Graham Reid | | 4 min read
Rochelle Bright has enjoyed one of the better views in New Zealand while writing plays such as her acclaimed Daffodils . . . and the impending The Deliberate Disappearance of My Friend, Jack Hartnett (which opens in Auckland soon, dates below)
She earned the enviable multi-milldollar vista across Auckland's Hauraki Gulf from Devonport's heights because she won the 2015 Michael King Residency Recipient. Although you'd have to admit it's probably a bit chily up there some days.
However those in this struggling city will be very curious about what she has done with that rare opportunity to write.
Elsewhere has previously offered the songwriter behind this production Abraham Kunis the opportunity to speak, so we now invite Rochelle Bright to talk about her background/influences and some-such . .. .,
The first book which really affected you was . . .
When I was little, my Mum used to read to me most nights, starting with books like Where The Wild Things Are, and the Narnia series. The fantasy world in these books opened up my imagination as a kid. I think in many ways those early fantasy stories encouraged me to spend my time imagining worlds, creating films in my mind with characters that weren’t me, but who I could express my thoughts through.
Your first (possibly embarrassing) unpublished literary effort was . . .
Have always been interested in dialogue. First thing I wrote was a play. To be honest, can’t remember much about it. It involved letters being written between two kids. One was scared to go home because of his parents fighting. Hehehe, I wasn’t afraid of the hard issues back then! I think almost everything written before turning 25 is pretty embarrassing for most writers. Finding your voice takes years. Still working on it.
Do you have any rituals or habits when you are in the throes of writing?
Must start with a coffee. Always need a good strong flat white before writing. Also I need some good headphones as I always write to music. Need good light and somewhere where I can people watch. Staring at people, thinking about what they’re thinking – helps unlock the words.
If writing was denied you, your other career choice would be . . .
Sideshow Artist. I’d run away with the circus for sure. Learn how to swallow a sword and eat fire.
When I lived in New York, I spent most summer weekends at the sideshow in Coney Island with a good friend of mine. Cheap beer, a warm breeze and the cyclone rollercoaster, it’s all you need in life. I’ve always been attracted to outsiders and outsider culture.
Three books (yours, or by others) you would love everyone to read are . . .
Synecdoche, New York. You can find the screenplay by Charlie Kaufman online. It’s pure genius!
Carrie & Lowell – Sufjan Stevens. Read the lyrics on the album booklet. It’s deeply sad.
Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand,” reimagined as a Dr. Seuss Book.
Any interesting, valuable or just plain strange literary memorabilia at home?
Not at home. Moving from country to country, I have gotten rid of a lot of things, living out of a suitcase. The most exciting item that I have ever had the pleasure of holding and reading is at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. I got to handle Sir Edmund Hillary’s journal, the one he took up to the top of Everest. You can see his handwriting change as the extreme conditions took hold.
Hardback, paperback or e-book on a long distance flight?
Paperback. Something you can throw into a bag and take wherever you go. Something about flicking the pages. Have started using e-books. May convert.
If you could ask a long-gone writer just one question, who would that be? And what would you ask?
Gertrude Stein, who said, “it is very easy to love alone”. She takes ones one word and makes you re-examine it, until all meaning is laid out. Much like you do with a lyric. I would ask her thoughts on NZ politics.
The three films you think were good adaptations of literary works were . . .
Submarine – though that has a lot to do with director Richard Ayoade. Love his style.
Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. Was a teenager when it came out. Luhrmann made Shakespeare exciting. A guilty pleasure.
Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh.
The last book you bought was . . . (And why that one?)
Lolita. Had watched the movie years ago, but I hadn’t read it. Still reading it. Lolita trips you up and makes you feel uncomfortable- something that is helping feed into “The Deliberate Disappearance of My Friend, Jack Harnett”.
Can you, or do you, listen to music when you are at work? If so, who do you listen to?
I can’t write a word without music playing. Many of my ideas come from listening to albums. I’ll search for a new track for hours, until I find the right sound to write to. I’ll put one song on repeat for up to 5 hours. I’ve got a large playlist. Favorites include Sufjan Stevens, Arctic Monkeys, Nick Cave (especially his soundtrack for The Road), Agnes Obel, Yann Tiersen, Tiny Ruins, LIPS, Andrew Bird, My Brightest Diamond, Rachel Portman (soundtrack to Never Let Me Go), Bjork, Born Ruffians, The Cinematic Orchestra, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Rachmaninov, Philip Glass, PJ Harvey (especially Let England Shake)….there are many more – there is so much good music out there.
The book cover you would wear printed on a t-shirt would be?
The Death of Bunny Munro. Nick Cave.
You are allowed just one tattoo, and it is of . . .
I’ve had my eye on getting a Huia or Tui.
David Bowie sang, “Five years, that's all we've got . . .” You would spend them where, doing . . .?
Travelling, writing and collaborating on exciting new theatre & film with artists who I admire.
And finally, in the nature of press conferences in Japan, “Can you tell me please why your last book is your best work ever?”
My last play was called Daffodils – it’s a deeply personal work. It’s honours my father, who has been gone 20 years now. Bringing my folks - an average kiwi couple from the Tron- putting their story up on the stage for festivals goers across NZ to see – that’s feels pretty damn special to me!
The Deliberate Disappearance of My Friend, Jack Harnett is at Auckland's Q Theatre Loft, July 24 - August 8