Question: Was the writing of the book cathartic?
Answer: No. It was the opposite. It hurt, caused much pain and I had to engage in a psychotherapeutic process in order to maintain a reasonable, functional balance while I wrote. Writing, for me, is unhealthy, physically, emotionally, psychologically. At the same time I write I exercise with great vigour, running, lifting weights, surfing, kayaking, and talking to my therapist.
But this book, I am sure, is the beginning of a cathartic journey, a journey that will continue until I write the third in the trilogy, One Boy’s Journey to Man. And maybe beyond.
Question: Why did you write it in the first person?
Answer: The first is my preferred person and I think it helps bring the reader closer to the content. My two adult novels, although works of fiction, have been intensely personal and it is my intention, as a writer and a man, to take full responsibility for my life and times. My chin is not quite glass, and not quite cast iron. It is vulnerable, but at the same time resilient.
Question: Is there redemption for Jack Muir in the third novel in the trilogy – One Boy’s Journey to Man?
Answer: Yes. Jack will come to terms with the fact that he is not the kind of man he thought was the kind of man he thought he should be, one who becomes because of his willingness to sex, drink and fight. It won’t be easy. He will stumble. He will crawl. But he will rise a new man, the kind of man he was meant to be, one who can call on the warrior within when necessary, but also one who understands why the vast majority of his close friends are women and one who will nurse both his parents as they fade, wither, and leave him.
Question: During your question and answer session you said you had been humiliated and embarrassed when transferred to the highlands and given the job of statement machine operator, a woman’s job. This sounded sexist, now I know you are not but could you explain for those who don’t know you are not?
Answer: This was a case of me confusing Jack Muir with Jon Doust. It has happened before and will no doubt happen again. It was also a case of what I call “truth” versus “fact”.
The truth: women were generally relegated to less prestigious roles in the banking system. They were mostly secretaries, machine operators, typists. There certainly were “women’s job” and “men’s jobs”. Sexism and demeaning of women was rampant; sexual harassment, mainly verbal and sometimes physical, was common place
The fact: It was made clear to Jon Doust when he was in Papua and New Guinea that he was being sent to a remote highlands location because of his bad behaviour in Port Moresby. He knew before he left that he was to be a statement machine operator. He has no memory of being insulted, chided, or even mocked because he was taking up a job traditionally performed by women. Staff knew the bank did not post women to remote locations. In fact, Doust remembers being relieved that his new job would not involve the handling of money or any complex mathematical calculations. Money handling and mathematics were among his major weaknesses. He did, in fact, quite enjoy working his huge machine and his position was not the lowest on the hierarchic rung. His other duty, on the enquiry counter, suited him to perfection. There were two other males in the branch who held lower positions.
The book truth: I chose to make the statement machine another symbol to highlight the way women were viewed and treated in the workplace in the 60s and 70s.
Question: What is the book about?
Answer: It is, in essence, a 200 page metaphor for colonialism.