Delta Bridges: 我们知道您同时拥有法律和英语文学的学位，您觉得法律学习在您的文学道路上发挥了什么作用？
We know that you have a law and English lit degree, so how do you think the law study has contributed to your writing career?
I think it contributed a lot. Law is all about storytelling, persuasion and a love of language. All of those skills helped with my writing. And it made me a discipline student to make deadline. To be able to make deadlines for a writer means I can get project done and means I can be freelance for other people and be able to get jobs. I hadn’t practiced the law, but I practiced that by using the skills. A lot of focus on law is around words – why certain words are over the other. It is a little bit like interpretation. That means, when I look at my work, I can concentrate in using the right word and sentences to convey the meaning. It gives me a perception I didn’t think I would have. It also trained me to be specific and be clear about things.
You started by writing plays. What inspired you to write novels?
It has been my passion. I started as a playwright. I entered competition with my script and won the category for it. After that, I was asked, “do you have a novel?” I said no. but this question kept haunting my mind. Eventually I thought, “well, I could.” So originally it was not my plan at all, but I am so glad that i took the challenge. I love both in different ways. It’s absolutely not easy to change. Because in the play you leave it quite blank, so you can cast the character. It took me a long time to explore how novel writing works. It’s a learning process for me. It gives me a different angle. So I think I am a bit playwright for being a novelist and a bit novelist for being a playwright. So sometimes people say that my novel is quite cinematic, or they can see the action quite clearly. I think that comes from my playwriting background. And also, my plays’ language kind of comes from fictions. They fit into each other.
It took me 4 years to write the first novel, partly because I was trying to figure out how to write a novel. I was lucky that the publish house was supportive so I have some more experience to First and second draft.
Does your identity as Māori influence what you write (writing style, content, etc.)?
I think it does. I talked to the emerging writers about this. Sometimes they are worried that they’ve been working as Māori enough. For me I work as Māori because we have a unique perspective on the world and we bring those ideas to the work. So, for instance, my novel writing likes to think about the concept of manaakitanga, which is hospitality. So, it’s about being responsible for your guests and making sure they are comfortable. You can have a real talk with each other because you feel comfortable. The concept of hospitality is also about guests. Guests have the responsibility to be respectful to the hosts. I am trying to apply the concept to my novels. In this way, I try to make sure the readers know what’s going on. I don’t want to trick them by doing fancy things, so they don’t understand what’s going on. I try to entertain them. This kind of idea comes from my identity of Maori.
DB: 您的小说，不论是《The Graphologist’s Apprentice》,《Bugs》还是《Legacy》，都定位为青少年小说。您有希望在文字中向年轻一代表达什么吗？
Your novels, The Graphologist’s Apprentice, Bugs and Legacy, are writing for young adults. Are you trying to convey any messages to the new generation?
Possibly not so in Legacy. The form is actually for adult. I want to write about the characters that get themselves into trouble and get themselves out of trouble. And for me, teenage characters fit that sort of idea the best. I wasn’t even thinking about being for young people. I was just purely interested in that character. So for Legacy, my latest novel, I have more messages for young people than the others. Because it’s about a young man goes back in time by accidence and lives with his great great grandfather. And I want the young people to look at their own history and their family involvement history.
In NZ we know a lot about the WWI from the pakeha (European New Zealander) perspective. I was surprised that Māori had involved in WWI. I heard them they were involved in WWII but I didn’t know their stories during WWI. I thought it was really important today. If I am going to celebrate or commemorate that WWI is the full story that we had for. It’s really interesting to find out something I didn’t know about the country and it’s very important to people. And there are more narratives around of Māori about what they did in WWI.
During your time in China, you attended the Creative Writing Program in Sun Yat-sen University and also gave a public lecture in UN Bookshop. What do you think the Chinese people’s awareness of New Zealand literature in China?
I wasn’t expecting a lot. Because New Zealand is a small country and China is big. But I was really surprised, particularly when talking to the students of Sun Yat-sen University. When I said some New Zealand writers, they knew who they were. I feel really shame because I know little about contemporary Chinese literature. So, the only kind of Chinese literature I know are the ancient myths or the old philosophy. Coming here has inspired me to look for more contemporary works. Hopefully when I go back home, I can get some Chinese works and immerse myself into it.
Can you share with us the list of the interesting books you are reading at the moment?
I always have to share a list of books I am reading at the moment because it’s always quite variable. But at the moment, because I am working on a collection of short stories. Most books I am reading are people’s submission to their collections. So, I am very privileged to work on this project. We’ve contacted so many different talented Māori writers to rewrite Māori myths and the contemporary setting. So I’ve been reading old myths, sci-fi, dystopia, and myths about the place of Māori. One of the things I am reading tonight is called Moving Mountains. That’s based on a myth in central island of New Zealand. I’ll also do some background reading.
New Zealand is very popular for wine tasting travel. Can you tell us some of your tips on wine tasting?
Probably don’t drink too much and try to keep hydrated. Try as much as you can and really appreciate it. It’s not about drinking as much as you can, but to enjoy the flavor. It’s a social event, but not about getting drunk. Enjoy the wine. That’s probably my biggest tip.