Chris Tse responds to our slightly irreverent literary questionnaire, inspired by Katherine Mansfield.
Write a prelude to your life in one sentence.
They had been searching for months when they found the trail of empty Cheds boxes that would lead them to certain danger.
Would your father have accepted your plea for musical training?
Dad didn’t encourage me to learn any instruments, so I stumbled into violin lessons on my own accord. Unless karaoke counts – then yes.
Do you speak French?
Only enough to get me two biscuits or a large chicken from a shop, and to sing along to bits of Zazie songs (she’s a fantastic French singer).
If you were to, at any stage, become a ghost who would you haunt?
A writer. It seems only fair, given the ghosts that have haunted me for the last few years.
Do you keep ‘great complaining notebooks’ a.k.a. journals?
I start so many of them for different projects that it’s hard to keep track of them. I’ve kept one particular travel journal since 2009. It’s been with me on many trips and is mostly filled with lists of what I ate, concert setlists, and notes on artworks I’ve seen.
Garden parties. Yes or no?
Yes, mostly because you can spend them horizontal on a lawn. I like parties where you can lie down without being judged by other guests.
Where have you had the best time of your life?
At a dinner table surround by friends and family.
Where have you had the worst time of your life?
I could tell you but my Mum might read this.
If you were to use a nom de plume, what would it be?
Definitely something starting with the letter ‘X’.
Virginia Woolf wrote ‘I was jealous of her writing — the only writing I have ever been jealous of.’ Who are you most jealous of?
When I read something that I love and wish I’d written, that flash of jealousy is exactly that – a flash. Once in fades, the admiration kicks in.
Where are you in the family birth order?
Eldest of two sons, third grandchild on my Mum’s side and (I think) thirteenth on my Dad’s side.
You left home and then:
I had to return the next night to fix my parents’ wifi.
What is your favourite short story?
One that’s lodged firmly in my memory is Emily Perkins’ “Barking”. When I first read it, it really spoke to me – as an aspiring actor, not as a stalker.
What was the last real letter you wrote?
Probably as a teenager to my cousin in Montreal. We wrote to each other regularly in the days before email and social media.
What brings you bliss?
A song that still sounds exciting after 50 straight plays (I use the “repeat” function on iTunes a lot). A hearty sandwich. A perfect gin martini. Clear night skies for astrophotography.
How would you like to die?
I finish one of my recent poems with wanting to be “buried by a mountain of french fries”. Upon further consideration, I think that’d be a terrible way to go – especially if the fries were straight out of the fryer. Something mercifully quick would be good.
‘There is no twilight in our New Zealand days, but a curious half-hour when everything appears grotesque—it frightens—as though the savage spirit of the country walked abroad and sneered at what it saw.’ What are your feelings on New Zealand twilight?
Was Mansfield on drugs when she wrote this? I’ve always considered twilight to be peaceful, a chance to step out of the rush of the day and catch your breath.
Has anyone ever said of you that you’re ‘a dangerous woman’?
No, but a boy can dream.
Have you ever had an X-ray?
A few. The most recent was from about four years ago when I was in a car accident. My car was “T-boned” on the motorway and they wanted to make sure I hadn’t broken any ribs because the dent on the driver’s side left by the impact was cause for concern. Thankfully, I walked away with just a sore shoulder.
Write a brief history of your eyesight:
Fine until my final year of primary school when an eye test at school revealed shortsightedness (my parents said it was from reading too much). As a teenager, I had to wait for a number of years to get contact lenses because my eyeballs were too big or something – I wasn’t paying attention, but I remember being really pissed off about it, as is your prerogative as a moody and image-conscious teen.
Is there ‘the taint of the pioneer’ in your blood?
I suppose. “Pioneer” might be overstating it, but that desire to seek out new places has certainly been there.
‘I want to be REAL.’ True or false?
True (he types with gritted teeth).