay men. In Party Legend he turns once again to questions of existence but at an even bigger scale. These are poems about creation, God, intimacy, the surreality of political rhetoric, misunderstandings at the supermarket – and they are fearless in form and address. Though Party Legend is often wildly funny, it is also, in its Duckor-Jonesian way, tender-hearted and consoling.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
People from the pit stand up / Duckor-Jones, Sam
“This is the voice of someone who is both at home and not at home in the world. Sam Duckor-Jones’s wonderfully fresh, funny, dishevelled poems are alive with art-making and fuelled by a hunger for intimacy. Giant clay men lurk in salons, the lawns of poets overgrow, petrolheads hoon along the beach, birds cry ‘wow-okay, wow-okay, wow-okay’.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Amongst this month’s recently acquired fiction titles we have a few that have modes of transport woven into their plots, including a Japanese novel by Kōtarō Isaka intriguingly situated almost entirely on a bullet train. The first initial Shinkansen, known in English as the bullet train, routes started to transport passengers in 1964, expanding over the following decades. The high-speed network has now chalked up over 10 billion passenger journeys. In the novel, five killers find themselves competing for a suitcase full of money on a bullet train.
We also have Falling by real-life flight attendant T. J. Newman, written on redeye flights at 35,000 feet whilst her passengers were asleep.
We also have the fabulous Bug week & other stories by Airini Beautrais, the winner of this year’s Ockham prize and the recently released New Zealand novel Greta & Valdin, set in an Auckland apartment and revolving round brother and sister, navigating the complexities of modern romance. For a wider selection of our recently acquired new fiction just check out our list below.
Bullet train / Isaka, Kōtarō
“Satoshi looks like an innocent schoolboy but he is really a viciously cunning psychopath. Kimura’s young son is in a coma thanks to him, and Kimura has tracked him onto the bullet train headed from Tokyo to Morioka to exact his revenge. But Kimura soon discovers that they are not the only dangerous passengers onboard. Nanao, the self-proclaimed ‘unluckiest assassin in the world’, and the deadly partnership of Tangerine and Lemon are also travelling to Morioka. A suitcase full of money leads others to show their hands. Why are they all on the same train, and who will get off alive at the last station?” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.
Falling / Newman, T. J.
“You just boarded a flight to New York. There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard. What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped. For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die. The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane. Enjoy your flight.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Bug week & other stories / Beautrais, Airini
“A science educator in domestic chaos fetishises Scandinavian furniture and champagne flutes. A group of white-collar deadbeats attend a swinger’s party in the era of drunk Muldoon. A pervasive smell seeps through the walls of a German housing block. A seabird performs at an open-mic night. Bug Week is a scalpel-clean examination of male entitlement, a dissection of death, an agar plate of mundanity. From 1960s Wellington to post-Communist Germany, Bug Week traverses the weird, the wry and the grotesque in a story collection of human taxonomy.”(Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.
Greta & Valdin / Reilly, Rebecca K
“Valdin is still in love with his ex-boyfriend Xabi, who used to drive around Auckland in a ute but now drives around Buenos Aires in one. Greta is in love with her fellow English tutor Holly, who doesn’t know how to pronounce Greta’s surname, Vladislavljevic, properly. From their Auckland apartment, brother and sister must navigate the intricate paths of modern romance as well as weather the small storms of their eccentric Māori-Russian-Catalonian family”–Information from publisher.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
The discomfort of evening / Rijneveld, Marieke Lucas
“Jas lives with her devout farming family in the rural Netherlands. One winter’s day, her older brother joins an ice skating trip; resentful at being left alone, she makes a perverse plea to God; he never returns. As grief overwhelms the farm, Jas succumbs to a vortex of increasingly disturbing fantasies, watching her family disintegrate into a darkness that threatens to derail them all. “–Publisher.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.
Katharine Parr : the sixth wife / Weir, Alison
“Having sent his much-beloved but deceitful young wife Katheryn Howard to her beheading, King Henry fixes his lonely eyes on a more mature woman, thirty-year-old, twice-widowed Katharine Parr. She, however, is in love with Sir Thomas Seymour, brother to the late Queen Jane. Aware of his rival, Henry sends him abroad, leaving Katharine no choice but to become Henry’s sixth queen. Four years into the marriage, Henry dies, leaving England’s throne to nine-year-old Edward—a puppet in the hands of ruthlessly ambitious royal courtiers. The result is a tangled tale of love and a struggle for power, bringing to a close the dramatic and violent reign of Henry VIII.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
A fine madness : a novel inspired by the life and death of Christopher Marlowe / Judd, Alan
“Danger and dissent stalk the streets and taverns of Elizabethan England. The Queen’s chief spymaster, Francis Walsingham, and his team of agents must maintain the highest levels of vigilance to ward off Catholic plots and the ever-present threat of invasion. One operative in particular – a young Cambridge undergraduate, controversial beliefs and literary genius who goes by the name of Kit Marlowe – is relentless in his pursuit of intelligence for the Crown. When he is killed outside an inn in Deptford, his mysterious death becomes the subject of rumours and suspicion .” (Adapted from Catalogue)
With teeth / Arnett, Kristen
“If she’s being honest, Sammie Lucas is scared of her son. Working from home in the close quarters of their Florida house, she lives with one wary eye peeled on Samson, a sullen, unknowable boy who resists her every attempt to bond with him. Uncertain in her own feelings about motherhood, she tries her best—driving, cleaning, cooking, prodding him to finish projects for school—while growing increasingly resentful of Monika, her confident but absent wife. When her son’s hostility finally spills over into physical aggression, Sammie must confront her role in the mess—and the possibility that it will never be clean again.” (Catalogue)