Second novel from former long-time staffer at Creative New Zealand

Author of Pentimento, A Novel

After seventeen years of helping hundreds of New Zealand writers in her job at Creative New Zealand, Rosemary Wildblood planned to spend more time working from home on her own writing, but it didn’t quite work out like that.  ‘My problem is,’ she laughs, ‘that I find it very hard to say “No” to people.’

Yet now, despite all the demands of her voluntary work, Wily Publications Ltd of Christchurchhas published her second novel, Pentimento. Rosemary says she’d received encouraging noises from several publishers, along with compliments on her writing style and the originality of the plot. But there was no firm offer until Jenny Haworth of Wily Publications read it, loved it and said she wanted to take advance copies to the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2012 where New Zealand was the Guest of Honour.

‘It has been such an exhilarating, fast-tracked ride, getting the book into production’ says Wildblood, whose first novel, Joybird, reached No 4 on the Booksellers New Zealand Bestseller list in 2004. ‘It seemed as if the stars had suddenly aligned for Pentimento. Working with a publisher, editor and designer from Christchurch felt right, she says, because a key part of the book is set in that city.’ Jenny Pattrick, author of The Denniston Rose, will now launch Pentimento at PATAKA gallery in Porirua on 10 November next, ‘An ideal venue, because the novel is about artists,’ Wildblood says.

On leaving full time work in 2006, Wildblood, a longstanding member of the New Zealand Society of Authors, became Chair of the Wellington Writers Walk committee, a member of the Wellingtonbranch committee and Vice President of the NZSA National Council. After coordinating 40th anniversary events for the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship during 2009, she was invited to be a Trustee of the Winn Manson Menton Trust, which she accepted with alacrity, because, she confesses, ‘It has always been a fellowship dear to my heart.’ More recently, she became a member of the management committee of the Book Awards Governance Group, which oversees the New Zealand Post Book Awards.

I have plenty of knowledge to share and good literary networks, so I hope my contribution to the literary sector’s been useful,’ Wildblood says. ‘Much of my time over the past five years has been spent fundraising, event organising, running a Wellington Sonnet competition, finding sponsors for the Wellington Writers Walk and most recently, working with Clemenger BBDO and our dedicated little committee on the amazing new Wellington Writers Walk website. Thanks to the help of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, quotations from the walk magically appeared along the banks of the River Main during the Book Fair in Frankfurt, where passers by could access a German translation of the website on their smart phones.

Wildblood, who has never lost her English accent, is a passionate advocate for New Zealandliterature. ‘After all, she explains, ‘I left Englandwhen I was twenty-five and have lived in New Zealand longer than anywhere else.’ As a new immigrant in the early eighties, she asked a friend who had written a book about earthquakes which New Zealand novels she should read. ‘He lent me books by Robin Hyde, Janet Frame and Maurice Gee - and I was hooked – the themes seemed so dark, different and intriguing to anything I’d read before,’

Since then, she has watched the burgeoning of New Zealand literature with some pride in having been a cog in the wheel of its development. ‘It was a privilege,’ she says to make the journey with so many writers who blossomed with the help of arts council grants, residencies and fellowships. Over the past three decades we have seen a huge growth in our literature, and now have an amazing array of writers.

As for her own writing, Wildblood says she likes layered plots whose pieces fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, with characters that grapple with life’s adversities and learn from them. ‘I also like endings which, if not exactly happy, are at least hopeful,’ she adds with a grin.