Reading and writing

Important Reading and Writing Questions for Kate Mosse and Olivia Laing

Kate Mosse is the author of bestselling novels The fiery roomsand The city of tears. His fourth book, An extra pair of handsis his story of caring for his aging parents and stepmother.

Was it hard to write about family in An extra pair of hands?

It was, although I discussed everything with Granny Rosie – anything she didn’t want to see in the book, I cut it out. With my parents, I had to try to decide what they would be comfortable with me sharing, and what not. It’s a matter of privacy, of preserving their dignity, of things too personal to share. There are quite a few things I didn’t include.

Can you tell us about a time when you needed an extra pair of hands?

Although I am a novelist and playwright, and therefore mainly work from home, I also often have to travel to publish or to London for meetings. That’s when my husband and my brother-in-law are indispensable. Granny Rosie is bright and sharp, but she’s almost 92 and is in a wheelchair, so she needs support all the time during the day and at bedtime.

* How I Write: Aotearoa NZ Festival of the Arts guest author Airini Beautrais
* Wellington Area Arts Lists – March 11-13
* Secret Paintings and Interactive Sci-Fi at the Biannual Wellington Arts Festival

What are you reading right now?

I am the founding director of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, the world’s largest annual celebration of female creation. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we announced the long list of sixteen exceptional novels, so between editing and rehearsals for my stage adaptation of my novel The taxidermist’s daughter I offer myself to read the whole list.

And what are you working on?

I have a major new non-fiction book – Warrior Queens and Quiet Revolutionaries– part family memoir, part biography of my great-grandmother who was a novelist, and part celebration of all the amazing women who are left out of history.

It’s from my #WomaninHistory global campaign, which I launched last year to try to put women back in history, one woman at a time. The book will be out in October, and it’s just wonderful to spend time in the company of so many inspiring, pioneering and extraordinary women through the ages.

AuthorOlivia Laing.

Liz Seabrook/Supplied

AuthorOlivia Laing.

Olivia Laing is the author of three acclaimed books of non-fiction, At the river , The trip to Echo SpringandThe lonely town . His last,Everyone: a book about freedom,explores struggles for bodily freedom, including gay rights, sexual liberation, the civil rights movement, and feminism.

What does inhabiting his fearless body mean to you?

As a trans person, there’s a lot of fear buzzing around my body most of the time. I think that’s an experience that a lot of people share, because they have a bodily identity that is subject to oppression or violence. I wanted to invite readers to imagine a world where those kinds of forces didn’t apply, where everyone could feel free to kiss, dance, attend a protest, even read a book while knowing that he is safe in his body.

What is the most interesting story or thing you have discovered while writing?Everybody ?

Bayard Rustin was one of the great architects of the civil rights movement, including organizing the March on Washington, but I had never heard of him. His involvement had been cleared because he was a gay man. He was fascinating to discover: a person who couldn’t stand injustice in any form. You couldn’t stop him: even if he was arrested, he would just start reforming the prison.

Of the people you mention in your book, Malcolm X, Freud, Susan Sontag, who would you most like to have lunch with, and what is the first question you would ask them?

I have a feeling Nina Simone and Freud would be an epic lunch. I could just sit back and let them go on, but I know Nina would come out on top.

What are you reading right now?

young heroesof the Soviet Republic, a very timely book by Alex Halberstadt. It’s about his fascinating and gruesome family history in Russia and Ukraine, and how a legacy of violence and trauma has shaped Russia.

Mosse is in conversation with Catherine Robertson and Laing with Megan Dunn, at the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts, streaming through April 3. here.

Margarita W. Wilson

The author Margarita W. Wilson