This month’s Flash Frontier featured author is Gina Cole. I asked Gina several questions and I am sure that you will find Gina’s responses thoughtful and interesting.
Vaughan Rapatahana: Can you please tell us about your own background? Some reference to your Oceanic/Pacific heritage would be great.
Gina Cole: My mother is Fijian from the islands of Serua and Ono-i-Lau. My father is Scottish and Welsh. I was born and raised in Auckland although some of my early childhood was spent living at various lighthouses where my father worked as a lighthouse keeper. We lived at Cape Campbell, Farewell Spit and Cape Reinga. All beautiful and remote places in coastal Pacific Ocean settings that have had a profound effect on me and often find their way into my writing. I travelled a lot to Fiji as a young person and stayed with my grandparents in Suva. My grandmother also came to stay with us several times when we lived at the lighthouses. They’re all gone now, but my grandparents still have a huge influence on me and my writing.
VR: Can you also please tell us more about your writing career and genres? Current projects? Just a bit of background…
GC: I started seriously writing fiction around 2009 when I began sending off my short stories and poetry to literary journals and writing competitions. I have since had many pieces of short fiction published and some poetry. The draft of my first book Black Ice Matter was written in 2013 when I was a student in the Masters of Creative Writing program at Auckland University. Black Ice Matter was published in 2016 by Huia, a collection of short stories focussing on Pasifika and other themes. It won the award for Best First Book Fiction at the 2017 Ockham Book Awards.
My second book Na Viro was written as the creative component of my PhD in Creative Writing at Massey University. It was published in July this year, 2022 by Huia. I wanted to write an Indigenous science fiction fantasy novel, a genre I call Pasifikafuturism which is basically science fiction written by Pasifika authors featuring Pasifika characters for Pasifika readers and anyone else who is interested in Indigenous science fiction fantasy. The story is set in space, and in the Pacific and in Aotearoa. The narrative centres around Tia a young Fijian Tongan Mayuran woman, her sister Leilani, their mother Dani and their grandmother Keleni. So Pasifika women are at the heart of the novel. I’m currently working on another Pasifikafuturism novel.
VR: How can Aotearoa New Zealand encourage more Kiwi Oceanic/Pacific authors to write/get publishers to publish them? Any ideas?
GC: As artists, I think many of us are just trying to survive and live. Some support and financial assistance would be good. I like the idea of a universal basic income for artists. It would take away a lot of the stress we all feel having to constantly compete for a small pool of money from the same small pool of funders.
As far as getting our work published, there are so many talented Māori and Pasifika authors. Indigenous Oceanic/Pasifika publishers like Tatou Publishing run by Sisilia Eteuati and Lani Wendt Young have dedicated themselves to publishing our work. They recently published the anthology Va: Stories by Women of the Moana featuring work by 38 Oceania writers. And there are other Indigenous publishers in Aotearoa. There is a market for our stories. So maybe that’s one answer. We publish our own stories.
VR: Do you write much prose poetry or flash fiction yourself? Do you see these interrelated genre as significant ‘newer’ ways to write?
GC: I love reading and writing both forms – prose poetry and flash fiction. I do think these forms are significant and accessible for both writers and readers at this time in history. We are all on our devices every day and I feel everyone is time poor. Prose poetry and Flash Fiction are the perfect forms for our busy, device-focused lifestyles.
VR: Do you think you might have a piece of flash fiction or a prose poem for us to include, please…? That would be great too.
Life tides by Gina Cole
The time a riptide caught me at Muriwai Beach. Pulled out to sea with two other kids. Windmilling our arms, cutting the ocean, too fearful to float on the current and escape out the back. In the slipstream of time all things exist at once. A tall ship is wrecked in these tides. We are washed ashore with the survivors, staggering onto soft dry sand.
The time I was drunk in a Mercedes or a Bentley? Carousing teenagers surfing the waipiro juggernaut. We crashed into an oak tree planted by colonial settlers on the Tecoma Street offramp. In the slipstream of war soldiers march along Great South Road past oak tree saplings, searching for a Waikato fight. Our faces soaked in red and blue squad lights.
The time I thought to swim across Waikato River above Huka Falls. A kaitiaki said don’t do it. This awa. Strong enough to drag me over a blue and white cascade. Waka taua emerge from the mist. Chanting paddlers beating quiet evasion no soldiers will ever find. Floating pumice gathers around me in still riverside reed pools.
That time, we drove along Jervois Road, laughing, happy, loud and brown. The cops pulled us over for no reason. None of us were drunk. Cutting our angry demands with squinty side eye in a fiery death stare no win standoff. The bloodtides of our ancestors dragged them away in swift electric currents. We’re still here standing in the backwash.
Tēnā koe a Gina. Much appreciated.
Gina Cole is of Fijian, Scottish, and Welsh descent. She is the author of Black Ice Matter, which won Best First Book of Fiction at the 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, and the winner of the 2014 Auckland Pride Festival’s creative writing competition for the poem ‘Airport Aubade’. Cole’s work has been widely anthologised and she was a keynote speaker at the 2017 Auckland Writers Festival and the Same Same But Different LGBTQIA+ Writing Festival.
She was a 2018 Honorary Fellow in Writing at the University of Iowa International Writing Program. She was also the 2018 writer in residence at the Sitka Island Institute. Gina holds a PhD in creative writing from Massey University. Her second book Na Viro (Huia Publishers, 2022) is a science fiction fantasy novel and a work of Pasifikafuturism.