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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Interview: David Farrell talks about The Chameleon

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

David Farrell is a father of six who live around the world. From New Zealand and England to Portugal and Japan. Born in Africa, his life experiences on three continents echo through his writing, in his favourite genres of historical fiction, coming of age sagas and non-fiction. With an eye for detail, you can find him in the corner of a room or sat at a seat in the mall reading people. He has a fascination for human behaviours borne from 50 years of leadership. David talks to NZ Booklovers.

Tell us a little about The Chameleon

The Chameleon is the tale of Rorke Wilde, who grows up in Rhodesia. Rorke’s need to mimic his pet chameleon, if he is to survive the racial discourse in a country divided by apartheid during the 1970s. Rorke’s father works in the British South Africa Police while his mother is a clerk in the tax office. His best friend and father figure is the family’s domestic worker, Themba Dube, an AmaNdebele of Zulu descent. Whom guides Rorke through the turmoil of civil bias. Themba introduces Rorke to his nephew Lucky Ndlovu, who lost his parents in the AIDS pandemic and who lives with his grandmother in a squatter camp (informal settlements) in Johannesburg.

The old man and boy share their experiences of a life of poverty post-independence where Rorke learns about the real Africa that he once saw through Panglossian glasses.

What inspired you to write this book?

I had been crafting the manuscript over many years, then took a diploma course with NorthTec to refine my creative fiction skills, where the late Norman Bilbrough- Published author (Penguin NZ), prize winner, coach, and book assessor mentored me.

“This is a well-written and interesting story. It’s full of a lot of good action, and I believe it would capture a general reader. It’s engrossing. This is an impressive work. Overall, I think this is a lucid, intriguing, various and excellent story. It’s different… And that’s important. This is a very well-written story; it’s vivid and really intriguing.’’

What research was involved?

Familiarizing myself with dates and reading accounts of the time. Hearing stories from those who were present. Reading.

What was your routine or process when writing this book?

I am up at 4.30am everyday seven days a week for some quality time with myself. Not always writing, but pondering, conjuring, and gaining knowledge. I find it easier to create when I am comfortable with the concept of a narrative rather than a detailed plan.

If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

Africa - Toto

All She Wrote - Six60

If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?

Themba Dube - Jamie Foxx

Rorke Wilde (man) - Martin Freeman

Rorke Wilde (boy) - Any suggestions?

What did you enjoy the most about writing The Chameleon?

A cathartic journey of self-discovery. The experience broadened my perspectives and forged a recognition of what counts in the world. I realise this sounds pompous but is so true for me.

My greatest high was NZ Booklovers Chris Reed’s review ‘It’s a highly recommended read of the season.’

Full review here:

What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

Matariki Pōhutukawa.

It was an occasion I shall never forget. One of joy and sadness - life.

My heart was full of the release of our lifework, The Chameleon.

Losing my muse and dear friend shattered my soul.

Not a moment passes that I do not shed a tear.

The launch coinciding with Matariki Day may appear to be a coincidence, but I know Buddy made it so.

I inscribed a dedication on the inside back page of the publication. Little did I know he would not be here to share this day with me.

“To my muse Buddy. A Cocker Spaniel with the biggest heart and most loving soul I’ve ever come across. Thank you for being there, for listening to me babble when on our daily walks, for your unconditional love. This book is as much yours as it is mine.”

What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

Each decade I reread Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World before diving into George Orwell’s 1984. Every time I read these stories, I am disturbed, and now more so than ever. Whether this is because I am older or that we, as humanity, move towards that which these classics caution us against. I do not consider something predetermines our future, or that doom is imminent. That is up to our behaviour.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

I am making steady progress on Book two, which is a standalone that follows on from The Chameleon but takes place in New Zealand. Literary Cultural Fiction. Book three is also underway as is a non-fiction manuscript.


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