I have a new website! It's the same address as the old website but it has been completely overhauled and redesigned. Please visit to find out about me, The Sound of Butterflies and Magpie Hall, including excerpts, reviews, interviews and stories about how I came to write the books. It's also where I will post news relating to the books and events.
I am overjoyed at the way it has turned out, thanks to my talented web designers Sharon Blance and Brence Coghill. They have perfectly captured the visual essence of my work.
So here they are: photos of an actual copy of Magpie Hall, due to be released here in NZ on November 6. I was ridiculously excited to receive it, just as Vanda Symon was to get hers (both with hands on the covers - spooky). I carried it around with me all day and kept looking at it, much as I might stare at the wonder of a newborn baby. There's that comparison again.
The publicity machine is in motion. This week's Listener has an interview with me, and the Sunday Star Times will tomorrow be running a 1000-word extract to give people a taste of the book over the long weekend. I will put up links if and when they appear.
After the strange silence surrounding the announcement that the new look New Zealand Book Awards would carry a shortlist of only three fiction titles, which I blogged about last time, Bookman Beattie finally brought it up on his blog and a good number of people weighed in on the argument against such a small shortlist. You can read the comments here, and add your own if you can, since I don't know that the right people are reading this blog and its attached comments. The story has been picked up by the Dominion Post. I hope the powers that be don't dig their heels in for the sake of it and listen to what people have to say.
Further to my New Zealand Book Month post, I did a quick tally of the books I have read so far this year. 17 novels, 7 of which are from New Zealand. So I'm beating the 5% average by 36%. Yeah! Interestingly, four of them are by debut authors, and all of them are by women.
I also pondered why it is that, when our newspapers are full of NZ-only interest stories, with tiny sections devoted to world news, we are not similarly interested in NZ fictional stories.
The new look New Zealand Book Awards has been announced, now sponsored by NZ Post. I certainly look forward to the new format, and good on NZ Post for the tireless support of New Zealand literature (they also sponsor the Wellington Readers and Writers' Festival and the Katherine Mansfield Menton fellowship)... but. There will now only be three fiction finalists. I don't understand this decision, especially given everyone's dismay the year the judges chose only four finalists instead of the five they were allowed to. Aside from winning, it is a good honour and a good opportunity for promotion to be short-listed, and that honour is now much harder to obtain. I really hope this is re-thought.
In other news, congratulations to fellow-blogger and wonderfully pink-haired Laini Taylor, whose latest YA book, Lips Touch, has been short-listed for America's National Book Award. Laini's books aren't available in New Zealand as far as I know, but her other project, Laini's Ladies, can be bought from Cosi Fan Tutte in Christchurch. Of course, you can always check out Laini's books from Amazon, or order them from somewhere like Unity.
I hope to be blogging much more regularly now that things have settled down somewhat on the home front. And of course it is only three weeks until Magpie Hall comes out. I am expecting an advance copy by courier tomorrow. Exciting! Well, it is for me anyway. Heh.
Unless you have your head in the sand or you're not from New Zealand, you'll know that it's New Zealand Book Month this month, an initiative that it is hoped will have the same impact on NZ books as NZ Music Month has had on NZ music (ie a good one).
Last week, the Sunday Star Times ran a story with statistics of what people are buying when it comes to books: of all the fiction sold in New Zealand, only 5% of it is from New Zealand. On the one hand that looks like an appalling ratio, but on the other, when you consider just how much international fiction there is out there, it's not so bad. Surely only 5 % of novels available are from New Zealand?
That optimistic view aside, once I had finished the article, which interviews some well known literary types about why this might be, I was surprised that nobody mentioned this: if we want New Zealand fiction to sell as well as international fiction, bookstores are going to have start putting New Zealand books alongside 'real' fiction. Walk into any bookstore and you find a 'fiction' section, and a 'New Zealand fiction' section. I imagine that Joe (or more likely Josephine, as women buy far more fiction than men do) Public, when they go into a bookstore looking for a novel, make their way to the fiction section for their browsing. They find a book and they are happy. It might not even occur to them to make a special trip over to the NZ fiction section.
Perhaps bookstores think they are doing NZ books a favour by singling them out like this, giving them their own special showcase section, but I disagree.I think it makes the average buyer see New Zealand books as somehow second-rate. By all means have a NZ fiction table, or a section, but can we please see NZ books put alongside the Peter Careys and the Hilary Mantels and the Sarah Waters? Otherwise they are just not seen, let alone considered, by the buying public.
Only one month to go until my new novel, Magpie Hall, is published here in New Zealand. I am feeling rather excited and, of course, apprehensive as to how it will be received.
I read through two sets of proofs - admittedly the second not quite as thoroughly as the first given the timeline and my commitments at home - and fixed up a few typos and some potentially embarrassing factual errors. It is now at the printers, and advance reading copies (or ARCs) will be going out soon to booksellers and reviewers. I have already done one media interview which was a joy because the interviewer had actually read the book (not as common as you would think!), and it made me realise that I have plenty to talk about with novel so hopefully I won't be boring people by going over all the same ground as the last time I had a novel out.
In fact, there are quite a few things I would like to say about Magpie Hall on this here blog, but I think I might wait until the interviews are over, in case I get the chance to wax lyrical in those about why I chose Magpie Hall as the title, what led me to tattooing as a theme, how this novel was assembled in a completely different way from The Sound of Butterflies etc etc. Then I can write about whatever I wasn't asked. I hope that anyone who reads the novel and who also reads this blog will feel free to ask me questions about it as well.
In the meantime, I wait. It's like that final month of pregnancy where you're sick of being heavy with child and would just like to get it out now please, so you can meet it and see how it is in the world.
Speaking of which, the upside to spending hours on the couch feeding a baby has meant that I've caught up beautifully on my reading, as anyone who has been keeping an eye on my 'what I'm reading' section over there to the right will have noticed. I've just started Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger, which, like my book, is set in an old country house that has seen better days and may or may not contain a ghost. All I can say is thank goodness it came out after I'd written mine so I couldn't be influenced by it in the slightest. Now I just get to enjoy reading it.
The Sound of Butterflies was the title of my first novel, published in the UK by Picador, in the US by William Morrow and in New Zealand by Random House, and translated into eight foreign languages. In 2009 my next novel, Magpie Hall, was published in New Zealand by Random House, and in 2012 my first novel for children, Red Rocks. This blog is my thoughts on the world of writing and books.
Photo by Sharon Blance.