1. Welcome to Vonnie’s Reading Corner. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself in one sentence?
I’m a sarcastic, wanderlust, accidental author trying to find my place in the world. (Good thing the world has many places for you to find yourself.)
It was always my dream to live abroad when I was growing up in California. I had bad dating experiences in California and read in a New Zealand tour book that the country’s population at 100,000 fewer men than women. I wanted to have some me time and an adventure. New Zealand seemed like a good place to do so. (So what do the extra 100,000 women do when they want to settle down?)
3. Out of all the countries out there, why New Zealand?I know it sounds like a crazy reason, but I need a serious change in my life and felt I needed to leave the country to do so. I started dating my first boyfriend when we were fourteen and the relationship ended when I was twenty-three. I had never dumped someone and didn’t have the life skills to do so. Between ages twenty-three and twenty-six, I would only date guys I knew I could dump easily. Not surprisingly, only dating guys with clear and abundant flaws that were easy to dump, created a lot of chaos and drama in my life.
When I was twenty-four, I had my second boyfriend who I call Hank, in real life his named rhymed with Hank. Hank had a drug dealer that sincerely went by the name Stank. I took Hank to rehab, after that I had a string of crazy suitors and ex’s. If you had Hank and Stank in your life, what other choice do you have, but to leave the country and become an author? (YIKES!!)
4. How is life different in New Zealand than it is in California?Whenever I go back to California, I am always shocked by how busy, crowded and loud it is. Everyone is rushing around, there is so much traffic, and it just feels chaotic all the time. I was amazed with how quiet and unpopulated Auckland felt. People in Auckland would complain about traffic and I would laugh. (I agree with you, but I love living in California. I'm glad that leaving California was the right choice for you thought.)
California and New Zealand are roughly the same size. It wasn’t until I went to New Zealand that I understood how enormous America is. (It boggles my mind too on how large the U.S. is)
New Zealand feels so safe. In California, I would carry pepper spray with me everywhere I went. I was always on edge living in California. It was amazing to me that in New Zealand the police didn’t have guns. I felt much safer as a single female traveling alone in New Zealand than living in California.
The flip side of the feeling of being sheltered from the world in New Zealand was I felt isolated. There was a palpable feeling of being at the end of the world in New Zealand that at times I found overwhelming.
5. When did you realize that you wanted to write about your experiences?I consider myself an accidental author. I didn’t go to New Zealand with the intentions of writing a book about my experiences there. I had funny experiences that I had trouble believing were true. I wrote the stories down to stay sane. I wrote situations down that were happening around me and shared them with friends. The stories made people laugh so I decided to organize the stories into a book and publish in the hopes to make others laugh too.
I had the opportunity to write and perform for Thomas Sainsbury the most prolific playwright in New Zealand. I performed a monologue about my jobs in the Basement Theatre in Auckland. The funny thing about that experience was Tom kept me separated from the other performers until it was time to perform. I was under the impression that all the performers were foreigners giving their experiences in New Zealand. All of the other performers were professional actors telling stories that weren’t their own. At first I was mortified, but the audience seemed to enjoy my “performance,” laughing their way through my monologue. After the shows we would go out and mingle with the audience. People would ask me how long I had been acting. I would tell them, “I wasn’t acting; I have to go to work tomorrow and sit next to the girl wearing her dead dog’s collar around her neck.” (lol)
6. Why did you move to England?Although I intended to have a solo adventure I ended up meeting my husband a Scottish man in New Zealand. We’ve actually lived in two different countries in the United Kingdom after leaving New Zealand; Scotland and now England. After New Zealand, we moved to Scotland (awww!), got married in a castle and ended up living across the street from Edinburgh Castle in Edinburgh. Scotland is a sincerely magical place. There are so many castles in Scotland. Scotland has amazing architecture, beautiful mountains, lochs, beaches and sweet natured people. The landscape of the Highlands is very similar to the South Island of New Zealand. I love hearing the Scottish accent everywhere you go. After living in Edinburgh, I can understand how J. K. Rowling was inspired writing Harry Potter. I lived above a used bookshop that looked like where Harry would have bought his school supplies. (It sounds amazing!)
For unwanted and complicated reasons we had to move to England last September. It was devastating to have to move out of Edinburgh to Sheffield, England last year for my husband graduate school. We will have to live here until summer 2014. We had more culture shock going from Scotland to England than anywhere else.Rather than being displaced to a country I didn’t want to move to, I decided to be displaced with the goal of publishing. I’ve just completed a MA in Design. Designing, publishing and marketing my book was my dissertation project.
I’ve never lived this far inland before. It makes me feel claustrophobic to be so far away from the ocean. I desperately miss the ocean and being warm at the beach. If money and visas weren’t an issue, (which they very much are) I’d love to go summer to summer between Edinburgh, Scotland and Auckland, New Zealand.
7. Was it harder or easier to get used to living in England than it was in New Zealand? Explain.
I can only speak from my own experience attempting to settle as a spouse of a UK Citizen. I have personally found the level of bureaucracy in the UK makes the possible feel impossible. England is soul crushing. (Oh my goodness)I didn’t know anyone in New Zealand before I went. Sometimes I forget the amount of courage it took me to get on the plane and just go. It was shockingly easy to relocate to New Zealand literally a few weeks after I made the decision. My visa to get into New Zealand took two weeks to be approved and within two weeks of my plane landing in New Zealand I had a job and place to live. (Wow, you were blessed)
Although I was married in January 2012 in the UK, my marriage visa was not approved by the UK Border Agency until September 2012. During this time, I was not allowed to work, study, collect benefits or even leave because they had both my passport and my husband’s passport.
I am currently on a visa in the UK called an Extension to Stay as the Spouse of a UK Citizen. This visa will expire in September 2014. We are deciding now if we should go through another round of visas for me to stay in the UK or if we want to try living somewhere else in the world. We are seriously considering moving back to New Zealand next year.This is one the main reasons I decided to go ahead and publish Getting Rooted in New Zealand. Due to my visa restrictions with the UK Border Agency, I’ve had no rights to work in the UK, but they couldn’t stop me from publishing my book. (Good!)
I desperately miss the ocean and being warm at the beach. I really miss the warm, friendly nature of the people in the South Pacific. It would be great to return to New Zealand to make Getting Rooted in New Zealand into a TV show. My Scottish husband is finishing a MA in Landscape Architecture at a university in England. We plan to move international next year and are in the process of researching how and where. Australia and New Zealand are at the top of our list. Even though we are married it is incredibly expensive and complicated to live in the same country as each other. I wish I could live in the same country as my husband without having to pay for visas or filling out a lot of paper work.
8. What do you hope to accomplish with your book, Getting Rooted in New Zealand?
Publishing my book Getting Rooted in New Zealand was my way of transforming poison into medicine. I hope that it can help people that have had bad dating experiences or bad work experiences – make them laugh and not give up hope.9. Tell us about the cover art and who designed it.
I designed my book cover myself. The girl with the suitcase is a drawing of me. The striped dress and red hat was my first outfit I bought when I moved to New Zealand. The birds are New Zealand native birds like the kiwi and fan tail. The city is Auckland and the tower is New Zealand’s Skytower. The sky in the back ground and the water are pieces of a watercolor painting I did of the New Zealand coastline. (I didn't realize how much meaning your cover had. You are very talented.)
10. Are you working on any other projects?I plan to divide my books by the countries I’ve lived in. My next book will be about attempting to settle in Scotland. I plan to publish it late 2014. (I'll be looking forward to it.)
Thank you Jamie for visiting my blog and for taking the time to answer my questions J