Debut author Becky Manawatu won the 2020 Ockham New Zealand Book Award. She is working on her second novel.
What is your dearest hope for what your book Auē will do in the world?
Make people want to read other work from Māori writers.
Best thing about living in Westport?
I live north of Westport in Waimangaroa. The best thing about living there is the beach, river and mountains. I go walking on the beach or up the mountain with my dog almost every day. The other cool thing about being back in Westport is many of my friends who I have known almost forever are still here and we spend lots of time together. Our children are now friends. I care about heaps of people in this town, I think a few of them care about me too. So that's nice. The surf in Westport is good - I like surfing. I am not that good but I've surprised myself a couple of times. Apparently it rains here heaps. I don't think that's entirely true but rain is lovely anyway. And I like to walk in it.
Working for a small, local newspaper, what is a typical day like for you?
I love that my job often allows me to talk to lots of people and hear their stories. Sometimes I finish an interview and get so excited to work on writing the person's story - not always though, if I'm honest. I have done some court reporting, which can be very sad in a small town. I will usually not only know but care about at least one person who is appearing on a particular day. I didn't appreciate how difficult that might be at first. There is no typical day but I always get to work with story, which I love.
Best book you've read this year?
The Savage Coloniser Book by Tusiata Avia. I bought it a few weeks before I went to its launch, which was part of WORD in Christchurch. Listening to Tusiata read from it was one of the most incredible things I have ever heard. Her poems are so gripping, I found I was often holding my breath as I read them. Also, Hurricane Season, by Fernanda Melchor. It is such a disturbing and uncomfortable book that I can't simply recommend it. It is extremely tough-going. But I was fascinated by the world and characters Melchor created upon the ruins of intergenerational poverty.
What is the cheesy song that is guaranteed to get you dancing?
I suppose it's got to be Cyndi Lauper's Girls Just Wanna Have Fun; there is something deeply sad about that fun song that I vibe with.
Most unusual item on your bucket list?
I don't have a bucket list but I do have this quite easily fulfilled desire to spend a night on Waimangaroa Beach, a fire going and to not sleep, not drink anything but water and not talk.
What is your most overused phrase?
Most important issue for New Zealand in 2020?
Racism and poverty.
Most important issue for the world in 2020?
Racism and poverty.
If you could invite any living person to your home for dinner, who would it be?
Michaela Coel. I have just finished watching I May Destroy You, which she wrote, co-directed, produced and starred in. It is such a compelling series, probably the most perfectly told story I have ever watched.
What are you most looking forward to this summer?
Evening swims in the river with my kids and husband, and some reading on the beach.
Literary success aside, what is your proudest accomplishment?
On my kids' birthdays they will request my mac-and-cheese for dinner every year without fail.
What is the most important part of the Christmas meal without which you won't feel like it is truly Christmas?
Christmas is always Christmas if I'm with my family and Santa's drunk his beer and left a few pressies. But I am always into some kaimoana on the table.
Finish this sentence. My next book is: a) doing my head in b) a joy to write c) with my editor.
A and B.
- Eleanor Black