Posted by: Lisa Hill | January 11, 2016

Meet a Kiwi Author: Patrick Evans

Patrick Evans Screen Shot 2016-01-11The Back of His HeadPatrick Evans is a Kiwi author I recently discovered when his book The Back of His Head was nominated for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.  As you know if you read my enthusiastic review, I really enjoyed the book and so it gives me great pleasure to introduce the author via Meet a Kiwi Author, (a companion series to Meet an Aussie Author).

An academic at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand’s second oldest university in the South Island city of Christchurch, Patrick is the author of four novels:

  • Being Eaten Alive (Angus & Robertson, 1977),
  • Making It (Hodder & Stoughton, 1980),
  • Gifted (Victoria University Press, 2010), and
  • The Back of His Head (VUP 2015).  (See my review and a Sensational Snippet)

Patrick has taught New Zealand and Australian literature in the UC English Department since 1978, and his works of literary criticism include:

  • An Inward Sun: the Novels of Janet Frame (1974),
  • Janet Frame (Twayne World Series, 1977),
  • The Penguin History of New Zealand Literature (1990),
  • The Long Forgetting: Postcolonial Literary Culture in New Zealand (2008).

He’s also an award-winning playwright:

  • The Meeting (1985; Christchurch Press’s Best New Play),
  • Stuff: A Play on Words (1989: New Zealand Theatre Federation’s One Act Play Award),
  • Cold Turkey (1995; Waitaki Best New Play Award),
  • The Men’s Room (2004),
  • Nudity May Offend (2008),
  • Gifted: the Play (2014).

Although obviously very busy, he found time to answer my questions, and here they are!

  1. I was born: in Dehra Dun, India. My Dad was an officer in The 2nd Gurkha Rifles. We came to New Zealand via Sydney (which I can remember) when I was 4.
  2. When I was a child I wrote: Rubbish. No signs of literary talent whatever, apart from vaulting ambition. My brother, who has written nothing as an adult, showed much greater talent as a yoof.
  3. The person who encouraged/inspired/mentored me to write was: Me mum. She was a minor writer (comic verse, memories of her Indian childhood in the Raj) who occasionally published and was on the radio. She read to me and my brother at bedtime – great stuff, Kipling and Stevenson and other literature of the Empah – and held up Writing as the best thing One could do with One’s life. A great Jane Austen fan, as a result of which I hardly read JA when young. She hated American writers so that’s what I read instead, to her disgust and dismay.
  4. I write in: Nowhere special, just one of the bedrooms at home, with curtains always drawn in case Life looks in. The place is a pigsty, a fact widely commented on by visitors.
  5. I write: When I can. Evenings and all night for preference, till the neighbours got a dog which took care of the morning sleep-in. I’ve always been a single parent, and that comes first, and a university teacher, which always comes second. Someone asked the US writer John Barth how his university teaching linked with his creative writing. He said, ‘It prevents it’.
  6. Research is: crucial to any writing. The last four novels of Penelope Fitzgerald are evidence of this – research-based evocations of places and times she couldn’t possibly have known at first hand. If your writing is stuck, it’s usually because you haven’t done enough research. The internet is a huge breakthrough, of course, though it can make writing a bit fake when you suddenly become a world expert on, say, Italian submarines of the Great War.
  7. I keep my published works in: an upstairs bookcase, dozens of copies of each of them, which a friend called ‘unsold copies of my bestsellers’.
  8. On the day my first book was published, I: ran around showing people who could barely be bothered to show interest in it, though one of them said it had a silly cover. It was published in Australia (A&R) but got a sarky review in the SMH and died on the spot, silly cover and all. It was meant to be a comedy, but in an brittle, insecure literary culture like New Zealand’s at the time, it was deemed outrageous. Art is a serious business! No jokes! (My plays, almost all comedies, have a completely different reaction: Kiwis seem to like laughing in the theatre but not at novels, hence a fiction tradition that is a bit Serious.)
  9. At the moment, I’m writing: the third volume of the trilogy of which Gifted is #1 and The Back of His Head #3. They’re all in response to my reading. over forty years, of the writing of Janet Frame, who has done most among New Zealand writers to shape my thoughts about the world. #1 is about her time with Frank Sargeson, known as the ‘Father of New Zealand Fiction,’ after ten years spent in psychiatric institutions 1945-55; s#2 is about her time on the island of Ibiza after that, as she tried to write a second novel after ‘Owls Do Cry‘ (1957); #3 is about her afterlife, the way she haunts our literature. Of course, I mightn’t be able to write #2, so the trilogy will have to be called something else – a diptych? A dipstick? Suggestions, please.
  10. When I’m stuck for an idea/word/phrase: I’m never stuck for anything; in fact the trick is to shut me up. But if you can find a way of getting into The Zone, the words just keep on coming and they feel like someone else’ writing. Then another part of you has to edit it, of course.

Well, I hope that Patrick does get time to write #2.  I’ve got Gifted on order at the library, and then I’ll want to read what happens next!

Thanks for participating, Patrick:)

GiftedFor Aussie buyers, Fishpond is usually the best bet for NZ titles because they don’t charge postage and they’re not owned by Amazon.   (I did find a bricks-and-mortar shop that would order in The Back of His Head, but their price was astronomical.  I suspect that stocking NZ titles is a no-win situation for bricks-and-mortar bookshops, they’d have to pay the same postage as the buyer, and they can’t get it any quicker than the customer can).

Fishpond had a second-hand copy of Gifted: a Novel on the day I looked, and you can pre-order The Back of His Head for shipping later in January.  Both titles are also available from New Zealand’s Victoria University Press.  Or if you’re in a hurry you can do what I did and put your principles aside and buy an eBook edition from Amazon.


  1. […] told us when he was featured in Meet a Kiwi author, Gifted and The Back of His Head are parts 1 and 3 of a trilogy drawn from his familiarity with the […]


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