Interview: Trisha Hanifin talks about The Time Lizard's Archaeologist
Originally from Timaru where she grew up in a large working-class family, Trisha Hanifin has lived most of her adult life in Auckland. She has worked in adult education in a range of community, workplace and vocational organisations, specialising in adult literacy and foundation studies, developing programmes, teaching resources and professional development for tutors. Currently, she is a lecturer in bridging education at Unitec.
A graduate of the Masters of Creative Writing programme at AUT (2010). Her writing has won several awards and been published in a number of literary journals and anthologies including Landfall, Bonsai: Best small stories in Aotearoa New Zealand, Flash Frontier and Turbine.
In 2019 the unpublished manuscript of The Time Lizard’s Archaeologist was awarded second place in the Ashton Wylie Mind Body Spirit awards. Trisha talks to NZ Booklovers about her debut novel.
Tell us a little about The Time Lizard’s Archaeologist.
The Time Lizard’s Archaeologist is a multilayered story. It mixes the real and the surreal, frequently moving between the ordinary and the extraordinary – and then back again. Readers will encounter unusual characters, landscapes, cultures and ideas. Like many books and movies these days, it includes myths and legends, ghost stories and magical elements, but the heart of the book is about personal, family, socio-economic and environmental concerns and conflicts, their interrelationship, and the hope for a better, more sustainable world.
What inspired you to write this book?
Way back in 2001 I had a dream about a woman who lived in a village in a remote valley at the foot of a mountain range. She was a mysterious, compelling character and I dreamt about her many times. So many times, that I began to write down each “episode”. This was the impetuous for what later became this novel.
What research was involved?
I read a lot about psychology, psychotherapy, dream therapy and analysis, as well as creation myths and stories from many different cultures, in particular about the complexity, timeless beauty and understanding of the natural world of the Dreamtime of Australian Aboriginal culture, the oldest continuous living culture in the world.
What was your routine or process when writing this book?
Well, it’s taken such a long time to finish this book, I obviously need a better process! I also write short stories, flash fiction and poetry and have often put the novel aside to work on these. My paid work is in adult education and this takes up a lot of time and energy, so my writing life has to fit around the demands of teaching. Mainly, I wrote it at the weekends and during the holiday breaks. Belonging to a couple of writing groups was a great help, as they provided me with regular deadlines and feedback from other writers.
If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.
Two songs that I would include in a soundtrack for this book would be: Forever, by Mahinarangi Tocker, to accompany the character of Aja on her journey - and Cape Turnagain by the Warratahs (with Sam Hunt), to help the character of Jason return home.
If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?
The book is divided into five sections and has a number of central characters, so there might be quite a large cast! If I had a magic wand: Joel Tobeck to play the character of Jason; Marta Dusseldorp to play Aja; Aaron Pederson to play Captain Daimon; Michael Hurst to play Uzra; Deborah Mailman to play Ursula/Vellen.
What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?
Being able to explore and develop my imagination in order to create a fictional world.
What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?
Apart from having a cup of tea and lie down, I haven’t had a chance to celebrate yet (a number of Lockdowns have got in the way) but I’m very much looking forward to sharing the book with family and friends.
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn – a memoir about a woman and her husband who lost their home and livelihood and decide to walk the 630 miles of the South West Coast Path in England. I loved the honesty and courage of this book, the journey taken both physically and emotionally to deal with grief, the humour sprinkled throughout, and the affirmation of the healing power of the natural world.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
I’ve written about 63,000 words of a second novel, very different from The Time Lizard’s Archaeologist. It’s a mystery, set in a small South Island town in 1951.
Cloud Ink Press