Thursday, August 25, 2011

Where waters laugh, and clouds dance...

Tessa Apa lives in a fairytale land. I have a good friend who has been abducted by aliens a few times and I’m not talking about anything he has vividly described.
Aotearoa:  Tessa lives where waters laugh and clouds dance; mountains speak to one another and move of their own accord. The more beautifully men will paint their faces - the more terrifying they become, and women there have inspired five hundred years of mermaid tales. I have been dreaming of that place my whole life.

Imagine how wonderful her dreams might be, living in a place such as Tessa’s home! Well, you might be able to imagine it. There aren't many places you can travel which are very much like it. Could you go there, you would notice a few important details right away.

Isolation. Lack of hot dogs.

I'm serious. Tessa has never enjoyed one of these. They would call it a bun kuri, or a coated kuri anyway - not conducive to getting the order right. But...imagine. Being without those!

Back in the 1700s (a jolly time to be alive...) A famous delivery service popped over to her island and brought a lot of new things. No dogs though, or not the coated kuris anyway. And the guy's name was Cook. Bit of a letdown for them, I can tell you.

He left there with a pretty well rounded imagination though. The place has been described as magical, bewitching, beautiful, bountiful, ever since. Nice advertising. Now if only someone would invent a way, besides a full-rigged ship, to get over there.

So, where is this place? I'm ashamed if you haven't figured it out.
Not really. I'm enjoying the riddle. (it's so danged easy!)

What isolates it? Water. That does a good job.
Men standing on the shore with spears....that's effective, but only used right after Cook left.....

You would be surprised how Tessa's beautiful home can be difficult to reach, and reach out from. We will get into that in just a few more paragraphs. First - her book.

She found me, while reaching out across the waves, and asked would I be so kind as to read her book. Homai o homai.  I obviously was wise enough to jump at the chance. We had a very surprising connection already. I was predisposed to squeal with delight actually. Tessa lived in that place I'd recently been dreaming....

You would imagine that her book would be, "Neener, neener! Look where I live..." but, it isn't. I would have been pleased at any rate. However, she writes a bit apart from the real estate, and goes right to the heart of the dream with her text...

Everything there is wairua (spirit) filled.

Cook didn't find an empty place. (Any more than Columbus did...) He found a culture, very old, connected to every moment of life. They are well connected to most of the experience after life, actually, but Cook found that part odd. I happen to love it. Gateway to Celesta spoke to me, though I'm quite old and it is a Young Adult novel, because Tessa knows things I've wondered my whole life. She knows them with certainty. What a remarkable key that single word can be. Gateway to Celesta embraces the concept of 'beyond what we experience and know'. An important dimension for kids while they are growing and learning. Tessa wanted to impress her certainty upon her own children, so began telling them stories. It lead, ultimately, to her book. Here is my happy review. Go directly to her book listing here, and here.

There is much more to Tessa than this one book, as there is more to her island home than the beauty of sand and waves. When she has time, and is not writing, she creates photographic art. Her modeling days have been passed down to her daughter, and Tessa looks for any peaceful moment she can find amid the rush. But, she's frazzled in such a beautiful place!  This is a beginning point, for you now. This is the point of discovery. Here, we connect and you should not sail away. Stay please, in this warmth, and hear a wonderful tale... Haere mai...welcome.

Oh! She's been waiting for me to hush....

Tell me all about your book, in 8,000 words or less.
Do you know an agent once asked me to describe my book in ONE sentence. I tried really hard to impress her but it was a long long long sentence!   Gateway to Celesta is essentially about the power of thought and its ability to control our lives. It is also about the eternal balance between good and evil. It's for young adult readers although I have to admit a lot of the feedback and emails I get are not from young adults. It also explores the fact that sometimes the truth can be so simple, we just can't believe in it.

Do you live on Te Ika-a-Maui or Te Wai Pounamu?... or do you prefer to say Aotearoa?
That made me laugh I prefer Aotearoa. I live in One Tree Hill, U2 wrote a song about it.

Which of your characters are YOU most like?
That’s a hard question! I don’t know if I can answer it……But if I had to pick I'd say Frankie.

You have admitted beginning to write for your children. Were you a storyteller for them, first?
Absolutely - especially when they were little. They seemed to prefer made up stories because I could always throw them (and the dog) into it. They loved that. The only problem was they never wanted the story to end so it was hard getting them to go to sleep.

I can’t help picturing you on a sandy beach, in a great shady hat, writing in a massive notebook. Where do you write?
You are joking right? Umm let's see, in the car outside piano lessons, in the car outside guitar lessons, in the car at netball practice. You get the idea? It is incredibly hard for me to find the time and space to write as I need silence. When you have a big family, silence is elusive. I find early mornings the best, but only if I have had an early night. It's hard to be creative and let it flow when you're half asleep.

What is Celesta?
Celesta is a spiritual dimension that exists alongside us. I say spiritual because it's not bound by any of the rules we have on earth. It is home to every thought that any person has ever had.

You described something in your book that was utterly new to me. You told me that every human thought continues to exist, and can influence us again. It is an amazing idea. What sparked that notion?
Have you ever an idea pop into your head from nowhere? Just BAM! And you're struck with this new way of looking at something? Well that's where it started. Where did that come from? Why do I keep on thinking that? Why can't I shake that thought? It also works in a negative way. When we just can't shake a bad vibe or recurring negative thought that drags us down. I began thinking about that concept and wondered if maybe thoughts had a life of their own. I wondered if they could, at times, be coming from outside of our selves. And having considered that, I then decided we could control them too.

Gateway to Celesta is your first book. What else have you written?
Only short stories. I LOVE short stories. Probably because it's so much easier to embrace when you are a busy person.

Why did your first book take five years to write?
You don’t really need to ask that now do you? Constant distractions and derailing. The idea was fully formed very early on. I just found it really hard to knuckle down and do the work.

Do you go sailing?
No and not likely too.

I like your character, Peter. He really has to confront some unexpected opposites. However, you don’t remake him. Was Peter difficult to write?
Yes I like Peter too. He's more interesting to me than the others. Peter was easy to write, for some reason I can feel his darkness and almost relate to his constant dilemma. I'm really looking forward to spending time with Peter as I write the sequel

Who is the best storyteller in your family?

Do you love puzzles? What are your favorite types?
Yes I do! I love word games, you know those ones where you get 5 letters and you have to make as many words as you can in two minutes. And Solitaire (with cards not on the screen) is a favourite too - that's a puzzle right?

Most people think of your homeland as unbelievably isolated. I bet you don’t think that at all. But, has New Zealand isolated you as an author? What extra problems do you have to overcome?
Yes we still wear grass skirts here and the shops close on Sundays. Aotearoa is very difficult country to be a new author. We only have five literary agents here and unless you write NZ-themed fiction, or Rugby biographies they won't even read your synopsis. And as a Kiwi, if you reach out to other countries, they don't really want to deal with someone overseas. So it’s a real dilemma. I did consider adding a Kiwi spin on the book but it would have been fake so I didn’t bother. It is loosely based in the Waikato, but unless you know the area you wouldn’t pick it up. You really should get 'Shared' down here pronto!

You certainly should have readers from all over the world now. Which country popped up as a complete surprise to you?
I actually get surprised when someone from New Zealand buys one. Considering we don’t really have many people reading electronic books here, it always surprises me because I thought the USA would be my only market.

Tell us what it is like in your house when you are writing.
I don’t write at home unless everyone else is out. So it's quiet and usually my dog is with me (she's allowed to stay). I like to be really comfy and usually write longhand in a journal.

Name a favorite book you have read, that you are positive I have never heard about.
The 10pm Question by Kate De Goldi

Where is your favorite place in all of New Zealand.
Pakiri Beach. Don't get me started.

There was one element in Gateway to Celesta which was exceeding dark and disturbing to me. Did you argue with yourself about including that, or did it seem perfectly natural and proper?
Hmmmm….which bit is that I wonder? Peter's dream? The dog? I didn’t argue about it because it had to be written.  (I won't divulge any did a perfect job of answering. )

You began writing, for your children. Have you any desire to write another type of book?
Yes I am drafting a non-fiction book as well. It's called 'Breadcrumbs on a Path to Heaven'. I have no idea when it will be finished.

What do you read for fun?
I read anything but non-fiction history.

On which side of the road do Kiwis drive?
The left ofcourse - But remember our cars are right hand drive.

Who was the first person to tell you, “You should write a book!”
I told myself. I didn’t even tell anyone I was writing it until I was well into it.

Who was the first person to read your book?
My daughter Arieta.

Angels appear in some manner, in every story I’ve written. It took your short story, actually, to explain them to me. What inspired The Girl Who Played Chess With An Angel? One of the themes within it nearly broke my heart. Is it purely fiction?
I am developing that story actually and have just had my cover art done. It started off with the working title 'Certainty' and grew from there. I believe Angels are real, I believe demons (tipua) are too. Most of what I write starts with something that I have observed or experienced and The Girl Who Played Chess With An Angel is no different. I am deeply interested in perception and how it has the ability to mold and control our lives. I wanted this story to be told by someone who was open to perceiving life and all its twists and turns with as few pre-conceived ideas as possible. Obviously we all have our own spin, but is it right? Could it be warped? Could we actually be wrong and how open are we to considering a new possibility? My Angels have no personal spin, they can see things as they are without the embellishment that humans seem to give everything.

What is your next project?
I will have The Girl Who Played Chess with an Angel finished this year and up on Amazon. Then I will start the sequel to Gateway to Celesta. I have my plan all done and I'm hoping 2012 will bring a bit more silence so I can finish it in record time.

Kia ora, Tessa.... I have enjoyed this, so much.


I've been saying, for a good while, that 'Down under' is a vast, opening market. People have heard me complain that Kindle is not global; that we should stop believing it is. Here is a resident, telling us that we need to bridge this water. We need to make connections there, because retailers are not on the ball. It is unfortunate when any author has to struggle to be read, and such a pleasure to share them when we can. Sharing is why we are here.

Kore rawa e rawaka te reo kotahi. One language is never enough.

So, what thrilled me so much, connecting to an author from New Zealand? Oh, come on! You haven't figured me out yet?! She's beautiful! Tessa had a wonderful story in her heart, and it was important enough to share. She said only please, and perhaps had no idea the gift she was offering me. I tried writing about her stunning homeland and needed someone to tell me that I got it all wrong

Connect to Tessa Apa at these links. Bridge across your own isolation.
Tessa on Twitter

Connect to the New Zealand Book Council here, and learn how you can help spread their written words.

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