Ideally, the Weekend Name Drop works like this: I feature an amazing creative person who also has a significant online platform upon which we mutually draw attention to our work. But, for some of my posts, I am hopefully helping readers discover someone who is less known online, but should be known. Meet Tony Chapelle.
Name: Tony Chapelle
Creative fields: Short Story specialist, Novelist
Location: Palmerston North, New Zealand
Best known for: Multiple award-winning short story writer, particularly in the centre of New Zealand
My connection: I first heard of Tony when I attended the Chorizo Book Fair at the 2015 Whanganui Literary Festival. It was there that I met Jill Darragh of Rangitawa Publishing who proudly showed me a copy of Tony’s collection of short stories, Original Sin (2015). After seeing his book reviewed in the New Zealand Listener, I contacted Tony on Facebook to congratulate him and to query about distribution, reviews and other matters. We began corresponding regularly and he gave me feedback after reading my first two novels. We decided we should meet up sometime when I visited my children in Palmerston North and soon did so, meeting at Massey University’s Off the Page session on Speculative Fiction. That night, I finally bought my copy of Original Sin at Bruce McKenzie’s shop and went home with it signed. The next day, he bought The Chain and has read that too!
Inspiration for this writer: Not that competition is the most legitimate motivation for a writer, but I would like to overtake Tony in a short story competition one day. He’s done so well in them. While I placed 3rd in the 2015 NZSA Central Districts competition, Tony placed 2nd (we both placed higher than acclaimed Taranaki writer, David Hill – but who’s competing?!). I don’t think I’ve ever read a complete collection of short stories by one author, but I’ve enjoyed reading every story in Original Sin. Tony’s settings are small, often restricted to the indoors (sheds, kitchens) and his characters’ relationships are primarily domestic (families, husband/wife, father/daughter). But the characters are so well-drawn and realistic, they resonated with me, whether it was his teenagers or his middle aged-men. Perhaps this says more about me than Tony’s writing, but there is an awkwardness about his characters that creates a discomfort but a reassurance at the same time. He’s a fine story-teller.
Why you should check him out and share with others: In a similar vein, Catherine Robertson writes in her review in the New Zealand Listener:
“Chapelle evokes place very well. His primarily small-town and rural New Zealand settings feel scrubby, grim and unwelcoming. It’s an apt reflection of the psychological state of most of his characters, who are ill-equipped to deal with the disappointments and betrayals that are either forced on them or, more commonly, of their own making.”
It is obviously this marrying of psyche and setting which has seen Tony win the NZSA Central Districts competition in 2005 (Equilibrium) and 2009 (Original Sin) and the Cambridge Autumn Festival competition in 2015 (Because). Sue McCauley calls Tony, “a writer of integrity with fine instincts.” Earlier this year, Tony launched his first novel, Merely a Girl. Unlike his short stories, his novel is set in Victorian England and is heavily influenced by his love for 19th Century novels. Merely a Girl is acclaimed by none other than Maurice Gee who says that Tony writes with a “real Victorian voice.” (Manawatu Standard, 6 May 2016). Tony is following his debut novel with The Youngest Son and I am pleased to share a sample from this below.
Sample of work:
(From Tony’s forthcoming second novel, The Youngest Son):
“The days being short, Tom breaks his journey at Dolgelley in order to ensure that he arrives at the valley when there are still hours of daylight left. The inland road he takes the next day is indeed in poor repair, hilly and treacherously steep-sided in parts, but safe enough when proper care is taken, and shortly before noon he reaches the point where it branches, one fork going straight ahead towards Machynlleth, the other turning abruptly west where it soon brings him to a watershed beyond which the valley stretches out, sudden and unexpected, beneath his feet.
It is a dull and cold winter’s day, with high cloud overhead, yet the scene is one of breath-taking grandeur. The westward running valley reaches straight and broad towards the invisible sea, its flanks, painted with broad sweeps of grey and mauve, rising steeply to either side. The colours on the bottoms are mostly greens and greys, and a lake that reflects the light-grey colour of the high cloud lies about half way down the visible course. As he takes in the full majesty of the scene, Tomas can just make out, at the far end of the lake, a small clump of trees and the squat grey tower of a church. A little further on there is more evidence of man – cottages, possibly, and barns, and a taller, more substantial building that is probably the inn. The whole village, though – if it is indeed a village – seems little more than an insignificant smudge in the vast amphitheatre that nature has provided.
He tries again to adjust his thoughts to the various features of the landscape, but the huge scale of it defeats him. Far down, in the obscure distance, gulls that are no more than small black dots to his eye hover over a cliff face, evidence of the sea’s near presence. There could be no place on earth more felicitous, he thinks. It is not pretty, like an English vale, but thrilling in its immensity. Here is evidence of a glorious history that hardly features man at all. His puny efforts can scarcely be detected amidst the natural palette of the surrounding rock and vegetation. And all this, too, is part of the Gerold inheritance.
Exhilarated and humbled both, Tomas remounts and urges his horse down the zig-zag road and into the valley itself.”
The Weekend Name Drop is a weekly feature on this blog, promoting people I have encountered who are doing creative things.