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Friday, 24 April 2015

An Interview with Evan Andrew

What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Every day’s a good day. Although on a cold winter’s day when I hear the rain on the roof, I would rather stay snuggled up in bed.
What is your favourite book from childhood? Tell me about it.
So many! My first favourite was ‘Matilda and Her Kittens,’ which I knew by heart, and as the title tell you, all about a mother cat and her kittens. Animals I have always loved so their stories, ‘Call of The Wild,’ ‘White Fang,’ etc, I devoured them. At about ten I read ‘These Old Shades,’ which was my mother’s book, and fell in love with historical novels. Rafael Sabatini, Baroness Orczy, Thackeray, Dickens, Scott, I read them all. Today I tend to read mostly non-fiction, but I have catholic tastes, and enjoyed recently Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels. I must admit fantasy doesn’t do it for me, and science fiction I have read, but am not a complete fan.
What are you currently reading?
I am currently re-reading an old book, ‘Black William,’ set in the 18th century in Northumberland by Robert Neill, an author I particularly enjoy, and have just finished reading ‘The Royal Mob,’ by Theresa Sherman. This was basically a good idea by the author, but it irritated me hugely as it was riddled with mistakes, including spelling, and badly needed a good historical proof reader.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? Why does it stick in your memory?
It was a ‘whodunnit,’ I wrote at about ten, and until you asked the question I had forgotten all about it. At eleven I wrote a play, that I put on at Campbells Bay School, with some of my fellow classmates taking part. I can’t even remember the title of it today, but still have the photos of us in costume.
What’s the best thing about being a writer?
Just the pleasure, (when the muse is with you), of getting everything down in written form and reading it. Of course, when you see it in book form, for a writer I don’t think you can have anything more satisfying.
What is your writing process?
I don’t really have one, I am slightly ashamed to say. I do lead a very busy life, like most people today, and it has to fit in with lots of other activities and interests. I write mostly in the late autumn through winter and early spring.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I guess I am always on the go. With family, (including seven grandchildren), I sometimes feel I am running a taxi service, and am a child and people minder! The garden, friends, films & theatre, travel, beach house, etc. There are never enough hours in the day to do all I want to do, (and sometimes need to do!)
What are you currently working on? Explain.
New stories. Ah!!! I have started an up to date thriller, to try a different genre, but am also playing with the idea of a family in an early New Zealand novel set in the far North during the land wars. I am also toying with another mystery set in the 1880’s at an Indian hill station, and maybe an Irish novel set in the 18th century of the troubles between two families, one of English extraction, the other Irish. Oh, lots of ideas… so little time! 
Evan’s titles
The Spanish Woman
Shadows in the Night
Shadows of Doubt
Beware of the Dragon

Friday, 17 April 2015

Bev Robitai is struggling with the next book

Often your first book is quite easy to get on with. You have a burning idea that won’t let you rest until you get it down in words and carefully shaped to perfection. You live with it for years, mulling it over in quiet moments, waking at night with new insights, considering every angle before it’s finally published and you start to think of yourself a s a real writer.

The second book is a very different prospect. Suddenly you’re under pressure to produce a finished manuscript in much less time to capitalise on the success of the first. That leisurely thought process that took years for the first book is telescoped into a hurried rush to plan and plot and pace, to find more of those magic characters that readers will love and give them a compelling narrative. But it’s still a joy to discover the story as it unfolds in your head. That’s why we write, isn’t it?

But now you’re a published author with certain commitments to fulfil. Readers are (you hope) eager for your next book, and they won’t wait forever. So can you deliver?

I’m currently stalled before starting my next book. Quite apart from being kept very busy with publishing other people’s books, I’m stalling on my own writing because I haven’t reached that critical mass necessary for the explosion of creativity. It’s like lighting a camp fire. You need plenty of small kindling, wood shavings, dry moss, and matches or a flint to make it catch light. I’m assembling those ingredients – setting, plot outline, one or two characters, but don’t yet have enough for my imagination to catch alight. I need that spark of passion for the idea that will carry me through the months of writing.

Perhaps I need to apply the blowtorch of penury to see a decent conflagration! Gotta get those Amazon cheques coming more often!

How long does it take you to get going on a book?

What do you do when inspiration needs a helping hand?
Bev Robitai

Sunday, 12 April 2015


I have read several articles about the use of ‘bad’ language recently and thought some of the points worth passing on; and acknowledge Nicholas Butler’s article in North and South February 2015.

Late last year Andrew Little, newly elected leader of Labour, challenged the prime minister in parliament to ‘cut the crap and apologise’ after it became apparent John Key had lied about his association with blogger Cameron Slater.
The general public are accustomed to politicians lying, but they are not accustomed to politicians swearing and speaking so bluntly. Rather than provoking any criticism, Andrew Little’s comments were repeated with relish by the media and he was admired for ‘saying it like it is’.

There has been research in many areas about the use and effectiveness of swearing. MRI’s have been used to measure changes in blood flow, and hence brain activity as subjects were presented with neutral, negative and arousing words. The scans indicated that emotionally arousing words, like obscenities, travel via a different pathway to non-emotional words, a pathway that starts in the amygdala deep in the ancient limbic regions of our brain. Vulgar language activates our primal, emotional brain, cutting out our more rational cortex. Our brain unconsciously registers the depth of the speaker’s feeling, even if we reject their choice of words.  For that reason ‘cathartic swearing’ (when hammer hits thumb) really does reduce the pain more than an ordinary expression might.
Interestingly, although Maori has contributed various words to our local vernacular, it hasn’t contributed any common swear words. In fact Maori is one of the few languages reputed to have no swear words, perhaps because early dictionaries were compiled by missionaries. Some people believe the succinct ‘fuckwit’ is a home grown New Zealand swear word but that is not certain. However, apparently the expression ‘shit oh dear’ with its combination of bluntness and understatement is definitely Kiwi.

What constitutes swearing or offensive language has changed. In the early 20th century, calling someone a twerp was considered sufficiently offensive to warrant a prison sentence; nowadays it is regarded so inoffensive as to be almost a term of endearment. I grew up believing calling someone ‘a dirty, rotten, filthy, stinking miserable so and so’ was as bad as it got, because that was the worst thing my father ever said about bad drivers who cut in on us.  But if someone shouted that as we drove down Queen Street these days, we’d probably giggle.  In the 1960’s permissiveness turned dirty words into good clean fun and as people cared less and less about God, religious swearing lost its sting. Nowadays a new trend is emerging. Racial and other derogatory epithets like ‘nigger’, ‘retard’ and ‘faggot’ are growing more offensive, and offensive to more people.
For many writers using bad language is simply unacceptable. Swearing is still stigmatised; seen as a sign of lax morals, lack of refinement, impoverished vocabulary. About the only thing missing is the suggestion that swearing makes you fat. And yet people still let rip and when it comes from an unexpected source as it did with Andrew Little, the infectious informality finds plenty of support. Because swear words communicate emotions in a way that normal language cannot.

Erin McKechnie


Friday, 3 April 2015

Pam Laird recommends Caitlin Moran for a great laugh.

Hands up now! How many of you have read, How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran? Yes, I realise it was published four years ago, but you have to understand I’m the one who’s always tagging along at the end.

If you want a totally refreshing look on life through the eyes of English woman C. Moran then, it’s all here. In among the belly laughs are words of great wisdom for women, possibly men too. You may have to put the laughs on hold for a while, but the wisdom is certainly there.

I’ve also learned that Caitlin has a number of male admirers of her revelations about women. God help us if they ever act upon some of them!

Another thing you’ll discover is the high percentage of woman-kind who can knowledgeably pat her on the back for some of her insights. Over the years we may have buried those thoughts as bizarre but now we learn most of the female gender are just as crazy as we’ve always thought ourselves. Well, not me personally of course, but heaps of others!

Look at the chapter headings…
I become Furry, What to call my Breasts? I Need a Bra, I am Fat, I Go Lap-Dancing, I get into Fashion, to mention but a few.

This is a whole hand-book on how to face the world from the age of 13. In between the unrestrained laughter one finds such paraphrased gems as the over-sized breasts of a desperately running girl calling out, ‘Just go on without me, I’ve had a good life.’
It seems to me, we are sadly lacking in books written with a delightfully fresh slant, filled with humour and dare I say it, written by women. This is a dandy; try it for your summer reading.

Pam Laird