• NZ Booklovers

Interview: Kerry Harrison talks about Hold the Line


Auckland based, although she grew up in Wellington, Kerry Harrison is a graduate of the Masters of Creative Writing programme at AUT and has taught English and Drama for many years. She’s had poetry and a number of short stories published in literary magazines, several in Landfall. Kerry has been a semi-finalist in the Sunday Star Times Short Story Competition. Her novel, Wahine was published in 2011. Kerry talks to NZ Booklovers.


Tell us a little about Hold the Line.

Hold the Line is a novel, set during the Springbok Tour of NZ in 1981. It takes place over about 3 months, and is set mostly in Auckland, but also in places that the Springbok's played rugby in, all over NZ. Central to the plot is a love affair between a Red Squad officer and a protestor. Families loyalties are torn in the wider conflict.


What inspired you to write this book?

I was a protestor in 1981, and I was amazed at the passionate debate and the and war-like atmosphere that descended on our normally sleepy county. So many relationships were put to the test. It was a time full of drama and change with the potential for rich characters.


What research was involved?

I needed to research the wider political arena in NZ and South Africa, the timeline of the rugby games, the organisation and movements of the Riot Squad and the protest movement, and historical tragedies such as the Sharpeville massacre and the murder of South African activists such as Steve Biko.


What was your routine or process when writing this book?

Because I am a Secondary School teacher, I often worked on it over my holidays and weekends over quite a few years.


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

The Clash, 'London Calling.'


What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?

The creation of the characters and giving them a back story and bringing them to life. I loved describing the beauty of Auckland and that time and other parts of NZ like Westland and Wellington and how it contrasted with the brutality of barbed wire fences and the conflict that surrounded rugby pitches.


What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

I had lovely long walk and a swim.


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

To Calais in Ordinary Time, by James Meek. It is set in England in 1348. A band of archers set off for war in France but the plague threatens on the horizon. The text is challenging, almost at times a foreign language so as to make it authentic. Its cast of characters a wonderful. It's funny, ribald and sad.


What’s next on the agenda for you?

I am thinking of writing another book, interweaving short stories, set in Auckland.