Posted by: Lisa Hill | November 30, 2017

Meet a Kiwi Author: Brannavan Gnanalingam

Brannavan Gnanalingam is one of the authors longlisted for the 2018 Ockhams New Zealand awards.  

He is the author of five novels, all published by Wellington publishing collective Lawrence & Gibson which specialises in experimental non-fiction and heavyweight literature.

  • Getting Under Sail (2011)
  • You Should Have Come Here When You Were Not Here (2013)
  • Credit in the Straight World (2015)
  • A Briefcase, Two Pies and a Penthouse (2016)
  • Sodden Downstream (2017)

It’s not the first time Brannavan’s been nominated for the Ockhams:  A Briefcase, Two Pies and a Penthouse  was nominated in 2016 too.  He has also been a music and film reviewer for the Lumière Reader, Under the Radar, and the Dominion Post.  He works as a lawyer in Wellington, New Zealand too.

  1. I was born in Sri Lanka and moved to New Zealand via Zimbabwe at the age of 3.
  2. When I was a child I wrote a lot, with encouragement from my primary school teachers. They’d let me put on plays featuring characters called “King Arthur” and “MacGyver”.
  3. The person who encouraged me to write were my parents who encouraged me artistically. However, a mate Alexander Bisley got me writing for Salient (the Victoria University magazine) when I was in second year at varsity, and that was the start of it all.
  4. I write wherever I can. Mostly at home – sometimes in bed, sometimes in the lounge – but sometimes in cafés or bars. I don’t have a desk or any formal space. I try to have as few restrictions to writing as possible, or it’d turn into an excuse not to write.
  5. I write whenever I can. I can’t be too rigid about timing being a young parent and lawyer, or I’d never write. Right now, I’m writing in the evening, but if I wake up at 3am for no reason, I’ll also write then.
  6. Research is important, but I’m very conscious of how I use it. Most of my research is day-to-day conversations, interpreting my own experiences and interactions, and analysing myself and others. I’ll happily sit in a public space and watch interactions. I’ll do formal research before writing to ensure a book will have thematic coherency.  Once I start writing, I’ll research to fill in gaps. I’m very conscious though about not treating my books as academic texts.
  7. I keep my published works on my “New Zealand books” bookshelf. I’m in the section with other Lawrence & Gibson writers.
  8. On the day my first book was published, I got very drunk.
  9. At the moment, I’m writing a new novel. It’s based on a private boys’ school that goes to inordinate lengths to try to suppress a sexual assault at a school after-party. It’s about toxic masculinity* and how, by the time us males are teenagers, so much problematic behaviour is already learned and normalised.
  10. When I’m stuck for an idea/word/phrase, I keep trying. If nothing is happening, then I try not to beat myself up. I’ll use that time to think or to daydream, which can be just as helpful.

I asked Brannavan for a photo of his writing desk or muse, but it’s music that gets him going:

I don’t have a writing desk or a muse.  I tend to use a song or two (each book has had one) to get me going each time.  There’s no reason for a  particular song either.  For Sodden Downstream, my two songs were Pale Movie by Saint Etienne and Je m’appelle Jane by Jane Birkin & Mickey 3D.

You can find out about Brannavan’s other novels at the Lawrence & Gibson website.

Good luck at the Ockhams Brannavan, and thanks for participating in Meet a Kiwi Author!

*Update 1/6/19: In the light of this article about Meryl Streep’s objection to it, I’ve been thinking about my own use of the term ‘toxic masculinity’ and I’ve decided not to use it in future.


  1. […] is an impressive novella from New Zealand author Brannavan Gnanalingam, recently featured in Meet a Kiwi Author.  As you can tell from the cover design, the book is concerned with the everyday, but the question […]


  2. […] Downstream by Brannavan Gnanalingam (Lawrence & Gibson) Update 5/12/17 The author got in touch with me via Facebook and is kindly sending me a copy of […]


  3. […] disturbance. However, Is it Bedtime Yet? honours dads as well with their perspectives and author Brannavan Gnanalingam joined the session to read his chapter about dads not just being seen as ‘the […]


  4. […] disturbance. However, Is it Bedtime Yet? honours dads as well with their perspectives and author Brannavan Gnanalingam joined the session to read his chapter about dads not just being seen as ‘the […]


  5. […] & Gibson) (I’ve read and liked Brannavan’s fiction before, and featured him on Meet a Kiwi Author but *shrug* have not heard a word about this book until […]


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