The House that Linette Built (or, Inside the House of my Father’s Birth Mother)

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The Sallies men move through the house like reverent ghosts. ‘We can’t take that,’ they say. ‘It’s ripped. Yep, we can take that.’ Their feet pad the pale carpet, perhaps wary of lurking grief. I try to piece together the left over ephemera into a life, a woman: a splayed grass skirt; a chipped Alsatian ashtray; seven champagne coupes wrapped in newspaper; a box of wooden Tourist Hotel Corporation of New Zealand coat hangers; two black umbrellas; a Stereophonic radiogram, Chas and Dave’s Ain’t No Pleasing You forever on the turntable; a girlish white wedding album stripped of its photographs, spidery black captions beneath plastic: “Had joined a family of three beautiful women, but he chose the original.” She had thought herself beautiful! She thought herself original! The torn corner of a ten-dollar note floats to the ground. Continue reading

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Trams, Trumpets and Trenches: Historical Novel Research

Scroll down—my first poll! 

I’ve been writing my book since February. But I’d been researching for a year before that. You know how it goes—research is a great way to distract from getting actual words on a page. To tear myself away from such fascinating capillaries of (never ending) research and get my butt in the chair and actually write, was difficult at first. Looking back from the half-way point, I know now I researched too long and too deeply. But I have no regrets—I’ll know for next time, and some of the conversations I’ve had along the way have blown my mind.

People’s generousness and willingness to help is overwhelming: I’ve talked for hours to the 90-year-old Kiwi wife of a Connecticut trumpeter based in Auckland in 1944 (incredible); I’ve had help from experts on war, adoption, jazz, the recording industry, Hawaiian music, local history, dance, military uniforms and, most recently, experts on Auckland’s transport history.

Thanks Georgina White and Sean Millar

Thanks Georgina White and Sean Millar

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I could even consider myself a fledgling expert on the social and cultural implications of New Zealand’s hosting of between 15,000 and 45,000 United States servicemen at any one time during WW2, while New Zealand men were fighting overseas.

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