Thursday, 2 April 2015

4 Questions for Bridget van der Zijpp

Bridget van der Zijpp's second novel, In the Neighbourhood of Fame, will be launched on Wednesday 8 April in Auckland (6.30pm at Portland Public House, Kingsland).

Ahead of her launch we asked her a few questions about her new book.

Bridget van der Zijpp (photo by Jessie Casson)

Your new novel is about fame: the dark side, the trappings, the way in which a famous person becomes public property – what made you want to explore these ideas?
When I first started thinking about this book (a while back) there was a spate of cases with celebrities being accused of various misdemeanours.  Controversially they all received name suppression but there was a lot of gossip about, and there were quite strenuous efforts by some people to find ways to expose them.  I found that rather large and gleeful appetite for the celebrity downfall interesting.  It made me start to think about what it would be like to be the celebrity who has the tide of popularity turn against them.
Also, in the past I’ve worked both within the media and as a publicist, and so I think I’m drawn to ideas about how individuals attract and sometimes manipulate forms of media attention.  And how fame impacts on a person’s sense of self. 
It seems like a lot of people these days want fame, but when it happens it can be a shock and there is definitely a downside to it.  It takes a certain kind of courage to put something out into the public realm –  whether it’s an album of songs, a book, a film, a play, or a performance – and while there are obviously rewards, you also open yourself up to discourse and criticism and it can feel very personal and destructive.   In the book the musician Jed Jordan’s second album has bombed, and he says: “If you do something that you think is really good, and most people don’t get it, then who are you really? Somebody who just happens to be out of step with the world at that moment?  Or is your taste off?  And if you can’t work your head around an answer to that question then it gets harder.”
It is also concerned with rumour over fact, social media replacing reporting and the way in which social media confuses or creates its own reality – is this something you’d been thinking about for a while?
Social media is the contemporary instrument of fame.  It’s evolving very rapidly, changing a lot even in the time I’ve been working on this, and while it offers many new avenues for awareness, it also increases the risk of harm too. 
While personally I’m more a lurker than a participant, I’ve noticed there often seems to be a view in that arena that because celebrities put themselves out there, seeking the limelight, then its open slather on them.  At least in the traditional media there tends to be a general restraint because they are more aware of defamation and damages, but in social media a lot of what is said is unguarded and highly emotive.  Regulation isn’t easy, and truth doesn’t matter half as much as the fun of the take-down.
Fame is actually a bit of an uncontrollable beast, and then there is the matter of the so-called Trolls or as they are described in the book “the puerile imbeciles who are waiting, like a row of nasty gulls on a power line, for something to draw their notice.”
A number of voices tell the story. Did you use the multi-voice narrative as a way to explore the different angles of entry to the story? All the characters have a different version of reality don’t they?
The story in In the Neighbourhood of Fame is essentially about the musician Jed Jordan (who could best be described as once-famous), but he is never heard from directly, only seen through the eyes of three different narrators.  Evie, his childhood friend who recently returned to the neighbourhood with her son, and can’t shake off a sense of admiration for him that started when she was a teenager; Lauren, his wife, who manages a local theatre and is bored with him now, and looking for distractions;  and 15 year old Haley who casually meets him in the dog park and becomes slightly fascinated with him.
Sometimes he is almost a periphery character in their daily lives, but it’s more about how they see him, and how they experience his “fame”, and how they unwittingly impact on it.
In choosing to do this I was playing around with the idea that fame is not really something that you possess yourself, it’s always placed upon you by others, and people come to somebody else’s fame through their own slant. 
There are a number of broken/dysfunctional relationships in the book – between partners, and between parents and their children – a lot of people talking past each other, which seems a continuation of some of the relationships in your first novel Misconduct – is this a theme/idea you feel drawn to as a writer?
I guess the partners, parents and children are the ‘Neighbourhood’ part of the story.
I don’t think I realised there was any similar underlying theme in the two books until I’d almost finished this one.  If there is one, it’s possibly about how much you might forgive a person’s dysfunction if you admire their talent.  The truly creative people I’ve known are often dreamy, and a bit removed, jealous of their time and space, and alternatively inspired and insecure.  Hard to live with, basically.  But if they make some form of incredible art is that so seducing that you can forgive some of their failings?  I think I’m personally quite interested in where that line is.
Also I think that in general I am drawn as a writer to what goes on in the underbelly of relationships – where people don’t quite know themselves, and can’t quite say what they mean.
In the Neighbourhood of Fame is available from our online bookstore and in all good bookstores nationwide from 9 April.
$30, p/b.

April newsletter

Two new titles in April

Vincent O'Sullivan's long writing career includes seventeen collections of poetry which sit alongside his novels, biography, plays and short stories. Being Here: Selected Poems is the first book to survey the entire span of his poetry, from Bearings (1973) to new poems first published in this volume.

Praise for Vincent O'Sullivan:
'You can't ask much more of a poet than wit, profundity and elegance and they're all here in spades.'
– Chris Miller

'There is a kind of luminous spirituality about O'Sullivan's poetry, that long after you have read the poems, continues to reside in the objects or situations the poems describe.'
– Anna Jackson on Lucky Table

Vincent's most recent collection of poetry, Us, Then, won the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Award for Poetry and he is the current New Zealand Poet Laureate.

Being Here is published as a hardback and features a striking Karl Maughan painting on the dust jacket. $60, available online and in all good bookstores from 9 April.

We launch Being Here at 5.30pm on Wednesday 15 April at the National Library (see side panel for details). All welcome.

The trappings of fame, the power of social media and dysfunctional relationships play out in Bridget van der Zjipp’s vivid new novel In the Neighbourhood of Fame.

The novel is centred around rock musician Jed Jordan, whose song ‘Captain of the Rules’ made him famous over ten years ago. Jed’s story is told by three female narrators, each with a different take on his fame: his childhood friend who is caught up in a long-held sense of admiration for him; his theatre manager wife who is frustrated with his drifting; and the 15-year-old who meets him in the dog park and finds that when she talks about him people are interested.

“I was playing around with the idea that fame is not something you possess yourself, it’s always placed upon you by others, and people come to somebody else’s fame through their own slant,” says Bridget.

In the Neighbourhood of Fame is Bridget's second novel. Her first novel, Misconduct, was shortlisted for the 2009 Commonwealth Writers’ Best First Book Prize and for the 2009 Montana New Zealand Book Awards Best First Book of Fiction. She lives in Auckland.

Published in paperback ($30) and available from our online store and in all good bookstores from 9 April.

We launch the novel in Auckland on Wednesday 8 April, 6.30pm, Portland Public House (see side bar for details). All welcome.

Bridget will also be appearing at the Auckland Writers Festival 2015 at a free reading with Tracy Farr, Laurence Fearnley and Tim Winton.

Gathering Evidence continues to gather prizes

Congratulations to Caoilinn Hughes. Gathering Evidence has been named a finalist in the Royal Society of New Zealand 2015 Science Book Prize. It is one of five titles shortlisted for the prize which is awarded to a title 'which communicates scientific concepts in an interesting and readable way for a general audience.' The prize winner will be announced at the Auckland Writers Festival in May. We were delighted to hear from Caoilinn that Gathering Evidence has also won the Irish Times' Strong/Shine Award for Best First Collection. Gathering Evidence was also a finalist in the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards.

Auckland Writers Festival 2015

The international line-up for the AWF15 looks fantastic. We are very pleased that four writers from VUP's stable will be attending. Airini Beautrais, Bridget van der Zijpp, Helena Wisniewska Brow, Stephanie de Montalk and Wystan Curnow will be featured on panels and at reading events. See the full programme of events.

We are delighted to see that the Nigel Cox Unity Books Award is being presented at the AWF15. This award was founded by Unity Books Auckland owner Jo McColl and Susanna Andrew to commemorate Nigel's love of writing and reading. The award is given to a 'New Zealand writer unknowingly selected for the prize based on their "exceptional way with words".'

Keep up with our forthcoming titles

If you want to know what we will be publishing later in the year, you can check out our forthcoming titles webpage which we update throughout the year. As soon as the myriad tasks of publishing are finalised we put them up on this page. We are also now including sample chapters so readers can get a taste of the books to come.

Events in April

Book launch: In the Neighbourhood of Fame
Bridget van der Zijpp's new novel will be launched at 6.30pm on Weds 8 April at The Portland Public House, 463 New North Rd, Kingsland, Auckland.

Poetry event: Being Here Together
Tuesday 14 April, 12.10pm–1.10pm. Six local poets join Poet Laureate Vincent O'Sullivan at National Library, Programme Room, Ground Floor, 70 Molesworth St, Wellington. Poets include: Morgan Bach, Claire Orchard, Lynn Davidson, Harley Bell, Catherine English and Margaret Moores.

Book launch: Being Here, Selected Poems
Vincent O'Sullivan's new Selected Poems will be launched at 5.30pm on Weds 15 April at the National Library, Ground Floor, 70 Molesworth St, Wellington.

This is a double launch with Steele Roberts for Let the Writer Stand: The work of Vincent O’Sullivan, edited by Judith Dell Panny.

Author event
Helen Riddiford, biographer of George Evans (A Blighted Fame) presents a talk about Evans: ‘Nui Nui  Rangatira’:  Dr George Evans, his role in the New Zealand Company and his Relationship with Māori.” At 1pm, Friday 17 April at the Wellington City Library, Ground floor.