3 Aug 2016

A late starter in the literary world, Jenny Pattrick has spent the last 20 years making up for lost time.

Her first book, best-selling historical novel, The Denniston Rose, was written at the age of 60 and the Wellington-based novellist has been writing ever since.

For Pattrick, who will be in Christchurch later this month to take part in a number of events at Christchurch City Libraries, the journey was a natural creative progression.

“I’ve always written things, even as young thing. I was a jeweller for a large part of my life but when my hands began to give out I decided to give serious writing a go. At age 60 I went to a creative writing course with Bill Manhire, which I just loved, and it just all went from there. Not surprisingly, the jeweller’s bench is now gathering dust!”

From an artistic family, Pattrick’s parents were both creative and her sister and son are both now artists.

“It just feels natural for me to want to create and make things. Whether it was making jewellery when I was younger, or sewing costumes, it has never been an effort to be creative. I turn 80 this year and it still gives me great pleasure, as I think it does anyone, to create things.”

Currently “grinding” her way through the final stages of a new novel, Pattrick said the journey for writers in New Zealand was incredibly tough.

“The hardest thing about being a novelist in New Zealand is that you can’t make money unless your books are published overseas. Even for me, my books have sold very well in New Zealand, but I couldn’t have made a living at it.

“I waited until my 60s to get started. It took me six years to get The Denniston Rose published. For many New Zealand novelists, that must be heart-breaking, going through that very gruelling process to get the thing published.

“I was on the absolute brink of giving up forever when Random House finally accepted The Denniston Rose. You have to have very thick skin.

“But the flipside is it’s also greatly thrilling to see your words in print and think that other people are going to be reading those words. At the moment I’m grinding my way through another novel and as I read through it I think – never again – I’m not doing this again. But I think that is normal and part of the process, so who knows, I probably will be back for more.”

Pattrick said New Zealand provided the perfect setting for novels, with no shortage of inspiration.

“I love living in New Zealand and writing about New Zealand. All but two of my novels have been set in New Zealand. There are so many rich stories and dramatic landscapes. It’s a lovely place to write about.”

Jenny Pattrick will appear at three events at Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre as part of New Zealand book month:

  • Book chat, tea and tales with bestseller author, Jenny Pattrick. Thursday August 18, 10am-11.30am
  • Experience the novel Heartland, by Jenny Pattrick, bought to life through improvised comedy. Friday August 19, 7pm-9pm. Drinks and nibbles from 6.30pm.
  • Children’s event. Join Jenny Pattrick for a special interactive toe-tapping storytime featuring her enchanting children’s book The Very Important Godwit. Saturday August 20, 2pm-3pm.