Nevertheless, I won an internship at Walkers Advertising agency on Quay Street in Auckland. It was flash. I was not. It wasn’t a match made in heaven but a copywriter there named Peter Grace took an interest in me and saw a bit of talent. He must have been looking pretty bloody hard.
Anyway, one day I rolled in and told him I’d been offered a job as a ‘gopher’ at the New Zealand Herald. He told me that job would destroy my creativity and that I should turn it down. After a couple of days I took his advice and came up with a new plan. I was going to go to the small Canterbury town of Leeston, live in an old, dilapidated house deserted many years previous by my grandfather, and write a novel. Peter was not impressed.
He said I didn’t have the discipline to write a novel: “If you go down there you’ll become an alcoholic, a brilliant alcoholic, but an alcohol nonetheless”. I told him I was going anyway. He wished me luck and said that I should at least enroll at university. That, he suggested, would give me focus.
Exactly how he thought university environs would inhibit my drinking habits remains a mystery but after a long summer doing very little writing and much hitchhiking around the South Island I decided to take his advice and I signed up at the University of Canterbury.
I started in English and philosophy but after discovering that dissecting poetry steals its beauty and that determinism removes free will, I graduated in sociology and political science. Then, after creating havoc as the student president for a couple of years, I embarked on a PhD, which took far too long and toward the end seemed like it might get the better of me.
It didn’t and the result was PATCHED and now I’m starting my new project on murder. And for all of the people who helped and assisted me it was the words of Peter Grace that started it all. I have not seen Peter since the day he gave me that advice. If anybody knows him, please let him know that I couldn’t be more grateful. And that I’m not sure I became a brilliant alcoholic, but I am still trying.