A few months ago I did a phone interview with the popular British author Tony Parsons. Old folks may recall him as an NME writer during the heady days of punk, others will remember him for his hugely successful novel Man and Boy, but I suspect now he is famously known for his non-interview with Kim Hill during which, by mutual agreement, they hung up on each other.
God knows what that was all about. I got on well with him, so well in fact I put a complete transcript of our conversation onto the Herald website because we chatted about the writing process, his working method, the source of his inspiration, the music he was listening to, and so on.
At one point he played a track down the phone to me and we joked that now it would be my turn to play him something by the Monkees. (They’d come up earlier.)
Great conversation, no doubt helped by our openers. It was 8pm here and after I’d asked how he was and he’d returned the question I said I was good, I had just come from a wine tasting. He laughed, it was morning where he was, and said so had he.
Starting a long distance interview with a stranger who makes a joke is always a promising sign.
I thought he was a thoroughly agreeable man but maybe Kim Hill caught him on a bad day, or maybe she was having one. Whatever.
But one thing Parsons said impressed me: it was his pattern to drop off his draft of a new work at his publishers and then head to the airport for a holiday in some place like Barbados. I thought that impossibly exotic and romantic, the kind of life as a writer I want.
And this week, bugger me …
On Monday I dropped off the hard copy of my collection of travel stories to the helpful people at Random House, and we talked over what happens now. The collection is intended for publication next year, check my www.elsewhere.co.nz website for more details if you care to.
I needed to talk a bit of it through because I was sure the pieces could mystify the editor assigned me by their sheer diversity, and I wanted to point out there was a general theme and actually a structure at work over the 20 stories.
So they are variously serious, sad, funny or informative. Some are like short stories, others like essays. I think my pitch will be, “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll kiss $29.95 goodbye.”
Anyway that was Monday and in true Tony Parsons form the following dawn I flew to Sydney. Unlike real authors such as Parsons however mine was a work trip to interview former Beach Boy Brian Wilson and see the Smile show which he is bringing to this country shortly.
I won’t anticipate what I will be appearing in the Herald’s TimeOut section about this, but it was a good interview (he was twitchy and I was nervous it could all fall apart) and the show was superb. Go to it.
So that Tuesday night after the gig I went back to my hotel, had a brandy and felt on top of the world. There was a joyous soundtrack in my head, my work was done, and I had the outline of the story for publication. I also had all the next day until about 4pm off to go to the new gallery of aboriginal art, or the museum of modern art which was just 10 minutes away on the other side of Circular Quay.
Or I could go to the museum which was right outside my door. I would certainly be having a relaxing seafood lunch somewhere with a view of the harbour.
It would be a rare day off and, Parsons-like I could just kick back knowing my book (or at least the first part of its journey to publication) was behind me. I went to sleep happy.
My phone rang five hours later. It was my younger sister rang from the Gold Coast.
Our mother was dying and didn’t have long.
Quite a week.
And it was still only Wednesday and the sun was barely awake.