Introducing: Damien Wilkins

Say hello to the authors of the 2015 Vancouver Writers Fest! Each week in August - October, we'll be introducing you to three of our Festival authors with a blog post filled with interesting facts about the author and their upcoming book. Read all about them, buy their book and then come see them at the Festival in the fall. Enjoy!

Damien Wilkins
New Zealand, Events 12 "Grand Openings"  57 "Page and Stage" and 71 "Dwelling (on) Place"

Damien Wilkins is the author of seven novels, including The Miserables, The Fainter and Max Gate. Wilkins has had books published in New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom, and has won and been nominated for a range of prizes and awards. He has also published poems, stories and written for television and stage. Under the band name The Close Readers he has released three albums of original songs. He lives in Wellington, where he is the director of the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University.

Damien Wilkins’ appearance is made possible by Creative New Zealand and the New Zealand Book Council.

A Legend in the Making: In 1998, The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature called Damien Wilkins’ writing “exuberant and evocative, subtle and exact, aware of its own artifice yet relishing in idiosyncrasies and possibilities of language.” With work published in New Zealand, UK and USA and a mountain of literary awards to his name, the Companion states that, “Wilkins is potentially the finest New Zealand fiction writer of his generation.” Read on.

A Great Teacher: Wilkins is the director at the International Institute of Modern Letters in New Zealand and has played an important role in fostering some of the country’s biggest young literary stars, including Eleanor Catton who won the Man Booker Prize in 2013. Of Wilkins, Catton says, “I’ve never met anyone so good at managing a discussion. We always got heard in his class and he knew exactly when to shut people down and when to get your to say more.” Read on. 

On the Development of Max Gate: Wilkins’ seventh novel Max Gate is based on the life (or rather, the death) of English writer Thomas Hardy. In the novel, Hardy is a “shadowy figure,” and the ways other characters interact and talk about him reveals “the often contradictory nature of what is known about him.” However, Wilkins has stated that, “Strangely, a lot of the most outrageous things in the novel are true,” including the fact that Hardy made his second wife type out love poems written for his first wife, and that Hardy’s heart was buried separately from his body. Read on.

From Writer to Rocker and Back Again: As a young man, Wilkins’ passion was music, and he performed both in a punk and a pop-rock band. While literature has since become his main focus, Wilkins recently returned to the music scene in 2011 with The Close Readers, a band which has since produced 4 albums of songs written by him. For Wilkins, music provides a creative outlet for feelings and experiences which cannot be expressed in fiction: “A lot of the things I wanted to say, I’d never been able to work out how to say them in fiction.” Read on.
An Adventure in France: In 2009, Wilkins and his family moved to Menton, France after Wilkins was selected as the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellow. The experience was quite an adventure for the family, who spoke almost no French, but a lucrative one for Wilkins. During the fellowship, Wilkins wrote the play that he would eventually develop into the novel, Max Gate. Read on.