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Paula Morris on setting

February 8, 2015

In an interview of a few years ago, Paula Morris once explained: “Setting is often a starting point in my writing generally – it feeds my imagination. …And setting in fiction isn’t just a town or city – cars and other modes of transport are an aspect of it, in that they’re a pace in which part of a story is taking place. I knew I wanted a car accident in Hibiscus Coast, and that it had to be into the water. There had to be some possibility of escape for Siaki, one of the main characters. Originally I thought that the novel would end in Shanghai, where Siaki would just turn up.
To return to the writing-in-the-wrong-place theme, I was working on the novel while I was living in Iowa, although it’s set in Auckland and Shanghai. My final semester there I was in James Alan McPherson’s workshop. Jim is a great writer, and a great teacher. He was very enthusiastic about what he saw of Hibiscus Coast, and we talked a lot about Siaki. Jim was riffing on the idea of the Pacific now resembling the Mississippi River in 19th century america, a place where people could travel, escape, disappear, and turn up somewhere else with a new identity. A place of mobility, where they could be transported, reinvented. I really liked that idea. If things go wrong for you in Auckland, you can reinvent yourself in Hong Kong, Santiago or Los Angeles. My conversations with Jim really helped shape the way I was thinking about the novel. So much of it turned out to be about confinement and escape.” (p.182)

Ref: (emphases in blue bold mine) ‘Paula Morris: Interviewed by Alice Te Punga Somerville’ in Words Chosen Carefully: New Zealand Writers in Discussion pp.176-196, Ed. Siobhan Harvey. Cape Catley Ltd: Auckland 2010


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