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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Interview: Harry Boorman talks about New Zealand's Biggest Year

Harry Boorman, originally from Britain, has been birding since the age of five. He lived in Auckland for nine years, where he played an active role in the birding community. Harry talks to NZ Booklovers.

Tell us a little about your book New Zealand’s Biggest Year

New Zealand’s biggest year is about a trip across and around all the corners of New Zealand territory in pursuit of finding bird species. The aim was to break a record for the most birds seen in a calendar year, but someone else also had the same dream. So, it ended up being a bit of a rivalry as we both battled it out to break the all-time record.

The book itself is written from my perspective, outlining some of the adventures I encountered throughout the year, places I went, people I met and, of course, birds that I saw.

What inspired you to write this book?

I was keeping a social media page going, with short videos about my adventures and many people following the pages asked me to write a book. So I did.

What research was involved?

I had to do a bit of fact checking but most of the research was planning the trip. Taking on a challenge to see birds like this is as much of a logistical planning challenge as much as anything else. I needed to travel to as many places as I could, balance this with work commitments and then reschedule half of it when I was stuck in Auckland during Covid.

What was your routine or process when writing this book?

I went back through all my videos that I had published on Facebook and Instagram. These videos were very much in the moment videos reminding me of how I felt during the moment I saw or often didn’t see a bird. I then made a plan following a chronological order of chapters and started writing. My mum who always wanted to write a book too helped with the editing as did John Beaufoy publishing and as such it just wrote itself.

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

Country road. I drove through a lot of them!

I will survive. This represents a few ropey moments where fear got the better of me.

Whatever it takes. I did everything I could to see birds throughout the year. Virtually ignoring my social life or any other distractions besides work. I spent most of my money on it too.

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

There already is a movie about a big year in the US that kind of follows a similar story about a rivalry between birders competing to see the most birds in a calendar year. The most similar character to me is probably Jack Black, but I think I would rather be played by Brad Pitt.

What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel book?

For me, it was amazing to relive the adventure. After 2021 had finished, I had a big hole in my heart, very little money and a lot of friends to reconnect with. But writing the book gave me an opportunity to relive it all for another year.

I also loved writing it with my Mum in the UK. It was a great project to work on together as we would speak 2-3 times a week to rework each chapter and turn my drafts into a story.

What did you do to celebrate finishing New Zealand's Biggest Year?

I can’t actually remember a finishing point as such. After writing it, I then started to add photos, work on the cover and then check all the edits.

But I do remember celebrating the end of the Big Year with a couple of beers while in the middle of nowhere on the Chatham Islands. My friend, to my surprise was carrying them in his backpack and brought them out at two minutes to twelve.


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