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A Writer's Appropriate Sense of Drama

Stephen Johnson

By Stephen Johnson

Novelist Stephen Johnson's New Zealand view

I’m finding out if change inspires or hampers creativity – and all because of a nasty little germ wreaking havoc around the world.

Last year, I finally found my happy place to pen novels until the grim reaper sneaks up the stairs. It’s at the top of the home in Glendowie, Auckland. I call it a garret because and I can secretly dream of being in Paris. The family call it the attic. They have no sense of drama.

From my desk, I’ve watched the Half Moon Bay ferries chug back and forth to beautiful Waiheke Island in the Hurauki Gulf. It’s a wonder the skippers can squeeze past the low tide point in the Tamaki River. For half the day, the waterway appears to be no wider than a bathtub at the distant green bouy, a 40-minute walk away. It’s much better on the high tide a mere 500-metres from my toes.

Gin Palaces and Kayak Companions

The red ferries and numerous yachts, dinghies, gin palaces, kayakers and kite surfers have been familiar companions; there’s always some activity to enjoy whenever I lift my eyes from the next story taking shape on the laptop.

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Now I’m having to surrender this wonderful eyrie to keep the New Zealand economy afloat. Okay, I embellish slightly. To keep my youngest daughter employed during the lockdown is more precise. The garret has been turned into a classroom – without the students. Tash’s tourism training course continues via the internet.

The family says location shouldn’t make a difference. Tugga’s Mob was written in the motorhome while travelling around Europe. There was a new country and campsite every other day. It’s been listed for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best First Novel.

The second novel is in the hands of Clan Destine’s publisher, awaiting its place on the production line. It was crafted while shuttling back and forth between the in-laws while waiting for the perfect garret. The family says creativity shouldn’t grind to a halt because of a change of view.  

We must make sacrifices. The study on the ground floor has no appeal; without a sea view it feels like a dungeon. So, the next crimes will be plotted on the kitchen table. At least there are some advantages – the pantry and liquid inspiration are close at hand. And the views not that bad either.

Stephen Johnson is an Australian-born television news and sports producer who has swapped the studio for a writer’s garret overlooking the Tamaki Estuary in Auckland where he writes crime fiction, like Tugga's Mob, shortlisted for a Ngaio Marsh Award for Best First Novel.

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