Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wednesday Writers: Tina Makereti

As an aspiring author, it’s always good to hear stories of other people’s success. They inspire us to not procrastinate, and reassure us that there is a light at the end of that proverbial tunnel.

This week I have a special treat for you: A New Zealand author! And from Wellington too! She talks to us about her latest book, Once Upon a Time in Aoteoroa (for international readers, Aoteoroa means New Zealand in Maori), and all things Kiwi.    
Name: Tina Makereti
Location and one thing you love about living there: I live on the Kāpiti Coast, and just living so close to the sea and the island is amazing.
Author of: Once Upon a Time in Aotearoa
Book Available: Huia Publishers and bookstores. Also a Kobo ebook, readable on most eReaders and digital devices.

Tell us a bit about yourself: I write fiction and creative non-fiction, and sometimes teach writing as well. I’ve had one collection of short stories published, and have nearly completed a novel. I come from a mixed cultural heritage, have an incredible family, and live by the sea.

Tell us about Once Upon a Time in Aotearoa: It’s a short story collection that combines an interest in contemporary lives and Māori mythology. I didn’t really know what it was before it was published, but it seems to tap into both literary and magic-realist/speculative genres. Probably easiest to offer the back cover blurb:
Vulnerable gods and goddesses
Children born with unusual gifts
The protection offered by Mountains
Birds with bad timing
Once Upon a Time in Aotearoa explores a world where mythological characters and stories become part of everyday life. Old and new worlds co-exist, cultures mingle and, if we are lucky, magic happens. Familiar characters appear, but in these versions the gods live in a contemporary world and are motivated by human concerns. In this perplexing world, characters connect with each other and find ancient wisdom that carries them through.

What makes you most proud to be a New Zealander? I love Aotearoa. It is the most incredible place in the world to live, and we punch so far above our weight as artists, writers, scientists, sportspeople. Culturally, we have such a rich and complex heritage. We have a strong history of egalitarianism. All of these things make me immensely proud, to the extent that I get mad when people are negative about our country or our people. Don’t like something? Help to make it better rather than complaining or leaving. Having said that, I feel equally mad when I feel like the wellbeing and wonder of our country is under attack by the people who run it, as it is now.

What challenges have you faced in your writing career? Not as many as I could have! It’s been really good – better than I could’ve hoped for. I do get rejections but I find that they tend to be good for the writing – I always rework stuff that hasn’t been accepted by a publisher and it always gets better. So I guess the biggest challenge is making sure I do write every day. Even though I love it, there is always a little invisible barrier to beginning the day.

What has been your best moment as a writer? There’s been many really good ones, but the purest thrill I remember having was being offered a place to do the MA Creative Writing at Victoria University. I just couldn’t believe it. I think I knew it was going to change everything.

Do you see yourself in any of your characters? All and none? You have to inhabit them and they have to inhabit you, but I don’t see any real correlation. There are moments in many of their lives that have been taken from mine though. I have had an interesting conundrum with a recent character – I kept pushing her away so she wouldn’t be like me, but that didn’t work. Now I’m going to allow her to be closer to me so a more intuitive authentic voice will come out. Authentic isn’t a good word, but it’s the close to what I mean.

Do you feel like your dream has come true or is there much more to do? There is always more to do. So much more!

What is your personal cure for procrastination? and fear of deadlines.

Are there any occupational hazards to being a writer? Saying no to lunch and cups of tea with others. Self-hatred when you don’t get anything done. Not being able to think or talk about anything else!

Have you ever had a day when you just wanted to quit? No.

Did you have a moment when you realised you were meant to be a writer? It was like a long slow hum in the background of my life for so long, and it was there from when I was little, even though I mostly blocked it out. I was in my early thirties when I finally admitted: I think this is what I’m meant to be doing.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors? Take courses. Enter competitions. Practice. Read. Learn to love criticism! (I’m not even kidding there, love it, make it your friend, it will help you get where you’re going faster) Listen to the deep small voices inside you. Take risks.


  1. Great Guest this week. I learned reading her answers and it makes me want to visit New Zealand even more!
    M.C.V. Egan

  2. I have always wanted to visit New Zealand! What a fun interview! This sounds like an interesting book and it was great to learn more about the author. I especially liked her advice for authors.

  3. You should come on over! I would happily show you around :-D