Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spoilers be damned.

I really enjoy going out to talk to book groups, and I've realised there are two kinds of book groups. Of course, they all give me wine, so they are all the same there, oh, and cake too. Where they differ is in their approach to book selection.

Some book groups every one gets together each month and talks about whatever they have been reading - it's the individuals choice, and the books they read are often snapped up by other members who've liked the sound of them. I know I've come away from these groups with lots of titles written in my little 'must read' note book.

The other type of group is where everyone reads the same book, then they have a lively discussion about the merits and otherwise of the books. last week, I had my first outing to one of these book groups, and the book they had all read was Bound! I had my sister-in-law to thank for the invitation and she enjoyed the kudos she got by nonchalantly saying to her group, oh, I know the author, I can get her along if you like. What I really enjoyed about this group was they had all read the book! So for the first time, I didn't have to tiptoe around, not trying to give things away and spoil it for the people who hadn't read my books. It was so liberating! I could tell a few nifty anecdotes that I can't disclose to general public talks because of the spoilers. It was great fun.

My sister-in-law also reminded her group why it wasn't good being related to or friends with an author because they borrow bits of your life. Oops! I'd forgotten she'd provided me with a few gems over the years.

It was a great night out, and it was lovely to be able to blather about everything - no tongue biting required.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Many as One

There have been some very generous initiatives that donate money to the Christchurch Earthquake Recovery, and a wonderfully artistic one has been Claire Beynon's Many as One. Claire, who is a wonderful artist and poet, has set up a website where her fellow artists have donated works, which then go in a raffle for those who donate money to the Christchurch fund.

Our family donated some money and I was delighted to get an email from Claire to say we had been drawn from the hat and won this fabulous perspex sculpture by Australian artist Lisa Roberts.

The sculpture is called Coccoliths, Carbon Sequesterers and it is so beautifully apt as I have a great fondness for unicellular organisms. So much so that I put a foraminfera into one of my novels - and I had to fight hard for that foram because my editor thought it should be an amoeba, because everyone knows what an amoeba is, but no, I wanted a foram, because they are amazing and tough little blighters and I stood my ground!!!

The Many as One initiative is still going, and Christchurch's need is immense, so if you would like to donate to this worthy cause, and have the opportunity to win some beautiful art, go to the Many as One website.

I love my little sculpture, it sits on the window ledge in my office and every time I look at it I smile. It reminds me that simple can be beautiful, and small can be mighty!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

In the sticks

Writing by it's very nature is a solitary thing, you get to spend a lot of time by yourself (which might explain a bit about writers!) So I really enjoy the opportunity to get out and speak to groups, it's me out of the house and gives me the chance to meet new people and engage with readers. If I'm really lucky they give me food or wine, or even better, food and wine.

Last week I had the pleasure of going to talk to the West Otago Dinner Club, at Heriot. If you're wondering where Heriot is, it's close to Tapanui, if that leaves you none the wiser, it's kind of close to Gore, if you're still confused, do what I did and look it up on Google maps. Heriot is typical of many New Zealand country towns - it has a pub and a farm supplies store, and that's about it. It also has a great community centre, which was where I got to talk to a wonderful group of ladies. The West Otago Dinner Club is a group of 100 or so farmer's wives and rural women who meet every two months for a catered dinner and guest speaker. The ladies get all dolled up in their glad rags and enjoy an evening of good company, dinner and entertainment. It's a wonderful group, and a great idea, so I felt privileged to be invited to talk to them. They were a great audience, with lots of questions (I love questions) and I came away from the evening with a happy buzz that wasn't just from the wine. I then got handed more wine by my rather gregarious B&B host - but that could fill up another post.

So here's to Heriot, and lots of wonderful country women.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Write On Radio Show day

Today is show day, but with a difference, it will be the first time the radio show has been broadcast on the station's new FM frequency. To celebrate the change to FM, Toroa Radio has also re-branded and is now Otago Access Radio - or OAR for short. So those blessed folk who live in Dunedin can tune into Write On at noon on 105.4 FM or 1575 AM. For those not so fortunate to live in our beautiful city, you can listen live streamed from the OAR website

Fosterling is the new novel by Dunedin writer and poet Emma Neale. The back cover blurb starts ‘A young man is found unconscious in a remote forest. He is over seven-feet tall, his skin covered in thick hair, which reminds onlookers of an animal’s pelt. When he wakes in a city hospital, he is eerily uncommunicative...Speculation begins.
American author Annie Proulx recently visited Dunedin to promote her new book Bird Cloud, a memoir. I had the opportunity to talk with Annie about Bird Cloud, as well as her other writing.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Arfully covered.

I've made no secret of my love for cover art, and my almost obsessive hunt for certain artists of Ngaio Marsh's covers. One of these is Philip Hood. I have rather fallen for the cover art that are paintings, I find them expressive and far more interesting than cover art that is photography based.

Philip Hood's cover art isn't quite as menacing as those of Justin Todd, which you can check out here. But I find Hood's work thoughtful and I think they capture the mood of the story very well. These are all Fontana paperbacks.

Hand in Glove (1974 ed) Love the interesting angle of this cover, looking up from in the hole.

Death and the Dancing Footman (1975 ed) Lots of brooding here.

Artists in Crime (1975 ed) Plenty of anatomy on display in this one! (And excuse the scratchy bit where someone had committed the crime of the price sticker on the cover!)

Colour Scheme (1976 ed) Check out the New Zealand thermal hot pools.

I'm still looking for more of Philip Hood's covers, so if you see any up for sale, let me know - because a girl can never have too many books...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Now available as eBooks!

Yes, technology has caught up and I'm delighted to say my books are now available as eBooks through In fact, to save you the bother of having to type in Vanda Symon, you can go straight to my novels here. Overkill, The Ringmaster, Containment and Bound are all there.

This means they can be read on Kobo and Sony eBook readers (and a few others), as well as via apps for iPads, iPods and smart phones.

Hell, that's so 21st century!

Friday, April 1, 2011


New Zealand Book Month has been a particularly busy time for me, and this week more so than ever. I had the pleasure of being invited to tour the West Coast, inflicting myself upon libraries and schools from Hokitika to Westport. Here's me in action at the Westport Library. If you look closely at the photo, they even gave me a support gnome on the table!

First thing I have to say is I had forgotten how beautiful the West Coast is, especially on a good day. It was sunny and warm the whole time I was away I spent most of the time traveling feeling gobsmacked at the scenery. Even the airplane flights were amazing, with spectacular views of Aoraki Mt Cook and the Alps. Here's a pic of Punakaiki or Pancake Rocks as they are also known.  I feel a family holiday coming on...

The Coaster's hospitality was fantastic and the audiences attentive and friendly. I was really impressed with the high school students I spoke to, who were impeccably well behaved and asked great questions.

So I had a wonderful time away, and even got to experience the best ever chicken and mushroom pie at Hokitika Cheese and Deli. I'd give it a 6 out of 5! And the coolest building - I loved the Westport Municipal Chambers.

It had been over twenty years since I had traveled to Hokitika, Greymouth and Westport, and I was delighted to see how much the towns had flourished since then. The libraries in all of these towns were certainly a vital community hub, and when you see the effort and passion the librarians put into their work and communities, with little in the way of resources, you realise how precious they are. So hats off to the Librarians!