Home' The Wellingtonian : May 17th 2012 Contents 10 THE WELLINGTONIAN, MAY 17, 2012
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on the waterfront
WOMEN: AN EXHIBITION
Guest artists: Di ffrench, Christine Hellyar,
Claudia Pond Eyley, Carole Shepheard, Jane Zusters
Di ffrench - TAKING POSSESSION
A lifetime filled with words
Joseph Romanos talks
to writer Dame Fiona
Kidman about being a
librarian, spending a
day at the Penthouse
Cinema and making her
point through fiction.
Fiona Kidman: ''I used to think I had time on my side, but now I'm conscious of using my time well.''
Photo: FAIRFAX NZ
Is it true you learnt to read in
When I was six, I spent some
months in Kerikeri Hospital. They
had a visiting schoolteacher, who
taught me to read one afternoon.
The next week she came back and
taught me to write. So I wrote a
letter to my mother asking her to
take me home.
Your first serious job was as
I was a library assistant in
Rotorua, and when I was 18 I
became deputy librarian. I was an
only child and books had been my
entry into the world.
When did you turn to
writer. I was the librarian at Roto-
rua Boys High School by then.
Ian and I were married. This was
the 1960s and when I got preg-
nant, they didn t want a pregnant
woman around the place. They
felt I should be home knitting
booties. So I went home and wrote
a play. I enjoyed writing, but had
to pay someone to help around the
house to give myself time to write.
So I began doing some journalism
work for the Rotorua Daily Post.
What sort of journalism?
General reporting, and I did the
book reviews page. I reviewed
hundreds of books, so many I used
to put different initials on some
Why did you move to Wel-
Ian got a job promotion in 1970.
It turned out well for me. I was
offered work by The Listener.I
wrote features and had a column.
I started there about the time
Rosemary McLeod and Tom Scott
did. The Listener was a big maga-
zine then and by my early 30s I
was a public figure.
What did you think of Wel-
A rather quaint little hole. I was
very lonely when I got here,
though I enjoyed the solitude for
being able to write. I love Welling-
ton now -- the hills, harbour,
views, sea. It can be so peaceful,
yet the central city is only a few
When do you write?
I write best in the mornings. I
the kids in Rotorua. It was when
the house was quiet and I could
Do you write just one draft?
I do the research first, then
write four or five drafts, print
them out, and write all over them.
Then I type the whole thing again
from the beginning.
Which sort of writing have
you liked best?
Well, I never liked working for
television, but the money was
good. I prefer working alone.
But you won the Ngaio
Marsh television writing
award in 1972. What was that
For a programme that was
never made, a one-off drama
called Green Apples in a Jug.It
was set in Wellington. A woman
travelling into port spends a day
in Wellington and meets an artist
and it goes from there.
What other television work
did you do?
I worked for years on Close to
Home and did Shark in the Park
and some documentaries.
What's the appeal of writing
In fiction you can tell the
greatest truths. Some things are
difficult to tell in this small
country. Often the best way is as
What's an example?
I wrote a political novel [True
Stars] in 1990 when I was very
despondent about Rogernomics.
As a committed leftie, it was my
way of saying something.
You often comment on life.
Social comment. That s what I
set out do to. I wrote A Breed of
Women in 1979 about the whole
sexual revolution in New Zealand,
and just about got tarred and
feathered for it. On the other
hand, it sold 9000 copies in the
first week! Sharon Crosbie inter-
viewed me the morning it was
launched and said: We ve got the
book we ve all been waiting for.
That was big -- she was queen of
the airwaves then.
You seem to have a particu-
lar link with Cambodia.
It s more Ian s really. He taught
in Naenae, a main catchment area
for refugees, and became involved
with the kids lives. Cambodia
Trust Aotearoa New Zealand was
set up to support landmine
victims. I got involved from there.
I m very interested in the whole
refugee migrant community.
We re a multicultural society.
Doing good works is not enough.
Friendship and everyone being on
an equal footing are very import-
Do you enjoy movies?
I love movies, and wish I went
more often. Sometimes I ll spend a
day at the Penthouse, going to a
movie, having a coffee, then going
to another movie.
I see you have a street
named after you.
Yes, in Rolleston. They wrote to
me and said they were naming
streets after writers. So there s a
Sargeson St, a Mahy Place. It s
You've been very linked
with all sorts of initiatives.
Are you still?
I ve pulled back a little, though
I m still deeply involved in
Randell Cottage [a writer s resi-
dence]. But I m 72 and have books
I want to write. I used to think I
had time on my side, but now I m
conscious of using my time well.
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