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Monday, 19 December 2016

A Ginormous WPRR welcome to our latest victim, Paul Corrigan.

Kia ora,
Please welcome our latest victim guest, Paul Corrigan. On the metal plate suspended above that puddle by wires is a chocolate fish. Behave and the delicious pink marshmallow fish covered in chocolate won’t end up a goopy mess on the floor.
In the event of an earthquake/zombie plague/or random occupation - you’ll find emergency procedures taped to the bottom of your seat. Yes, just like a flotation device. You’ll also find a Glock 17 with a full magazine.
Remember you cannot reason with zombies and it’s a head shot every time.  


Yes. I’m clinging on tenaciously, just like Powdered Toast Man in Ren & Stimpy.
1. What’s your favourite type of takeaway?

Fish and chips with deviations into ‘Asian’.
2. Describe your current mental status.

Crikey. I think it’s OK. The long-term memory works well. Otherwise probably bullfighting with Alzheimer’s.

3. I know how I do what I do … but how do you do what you do?

I don’t know. Maria Goretti and Me, which I self-published last year, was begun while I was on a course for the unemployed. I was 63. I had no thought of even starting a novel. I’d been working my way through a MS Access workbook for two weeks and then hit a wall. 
Suddenly nothing made sense. As my classmates headed off to morning tea on Friday, May 17, 2013, I sat nearly in frustrated tears because I couldn’t crack what turned out to be a simple problem. I felt old and dumb.
All I could see was a picture in my head of a girl standing on a street corner. And I realised that picture had been there for three days when I began having problems with Access. 
I put aside my ‘school’ work and wrote that first sentence of a girl on a street corner. Then there was another sentence, and another. That’s how I went on to write Maria Goretti and Me over the next six months. I didn’t know what was coming. I didn’t even know how I was going to end until I woke up at 2.30am and there it was. Two weeks later I finished it. 
I never plotted Maria Goretti and Me at all. I started it, and just made it up as I went along. Somehow it seemed to work. 

4. Could you tell us a little bit about your latest work?

The Goal Kicker: this gestated and festered for over 20 years with a couple of false starts before I switched on the computer about 8am, June 10, 2002, after the flatmates had gone to work, and started typing. I always had known what the end was so I wrote the end first, which took about three weeks. 
I was getting used to writing fiction again, which I hadn’t done since I was at secondary school. I was also breaking the sub-editorial habit of write-then-edit. I understood that if I was going to write this story then I had to just bloody write it. The editing could come later.
Then I wrote the beginning. Over the next two years I wrote back and forth in the story pretty much as things occurred to me. Most days, about 3am, I’d be awake and the next bit I was to type was there in my mind. I didn’t follow the linear format – i.e., from front-to-back. It was like painting a picture, I think. You go here, there, and just fill in the gaps until you hope it all makes sense in the end.

5. Do you have a favourite coffee or tea?

Instant Nescafe Classic – strong and black. Best drunk cold over several hours, or even days. I know. Long story …

6. Walk us through a typical day. (Do you make sure you’re wearing your lucky underpants before you sit down to write, perhaps you prefer commando? While we’re discussing your underpants, boxers, briefs, or budgie smugglers. Inquiring minds want to know. Yes, that includes my Admins … we don’t piss off the Admins.)

I’m a pensioner. I spend far too much time on Facebook and writing long rants for the Kiwi Journalists FB page or for NZ Indie Authors. Otherwise I like to read a lot. I go to the local libraries. If I’m writing I tend to write quickly and with little disregard for time. My underpants: erm … No. 

7. Tell us about your main character. (How did you first meet? Would you like to hang out with him/her? What delights you the most about writing him/her? You get the idea …)

The main character of The Goal Kicker, which is set over six weeks in July-August 1968, is Richard. He’s 18 and lives with his Nanna. He is socially awkward, a loner, and takes things to heart especially when girls have been mean to him. 
He lacks self-confidence. Apart from his size – he’s 6ft-5in (roughly 1.96m), the biggest pupil in the school – he doesn’t stand out. He would like it to stay that way. 
But now his school needs him for the one thing he is good at: his goal-kicking. His principal accepts an invitation from a Christchurch private boys’ school for their 1st XVs to play the curtain-raiser of the Inter-Islander at Lancaster Park. Richard is not in the 1st XV. The previous coach – a bullying, embittered ex-naval officer – had terrified him so much he wouldn’t be in the team. 
Daniel Eyles, the team’s new coach, sees that if his boys are to have any kind of chance they need a reliable goal-kicker. 
Richard, encouraged by the Springbok ‘Tiny’ Naude, who beat the All Blacks at Lancaster Park in 1965 with a last-minute penalty goal, has taught himself how to kick goals, and from distances that are breath-taking – further even than the great Don Clarke or the schoolboy prodigy Joe Karam. 
Goal-kicking is solitary, which is why Richard liked doing it when there was no-one watching.
Can Daniel Eyles persuade Richard to join the team? Can Cornelia, the one girl who sees only good in Richard, help lead him out of his cave?
I realised when I started writing this in 2002 that I’m not drawn to ‘natural’ heroes and ‘natural’ leaders. I don’t particularly care for the assertive ‘red-blooded’ hero character. The ‘heroes’ in this story are the boys and men who have had responsibility either thrust on them or they take it up because no-one else will. That’s how Daniel Eyles became coach of a demoralised 1st XV that hadn’t won a game for years.
My main characters are not all blokes. In Maria Goretti and Me the main character is the girl who, in the words of her brother Luke, a priest, bears the name of the Catholic Church’s youngest and apparently much-loved saint who died, aged 11 defending her virginity against a would-be rapist. She forgave him before she died from his 14 stab wounds. 
The story begins in 1975. Maria is 17, the head girl of her posh Catholic girls’ school. She is destined to be dux and for an excellent academic life after that. She is the youngest of 14 of a New Zealand family of Irish descent. The parents are a doctor and university teacher. Both are OBEs (remember OBEs?). Maria’s sibling include a QC, doctors, teachers, and Luke the priest. Presiding over them all is her grandmother, who at age 85 can still shock and awe.
Maria meets Martin, who is 23 and a newspaper sub-editor, on a street corner. They fall in love. He’s the only child of elderly non-Catholic parents. Maria challenges her family and her Church’s teachings and attitudes about sex before marriage. Maria is courageous, unselfish, and she loves Martin, who narrates the story. 
I grew to like her a lot.
I get regular feedback about Maria Goretti and Me from readers. Many talk about how the story was like their own, personal story: how young teens had to break up or were disowned by family because of religious attitudes. Most said they had strong emotional reactions to the story. 
In the 1930s my Dad was disowned by his father and many of his relatives because he married Mum, who was Anglican.
I also like to include strong females in my stories. They might not be strong in the sense that they have formal qualifications. Richard’s Nanna reminded me of my Mum and her sisters – assertive and articulate, yet traditional women. Mum taught music for 60 years until she was nearly 80. Three of her sisters were school teachers. Auntie Rene taught in London slums in the 30s. Auntie Rona was an MA (Hons) at 20. Auntie Mave taught children at remote primary schools in Marlborough. Right up to the day she died she was always proud that children left her school knowing how to read and write and do arithmetic ‘because for many of them that was all the education they would ever get’. 
They were daughters of a man who was driving bullock teams carting timber in colonial Nelson at age 10 to support his mother and family. Grandma had the barest secondary education at St Mary’s College, Wellington. She kicked the son of an earl out of her kitchen because of his ‘rough talk’. They had nine children. They believed that daughters should be educated because if they were widowed (no-one talked about divorce then) then they had something to fall back on.

8. Who are your favourite writers?

Alan Furst: I’m not sure he is a favourite, but he’s someone whose books I get out of the library when I see them. He writes spy novels set in Europe in the 1930s and 40s. I find them interesting for his eye for detail and for the fact that very little seems to happen. But they’re bloody good.
Another author I’ll pick out of the library is William Nicholson. I read his Motherland and loved it so much that I decided I’d get out whatever had his name on it. All The Hopeful Lovers is a deft and somewhat painful exploration of adultery and a kind-of forgiveness. He slices and dices motives. I wish I could write like that.
 Wilbur Smith was a longtime favourite. I read Eagle in the Sky for the first time over three days in the 70s and wished I could write like that. I read a lot of his until the late 80s. I haven’t been a fan of his later stuff. A bit repetitive, perhaps. The late Leslie Thomas was another.
I am enjoying Graham Masterton’s Katie Maguire series, which he has set in Cork, Ireland. Katie Maguire is a police detective superintendent.
Am I the only person who has never read To Kill a Mocking Bird. To Set a Watchman?
I do read women authors. I’ve just finished Jack 1939, by Francine Matthews, and American. And, right after that, Day After Night, by Anita Diament, who also wrote the excellent The Red Tent.
9. Who inspires you to do better? 

I have five grandchildren, aged 8 to 18 months. They live in Australia. When they grow up I’d like them to know that Dziadziu (it’s Polish for Granddad – long story) wrote stories and that people bought those stories and enjoyed them. Even though he wasn’t an ‘established’ author.
But I want to acknowledge my parents, and for two special reasons. I learned to read late. I was 9 or 10, from memory. It was unthinkable to Mum that her youngest could not read. 
She patiently set about teaching me to read. It took a spring and summer of mostly Bible stories in a children’s book before I got the hang of it.
In 1963 when I was 13 Dad decreed that I would write two stories a week. He would read, critique, and mark them. I did it for three months and then Dad stopped it. 
I think he was finding it a chore. I was relieved.
But nearly 40 years later as I was getting to grips with writing The Goal Kicker I remembered those months with affection and regret. Part of me wished we’d kept going because those stories turned me towards journalism and writing.

10. Do you ever put pants on your dog, cat, or budgie?

No. Not fussed on dogs. My daughter Lisa, when she was about 3, used to dress up Hannah the cat and put her in the pram and push her about. Hannah was an old lady so we got Jaeger, just emerging from kittenhood. Hannah didn’t like him and used to box his ears. He refused to be dressed up for anybody. Champ, my daughter Emma’s budgie, died after mistakenly being sucked into the vacuum-cleaner. His burial in the little garden patch by the back door of our state house was sombre and sober and a bit tearful.

11. Describe your perfect day.

If I’m writing a story and everything just flows. It all goes together. At the end of the day I might see the word-count has gone up another 5000 or 10,000 words. But there’s been no stress or strain or effort. It’s great.

12. Who is your favourite fictitious villain? Or are you all about the hero? Who do you love to hate?

I’ve had to think for a couple of days about this one. I think that a lot of villains are not actually bad, evilly bad, I suppose. Often it’s a wrong choice from a wrong motive. In hind-sight sometimes these people have seen what they’ve done, the hurt and damage they’ve caused, and they are sorry. In The Goal Kicker my ‘villains’ have a back-story. Why are these people like they are?
In Maria Goretti and Me the villain is Maria’s Irish grandmother, who exercises far too much influence – control – over the family. She is the source of the bigotry and religiosity that runs like a river through the family. She is the character many readers react to with anger and outrage. ‘She reminds me of my Dad’s grandmother,’ a young Irishman told me. She has a kind of back-story, too. She was a peasant girl brought up in The Faith and married as a teenager. In a way she has an excuse.
But her family don’t get off, either, particularly Maria’s brother Luke, who is more a Pharisee than a man Jesus Christ would identify with. He would be the first to throw stones at the woman hauled before Jesus because she’d been caught in the act of adultery – which was against the Law. He’d do the same to his little sister.

13. Do you have any quirks?

This is a family publication, right?

14. All-time favourite movie and why?

This is where memory fails. Oddly enough, I think Sound of Music, which I first saw in 1966 in Wellington. A woman in my row had seen it about 300 times. Then I never saw it for another 40 years until I sat down one Christmas morning with my teenage grandnieces, for whom watching it on Christmas Day had become a tradition. I loved the story, even though the makers had taken the greatest of liberties with Sister Maria (who was pregnant when she married Korvettenkapitän Georg, Ritter von Trapp, 10 years earlier than in the film) and other truths of the von Trapp story. It doesn’t matter. I was saddened to read that recently Charmian Carr – who at 21 played the 16 year-old Liesl – had died.
Probably some time soon I’ll wake up at 3am and discover I really had another all-time favourite movie …

15. Do you enjoy the editing process?

Oh, yeah. I can still remember in early 1971, as a 21 year-old sub at The Northern Advocate carving up and rewriting a poorly-written story and handing it back to the chief sub, who flicked through it, and passed it to the editor, who was sitting in at the subs’ table that day. He read it, looked at me over the top of his glasses, and said: ‘Very good, Paul. I couldn’t have made a better job of this. Well done.’
This was an era when praise was rarely given and even more rarely expected. I thought I was in heaven. 
I’m better at editing other people’s work than my own. I have ‘rescued’ poorly written work and turned it into something worth while. I’ve edited half-a-dozen books over the last 25 years. In the process I’ve helped a man become a good, clear writer, too.

16. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be and why?

New Zealand. It’s home But excursions to Ireland and to England are on the bucket list. That’s where the ancestors came from. In my 30s I realised that New Zealand was my home and that I was a New Zealander. I was not transplanted Irish and Catholic, nor was I English and Anglican.

17. Favourite Pizza topping?

I’m not supposed to eat pizza.

18. What were you before you became a writer?

After I left college I became a newspaper reporter and then sub-editor on The Northern Advocate, in Whangarei. In the mid-70s I went to The Press, in Christchurch, as a sub. Ten years later I became a solo parent and went on the domestic purposes benefit. That lasted for about 12 years before a couple in a desktop publishing business took me on as their writer-editor-proofreader-photographer. That went for about three years. 
After that I was in and out of work. I was unemployed a lot. As I got older the jobs were harder to get, the job descriptions became more baffling. In 2013 Work and Income put me on a course to try to improve my employability. While on that course I began writing Maria Goretti and Me.

19. What is the most random thing you have ever done?

Become a solo parent, I think. It all came out of the blue. I probably spent less time on the decision on what kind of Big Mac to have. I stopped work to go on the DPB. It was a career-killer. No regrets, though.

20. If you’re not working, what are you most likely doing?

Reading or spending far too much time on Facebook and composing long rants.

21. Who is your ultimate character?

I haven’t figured that one out yet.

22. Whiskey or Bourbon? Red or white wine? Tequila? Beer?

Yes, whisky, whiskey (the two are different), bourbon, rum … Red wine. Had peach Tequila in Mexico once. Beer, but something with taste.

23. What’s in your pockets? (Or handbag, whatever you carry your stuff in. Are you apocalypse prepared?)


24. Laptop, PC, Mac, tablet?


25. Ebook or tree book?

Tree book.

26. Favourite apocalyptic scenario?

When I worked at The Press there was always this joke, and it was about what the paper considered ‘news’. Anyway, Jesus was Coming Again, this time to claim his bride. The Press would ignore this event and run a local story on the front page instead. That Press was a different beast from now. I think I’d love to be able to stand and watch the prophecy outlined in The Revelation play out.

27. Where do you do most of your writing?

A laptop enables you to write wherever and whenever you like. I have done it in bed, on a couch in the lounge, at my sister’s dining room table. But I especially like writing in libraries. Half of Maria Goretti and Me was written in the Petone and Lower Hutt Libraries. They’re warm and places I needed to walk to and from (for the good of my health). But most of all I enjoyed the noise going on around me. 
One day a girl in a group at the table I was writing at stopped her friends’ chatter and laughter and asked if they were disturbing me.
They were, but I told them not to worry. ‘I used to work on newspapers, so there were always people talking, sometimes shouting at each other, phones going, the noise of the teleprinter and the clack of typewriters.’ I could tell they had no idea what a teleprinter or a typewriter was. So I added: ‘One night at The Press in Christchurch an argument became so heated that a reporter hurled a typewriter across the newsroom at a sub-editor who’d cut her story in half.’
Like wow …

28. What’s the hardest thing for you when it comes to being an author? (For me it’s marketing but for others it’s the actual writing …)

I think taking myself seriously, that I am an author.

You made it!! Damn, you rock. Now would you like to try for the chocolate fish? Mind the puddles … but hurry. Power surges are common in the dungeon; you don’t want to have one hand on the metal plate containing that delicious chocolate fish and a foot in a puddle...
That laughter you hear is coming from The Knight, he probably won’t flip that switch he has his hand on. Probably …

You can find out more about Paul Corrigan in the following places ... 
And of course Paul's book is available in our store! :)

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  1. I haven't read To Kill a Mockingbird but did watch the film. It was a very moving story, so I imagine the book must be even more detailed. Nice interview Paul. Good luck with your future books.

    1. Thanks, Teresa.

      I read your 'interview' a few weeks back, too.

      - Paul Corrigan