Posted by: Lisa Hill | March 25, 2018

Meet a Kiwi Author: Bonnie Etherington

Etherington (Josh Eastwood)

Photo credit: Josh Eastwood

People are sometimes a bit dismissive of literary prizes, but I’m very pleased to have read most of the longlist for the 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards because that is how I discovered Kiwi author Bonnie Etherington.  Because we in Australia don’t always hear about new released from NZ, I probably would never have heard of her debut novel The Earth Cries Out (2017, Vintage NZ) if it hadn’t been longlisted, yet it turned out to be one of the best nominations IMO. (See my review here).

Bonnie currently lives in Chicago, but she was born in Nelson, New Zealand, and spent her childhood in West Papua and in Darwin.  Her short fiction, poetry, and nonfiction have appeared or are forthcoming in various publications in New Zealand and overseas, including in Landfall, Deep South, Guernica, Headland, Ika, Meniscus and takahē. She currently lives in Chicago with her husband and cat while she works towards a PhD in Literature, focusing on Indigenous representations of trans-Pacific “One Salt Water” activism and solidarity.

I was delighted when she contacted me and offered to take part in Meet a Kiwi Author!  Here are her answers to my questions:

  1. I was born… in Nelson, New Zealand, but my parents moved us soon afterwards to West Papua. I also spent a few childhood years in Darwin, Australia.
  2. When I was a child I wrote…slightly morbid short stories that mixed real life with more fantastical elements. Here’s one: “Smokey was a stupid dragon. He couldn’t do anything right. One day he was looking for some food and got shot. The End.” [Photo proof attached!
  3. The people who encouraged/inspired/mentored me to write are…my dad and his “brain stories” (stories from his head), my mum and conversations while she cooked, and the old ladies in my dad’s literacy classes and down at the market.
  4. I write in… my apartment, usually. In bed, at my desk, on the sofa. I like the idea of writing in a café but I get distracted very easily.
  5. I write...whenever I can! I often get ideas when I’m a passenger in the car or on the bus.
  6. Research is….fun but dangerous. I tend to get lost down research rabbit holes too easily so I try to keep writing time for writing.
  7. I keep my published book on my bedside table to remind myself that I wrote it. I keep my published shorter works scattered on my computer in various places. I should probably organize them.
  8. On the day my first book was published, I...showed it off to my cat who was unimpressed. On the day of the actual launch, though, I got food poisoning. Thankfully not in front of anyone.
  9. At the moment, I’m writing …my dissertation! Or I should be, anyway. I’m also starting a new novel and I always have a few short stories in the works.
  10. When I’m stuck for an idea/word/phrase, I ...go for a walk or a drive. If I can’t do either of those things I read something (anything) to try to trigger my brain.

It always surprises me that there are so few books set in Papua New Guinea, because PNG is our nearest neighbour and theirs is a fascinating culture.  I hope Bonnie goes on to write move novels set there, once that PhD is out of the way!

Australian buyers can buy Bonnie’s book freight free from Fishpond: The Earth Cries Out  and from Penguin Random House NZ where it is also available as an eBook.


  1. If she’s any good I think we should claim her. Maybe she could.move to Sydney after her PhD.


    • LOL We’ve done that once or twice before!


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