This week’s installment of the Weekend Name Drop features another writer I met at this year’s Ruapehu Writers Festival, one based closer to home in terms of location and the settings of her novels. Meet Tina Shaw.
Name: Tina Shaw
Creative field: Novelist
Location: Taupo, New Zealand
Best known for: Authoring the novels, The Black Madonna (2005), About Griffen’s Heart (2009) and The Children’s Pond (2014); Recipient of the Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellowship (1999) and the Creative NZ Berlin Writers’ Residency (2001/2); Writer in Residence at the University of Waikato (2005); Creative writing tutor and NZSA mentor.
My connection: I first encountered Tina through the New Zealand Society of Authors StartWrite programme in which she provided feedback for the opening chapters of my manuscript for The Chain. In the final publication’s acknowledgments, I credit Tina for essentially writing the book’s opening sentence. Once I heard I would be featured in a panel with Tina (along with Elizabeth Knox and Martin Edmond) at the 2016 Ruapehu Writers Festival, I began reading her most recent novel, The Children’s Pond. I met Tina in person at the festival. We had a most enjoyable session at the Horpotito Hall and I later presented her with a copy of The Chain. Since then, I have finished reading her novel and maintained contact with Tina via e-mail and Facebook.
Inspiration for this writer: Tina’s writing advice will help me with future projects as well as it did for The Chain. I was also delighted to learn she is based in Taupo as it feels like a closer connection to Taumarunui than the writers I’m meeting from Wellington, Auckland, Palmerston North and even Whanganui. Better still, The Children’s Pond is set in Turangi, a decision Tina had made before moving to Taupo (In fact, according to a review of the book on Crime Watch, this is the first novel ever set in Turangi). Finding drama in small towns is what the festival organisers recognised in our work, and it is encouraging to see a writer of Tina’s stature and experience writing about a town near me. In his highly complimentary review of The Children’s Pond in Landfall, David Herkt points out that the book was, regrettably, not picked up by a traditional publisher and that Tina published it under her own imprint, Pointer Press. Herkt cites this as a missed opportunity for publishers and “a clear marker of the decline of the great publishing conglomerates as they founder on their market fears in the face of changed formats and purchasing patterns.” In its own way, this is encouraging to me as a writer whose novels have been rejected by publishing houses, and it affirms my own decisions to publish under my imprint, Maple Koru Publishing. It’s tough out there, but we keep writing and reaching our readers.
Why you should check her out and share with others: The Children’s Pond is a very readable, compelling crime story with some deep psychological back stories, blended nicely with small town meanderings, Maori cultural elements, and detailed trout fishing episodes which, of all of these aspects, are the most surprising in their inclusion and relevance to the story. Tina’s writing is direct, even, in her own words, “abrupt”, and confidently transports you through one compelling scene to the next. And perhaps “scene” is the best word – I agree with Herkt who writes, “The Children’s Pond seems perfectly tailored for both a New Zealand and international crime fiction market; it is easy to envisage it as a movie or a television drama, filled with the visual allure of its background scenery and the resonances of a landscape barely subjugated to human will.” I have already recommended it to a friend in Canada and will continue to do so to those who enjoy crime fiction, small towns, family drama, New Zealand … and fishing.
Sample of work:
“Steeling herself, Jessica crossed the room and took the chair opposite her son at the table.
Reuben sat sideways to the table, legs crossed, arms crossed, staring at a spot on a wall. She didn’t need to be a psychologist to understand his body language. Her throat went dry.
‘Thanks for seeing me, Reuben.’
‘Well?’ Her son’s voice fired directly from his antagonism. Hard as a gang member – and was that what he was now? ‘You keep writing. What d’you want?’
Jessica cleared her throat, aware of the other voices, the other visitors in the room, the big Maori guard in her navy blue uniform seated in the centre of the table arrangement, eyes flicking over them all, constantly vigilant.
‘I want things to be better between us,’ she said. How lame it sounded.
Reuben gave a snort.
She screwed up her hands tight in her lap, tried to gather up some courage. Had to remind herself this was the boy she raised, mostly single-handed: her baby. And she was afraid that through her own actions she had caused a permanent rift with him, a break that could never be mended. All those speeches she had rehearsed during the long drive south from Auckland, wracked with maternal guilt, deserted her. Speeches about getting through this together, how family was the most important thing, how she’d help him get back on his feet again, how she was sorry for –
The clock on the wall ticked on. It didn’t help her concentration that the two Maori women, sitting across a table from a bulky man with tattooed arms, were talking in loud voices.
‘Don’t hate me, okay?’ she muttered.
He flicked her a look, pure hatred, then pushed away from the table. The chair crashed to the floor, and everybody in the room stopped talking. Heat seared her face, and she twisted her fingers tighter, the knuckles white. Reuben stalked across the room, the officer’s gaze following him, and went out the glass door he had come in from earlier. Jessica watched as he went down a short corridor and disappeared into a side room.
A beat, then the voices started up again, like nothing much had happened. Tears threatened to spill, but Jessica swallowed them down. She walked over to the exit and freedom, and left. She had no idea whether her son would allow her to visit him again.
The Weekend Name Drop is a weekly feature on this blog, promoting people I have encountered who are doing creative things.