• NZ Booklovers

Interview: Phillip Mann talks about Chevalier & Gawayn


Phillip Mann is a leading internationally acclaimed and published science fiction writer. He is also a theatre director and academic, founding New Zealand’s first university drama studies course at Victoria University in 1970.


Since 1982 he has published ten novels and has also written for theatre and radio. Phillip received the Sir Julius Vogel Award for services to science fiction in 2010 and his The Disestablishment of Paradise was shortlisted for the prestigious Arthur C. Clark Award. He is an Honorary Fellow of the New Zealand Society of Authors and Patron of the Phoenix Science Fiction Society, and in 2017 was awarded an MNZM for services to theatre and literature. Phillip talks to NZ Booklovers.

Tell us a little about Chevalier & Gawayn.

Gawayn is a medieval hero. Through technology he gradually permeates the mind of Chevalier - a character living in near future times. After a series of adventures Chevalier evolves into a hero fighting for justice and equality.


What inspired you to write this novel?

I have a great love of the traditional stories of classical and medieval heroes. Originally I began the novel in a somewhat whimsical manner, but that was quickly replaced by a desire to tell a serious story which leads readers into a quest. At the same time I wanted the story to have a comic dimension.


What was your routine or process when writing this book?

After the main story was clear in my mind, I would write almost every day as the ideas came so freely and richly. Even when not actually writing, I will be thinking about the events and the texture. This might be while I am gardening or sitting at a bus stop.

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

It will need new original music evoking past, present and future. Something as strong as Don McGlashan’s I Will Not Let You Down.


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

Sam Neill as Amos and Robin Malcolm for Ishmael. I’d like a small role myself.


What did you enjoy most about writing Chevalier & Gawayn?

As the story unfolded it became very exciting, I did not know which direction the story would take and I identified with the characters. It evolved into a complex story with many levels of reality.


What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

I sat back at my writing desk and laughed with pleasure and then reached for a glass of wine.


Aside from Chevalier & Gawayn, which of your previous books are you most proud of, and why?

Maybe The Disestablishment of Paradise. It is concerned with the destruction of natural habitats on another planet, but at the same time it is an examination of the problems we face now on Earth.


Quentin Wilson Publishing