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Interview with Dinah Holman

Interview with NZ author Dinah Holman...

What is a typical working day for you?

I don’t have a regular writing routine, because each day brings so many different demands. But writing and research are such a pleasure that I usually manage to make some time for them during the day.

Which are your favourite novels of all time? And why?

The Barchester Chronicles series of novels by Anthony Trollope, of which I particularly like Dr Thorne. These superbly written novels present a view of a sector of mid-19th century society with great wit, warmth, humour, satire and irony. Trollope has a wonderful mastery of the English language; his writing is clear yet complex, delicate yet robust, and expressive yet restrained.

There are so many very fine 20th century novels that it’s hard to choose just one, but because of my own novel I feel I need to include one thriller, and that is Peter Hoeg’s Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow. The style of writing that comes through the U.K. translation of this Danish book is powerful, inventive and dramatic, and the story presents very unconventional and cutting perceptions of people and of life. It is both a tense thriller and a commentary on Danish society and culture.

When I started reading The Book of Fame by Lloyd Jones I didn’t stop until I had finished. It is a book that I love. The style in which it is written, which could be described as a prose poem, is wonderful. It is free from literary confines, simple yet imaginative, and very poignant. The factual basis that enriches the novel is the 1905 All Blacks tour of the UK and other places that lasted nearly a year, with a window on the world at the time provided by contemporary news items inserted into the text.

Which author do you admire most? And why?

Anthony Trollope is the novelist that I admire most, in terms of the sheer enjoyment of his superb skill with the English language.

What tips would you give aspiring writers?

If you want to write, don’t procrastinate. Make time for it.

What’s your most memorable experience at a Literary Event?

Hearing Naomi Klein, the young Canadian author of No Logo speak about her book when she came to New Zealand some years ago.

If a movie was made of your life, what three songs would you want on the soundtrack?

Handel’s “Unto Him a Son is Born”, Bach’s “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring”, and Bononcini’s “Per la gloria d’adorarvi”.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I saw a great deal of my grandparents and a great aunt and great uncle when I was growing up, but I wish I had asked them even more questions and recorded lots of stories about their lives when I had the opportunity. It's a great way for young writers to cut their teeth.


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