Title: Starling

Author: Elizabeth Knox

In: Sport 28: Autumn 2002

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, March 2002, Wellington

Part of: Sport

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Sport 28: Autumn 2002

April 1977 (Afternote, From This Place, a Game book)

April 1977 (Afternote, From This Place, a Game book)

There is nothing very good in this book. The writing is a little static. I'm not putting enough care into the stories. I wrote most of these hurriedly in lunch hours, or for an hour or two after page 123 work (my weekends are taken up by the Game, which profits the writing in its way). Some of the stories are even written without the slightest inspiration, when I've sat myself down with my pen and book and have told myself that I have to get going because I'm behind schedule—as if there's a schedule—and if I go on too slowly and with too much to learn my whole life will go by without my having dropped my mulch on the garden of history. That's how it is—I'm learning how to write, and pretending to be a writer, and each story here hates itself for not showing how much I love its characters and their world.

(In 1978 and early 79 I took about eight months off work and lived at home on my savings while writing a novel. I had less time than I'd budgeted for because, in an effort to discourage me from giving up a perfectly good job in order to do something so risky and obscenely self-confident, my parents doubled my board.

I made a false start, and wrote about 30,000 words of a New Zealand book, set in Golden Bay. Then I wrote One Too Many Lives, which is about four girls with an imaginary game, and what happens when one girl gets a boyfriend and decides to grow up and devote herself to him. The main protagonist is Fiona. Vivian is the girl with the boyfriend. C.J. is an imaginary character, whose death lets Vivian out of the game, and her characters' obligations as his wife and several of his daughters. One Too Many Lives is a novel in which only the real people have false names. (Twenty years later, C.J. would appear under the false name of Ulaw in Black Oxen.)

So—I spent my year at home, 1979, wrote my book, and gave it to Dad to edit. He liked in very much. He sent it off to David Elworthy at Collins, who could only accept one novel that year—a bad year for NZ publishing, 1979, the year Plumb appeared in paperback, and revived things somewhat. The novel David Elworthy published was Philip Temple's Beak of the Moon. A very astute decision. David Elworthy also liked One Too Many Lives, and he sent it around various publishers in England. People there, and here, were impressed, but had reservations.)