The Mud - a novel Q & A
THE MUD Q & A
The following is a questions and answer report with Mick Stone, the author of 'The Mud', a new novel published by BMS Books Ltd and launched on 28 October 2017 in Whakatane, a town on New Zealand's Eastern Bay of Plenty coast.
Q. Can you tell me what your new book is about, please?
A. The new book is called The Mud. It’s a small novel, fiction, about a young woman who lives in the coastal town of Whakatane, in the Eastern Bay of Plenty region of New Zealand. The story starts with Emily, Emily Lewis is her name, waking up in a boat stuck in the mud in the estuary. We find out her mother has a knife stuck in her back, and the rest of the story follows Emily as we track the ‘why’ this happened and then what happened to Emily and the people around her.
Q. This is in the fiction/crime category but is it really a crime novel?
A. Well, it is a crime novel. It starts with the crime of Emily’s mother being stabbed in the back. It does track through the areas of family relations and issues around mental health and abuse, but at The Mud’s heart it is a crime novel.
Q. This is your second book, so how does it differ from the first novel ‘The Last Newspaper in the World?
A. I guess that, like many first novels, ‘The Last Newspaper in the World’ drew from characters I knew and situations I had been in throughout my life. The first book was still a work of fiction; but just maybe more stretching those characters and plots into new areas.
Q. But how does The Mud differ?
A. I really wanted to stretch my imagination further, rather than leaning on my own past experience. I wanted to create a book that would talk to and test readers’ responses, and understanding of the situations that Emily and the others found themselves in as the story developed.
Q. The Last Newspaper in the World had a number of characters, with Emily Lewis only a minor character, so why did you choose Emily as the main character in this book?
A. Yes, Emily was a minor character in the first novel – she helped the guy who ran the town brothel – The Captain’s Table. I knew, even when I wrote that story, that Emily had a story I wanted to tell – she came across as a strong character – but I didn’t know what it was. Or at least I didn’t have a fully developed idea.
Q. Were you comfortable in writing her story – it is in the first person, you are writing it from her viewpoint?
A. It was challenging, but I should note that Emily and the other characters in this book bear no relation to anybody living or dead. It is entirely fictional.
Q. Did you think about writing the story in the third person?
A. I did look at the third person option, but I think that when readers are reading books in the first person, a part of them takes on that character’s persona themselves. I read recently that when somebody reads a book, the book also reads them through the responses of the readers to what they are reading. I didn’t want to pre-judge what the readers might think or feel about what they were reading by using the third person. I hope that Emily’s telling of her story has a direct relationship to readers.
Q. Did you draw on your own experiences in writing this story?
A. I have always had a story like this in my mind from when I started working as a journalist on the Waikato Times. When I was a cadet reporter, my first court case involved a 14-year-old boy who appeared in court on a murder charge after knifing his aunty in the back. Given his age, we were limited in what we could report, but I always did wonder why and what happened to him. He was sent to Mount Eden Prison.
Q. Are you a publisher, a writer or a journalist – given that you seem to do all these tasks?
A. Well, and I am not in any way comparing myself here, but Graham Greene once made the point that he still had “reporter” on his passport after many years as an author. I think I know what he meant – that you remain a reporter, detached but observant, and bring to bear your experiences and interest in people to your writing.
Q. The Mud is set in a specific area – around Whakatane in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. Why that setting?
A. Besides being a beautiful place, it is kind of dream place as well. I grew up in a large state housing area in Auckland, and my grandparents had a small house on Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf. I spent a lot of time down there when I was a child, particularly with my grandfather, so it was a place I used to dream about a lot. Those experiences, life in a small, beachside community, have merged over the years with Ohope Beach and Whakatane in my imagination.
Q. But you have written two books based on a beautiful, coastal area and each have involved crime and, at least, bad stuff?
A. Yes, funny that – all good things come to an end?
SEE WHAKATANE BEACON ARTICLE
A separate article on the book and its author written by Kathy Forsyth was published in the Whakatane Beacon on 10 October 2017.
The launch venues included Whakatane Public Library, Paper Plus Whakatane and Port Ohope Store. We are grateful to managers and owners for allowing us to use their venues.