Novelist Jenny Pattrick responds to our slightly irreverent literary questionnaire, inspired by New Zealand author Katherine Mansfield. She counsels against garden parties in Wellington and reveals what really happened all those years ago at the bay...
1. Write a prelude to your life in one sentence:
The hot sands of Days Bay proved to be my mother’s first, worst undoing.
2. Would your father have accepted your plea for musical training?
I cried, I pleaded but my stern father would not listen to my fervent desire to cease violin lessons.
3. Do you speak French?
Mainly medical, for example ‘Ou est la clinique de radiologie’ and ‘Je veux acheter un fauteuil roulant’. And ‘J’ai cassé un os sur le pied’. KM was probably pretty good in the same area.
4. If you were to, at any stage, become a ghost who would you haunt?
John Key having a cup of tea with Dot Com, Winston Peters and Hone Harawira.
5. Do you keep 'great complaining notebooks' a.k.a. journals?
I keep a hardback journal for each novel where research, character development and plot lines go down. But I don’t write diary-type journals except when overseas, and they certainly don’t complain.
6. Garden parties. Yes or no?
Well, I live in Wellington. Who plans a garden party here? KM must have been fantasising.
7. Where have you had the best time of your life?
In Wellington. Where else?
8. Where have you had the worst time of your life?
Same place. But I’m not going into detail!
9. If you were to use a nom de plume, what would it be?
My maiden name was Priestley. My mother, when writing theatre reviews, used the nom de plume ‘Maenad’. In ancient Greece Maenads were priestley women. If I needed to hide, I might copy her idea.
10. Virginia Woolf wrote 'I was jealous of her writing – the only writing I have ever been jealous of.' Who are you most jealous of?
I sigh every time I read Sebastian Barry. The richness of his language and its liveliness is to die for. There’s something magic about Irish English – and he’s a master among a talented bunch.
11. Where are you in the family birth order?
12. You left home and then:
Wrote a cringe-making series for radio called ‘A New Zealand girl gets married’. Dreadful. Virginia Woolf would not have had any cause to be jealous.
13. What is your favourite short story?
At the moment it would probably be one of Tim Gautreaux’s in the collection Waiting for the Evening News.
14. What was the last real letter you wrote?
A reply to a 90-year-old fan who didn’t do email. Yesterday.
15. What brings you bliss?
Nothing as light-footed and airy as KM’s Bertha. Bliss was when the pain from my replaced knee abated.
16. How would you like to die?
Suddenly, while in free-fall from a great height at age 89. Bliss.
17. '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?
She’s wrong about there being no twilight here. In the tropics dark comes down like thunder, but Wellington’s twilight is soft and gentle, where all things pale or white take prominence briefly. A beautiful time of day.
18. Has anyone ever said of you that you're 'a dangerous woman'?
Yes. I am.
19. Have you ever had an X-ray?
Too many to count. Every part of my body is mapped in bone. The knees especially.
20. Write a brief history of your eyesight:
20/20; 20/15; 15/15; … Where are my bloody glasses?
21. Is there 'the taint of the pioneer' in your blood?
No. In my blood is ‘the great gift of the pioneer’.
22. 'I want to be REAL.' True or false?
Good God, no. At least half imaginary.
Jenny Pattrick is a writer and former jeweller whose seven published novels have all been New Zealand number one bestsellers, including The Denniston Rose, its sequel Heart of Coal, the Whanganui novel Landings, and Inheritance, set in Samoa. She has chaired the boards of many arts organisations. In 2009 she received the New Zealand Post Mansfield Fellowship. In 2011 she and husband, musician Laughton Pattrick, published the children’s book and CD of songs The Very Important Godwit. Her latest novel, Heartland, was released last month. For more information on Jenny Pattrick, visit her Book Council writers profile.