Larger Than Life Stories - Same Same But Different
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[00:00:00] This recording is brought to you by the same same but different Writers Festival in pride nz.com. [00:00:07] Now we're going to hear about three remarkable women who have written about three remarkable women. And I want to know how they initially how they came to write, to choose the subjects and write books about someone else's life. So first of all, we have le ma, who many of you know is a broadcaster, and has been a TV presenter, and has been a wonderful leader in our community in terms of being a high profile person who was proud to come out. And of course, now she is an author. And she'll be followed by Dre and Rachel, who some of you heard last night, who has worked particularly in the area of art and art history and history generally, and has written some marvelous biographies of women artists, Edith Kalia, and all sorts of other women aren't as many of her are obscure and what would remain in obscurity if it wasn't for people like Joanne actually bringing them out into the light. In particular, I mean, also, who's the crime writer, as well. And then, of course, the book that became the New York Times bestseller, the search for and Perry. And the thing about NP, I think, is that in this, she's not so popular in New Zealand, I mean, we don't sell her crime books in the women's bookshop, no one ever asks us for them. But she's a huge hit in the States. So everybody reads and Perry crime novels in America. And so they were fascinated by this book, and it became a New York Times bestseller. And then journey. Now Giuliana, how do I [00:01:42] pronounce, it wasn't [00:01:45] Muslim, the Muslim, Julie has written perfectly natural, which is an extraordinary story of Florence, who became Peter Williams and Lyft her entire life as a man. And this is a very interesting piece of New Zealand history. I'm going to ask each of these women First of all, to talk about how they came to choose the subject and how they went about writing about someone else's life. [00:02:10] Early on, first of all, thanks so much for inviting me to speak here. This you no idea how thrilling This is. I'm a first time writer, apart from my journalism over the years. So I'm just beyond speechless, really. And I'm really most excited about listening to where other authors today. So I'll get my bit over script as I can. And most of you do know me as a broadcaster. And I do have, I suppose 30 years in that space. But I am also the daughter of a writer who was the son of a writer, I'm a third generation journalist, and I am the teenager whose inside school essays were eviscerated by my father with a blue pencil, every single one I had to bring home and, and he submitted. So I've always thought of myself as a writer. So first and of in [00:03:00] a funny kind of way. Although I for years, [00:03:03] I haven't really been able to express that in any meaningful way. But I don't think it's a stretch to say that most journalists have a secret hankering to write a book. What I found this out really strongly when I did some press for First Lady, and most journalists I spoke to would spend about half an hour asking me questions about the book, and then half an hour grilling me about what it was like to write the book kind of off the record because they were working on their own projects. Many of us spin their careers, I think looking for the right story that they're really important story that speaks to us. Preferably one that's ever been told before and can't be told in short form in a newspaper or magazine article. And I know I did, almost unknowingly in my career looking for that. And I'm incredibly fortunate to have come across Liz Roberts, and her very important life story. We met Ted, we come across each other. In 2012, I was working on fear go. And the close up program at TV and said asked me to come on and talk about same sex marriage, they wanted to debate. The first of all, they wanted me to debate to debate with a Catholic priest and my son, it just started a Catholic schools. So I said, it's probably not a good idea. So in the end, I went up against a Baptist minister, and we hit actually quite according to debate which I won. At that stage reform, you know, there was such a tide of reform that I couldn't possibly lose, I think, anyway, the next day at my desk at fi go, the front desk, put a call through which I never do from a stranger. And it was an elderly Christ Church lady, who introduced herself as Elizabeth and she just called to congratulate me on what I have done on the program the night before, which was really lovely off here. And we got chest and after about half an hour, I said to her, Liz, has anybody written your life story? And she said somebody had watched tried, but it was so sanitized that she checked it in the bend, which gives you a little bit of a taste of what was [00:05:16] she quite ballsy. [00:05:17] And I made the rash of I said, All right, it, which was ridiculous, really, because I'd never written a book or even tried to write a book. And I went home all excited and said to Carolyn, I'm going to write this book, this woman's life story. And she was furious. And she said, You have to do it now because you've made the promise to her. So now you have to go through that and don't need if you know, don't let me find you reneging. So I did and listen, I started to meet enter talk, it took us two years, we did about 50 to 60 hours of interview. And of course, as we talked we kept we became more familiar with each other and, and friends and our sessions got more chatty and gossipy and in the in transcribing at all. So that I could write the book was an absolute nightmare, because they were long tracks of when we would talk about dogs [00:06:08] and kids and [00:06:10] pointless chairs. So that was something I've learned Phoenix time to stay a bit more focused. In my research, I think much of the process of a first time author [00:06:23] is driven by fear. [00:06:26] I'm very, very, very grateful to upstart Chris and to Warren older, who committed to the book without even saying a word of it. And this is a small publishing company who mainly print cookbooks and rugby, rugby books, and that's how they make their money. [00:06:44] But they also, [00:06:46] you know, they Greg with these other chefs, so they also do work in other spaces. And this was a risk This is taking an enormous risk this book, and I'm so grateful to upstart for actually commitment helped push me through the process, I suspect I might have given up at some point if it hadn't been for them. So I'm very, very grateful to them. I suppose I do know now what my writing processes and it's this, I write a chapter that I rewrite, and then I rewrite it again. And then I put it in a drawer literally and the hard copy form it on paper in a drawer for a month. And then I take it out again and I rewrite it again. And I you know, kind of dragged the process out of it. Because I was so determined. I think also because it was my first outing, that it be rights, but also because it's not my story. It's somebody else's story. And I felt an enormous weight of responsibility for that. There was one principle that I was determined to stick through to through the whole thing it had to be in Liz's voice. It had to sound like Lyft and Lisas a very pragmatic person. She tells her stories, she told me her life story with great humor, but she she isn't she doesn't add any frills. So my natural writers impetus to dress it up, I had to go and tackle that out again, if it started to slip in. Because she speaks in a very severe manner and it had to be in her voice. I had to sound like her exactly, or I'd failed. And when it was published, one of her closest friends wrote to me and said that when he read it, it was like lizards sitting across the room telling him the story. So it's a great guy, he actually wrote the foreword for the book as well. So it was it an enormous compliment. A surprise that a life retold to someone else's by necessity makeup of the stories that we recall from childhood and from early adulthood and love affairs and traveling sickness and illnesses, case, lots of surgery. And all of that has to be woven into a narrative that pulls the reader through the story to the end. Because my other great hope for this book was that it wouldn't be just a piece of New Zealand history. History if it's not written, entertainingly can be very dull. So it had to be a book that you wanted to read as well. And it would hold you till the end. I wanted to write it as a selection of stories under a group like a grip down the headings. But the publisher told me now they'd rather it be chronological. So then I had to start a game, I pulled it apart and started again. And matching up the dates of events from somebody's life going as far back as 1940s, Christ Church was quite difficult. I had a lot of, you know, revisiting lives and trying to knit times and dates together and events together. That was probably the hardest part of putting these two, they're really good. I'm so glad because I started to panic at that point. Because there was stuff that didn't match up. And I had to go back to her many times and say, No, no, that shattered a piece in 70. And then suddenly, we're in 1983. So that was difficult. [00:10:20] Some things had to be left out. And I know that [00:10:25] what did you have to leave out or choose to leave out later, you [00:10:30] just in finishing, I would excellently write another ghost write another biography, if I ever came across the story as incredible as listeners, and I hope I get that opportunity at some point. [00:10:42] So that's First Lady. Okay. Right. And now in theory. [00:10:48] Thank you. Okay. Um, I, thank you very much for this opportunity. And it's just wonderful to be here. And it's amazing how everybody's going out of business to be here on a Saturday morning. And I thank you very much for that. I found it hard. So I'm sure you did, too. But I guess with with, I should explain that. After writing our history for many years, I got to the stage where I was sick of looking at paintings, and I wanted a deep body wanted a deep body because I was always thrilled and captivated by kind of working out being a detective working out a plot, trying to try to sit there as the as the reader and in WeChat, who, who did it or who done it. Before. The author actually told me, the writer told me, so I was. So no match was one of my great passions. And I can remember, I actually Patricia with when I was in my teenage years and in my image when I was breastfeeding, just because it was one that I could put down. And I could do all sorts of other things. And I come back tomorrow much and she was reliable. And it was always a deep and you could kind of tie it up at the end. And it was much more made much more sense than my life did at that time. So no much was just wonderful. I loved writing about it. I'm meeting as an eight year old. And my one of the great proteges was Jonathan Elsom. And he was he was acting in a play on and I meet, my image came, she came [00:12:25] into the room. [00:12:27] And he kind of knows almost proceeded here around the corner of the door. So she was and she boomed away. And I and my mother said she, you know, she's one of those sort of women. And I thought, because I was only eight, neither one of those consort of women, and it intrigued me and, and she but she also so when I when I wrote the book and finished the book on my mash, and I still hadn't hadn't lost my bloodlust for dead bodies. And I thought a period these the perfect and subject because I had grown up with I knew neither much. But I have grown up with the story of a period. Well, Juliet human pulling pack, my mother went to school with them, she said, Stop me if I give me an evil work. Okay. Evil, I'll get it as a feeling. So, so this, my mother used to stand behind him and assembly, she thought that relationship was too intense. And we a little bit weird, because they were very separated, and very much in this whole kind of unit. But, you know, she also felt, I think, quite profoundly, that they were young. And she understood that they were persecuted and treated in a way that she felt, even though the horror of what they did was, you know, overwhelming and overwhelmed everyone that it was inappropriate. And she was a contemporary of these. So I grew up with a little bit of balance, but not much because it was my mother. And, and also cautionary tale of Victoria Park. And, and going up the end breaking the mother to death. And I grew up with that story. And it was and it taught you not to be a lesbian? Because it was the one story it was it you know, you know how sort of, you know, those fairy stories, they teach you something don't know? Well, the one message in this fairy story was that you don't you're not you don't want to do that. So I didn't. So so not only I didn't, but I married an Anglican minister, which seems incredibly extreme. I mean, it was, I was terrorized by that story I truly was. So I wanted to do everything I could to stop, you know, going the obviously didn't work. So so. So in a way that was the story of my life. That was my story. But that was many people's story. And I wanted to unpack it, unravel it. And we started the first book, Imperial book, I read it well, I actually came out she was revealed suddenly, this crime detective fiction writer was revealed as my mother's Sham at school, or contemporary at least. And so I sent I sent my mother the book for the first book that I managed to get hold of for a booth and I wrote, look what your your school buddies up to now. So it was my story I wanted to and I thought of course, now that I've written I my she would instantly think that I was the best option, in know instantly that that was the story. And so I wrote appealingly to her, I believe that it was actually to her agent. And I got the you know, I first of all, I got that we don't think she's, she's really interested in this. So I thought, Oh, that's a bit of a turnoff, but maybe she will be in and then I got the job later. Don't bother. You know, she's not interested. You know, we'll get back to you achievers. And we I knew she wouldn't be because she had actually turned down Oprah Winfrey. So I wasn't, you know, didn't. [00:15:58] I wasn't I was, I was handling it. So what actually happened was, I went on a trip, I we did some filming online, in London, I came back normal as long haul flights. And you get, you're sitting there with your mask on trying to go to sleep. And I just been reading this book on the inner light and, and it was sort of written from someone who he was passionate about her writing. And I thought I can write this book about her writing, you know, I don't need it, in theory involved in this. So I wrote this very gory proposal. And I seem to them to have a columns anyway. And in what do you know, ultimately, they gave me a contract. And then some of the euro was with the contract. No One No, no subject to be involved with it. And I realized how really difficult that is. And it's something maybe you probably felt, you know, at the time, although you didn't know she was. He did. Yeah, but no one else did. And so So essentially, I, my partner said, Why don't you write to her. So I wrote her agent, see, I have a contract, she said, congratulations, seeing the proposal firing. It's amazing. So I kind of look already but sad, or some of them. And I would go down to the reflective pad, which was really what I was going to write about anyway. But the gory bits were just in case the panel was too young to remember. So so what I but I didn't quote this and and, and, and it is, it is amazing to discover the voice for Juliette Hume and the writing of MP and New Zealand needs to listen, it is time to move out of the 1950s the details of which have been frozen in time and ground over long enough. In today's context, this is punitive and embarrassing NP story needs to grow to leave behind the terrible mistake of a team of a young teenager and mature to acknowledge the remarkable adult contribution and achievements of one of the world's most well known crime twins. So I sent it off, and I thought well, that will be the last I will hear from him, you know. And and I was really morning because I had to kind of tie my proposal and get the butts out that were ugly. And so I sent it off in at least one or two emails from from here, from his agent. And one, I think the first one in a seat, thank you very much. This is very helpful. I'll pass it on the end and the next one seed, meet you in London in July. [00:18:23] So, so here we are over you should have [00:18:29] been there is a right time for people and it was the right time for you. And it was she she had something she wanted to say. And maybe even at this stage, instinctively, she felt that I was a safe person to do that with and in like, you know, the interviews were like, just like, you know, I used to go walking because there was so much drivel, that didn't mean anything. But that's because people need to be safe. And in some ways, it's all those spaces, the inner stuff that you leave out, that actually pulls out of people, the heart of the disease story. So it comes out of those safe moments, when in some ways you they know that you care. And I think that's, that's all you have to do with biography is key. You have to care for the pieces of story, you have to think well, I can probably just about leave at the end. But, you know, I think I think that we can talk about spaces and gets late at maybe breaks. I [00:19:25] mean, that's what you were saying to the the sense of responsibilities and so that you as an author, your integrity is paramount. Yeah. So Julie, I'm a woman who lived as a man all her life in a in a time when really it was not done. [00:19:42] First of all, I'd like to thank Peter, for creating such a historic event, which this weekend and this week, song is so fantastic to to. And I would like to acknowledge the Allison and Joanne for the contributions as well, as well as the subject to our lives broad Lee and generally and not through the lens of the heterosexual world. So I think that's the most important. How did I come to write this book? I think this for me these two, two beginnings. One is it coming out as a lesbian in Oakland in the 1970s going to a club down on Beach Road with the homework done, and there were some people here might have been there at the time. And I looked around, and the number of women there was all very hush hush it was the location was above a motorcycle club. So you sort of went up this side, steel, steel? Well, I looked around that meet some people, women there and I thought were the older women. They were all younger women seem to me anyway, maybe they will, but maybe they would just be a youthful because of the lesbian lifestyle. Yeah, I thought, you know, with with my lesbian history, and at that point, it was really that night, I decided I wanted to write the lesbian histories or histories from at least be in perspective, I was a student at Oakland University at the time doing a master's in history. So. So that's one strand. The second I suppose the trigger final trigger for my book actually arise out of the pattern, Hume work, and I was at a comp, giving a presentation. And member of the audience came up much like, you know, you see the new interview, a member of the audience came up and said, you might be interested in this, and they held up a newspaper article. And it was about it was an article about two women who had got married in 1945, in Auckland, and we were found out to be they were found out later to be two women. But at the time, one of them was presenting as a main in this was Peter Williams. And so there was a whole newspaper article, but I had only a profile. In the profile was some details about Peter, some details about his wife some details about the backgrounds. And that's it. So that was about 1990 something and said, I was busy. Working, had some very involved jobs. So for six months, I'd be out of the frame, so to speak, and then come back to and they are, how can I find out I'll never find out who these people are. And then I started again, probably in the early 2000s, something like that. So your two years was actually super quick [00:23:00] is your multiple, multiple books, you know, pretty prolific. [00:23:08] So I picked it up again at that point. And so I'm really going to try and nail this one. So with the profiles, I had a date as well. So I knew roughly the date of the marriage. So it was a very detailed trial through births, deaths and marriages record starting with a marriage record. So the marriage was 1945 July, certain date, there was a profile given of each of the people in those details were not correct. So I went through, I spent some many days in the archives, National Archives, going through the records of the time, looking for a profile that was sort of an area that makes the 50 year old and an 18 year old 45 and blah, blah. And I went back one night, and I thought from yesterday's analysis, I think this may be could be about 10 or 20 possibilities, and I went back the next day I had another look. And then I thought it's got to be this one. I don't know why I hadn't seen it the day before. But you know, you get caught up with with cross referencing, as you mentioned, with cross checking. And it's got to be that one, the reason I couldn't just go and get the records in full was that it costs a lot of money for each each time you ask a customer. So I couldn't just say I'll give me the hundred or so full marriage certificates. So finally I got I got several marriage certificates. And there was the one. And I knew it was the right one, because across it handwritten was the parties to this marriage with both females and this record is not to be released words to their feet. Put a copy. So with that I knew I had the right people. I still didn't have the right information. But I took the next step. So looking, trying to switch who would appearance? Where did they come from what children who were the children, who were the siblings and so on. And they led to another whole mechanical, mathematical search through the booths records, and references to areas of New Zealand because I wasn't quite sure what we're which area of New Zealand that come from. So anyway, that's how I came to find out who the people were. In one of the things in the paper that intrigued me at the time, and the two women had declared to the police to interview them. Because what they did was illegal could not get married, if you were two women at that time that they were both is the product of the lesbian type. So they're all okay, this is interesting. Here's another angle, so, but I wasn't sure, but I needed to find out more about the people. So [00:26:11] I've been trialed through, [00:26:15] you know, the the background, the histories of the families, and so on. In the course of doing that, I think maybe we come to it later about what's Lyft done, and what's what's, what's left out, I had to fill in some gaps going through in terms of I didn't have all the details. And as I say later, there's only one person who knows about the life and it's the person themselves. And there's only one person who can say who they are and what they are. And it's that person themselves. So what we are doing our approximations about that person, and approximations of the lives but I'm doing that my my purpose and coming back to what you're saying about really caring, I do really care about the subject, my purpose, the people have written about and found out about us, I do really care. And I think it's amazing that Peter Williams, Iris Florence, Peter Williams, Lyft, is he wanted to live all those years, in contrast to the prescriptions of the time. And as they were supposed to have been, as opposed to what he wanted to be and he lived as he wanted to be. So. And that brings you back to looking at the context of the times and why did the people make the choices they hit do and how did they survive, and the ways they hit do. So maybe a viewer looking now could look back and say, Oh, they performed a criminal act. They made, they got married and pretended they were who they wind, or Oh, they falsified a booth record, which was the case for Peter to say, in this case that he was born when we we know that was not true. Oh, that's another criminal act node isn't there x of survival in the face of oppression in prescription. So I, I my regret is that I didn't get to meet Peter. And I did meet his first wife spoke to his first wife and also his last partner. [00:28:23] But I think [00:28:26] all of these aspects of New Zealand history and I just allude to the dictionary of New Zealand biography actually, which was [00:28:35] a catalog of hundreds of people. [00:28:39] A government objective and the catalogues through the lives of individuals, the histories of you know, LL location. And I think through individual histories within a very much about our world. [00:28:56] So I'm [00:28:57] a very brave man, and a very brave woman in your case, and a woman who was slightly elusive in some ways. So let's talk about and you can answer in any order doesn't have to go along the line. And what did you leave out? I mean, what did what do you include? And what do you leave out? And how do you make those decisions? And are you influenced by in your cases, [00:29:18] the live person? If I may say, [00:29:22] when I spoke to Peters, first wife, so she was that other person in the 1945 marriage, not as face partner, but as his wife. I said, I'd really like you to, you know, would you contribute? Would you be prepared to speak about this? And she said, No, that's water under the bridge, which was a real shame, but I understand. [00:29:46] And I spoke also with [00:29:50] his fist wife's brother. And he gave me some information, which then allowed me to fill in some more gaps. And I also spoke to his last partner, and she did not wish the book to go ahead and the way that it was. So we made some adjustments to it. And I've, I've changed some names in the book, so that the living people have some protection. And, but the events in the book, they didn't happen, they haven't really happens, they might, [00:30:29] we had to change some names, not very many. And we didn't really have to take anything out of the finished manuscript. And we had to leave out some of his favorite stories, because I think when you live a life as hard as she has lived, you are left with a certain view of the world, which can come across as quite unsympathetic at times. And I think it's important that your protagonist is sympathetic in you know, in otherwise, Raiders will just put the book down. That's not to say we falsify this story at all. But there are a couple of stories that just didn't fit within the book at all, I couldn't find a place for them. And listen, I kind of had a couple of arguments about what you know whether that was okay that it was left out. And in the end, she was fine with it, I would have liked to have told more about the surgeon that did her first surgery. But just like you, you just said about Peter Williams, his first wife was it. We contacted him and he was in that by the stage in a rest time in Christchurch. He was a general surgeon in 19. And I think he was, he'd just been for a short amount of time, part of the blue would plastic surgery team that he would build Hospital in Christchurch, in the early days of plastic surgery. And he agreed to do this surgery, a man that nobody had ever heard of in New Zealand before he'd read about it in a medical journal article. And that was it. That was the extent of his knowledge. And at the time, he said to her that he would not, I will not make you a vagina, Elizabeth, because I will not play God and [00:32:28] pleased. [00:32:33] So, but he did agree to make her look like a woman on the outside. And he didn't really know what he was doing. Fast forward to ask contacting him. And he he refused to even acknowledge I mean, he admitted that yes, he was the Tom Milliken that I had carried out the surgery. But he said, that's another lifetime. I'm not that person anymore. And I don't wish to to speak about it. And he just died just a couple of months ago, actually, I really would have liked to have got inside his head and had his memories of the extraordinary thing that he he did, and I had to hide it, you know, they booked her into hospital. And he did the surgery, and they had to hide it from all the news says, and nobody was to know that you know what that surgery that they were doing. And luckily, by chance, Neil Armstrong was stepping out onto the surface of the moon that day. So everybody was rather distracted. [00:33:33] And I managed to [00:33:36] get through without, without anybody really realizing except for the nurse that was looking after Liz in the ward who was just brutal to her. Because she was she was so disapproving that, that Well, I think they delivered me, I'm just sorting through because there was there's lots of surgery in the book. And I think it happened in the Women's Hall or she was in a women's ward. And the new the matron was extremely disapproving. And the nurses treated her very badly, to the point where they moved to another Ward, where, [00:34:09] you know, they would leave her, you know, she was completely bandaged from here to here. [00:34:15] And they had they took us, you know, a large amount of skin from his side to try and construct this, this genitalia. And she said she couldn't move, and they would, the nurses would put her food and breakfast on the, you know, on the trolley, and then we'll the trolley out of Route, you know, some stuff like that. So, you know, nevertheless, they managed to get this, this extraordinary surgery through that anybody knows thing and she was, you know, booked into the hospital under false name. And she's that the whole surgical surgical act. And as I said, there was a lot of in the book is, is really not so much a story of operations, but a story of her incredible precise of she persuaded GPS and psychologists and surgeons, you know, through a 30 year period to do stuff that they would never have considered talking, had she not been so persuasive. So that to me is not so much a story of her being cut up, but a story of her being able to talk people into doing shit. [00:35:21] Amazing tonight. Yeah, just in Peter when Peter Williams's case, she had double mastectomy in the 19 and around 1933. And so she also had persuaded someone to perform this surgery. And in I saw a reference and paper 1936 saying that those operations had been performed, such operations had been performed in this country. So Christian, that's not who was doing these operations. But when, in 1945, when she was first exposed, the media, the response of the public, sort of supporting what you're saying the as, not the public, but the legal system, the judge was that, who has done the surgery, this was done for no medical reason, who has, you know, been playing God who's done this? This, they should be reported to the Medical Council? And so so that's part of the reason they would want to keep Yes, so for her to have managed to get that surgery was incredible. [00:36:32] Having a really significant pathway for for their young people now for that, for that young man who spoke last night, you know, it's amazing that this was all happening mean so long ago, that's a bit different than your [00:36:44] operations. And I'm sorry. [00:36:51] I didn't get the feeling there was a bit of secrecy around. I mean, obviously, our highly successful high profile crime writer but a little bit of secret be around a personal life. [00:37:02] Well, I think, I think, in a way, what if I could just frame this a little bit with being a biographer, and, and moving from deep subjects to live subjects, because that was an interesting transition, I found, because you feel like you can write more about someone who's deed or you think you can, that's what you think you can do. But in actual fact, there's always relations, there's always issues around things. So you're always dealing with people who have a, an investment in that story. So you know, story has no investment, if it's if it doesn't have an investment, it's probably a story not with talent. So you got all these interest groups? And maybe there's, there's not not necessarily any least interest groups, for deep reason, if you know what I mean, cuz Francis Hodgkins, I mean, I got so much hell, from writing that book, it turns from people who had very fixed views on it. So I almost got more, more more hassle from that than the name period. But But essentially, I went into a period thinking that that I might have to pull at least pull a few punches, and not, you know, perhaps not be so interrogating. But in actual fact, when I, when I came to the story, when I talked to her, I think my old kind of modus operandi of you, you care, but at the, at the end of this, at the end of the day, you have to be absolutely true to yourself, as well as a writer, because there is an integrity, and a core integrity to doing it. If you lose, then you lose everything. Because, in a way, belief in a writer is something that people have to have. So they have to. And if you lose it, then you've lost everything. So So I kid, but essentially, I had to make a true story. And the funny thing is, I write this proposal about a woman I had immediate, and I was going to be able to test my proposal against the real thing. So in July and reshare, in London, and I realized that if I didn't like it, I couldn't write the book. And I don't mean like, I don't mean God, I feel you know, but if I couldn't speak to, if there was something that I found the are in that room, I had the proposal I had, I spent the money to go there. I had everything, you know, I beat Oprah Winfrey to you know, I realized essentially, that you cannot write a story that isn't true, isn't true to the subject, and isn't most of all true to you. You can but there's an intrinsic miss that that is is your your reputation. I guess it's about authorship, isn't it, it's ultimately you are what is good as your word, you're only as good as you would so. So in a way I hit the big scary thing for me was was this woman going to be as as interesting and as worthy as I hoped she would be, because I knew I would have to leave that room and shut the project up in gonna be something else. And I and that was the amazing thing. When I meet her, it was a very scary experience. She's incredibly well dressed, very sort of, you know, dapper in a way, you know, and, and formidable and scary. And, and I sit here and I gave, for the first time my life gave like a goldfish, I had no way to say, I had nothing to say. So we had to kind of get over there and get round there. And I just took this drill I you know, you sit outside, you suddenly say, Did I really side it? was me. And you know, she she couldn't even make it I think, you know, so eventually we we ended up holding hands, which is a very strange thing to do in the first interview, but it was what I see. I see. I was talking about my my, you know, my like my tribe, which I think is probably Viking, right and pillage, or, you know, six and travel. Sorry, sorry. So, so I am, you know, so, you know, I'm a Viking. And she goes, how do you know that? And I said, Well, I've got a syndrome. That's really interesting. So I'm getting medical now. And so anyway, it's two seconds. So it's so it's in your mind is in the palm of my hand, but you can get it all kinds of places, we won't mention some of the other ones. So she said, Oh, do I have I can she said, because she held her hands. And I I was very meaningful that this like I was I gave her an absolutely good, I think complete result the week, I can't see anything. [00:42:03] The other one. [00:42:06] So I mean, these are the things that you don't tell them. So they kind of interaction, those lovely moments in in it sort of twist that you start on that really at the core of it. If you haven't got a worthwhile person that you can repeat, I really respect authors that can write it someone they hate. I noticed someone writes a book about rape of all, and I think she you probably know, for you, I'm sure you read it. I ended up hating the writer. And I ended up hating Rachel for because I thought if you if you can't see anything good on this one, why did you write this book? But you know, I guess it had to be written. But so essentially, I think nothing much ended up on the floor, they should have been in the book. That's what I would say NPD Maria's she didn't she didn't read that. So she she didn't order that or, you know, you haven't a big you know, this is an authorized which I actually I authorize this book. I wrote it NMP didn't read it. So I'm so here agent reader. And she said all I think there's a button about the BBC, that's a bit problematic. So we can add a couple of paragraphs in the older The, the auditor that that rather, the legal auditor withdrew, soften some of the things I see it along the way, not about him period, but about other people. Because because I didn't want to be sued. And and it wasn't we not nasty, but, you know, and and so there was, I mean, I didn't that book is what is my true assessment of here. And, and you do make that sort of, kind of big global decision about some things that can sit on the floor. And you always have the reasons why. And [00:43:53] the idea, what's the main idea of the of your week? What's the main idea of the week? What's the main idea that you're trying say here? And doesn't matter? If you leave that there [00:44:04] doesn't matter if you keep it aside, said that a few times to Liz, when she was insisting that certain bits go in bits that didn't fit. Thank you, you need to step back and look at your whole life story. And what which, you know, and does that really matter? Yeah, when you're telling me this is the story we're telling. [00:44:26] I always say this, I always had this rule of thumb, right? This is my rule of thumb. Because you kind of got to do that when you when you live a very busy life. You gotta you gotta have some basic, basic ground rules. And I always think, can I sit in the room beside that person? And feel okay about what I've written? And if it's someone who's historic, if they were there today, in today's mindset, in today's world, would they feel comfortable with the way they've been portrayed? And do you know, it happened to me, it finally happen to me, everybody else was deed. Finally, I sit in a room with a period with the book between us in Vancouver and a literary festival with 500 people out in the dark. And the woman said to me, she was sitting on the far side and imperious theater, and I'm standing sitting near the end is all this vast audience. And she said to me, so what do you did you learn about from the murder, and in the same period sitting next to me, and once again, I mean, I had to click my thoughts rather quickly. But I felt comfortable. I actually felt comfortable, I still felt comfortable. I felt I'd done justice, to the, to the work to the book into the story. [00:45:39] One of the things I think myself and a lot of people have wondered about the fact that this as a woman as a 16 year old, performed this gruesome murder, and then made a career out of writing crime stories. I mean, that is extraordinary. And so that is something that a lot of us have wondered about. [00:45:56] HUK right. 15, she was 15 the other almost a year, but it still is. Okay. The thing is that she had written countless books, and there were there were sort of rubbishy because they, like, she's a great, she's a great writer, but she has no sense of, of shape. And the thing about the murder mystery is it's one of those very successful kind of books, books, genre books, they help shape. And so you can, yeah, I mean, that's why I like writing biography, because it's like, there's a beginning and an end, you're usually there is. So most of mine has a beginning and an end like you born and you die. Wow. So you know, this shape, and you got an arc in between, and some people did a few things, and you write it down, quite, quite easy. But the other good shape is that detective fiction, because it gives you that perfect formula to kind of the actor, you know, the exposition, the development, denouement, everything's Well, not for people, people are happy, you know, and they go away, and they go and buy the next one. So it's actually she wrote all this wrote these rubbish books with no end, and all kind of descriptive and interesting characters, but nothing even happened. A lot of them would, you know, like, see that I think the Inquisition was one of the catchy subjects and initiate his art ones that were really hideous. And so finally, you know, who here Christie father, he said, Why don't you write a murder mystery, instantly was published, she was 39 to be writing for 10 years. So I mean, she The thing is, I do so right, write about what you know. [00:47:37] But I think I actually do think that's true in her case, [00:47:41] because [00:47:42] because she, she actually knows what it's like to do something terrible. And to spend a lifetime regretting it, she must be almost unique. Oh, I think she is, I think, pretty much I think there might have been someone, you know, there might have been a few that we haven't found the body if you [00:48:03] despise the people you can find any minute, but [00:48:06] so i think [00:48:08] i think she's very unusual. And I think I think was a desperate thing. But But you, but she does it in a very intense way. And she she sits there in realize that this complex plot anything for in heaven, you keep that in your head, and why would you bother, but then she writes it up. And it's fantastic. And really. And she has this core value of Christianity, which goes through her books, and it's been the redemptive thing for her importantly, that they that they have been able to find some way of structuring the belief or the spirituality or the the existence in the world and understand the unexplainable, really, because how do you ever she can't even now really tell you why. Or how, or even to some extent how it is, and because because she spent 60 years beginning it, and it the core of her being, I think she can never forget it, and never entirely put that out of her consciousness. I for a long time, every time we talked after the book came out, she would start talking about, you know, it would come up, you know, the mood would always come up. And so I said to my partner, or do you think I should just say, look, the books go on, we can be friends now you don't have to talk about, you know, you don't need to mention those things. And in a way, I think, I mean, I didn't I didn't do it because I mean, she means so much more to me than just dead now, you know, in but but in a way I think it's I was just the only person that she could talk to you were saying I was saying and I was the one person that I read that that from New Zealand, that new the new zealand less of it new the new zealand story, because she said to me, I'm a New Zealander Chris, she said, my formative years, oh, my formative years were in New Zealand. And it was a weird thing because when I when I meet her, it was once I relaxed and she relaxed and we've got over the Viking thing. And she was she was a probably a Viking [00:50:18] six and travel. um [00:50:22] you know, once we got away with it, [00:50:24] I think yeah, it was, I guess. Yeah, we just became friends and associates. And and, and she did tell me about it that as much as she she knew and we could find friends with words, don't you? [00:50:41] Yes, yes. We're Yeah, we're we have a quite a complicated relationship. Liz has no electronic anything. So she has, you know, her post box and the telephone and the landline and that is it, which I find really difficult because I don't answer phone. I don't you know, I do all my communication apart from with my family and my partner in my work nights is electronic. So she has it Liz phones me sometimes every day. And sometimes I don't answer for three. Because I'm, I've got nothing you know, and I can't I've helped lose it. It's complicated because Liz is a pensioner and she lives in a in a housing musician house and she has no money. She has no car. She's no, a male nothing. And she has old watching his is a lot of dignity and a great sense of self and a wonderful sense of humor. But she has the kind of issues that poor people have. So when she lived in Auckland, if she needs to get Briscoe's our driver to Briscoe's or I would take to the doctor or one of her other dear friends drive will drive her to the airport because she used to have to so ridiculous when she lived in Auckland, which is until reasonably recently, she would have to fly to Christchurch every three weeks to see her gynecological specialist. And she would have to pay for those flights set of intentions just insane. So she she you know, she has made me in that sense. she now lives in Christchurch. And I don't see her obviously. But I still we still very quickly and at the moment we're speaking about this. Three companies competing to make the book into a television feature films. So the moment was thinking about that, which is a whole nother random because there's no money in it. And for Liz, that's not a problem for me because I didn't do the book for money or anything like that. But Phyllis, that's a really real problem. You know, she's gonna sell her the rights to his story, right? for other people to make money off it, she wants to make some Doritos. So it's a tricky one. [00:53:07] Christians, we've only got a few minutes left Christian, [00:53:12] you're lucky enough to have the [00:53:15] communications with you also with in theory. I was I had only a snippet. But I did have something from Peter himself. He was interviewed by the newspaper at the time. And so there's like a little body of words from him. And I just like to say that the title of my book is from Peter. And when he was questioned about his life and what he was doing and how come he married this woman. He said, he said a number of things, but he also said I am perfectly natural. So for me that was the obviously was the title was of course his words. [00:53:59] Sorry, to the question is [00:54:01] yes. [00:54:08] Yes, yes, yes. Yes. Yes. Yeah. [00:54:11] Yeah, we have so many copies. So there's not that has gone into a print or anything. So we divided the the, the advance 5050. Yeah. To it's not really about and that was at her insistence, I probably would have given it all to her because she needs it. But she to a very proud person, and a very, you know, dignified person. So she insisted we split it down the middle. [00:54:39] Yes. The general [00:54:40] Christian on writing about transgender or things a few transgender people unless you feel that was the portion focus on the surgical side of the story. Just wondering what what anybody thought about that doesn't get into why are there other other sizes? [00:55:00] Can I [00:55:01] answer first, [00:55:03] IZ, the focus, the kind of hook for Liz's story is naturally the fact that because she was the first the bet forms a very important part of the story. But what I would like everybody who's considering buying the book to know is that that's no by no means all of the story. She had the most and I didn't know this before I sit down interview her. She had the most extraordinary life. She was a makeup artist to Twiggy and and you know Catherine Deneuve in, she worked for David Bailey as a makeup artist in the swing London and the swing is 60 she had a collection of clothing and Harrods. You know, she she was responsible for the transition from for makeup from for black and white to color TV and New Zealand, you know, she's had the most extraordinary life. And it makes great reading quite apart from the surgical bit. This surgery was important, but, and I, I had this idea really early on as to how I wanted to write that chapter. It's completely different from the rest of the book. And luckily for me, Liz has kept all of her medical records and all of the, the, you know, what do you call that carbon paper copies of the original type person letters between her doctors. [00:56:23] So this [00:56:24] chapter about his surgery is written completely differently. It is the letters between the JP to the psychologist to the surgeon back to the GP, you know, and it says, you know, I'm thank you for referring this woman to this person to see me [00:56:43] I am astounded [00:56:44] at how feminine shape or Hey, appears, you know, and it's, it's the language of the 1960s. And it's extraordinary to read it as it was written by the people. I'm particularly proud of that chapter. I hope it works in the book. I it sounds like to me directly about it. But I didn't want the surgery to be the heart to be all it is. But I think in a historical, I understand modern concerns like that. But I think this is a history. You know, the book I wrote is about New Zealand's history of this kind of, of surgery, and and therefore I couldn't possibly ignore it. It's kind of the point to the book. So that's just [00:57:30] the context. Yeah, the context, otherwise you don't understand. And it's very much [00:57:35] of its time. I mean, Liz's books, there are no modern sensibilities about transgender in her book, the confusion of the legal system. And the fact that you know, the chapter that tells the have heard Jenny to the High Court to fight the Ministry of Justice tells you a lot about the prejudices of time. Yeah. [00:57:58] Yesterday, it's time to stop. I want to thank these three wonderful women and [00:58:14] I'm taking them straight to the signing table. So if you want to talk to them, come and talk to them there. Okay.
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