Author Interview: Rosetta Allan talks about her latest novel, Crazy Love
Author Rosetta Allan is one of the guest authors at this year’s Speakeasy Writers’ Festival. Photo / Provided
Rosetta Allan is a poet, novelist and short story writer. She has published two books of poetry (Little Rock, 2007 and Over Lunch, 2010) as well as three novels Purgatory (2014), The Unreliable People (2019) and Crazy Love (2021). She was the first New Zealander to hold the St Petersburg Art Residency at the Museum of Nonconformist Art in Russia and held the position of Writer in Residence at the University of Waikato in 2019. Rosetta is one of nine fascinating guest authors featured in SPEAKEASY Writers. Fest, part of the Taranaki Arts Festival, takes place Saturday July 9 and Sunday July 10 in New Plymouth. Stratford Press editor Ilona Hanne caught up with Rosetta to learn more about her latest book, Crazy Love, and to get a little insight into some of the fascinating stories and thoughts Rosetta will share with her Speakeasy audience on Saturday July 9th.
Scribbled above the title on the book’s cover are two key words “a novel”, but when we turn to the back cover we read six more key words; “based on the author‘s own experiences”. So, is Crazy Love a novel, autobiography, non-fiction or something else?
I think I confused everyone with this! The book was first written as a novel. Then the references to Muldoon in the book, his tragic rise and fall, the letter I sent him in 1984 and the dollar bill he sent me back, writing about it became a way to distance myself of the reality of my husband’s great mania. episode. I somehow got it wrong, that I was writing a novel, and then a lot of the Muldoon references that I had in the book were removed and the novel became more about the story of Billy and Vicki, which was the story of my husband and myself.
The title, Crazy Love, what made you choose that for the book?
We thought about it a lot before deciding. Really, it’s the idea of this crazy, wonderful feeling of love. Life is crazy sometimes and things can go wrong and fall apart, but it’s love, that commitment to each other, that keeps us going. There is a proverb – fall seven times and get up eight. We live by this proverb, my husband and I. Failure isn’t what should determine us, it’s how we deal with it and how we train each other. Love is crazy, life too, but amazing new things can come out of these tough times. I don’t know if I would be writing novels today if we hadn’t experienced the failure of our business, the loss of our home, all of those things.
In the book, narrator Vicki uses descriptors rather than names for other characters, so through her eyes we meet people like Loser Boyfriend and Surly Daughter. Do you give descriptors to people in your own life, and also what do some of those people, like Surly Daughter and Eat-and-Run Son, think of their names in the novel?
Yes! I have a hard time learning names, so I always mentally describe people to begin with. And I don’t really have a gruff daughter – so there’s a part of the novel that’s definitely fiction. We actually have two sons. And I told Eat-and-Run Son that was him and he laughed and said, “Yeah, that’s exactly me.”
Instead of another letter to Muldoon, if you were to write a letter to Vicki, as she is at the beginning of the novel, living in Dire Straits with Loser Boyfriend, what would you say to her?
Everything Billy had tried to tell her back then, but she wasn’t ready to hear. That she is competent. She is intelligent. She doesn’t need to rely on others. She is not framed by her upbringing. She will have her break. It’s a big world and the sun can shine on all of us. There is good in the world and she needs to trust those who want to share it with her.
The book is basically a love story, of Vicki for her Billy, but also of Billy for her Vicki, and, of course, it’s also your story, of you and your husband. But it’s not complete, it’s only part of your story, so how did you decide what to include and what to omit?
During that really big manic episode of Billy/my husband that forms a major part of the book, I actually kept a diary. I didn’t really have anyone to talk to, so I wrote in this journal, to figure it out. It was a very big sacrifice for Vicki, for me, to say “I can’t handle this” to seek help for Billy. Because it’s really heartbreaking to know that you can’t fix the person you love, and the action you take, to bring that help to them, is something you may never be able to come back from. People often ask us what the secret to our long marriage is because we’ve been married for 38 years and I still think there’s no secret, it’s love. So writing about it, about bipolar being just a part of the person you love, about learning to see the beautiful stardust, the glow of the person and allowing yourself to be loved by her, well, that’s what crazy love is. I know I wouldn’t be the person I am without my own Billy, my husband James. I would always be writing my poems in a notebook and not showing them to anyone.
Win: Thanks to Rosetta Allan and the Taranaki Arts Festival team, we have a double pass to hear Rosetta talk about her book at the Speakeasy Festival on Saturday, July 9 at 4 p.m. at the 4th Wall Theater as well as a copy of the latest book by Rosetta book, Crazy Love, to offer to a lucky reader. To win, simply email [email protected] with the words crazy love in the subject line. Provide your name and phone number. The contest closes at noon on Monday, July 4, and the winner will be contacted in the afternoon.