30 May 2010

SoCNoC: Southern Cross Novel Challenge

The Southern Cross Novel Challenge is the Southern Hemisphere equivalent of NaNoWriMo: a challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel in the month of June. And if that is too much, there's also HalfNoC, 25,000 words during June. If this sounds like you, check out all the details at the Kiwi Writers site. (Thanks to Travis Couttreau for the info.)

29 May 2010

The Saturday Serial: Win A Day With Mikhail Gorbachev, Part III

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

Part III: The Politburo

The Politburo had traditionally met in a sombre, marbled room, sitting six to a side along a massive table. Mikhail felt that this arrangement wasn't conducive to increased productivity and efficiency, so had done away with the heavy table and got everybody to sit in a circle on the ground, on cushions lovingly sewn in one of the more obscure Central Asian republics. The older Politburo members weren't entirely happy about this arrangement, and still grumbled about it when they thought themselves unobserved. However, the younger men (for there were no female members of this most exclusive club) seemed to like the arrangement, and at the moment it was these men - Vorotnikov, Egor Ligachev, Nikolai Ryzhkov, Chebrikov, Eduard Shevardnadze, and Gorbachev himself - who called the shots.

Everyone is in their seats by 2pm sharp, and Mikhail opens the meeting by pinning a big sheet of paper to the wall and asking for agenda items. Ligachev, who has charge of the minutes of the previous meeting, reminds everyone that the Geneva summit and the forthcoming grain harvest are matters that weren't finalised at the last meeting. New agenda items include progress on the BAM rerouting, another increase in funds for technical intelligence, and the colour scheme for the Politburo's new Zil limousines.

The meeting opens with a sharing session, wherein each member lets the others know how they're feeling, so their private, personal problems won't fester unacknowledged beneath the surface of the meeting. Nikolai Tikhonov announces that he has never felt better; Chebrikov winks at Gorbachev. Andrei Gromyko, who has become slightly deaf, queries why anyone would want to feel butter. Shevardnadze, newly appointed Foreign Minister, reveals he's had an exciting day broadening his knowledge of geography, and now knows where Africa and Australia are. Someone whistles a derisory bar or two of "Georgia On My Mind". Generally, everyone has had a good day, although Vorotnikov claims Gorbachev has obstructed him on a couple of key points -then must hasten to explain he is talking about the lunchtime squash game rather than matters of state.

The Geneva summit (where Mikhail plans to try for a propaganda coup by challenging Reagan to see who can stay on a horse the longest), BAM, a 25% increase in funds for purchase of Western microcomputers and microengineers, and the grain harvest (about which there was general agreement that having one would be a Good Idea) are all sorted out quite simply. As everyone fears, the big clash between Gorbachev's new guard and the remaining old-timers comes over the Zils' paintwork.

The matter had first surfaced under Gorbachev's predecessor Konstantin Chernenko, and in keeping with the dour Siberian's approach the normal black colour scheme had been approved. However, Geidar Aliyev had felt even at the time that something more dynamic was called for, and was now proposing a trendy metallic red with racing stripes down the sides. A reliable source who did not wish to be named claimed that Aliyev was originally planning to include mag wheels and furry dice in the package, but decided this might lessen Politburo members' dignity in the eyes of the Russian people.

After Aliyev has put his proposal, there is an uneasy silence in the room. When Gorbachev, who is facilitating the meeting, asks if there is any disagreement, President Andrei Gromyko rises to his feet.

"For 25 years, I was the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union. For all that time, Soviet representatives maintained the most punctilious dignity and reserve. The western imperialists seek to portray us as barbarians, but we have shown that we are the true standard-bearers of civilisation. Our sober black Zil limousines have been an important part of our image as serious, responsible world leaders. I could never agree to such a proposal."

"Does that means you'd be prepared to block consensus on it, Andrei?"

"Yes, Mikhail, I would."

"Well, does anyone want to try to change Andrei's mind?"

Ligachev, who has a reputation for over-enthusiasm, rises to his feet.

"Listen, Andrei, we're living in the 1980s now, not the 1950s. We're talking marketing, we're talking positioning, we're talking selling ourselves in the marketplace. Today's Politburo needs to project a positive, up-market image, inspiring confidence amongst our customers. Professor Lysenko over at the Soviet Institute of Psychodemographics tells me their latest survey indicates that more Great Russians in the 16-25 cohort know that Wham! recently played China than are aware that the Central Committee recently approved the latest five-year plan. Our collective name-recognition factor, with the understandable exception of Comrade Gorbachev, is less than that of Elton John's percussionist. The citizens of Ust-Kut have recently petitioned to have the name of their main street changed from Lenin Prospekt to Lennon Prospekt! When this sort of thing is happening in Ust-Kut, need I say more?"

(The citizens of Ust-Kut, a small but bustling city in the progressive Lake Baikal region, would doubtless have protested at this implied slur on their modernity, but as it has not until now been revealed, they went about their business in happy ignorance.)

"Egor, interesting as all this is, I don't see why it means we have to have red Zils with racing stripes down the sides."

"Because they're new! They're modern! They're positive! They project the go-ahead image we need. Personally, I'd be prepared to compromise on the racing stripes, but after all, Comrade Gromyko, red is the colour of our Union's flag. Are you suggesting we should change it?"

Mikhail senses that tempers are rising. A good facilitator must be able to strike a balance between non-interference when a meeting is flowing smoothly, and appropriate intervention when things are going off the rails. Now is a time for the latter.

"It's obvious we have considerable disagreement on this issue, and I don't think we can reach a consensus at this meeting. What I suggest is that a few people who've got strong feelings on the issue get together and see if they can work out a compromise proposal, or a new and better one, to present to the next meeting. I won't join that group myself, but stepping outside my role as facilitator I'd like to suggest a dual fleet, one in black for the more ceremonial occasions and one in red, with or without stripes, for trips to the movies and so forth. Are there any volunteers for the working party?"

Aliyev, Ligachev, Vorotnikov and, after some prompting, Gromyko, agree to meet soon to come up with a solution which can be presented to the next Politburo meeting. The present meeting closes with an evaluation; everyone (even Gromyko) agrees it has gone well. Under Brezhnev and Chernenko, everyone would have headed off for a few vodkas at this point, but the fate of Grigory Romanov and other victims of Gorbachev's anti-alcoholism drive persuades them all to settle, in the public interim, for tea, coffee and Milo. After the last cup has been smashed in the fireplace, there's just enough time for Mikhail to pick up his dufflebag from the office before heading home to cook tea.

"Win A Day With Mikhail Gorbachev" was included in Best New Zealand Fiction 4 and then collected in my second short story collection, Transported.

Transported cover

You can buy Transported online from Fishpond or New Zealand Books Abroad. You can also read review excerpts and find out more about Transported

25 May 2010

Tuesday Poem: Impertinent To Sailors

Curved over islands, the world
dragged me south in a talkative year

slipping Southampton
as the band played a distant farewell.

It was better than steerage,
that assisted passage: ten pound Poms

at sixpence the dozen, promenading
in sun frocks, gathering for quoits,

angling, in an understated way,
for a seat at the Captain's table —

while I, a child, roamed decks, became
impertinent to sailors.

And the heat! My dear, there never were
such days — rum, romance,

the rudiments of ska. Panama beckoned,
locks pulsing like the birth canal.

We passed through, to be rocked
on the swells of the quiet ocean,

its long unshaded days
of trade winds, doldrums, Equator —

then a cold shore,
a bureaucratic harbour,

and the half of a world
it would take to say goodbye.

"Impertinent To Sailors" was published in JAAM 27 (2009), edited by Ingrid Horrocks, under the title "Over Islands". I plan to include it in my forthcoming collection "Men Briefly Explained".

Check out all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem Blog - including the poem by Kerry Popplewell I've selected as this week's "hub" Tuesday Poem.

22 May 2010

The Saturday Serial: Win A Day With Mikhail Gorbachev, Part II

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

Part II: Arthur C. Clarke

"Arthur C. Clarke, eh, Viktor? How do you rate him in comparison with Asimov?", Mikhail, a subscriber to Analog, asks his security chief.

"Well, as an SF writer, I think Clarke's got the edge. He brings a real quality of transcendence to his best work, so that it attains a numinous quality which belies his claim to be a writer of hard SF. Expedition to Earth showcases this well, I feel - stories like 'Second Dawn', 'Encounter in the Dawn', and, particularly, the title story have a haunting, evocative quality which derives in large part from the revelation of powerful contemporary motifs in unfamiliar and often ironic settings. 'The Sentinel' is of course of special interest as the progenitor of 2001: A Space Odyssey - have you seen the film, Mikhail?"

"I have. Almost as good as Solaris."

"If you make allowances for its crypto-bourgeois philosophy," Viktor said severely.

"But as for comparing Clarke with Asimov - Clarke's a fine writer, but I can't go past the fact that Asimov was born here."

"True, Viktor, although I don't think we should let national chauvinism influence our literary judgements."

"If you say so, boss. Anyway, getting back to Expedition to Earth, there's one story in it which appears particularly relevant in the light of Academician Ivanenko's recent investigations. Called 'Loophole', it's cast in the epistolary form - "

"Letters, right?"

"Letters, yes. It starts with an exchange of missives between the ruler of Mars and his chief scientist. The Martians have just noticed the first atomic bomb test here on Earth, and - well, perhaps you'd like to read it for yourself, Mick?"

As Mikhail Gorbachev reads of the Martians' plans to dominate and eliminate the humans through their control of interplanetary space, and of the loophole through which the humans strike first, Viktor Chebrikov's gaze strays to the window at the other end of the room. On the other side of that window, the Lubyanka waits to receive its unwilling guests, three faceless bodies lie just beneath the melting snows of Gorky Park, and Arkady Renko and a small group of friends sit watching a smuggled videotape of Hill St. Blues.

In the snows east of Irkutsk, workers on the Baikal-Amur Mainline take care to prevent their skin freezing to the track, and in the Tunguska the trees are again laid flat. Nude bathers are causing a stir in certain Black Sea resorts, whilst in a dacha just outside Moscow Nikolai Tikhonov gives his all in the arms of his beloved as KGB cameras record the scene for posterity.

And more coffins return through the mountain passes from Afghanistan, and Vladimir Arsenyev roams through the taiga with his friend Dersu Uzala, and Stalin's daughter leaves and returns in pain, over and over, as the birches nod their heads in the breeze above the rich black Russian soil.

Mikhail Gorbachev finishes reading. "Hmmm, matter transmitters, eh? What a bright spark that Arthur C. Clarke is. Well, Viktor, any other news? Can my doctors be trusted?"

"Not a disloyal thought in their heads, Mick. I think you're safe there. But I must be going. I have an ethnic minority to oppress."

"Which one?"

"Why, the Russians, of course!"

"One of these days we'll have to stop laughing at that joke. Well, Viktor, show that story to our good friend the Marshal. Our team at Tyuratam may be able to make something of it."

"O.K., boss, I'm away. See you at the Politburo meeting."

Mikhail spends the rest of the morning going through his paperwork and reading his mail; there are five circulars, two chain letters, one misdirected subscription to Krokodil and no invitations to the Vatican. At lunchtime, there's time for a brisk game of squash with Vitaly Vorotnikov before the 2pm Politburo meeting.

"Win A Day With Mikhail Gorbachev" was included in Best New Zealand Fiction 4 and then collected in my second short story collection, Transported.

Transported cover

You can buy Transported online from Fishpond or New Zealand Books Abroad. You can also read review excerpts and find out more about Transported

19 May 2010

Submission Opportunities Roundup

Here are three bits of news of interest to writers and publishers - two about poetry, and the third for science fiction writers - plus a couple of other interesting items. Thanks for two of these items go to Helen Lowe and her weekly email Poetry News - if you'd like to subscribe to this, please contact snowscape (at) paradise.net.nz

International Literary Quarterly

The International Literary Quarterly is still seeking work for its forthcoming New Zealand feature. Stories and poems should be sent to the editor, Peter Robertson, probertsonarg (at) hotmail.com, in the form of Word or RTF files - or contact him for full details. The official link for information is


There is more information about the International Literary Quarterly in this interview between Bookman Beattie and Peter Robertson.

A Call To Small Press Publishers Of Poetry In New Zealand

David Howard (Black Doris Press) and Roger Hickin (Cold Hub Press) are partnering with the American publisher Zephyr Press to present a table of New Zealand poetry at the 2011 Annual Conference and Bookfair of the US Association of Writers and Writing Programs. British poet and publisher Peter Riley once observed:

‘When it comes to poetry the [small press] category becomes illusory. The so-called big publishers produce poetry books in very small editions, sometimes below 1,000.... The notion that some achievement in terms of public recognition is made when a poet is taken on by one of these bigger presses is sadly mistaken: they are run on personal taste and zone-preference like the rest. For the most part the only really commercial poetry publishing... concerns poets laureate, Nobel prize winners, and some popular entertainers.’ [Small Press Poetry Catalogue 1, 1996]

What Riley said of Britain applies (minus the Nobel prize winners) to New Zealand. Still the university presses who creditably publish poetry here do have more marketing resources than their independent counterparts. So, with all due respect, this call is not for university presses; rather it is for publishers in the margins whose commitment to poetry deserves wider exposure.

David and Roger invite approaches from small press publishers of poetry who would like their titles to be represented at the AWP Conference in Washington DC, February 2-5 2011 (for details, see http://www.awpwriter.org/conference/2011proposal.php).

Here is an attractive way to display your broadsheets, chapbooks, and full-length collections prominently alongside offerings from the likes of Copper Canyon Press and W.W. Norton & Company. Representatives from The New York Times and Granta will be at AWP 2011. So will agents, editors, and distributors. Small New Zealand publishers such as Gumtree Press and Seraph Press are already involved. If you would like your publications to be showcased then email David Howard: davidhoward (at) xtra.co.nz

Semaphore Magazine Call for Submissions

Semaphore publishes short stories of up to 7000 words, primarily in the speculative fiction genres (that is, stories which contain elements of fantasy or science fiction), for which we pay authors a nominative sum of $10.00. We also publish poetry, of up to sixty lines, in all genres. All writing published in the regular issues is considered for additional placement in the annual Semaphore Anthology, which collects the best work from the previous four issues. Last year's anthology has been nominated for the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Collected Work, alongside Margaret Mahy's The Word Witch and the poetry collection Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, which features work by David Eggleton and Fleur Adcock, among others. Semaphore Magazine itself has been nominated for the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Production / Publication.

Our next issue is due out in June, and we are currently seeking submissions for the September and December issues.

A more detailed submissions guide can be found on the Semaphore website, where you can also read our current and past issues.

And now, for our listening and viewing pleasure...

Helen Lowe Interviews Jennifer Fallon

Australian science fiction writer Jennifer Fallon has recently moved to live in Canterbury, and Helen Lowe interviewed her for Plains FM

The first link will take you to the website and give you the option to listen online or download the file in MP3 format. The second should take your directly to the the mp3 version, which will then commence playing.



New Tales Of The Cthulhu Mythos

The Adventures of Lil' Cthulhu introduces H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos to children in a cute, fun, horrific way: http://laughingsquid.com/the-adventures-of-lil-cthulhu/

And finally, just remember this: if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a thumb.

18 May 2010

Tuesday Poem: Family Man

Family Man

My double relishes his freedom to move
through narrative and time. You'll find him

in the trunks of burned-out cars,
in the cat seat of history, riding pillion

as the motorcade fails to take the bend.
On the red carpet, just behind the stars,

he whispers poison in each lovely ear.
He's the sine qua non, the ne plus ultra,

the hand chained to the plague ship's tiller,
the indispensable figure of the fifth act.

But now he's taken to hanging round the house,
not picking up, showing the boy amusing tricks

and games to play with string. I'm bored,
my double tells me, and:- how can you stand

to live this way? I look into his empty face.
You're the one who chose to fall in love, I say.


"Family Man" was published in JAAM 27 (2009), edited by Ingrid Horrocks, and I plan to include it in my forthcoming collection "Men Briefly Explained".

'The indispensable figure of the fifth act' is an epithet applied to himself by Pechorin, the anti-hero of Mikhail Lermontov's great early Russian novel A Hero Of Our Time, in the translation by Paul Foote. For what it's worth, Pechorin - named after the River Pechora in Russia - is a double of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, named after the River Onega. I'm not sure I had that in mind when I wrote the poem, though.

Check out all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem Blog.

15 May 2010

Saturday Serial: Win A Day With Mikhail Gorbachev, Part I

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

I've posted a number of my published short-short stories on this blog, but I've held off from posting longer works. Then I had a bright idea: how about serialising a few stories?

So, for the next four Saturdays, I hope you'll enjoy "Win a Day with Mikhail Gorbachev! A Melodrama in Four Parts", which was included in Best New Zealand Fiction 4 and then collected in my second short story collection, Transported. I'll add links to Parts II-IV as they are published.

Part I: Off To Work

Mikhail Gorbachev's day begins much like that of any busy western executive. After a vigorous session of sexual intercourse, Mikhail and his wife Raisa (a former student of philosophy at Moscow University who now drives a tractor in the Ukraine) enjoy a leisurely shower together before descending the central staircase of their modest Kremlin apartment to a hearty breakfast. Mikhail, trained as a lawyer, puts on the toast whilst Raisa brews up a stiff samovar of tea.

Over the breakfast table, Mick and Raisa chat about the news in the morning's Pravda and the hot gossip amongst their circle of friends - mostly the latest titillating details of Soviet Premier Nikolai Tikhonov's infatuation with a 22-year-old Intourist guide - before sticking the dishes in the machine and heading off to work. For Raisa, it's now just a matter of setting the matter transmitter for the banks of the Dnieper and stepping through to the collective farm; for Mikhail, it's a brisk walk across the back yard to his regular job as General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Wednesday the 15th of May is a comparatively light day for Mikhail, who arrives at the office at 9am sharp, exchanging quips about last night's dismal tour performance by Moscow Dynamo (they lost 1-5 to Punta Arenas F.C.) with his guards as he pushes open the swing doors of the Central Committee's open-plan office and heads for his desk at the back. After taking a quick look at the morning's intelligence bulletins - it appears Ronald Reagan has fallen off his horse again - he welcomes in the man ultimately responsible for preparing them, KGB Chief Viktor Chebrikov.

Viktor, who wears a terrible line in spectacles, is an affable, balding secret police professional. Today, he's looking more than usually pleased with himself, and the reason appears to be contained in a book he's carrying in his one good hand (the withering of the other is a legacy of the Sverdlovsk anthrax epidemic). The book, it transpires, is Arthur C. Clarke's Expedition to Earth.

Transported cover

You can buy Transported online from Fishpond or New Zealand Books Abroad. You can also read review excerpts and find out more about Transported.

12 May 2010

Voyagers: More Good Reviews, Another Award Nomination

Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, the anthology co-edited by Mark Pirie and I that was published by Interactive Press in 2009, is continuing to make waves - or, if you prefer, ripples in the fabric of space-time. Here is a roundup of the latest news:

More Good Reviews for Voyagers

Joanna Preston has given Voyagers a good review in the May issue of "a fine line", the magazine of the New Zealand Poetry Society. Joanna says:

More than 70 poets have work in Voyagers; from major luminaries like Fleur Adcock, Alistair Te Ariki Campbell and A.R.D. Fairburn, to protostellar entities like Katherine Liddy, Seán McMahon and Meliors Simms. Most are represented by only one or two poems, the vast majority of which are typical modern NZ free verse lyrics. They range in tone and mood from wonder (as in Nic Hill’s ‘Somewhere Else’), through gleeful weirdness (Helen Rickerby’s ‘Tabloid Headlines’) and ‘Martian’ strangeness (Tracie McBride’s ‘Contact’ and Jane Matheson’s gorgeous ‘An Alien’s Notes on first seeing a prunus-plum tree’), to the bleakness that has long made dystopian fiction one of science fiction’s classic concerns (Fleur Adcock’s brilliant dystopian epic ‘Gas’ being one of the collection’s highlights).

You can read the full review, other reviews, and sample poems, at the Voyagers mini-site.

Hot off the press comes Patricia Prime's review of Voyagers in Takahe 69. Patricia ends this comprehensive rand generally positive review by saying:

... [there are] probably more contributors concerned with the insights into science fiction than we could have imagined from our community of poets.

Award Nominations

Voyagers is a finalist in the "Best Collected Work" category of the Sir Julius Vogel Awards, New Zealand's local equivalent of the Hugo Awards. My thanks go to all those who nominated Voyagers! The awards ceremony will be at Au Contraire, the 2010 New Zealand Science Fiction Convention, held in Wellington in August, which I'll be attending. There is a strong lineup in "Best Collected Works", and all the other categories - it's a good guide to the present strength of science fiction, fantasy and horror in this country.

As previously reported, "Two Kinds of Time", by Meliors Simms, is a nominee in the Best Short Poem category of the Rhysling Awards 2010. The Rhysling Awards, established in 1978, are the international awards for science fiction, fantasy and horror poetry. Meliors' poem appears in the 2010 Rhysling Anthology, and the winners and runners-up will be announced at ReaderCon in Boston in July 2010.

Voyagers cover

You can buy Voyagers from Amazon.com as a paperback or Kindle e-book, or from New Zealand Books Abroad, or Fishpond.

You can also find out more about Voyagers, and buy it directly from the publisher, at the Voyagers mini-site.

11 May 2010

Tuesday Poem: An Alien's Notes on first seeing a prunus-plum tree, by Jane Matheson

An Alien's Notes on first seeing a prunus-plum tree
by Jane Matheson

This is a device for recycling air
...so intelligently functional in its design
yet aesthetically pleasing in its line.
These delicate rose-petalled flowers...
so soft to stroke, you can do it for hours!
It is wondrous too
that in the heat of the summer sun,
these flowers become
marble-sized ruby-red rounds
of delectable fruit-flesh.

Humans call it a prunus-plum tree
I would very much like
to take it back with me.

This poem is included in Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, edited by Mark Pirie and Tim Jones (Interactive Press, 2009).

Voyagers cover

You can buy Voyagers from Amazon.com as a paperback or Kindle e-book, or from New Zealand Books Abroad, or Fishpond.

You can also find out more about Voyagers, and buy it directly from the publisher, at the Voyagers mini-site.

06 May 2010

An Interview With D J Connell

D J Connell is a New Zealand novelist who currently lives in London. She has lived and worked in various countries including Australia, Japan and the UK. She wrote for many years as a journalist and copywriter before moving to Europe a few years ago to commit to writing novels full time.

Her first novel, Julian Corkle is a Filthy Liar, was written in Paris, France. The book was released in New Zealand in March to great reviews and media attention. It is being released in Australia in May and in the UK in July. A French version will be published by notable French publishing house, Editions Belfond, at year end. The book has also been optioned for a film by Sarah Radclyffe Productions of the UK and Macgowan Films of Australia.

Her second book, titled Sherry Cracker Gets Normal, will be released next year by Blue Door, an imprint of HarperCollins UK. Blue Door bought her first two novels in 2009 in a deal negotiated by Sophie Hicks, managing director of Ed Victor Ltd, a top UK literary agency based in London.

D J Connell currently does not have a website or blog but Julian Corkle has his own Facebook page which is open to the public. You are cordially invited to befriend him.

My blog interview with you came about under rather unusual circumstances. Would you care to tell readers the story?

I was in a pub in West Hampstead, London, with a writer friend from Paris when a woman leaned over and asked if I came from New Zealand. The woman, Deborah, had overheard us talking about the upcoming release of my book. She gave me your email and encouraged me to contact you. Kind!

With a major publisher behind your first novel and film rights optioned, Julian Corkle is a Filthy Liar looks like an overnight success – but overnight successes are usually the product of years of hard work. How many years' work has gone into the success of Julian Corkle is a Filthy Liar?

Perhaps I should first outline the publishing system in Britain. To get published, you generally need an agent. If you don’t have contacts, then the only way into a literary agency is through the ‘slush pile’. This entails sending in a synopsis and the first 50 or so pages of the book along with a cover letter.

I didn’t have any connections so I had to do it the hard way. I sent in samples and got back six positive replies from agents asking for a full read. I was new to the game and had no idea that this was a brilliant response.

So, when the first agent declined after a full read the second told me that my manuscript needed work, I began to panic. When the third offered to represent me, I immediately accepted. However, this agent was new to the game and was not particularly well connected. To be fair, my novel also needed work.

When the agent didn’t manage to sell it, I put my head down and kept writing. I spent a few years in a very dark place not knowing whether what I was doing was worthy or marketable. It was a very challenging period. I’m not sure what kept me going but I do know that my ego got ground to dust in the process. My family was very worried.

After the first agent and I parted company, things suddenly began to move for me. I was introduced to my publisher, the marvellous Patrick Janson-Smith, and my current sharp-shooting literary agent, Sophie Hicks.

So, no, there was no overnight success. It was a long, ego-crushing process. I was living off savings and was down to my last 1,000 euro when the contract came through. I would like add, however, that I also learned a lot about the importance of being fully committed, determined and focused.

Do you think that the humour in Julian Corkle is a Filthy Liar derives mainly from the characters, or from the situations you put the characters in?

My writing is character-driven. Once I nail a character and know what will work for him/her then the situations almost write themselves (then require a lot of rewriting and editing).

Take Julian, for example. He’s a show off with a habit of telling whoppers. So my job was to put him in situations where he was going to trip himself up or make a fool of himself. But the trick was to do this without losing reader sympathy. He’s a fool but my challenge was to make sure that no matter what the situation or his crime was, he remained a loveable fool.

Humour is deceptively complex to write. It’s all about the set up and the payoff and involves the unexpected and the absurd. The reader expects or hopes Julian will do one thing but being the fool that he is, he usually does the other.

How did your recent return visit to New Zealand go, and what has been the reaction to Julian Corkle is a Filthy Liar and its success in New Zealand?

It was a wonderful trip. My book got an excellent reception. I did quite a few radio and print media interviews and was even on TVNZ’s Good Morning show with Sarah who gave the book a lovely endorsement. The New Zealand Woman’s Weekly made Julian Corkle is a Filthy Liar Book of the Week in its April 19th edition and it received two excellent reviews on the National Programme. An interview with Kathryn Ryan aired on the National Programme’s Nine to Noon on April 26th and is currently available as a podcast.

I also managed to visit many bookshops and talk personally to booksellers who were very welcoming and positive about the novel. There’s nothing quite like walking into a bookshop and seeing your book on display.

I mentioned earlier that Julian Corkle is a Filthy Liar has been optioned to be filmed. Can you tell us a bit more about who has optioned it, and where things are at with the film adaptation? Will you be writing the screenplay?

Sarah Radclyffe Productions and Macgowan Films are independent film companies that are renowned for making phenomenal films. Between them they have made such cutting-edge films as My Beautiful Laundrette, Death Defying Acts, Two Hands and more recently The Edge of Love. They are currently working together on South Solitary in Australia. At the moment, all I know is that the film will be made in Australia and that they plan to start next year.

Unfortunately, I am not a screenwriter so I won’t be writing the screenplay. I would love to be involved but that will be up to the producers and their team.

People ask me if I fear that the book will be destroyed as it is made into a film. Strangely, I don’t. First, I have a lot of faith in the two production companies and second, I am happy to see the story that I’ve created become another person’s creative project. I’ve written a book that I love. I hope that the filmmakers will make a film that they will love, and that others will love, too.

Are there writers who have had a particularly strong influence on your writing, and which writers do you most enjoy reading?

I’m not sure who has influenced me but I can give you the names of some of the writers that I love (please note that these are just the tip of the iceberg): Jane Bowles, William Trevor, Evelyn Waugh, J D Salinger, Albert Camus, Flannery O’Connor, Carson McCullers, Annie Proulx, many of the Russians such as Gorky, Gogol and Dostoyevsy. More recently, I’ve been reading Alice Munro and Anne Enright. Wonderful stuff.

Do you have other books in the pipeline, and if so, are you managing to find time to write them amid all the publicity work for Julian Corkle is a Filthy Liar?

I am currently refining my second novel, Sherry Cracker Gets Normal, for publication next year. I have a third and fourth in the pipeline. I manage to write by living in a very disciplined manner. I get up at 5am every morning and begin my day with a pot of tea and two cats for company. I don’t drink alcohol and I don’t have TV. I don’t even own a car. My life might sound boring but I am doing what I love and there is no better high than creating something that works and brings joy to others. I write to make people laugh. In my opinion, there’s not enough of it. Humour is underrated.

Julian Corkle is a Filthy Liar is available at most bookshops, and online shopping sites such as Fishpond, Mighty Ape, and Amazon.

04 May 2010

Tuesday Poem: Sex In An Elevator

Sex in an Elevator

Unlike Scarlett Johansson
I have never had sex in an elevator
with Benicio Del Toro, or Guillermo Del Toro
or any member
of the Del Toro clan.

I have never had sex with Scarlett Johansson
though I was there with Bill Murray
right through Lost in Translation.

At the Unemployed Rights Centre in Dunedin
they said there was a ghost in the stairwell.
It certainly was cold
and not somewhere
I'd choose to linger.

I never had sex there either
not with the ghost
not with Scarlett watching.

All Blacks' Kitchen Gardens cover

You can buy All Blacks' Kitchen Gardens online from New Zealand Books Abroad or Fishpond, or find out more about it.

Or, even easier, you can order a copy directly from me, by sending an email to senjmito (at) gmail.com. Within New Zealand, that will cost you $15 including postage & packing. If you're from overseas, please get in touch and I'll let you know the total cost.

Check out the Tuesday Poem Hub Blog for Emma Barnes' "come here at once" and all this week's other Tuesday Poems.