With the classic leanings of Once they were warriorsmixed with a bit of fun and games from a Taika Waititi movie, wow is meant to be destined for great things.
Author Becky Mauawatu has had a stellar year. With the release of his first novel wow (Scribe)The author has gotten down to business, delivering a powerful, raw, and transcendently beautifully written story about family, and the journey we take that contributes to who we are as adults.
wow is partly a personal essay based on Becky’s sister who married a member of the New Zealand-based organized street gang, The Mongrel Mob, which has caused a bit of a stir for its depiction of violence in Maori communities. . But giving in completely to this premise would be unfair because deep down, while wow it’s a confrontational story, it’s also deeply compelling. The truth lies in the fact that violence exists everywhere, no matter the country, gang or not, and that should not be swept under the rug with disdain.
The novel feels all too real at times and is interwoven with intense moments that seem impossible to have written unless experienced firsthand. Without shying away from delving into complex relationships, Becky artfully dismantles the very fabric of the family and shreds it to the bone. Sometimes he is very intense, as well as funny, deep down he is pure of heart, tender and full of hope, which is the primordial essence of wow.
wow (the Maori word for a howling cry) is told with great feeling and generosity, its narrative washes over you and embraces you in the warmest of Maori embraces.
Glad: Hey Becky, what did you do today?
Becky: Today we are at my husband’s aunt’s house in Ōtautahi. Her grandmother lives here in this house and she is very sick. Almost the whole family is here to see it. There are about 50 to 80 people here at any one time.
I’m writing in the living room on my phone surrounded by my husband’s cousins, aunts and uncles. I feel very blessed to be part of this family. We haven’t seen many family members in a long time, but it’s very relaxed here.
I am sitting on the floor. Small children pass by, People are talking around me and it’s comforting. I like to hear people laugh. There is always someone who laughs at something. We are eating our meals almost all together.
This morning my mother-in-law made us bacon, eggs and hash browns, and for lunch Aunt Parn made a beautiful mussel soup.
Tonight there will be leftovers and maybe a barbecue. I didn’t think my husband’s grandmother would recognize me, because she’s pretty sick, but I went in to say hello and she smiled and said, ‘Oh, I read your book. It was very good.’ That was very special because so much of the book is based on the land that she came to and has lived in her entire life. I told her that she was writing a new book and she nodded, still smiling, which was great.
Glad: Tell us about your suburb, what do you love/don’t love about where you live?
Becky: We live in a small coastal town. I love jungle mountains. It’s a rainy place and I like that. The surf is good, nice for beginners, people who just want to have fun, but there is also a good strong surf for professionals. I enjoy my te Reo Māori class on Wednesday nights.
Sometimes I would like to live where I can connect more with my whakapapa (Maori heritage), but we have very good friends and they are also our whānau.
Glad: Describe your average work day?
Becky: Read in the morning. Write after breakfast when the children have gone to school. Work for four hours maybe. Take the dog for a walk. But this changes easily and from one day to the next. Sometimes I will have more creative energy at night.
Glad: What about your last day?
Becky: Probably a day in Kaikōura or Rakiura. Waking up after a really solid sleep. Phone off. I have some time to really immerse myself in a very good book. Family together. A walk around the peninsula or to the bay and some diving. I think of kaimoana. A card game together. A beer together, maybe. Another good dream.
Glad: Study or self-taught?
Becky: I enjoyed a year at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology studying writing for creative industries. I don’t have a degree. I think that every writer is a combination of study and self-learning, huh?
Glad: What is your favorite part of writing?
Becky: When you get to the place where the story starts to get out of you, when you lose some control, it’s my favorite. I guess that’s somewhere between early and midway. In the beginning, the beautiful thing is that your options are really open, you haven’t made a lot of decisions that you’re forced to.
But for me, I feel like starting, I have too much control (or try to) of the story and I’m self-conscious, once the characters are alive on the page, they start to take over a little bit. , you can share the load with them.
Hopefully, they’ll take you somewhere unexpected if you’ve brought them to life long enough. I enjoy editing, it’s a very creative process. You have the cake, now you can frost it. My friend Bec told me that, and I said yes! That is what it is!
Glad: Tell us about your creative community.
Becky: I have a writer friend with whom I am in very regular contact. We share our work and talk about our struggles with our work. This is a very precious relationship and I didn’t have any of that when I wrote Auē.
My creative community is bigger now and it’s so beautiful to be part of a community of Maori tangata writers. I spend time with talented Maori writers when I travel to festivals, for example. There is a real buzz.
Glad: What book are you currently reading?
Becky: I am currently rereading an unpublished manuscript. It is a beautiful story about two cousins who travel to their marae together. I hope to give some useful comments. I am also reading night crawl by Leila Mottley.
Glad: What did you read or watch growing up that fueled your passion for storytelling?
Becky: My girlfriend It was a very educational book for me. It was the first book that made me cry and it was the first time I understood the true power of good, well-formed characters. This book was a novelization of the movie, I hadn’t seen the movie, but the book, from what I remember, was very well written. sheryl jordan winter of fire it was my favorite when I started high school.
Glad: What was the last thing you read or saw that opened your eyes and mind to a new perspective?
Becky: girl, woman, other by Bernardine Evaristo and Paradise by Tony Morrison.
Glad: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?
Becky: Sleeping, being with my family, being near the sea, sleeping, playing cards, watching TV, listening to music, sleeping, walking my dog, cooking with good ingredients, it is a privilege to have everything you need to cook something special. oh and sleeping lol
Glad: If you had a list of books for the first date, what would it be?
Becky: These are the first of my list / favorites:
endless fightRanginui Walker
Atonement, Ian McEwan
The house of the talking catJC Sturm
baby without eyesPatricia Grace
red on the boneJacqueline Woodson
five stringsapirana taylor
the bone peopleKeri Hulme
god of little thingsArundhati Roy
a good balanceRohinton Mistry
the northern waterIan MacGuire
The Imaginary Lives of James PonekeTina Makereti
the new animalsPip Adam
Wake upelizabeth knox
the owls cryMarco Janet
elena knowsClaudia Pineiro
wounds of passionbell hooks
wow is now available through Scribe