gillpolack (gillpolack) wrote,

Mary Victoria (celebrating NZ writers)

I'm celebrating NZ writers this week. I would celebrate more if I weren't caught twixt major Jewish festivals and work deadlines and medical appointments and life returning to normal. As it is, I'm relying on NZ writers to say earnestly to me "I wouldn't mind a little interview." Mary Victoria, whose lovely first novel (I can say it's lovely - it's about to graduate from my handbag to my bookshelf and the lyricism of her writing echoes through everything I do) was just released by HarperVoyager NZ has agreed to such a thing (she's a very daring woman).

 I asked Mary for a little about herself. In fact, I demanded material that would instantly sell 50,000 copies of the book. She has me all sorted and gave me something sensible, instead:

 "Mary Victoria was born in 1973 in Turners Falls, Massachusetts. Despite this she managed to live most of her life in other places, including Cyprus, Canada, Sierra Leone, France and the UK. She studied art and film and worked as an animator for 10 years. She now lives in Wellington, New Zealand with her husband and daughter." Tymon's Flight is available at many good bookshops. If it isn't at yours, take these details and get them to order it in: Tymon's Flight: Chronicles of the Tree Bk 1 By Mary Victoria, ISBN13: 9780732290986



Gillian: My first question has to be about your wonderfully rich identity. I’m fascinated that you’re able to call on the bits of yourself that you need (for instance, in our panel at AussieCon) and that you’re nevertheless a very integrated person. Do you bring various aspects of yourself and your amazing life history to the fore when you’re writing, to create and to tell stories? Is it conscious?  How does it help you create worlds and people?

Mary: I'm relieved that you think I'm integrated. I'll let you in on a secret: all the bits of me are continually arguing with each other. That I maintain my sanity at all is a feat (some would say a questionable one.). In my gene-pool there are Iranians and Jews, Azeris and Brits, who knows what else. I can hear them, ghosts in the DNA. They bicker all the time, about everything. A few of them shelved their most vexing differences in recent generations in order to become Baha'is: this was lucky, for without them I would not exist. It does not make for much of a sense of belonging. My family was and is nomadic in the extreme. I grew up with no homeland but the planet, and wandered that continuously. I won't bore you with the list of places. Ten years ago, I wandered into New Zealand and sat down suddenly, feeling rather stunned. My goodness, what a gorgeous country! And how welcoming for oddballs like me.

As a writer one can't ignore this mixture of antecedents, this persistent cultural homelessness. It's character-building stuff, quite literally: fodder for creating characters, if you're a writer. I most definitely and consciously draw on my background to create fictional protagonists and worlds. Because of course, being culturally homeless doesn't mean being without culture. It just means (in my case) dragging around a sackful of cultures, bumpity-bump, everywhere I go. There's plenty there to choose from, between the moldy fish and chips and Aladdin's lamps.


Gillian: I have two burning questions from this. The first relates to the 'cultural homelessness." Does it push you, lead you, make you seek different homes? Does it shape your stories?

And (the second question) what stories do you see that aren't told enough? What genies lie hidden in lamps and need to be liberated?


Mary: That sense of rootlessness most certainly shapes the stories. I'm always searching for something in a tale - some fictional universe to call home, perhaps, but more importantly a direction, a guiding star. A story is a journey, after all. It's a map of the soul. It doesn't matter if we never reach the end or return triumphant to the Shire. Actually, who wants to return to the Shire, that little, cramped place we left behind at the start? Press on, discover new worlds.

 As to stories that aren't told enough - perhaps it is these, the stories of those who wander unclaimed, without a definite cultural anchor, or who fall between definitions. There are more and more of those stories to tell, as we become so-called 'globalised'. And then there are those who have had their anchor shattered or their voices silenced. Their culture of origin denies them. There are many stories of that kind waiting to be told. In fact they must be told, because that's the only way it's possible to make sense of such an experience - by telling it, and weaving sense with words.

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