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Paula Morris; crossing worlds to create character…

May 22, 2012

Oh! An interview with Paula Morris is published in one of last year’s Booknotes issues (174)… part of it is reproduced below…

Sue Orr asks: “Tell us about the emotions you feel when you take yourself into the world of Māori storytelling. How do you prepare yourself to enter this world, as you sit in front of keyboard?”

Morris replies: “I didn’t really think of the act of writing this book as Māori storytelling, perhaps because the novel is not a Māori form. (But let’s not go there: I believe this was an argument between two major New Zealand writers some decades ago, and I don’t want to renew that particular row!) When I’m sitting down at my desk, I just think about the scene at hand. The sentence at hand, really. Paratene as the point-of-view character was an enormous challenge for me: he was born into pre-Christian New Zealand, but converted as a young man and appears to be quite devout in much of his extant correspondence. For this book I had two major spiritual worlds to navigate and try to understand, both through the filter of the 19th century. I spent a lot of time, I guess, thinking about him as someone raised in a profoundly Māori time and place, increasingly confronted with foreign ways of seeing and doing things. By the time he was only halfway through his life, he was already seen – by younger Māori, as well as Pākehā – as a relic. As with all characters, I tried to see him as an individual, rather than as a representative of an entire era or culture. A lot of research was required, of course, and I spent considerable chunks of my time referring to my Māori–English dictionary and the King James Bible. But research is only part of the picture. You need to be able to make the imaginative leap.”

Ref: Paula Morris, interviewed by Sue Orr ‘Creative History’ pp4-5 in Booknotes, Issue 174, Spring 2011


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