• NZ Booklovers

Interview: Karyn Hay talks about Winged Helmet, White Horse


Karyn Hay is an award-winning author: her debut novel Emerald Budgies won the NZSA Hubert Church Best First Book Award. Her last novel The March Of The Foxgloves was a No. 1 bestseller on the New Zealand Fiction list.


She is a Frank Sargeson Fellow, a Michael King Resident, literary advisor to the Frank Sargeson Trust, and mentor for the NZSA. She is also a presenter on Radio New Zealand National. Karyn Hay talks to NZ Booklovers.


Tell us a little about Winged Helmet, White Horse.

The main theme is about illusion, on every level. What we believe to be true is not necessarily so, whether that’s ordinary or extraordinary.


There are several other themes including marriage, friendship and parenthood. Marigold, who is three years old in the novel, is a deliberately exaggerated character, but one whom I hope parents will find amusing.


What inspired you to write this book?

It chose me really. I didn’t consciously sit down and plan this novel. However, I did want to write a book set in Hampton, Middlesex, because I spent some formative child-rearing years there.


What research was involved?

There wasn’t a lot of research needed. Because it’s set in contemporary London everything was available to me via the internet and from memory.


What was your routine or process when writing this novel?

My process was different at the different times I worked on it. Finishing it was one of the hardest things I have done because it required upping my daily word count considerably. I ended up with RSI unfortunately, but it was worth it.


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

Knowing how complicated and costly it is to get music rights I think I’d ask a few friends to whip something up.


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

Any age-appropriate (30s/early 40s) actor. They wouldn’t necessarily have to be British, or have a perfect face, or be famous, but they would have to be a good actor. Dylan is a New Zealander in his early 20s so I’d look closer to home.


What response do you hope it will prompt from readers?

When I’m writing I’m not really thinking about prompting any response in readers, I just follow my own instinct. However, once it’s committed to print it occurs to me that anyone could pick it up and read it. The work that has been private for so long is suddenly very public.


What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

Nothing special. I did feel a great sense of accomplishment however.


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

I haven’t had an awful lot of time this year to read.


What’s next on the agenda for you?

I am working on a new project at the Michael King Writers’ Residence. It’s sketches really, and very enjoyable because it’s short form. It’s fact and fiction, a genre I think I’ll call ‘faction’.

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