14 Sep 2021
Amy McDaid has been awarded the 2021 Todd New Writer’s Bursary towards the completion of a first draft of ‘Black Kite’, a new dark comedy novel.
Following the news, we chatted to Amy who shared what this bursary means to her, her writing process and a sneak peek into the exciting, darkly comedic world of her new novel.
“I’ve worked as a new-born intensive care nurse for thirteen years. Reading is my life, and I always wanted to write a novel, but my efforts came in fits and starts,” says Amy. That all changed in 2017; Amy did a Masters of Creative Writing at the University of Auckland with Dr Paula Morris and won the Wallace Foundation Prize.
“The novel I worked on over that year – ‘Fake Baby’ - was published in 2020 and writing went from something I did on the side, to a central part of my life.”
Malcolm Burgess, Creative New Zealand Arts Practice Director - Literature says, “We’re really happy to be able to offer this year’s bursary to an emerging writer of Amy’s potential, and who is working in an unusual genre. This is a prestigious prize that can make a significant difference to writers, especially those at a crucial stage of their careers, such a writing their second novel”.
Hinting about the premise of her new novel Amy adds, “‘Black Kite’ is a dark, funny novel told from the point of view of a nurse called Cerys, who goes to live with her sister in Brisbane after she’s caught having an affair with an elderly patient. The sister’s party lifestyle is disrupted by an unusual, disturbing incident.”
Careful not to reveal too much about the novel, Amy stops there but shares that she’s aiming for “sexy and absurd with a touch of suspense”, drawing inspiration from the rich and varied wildlife of Brisbane – “beautiful yet always holding the sense of a hidden threat.”
When asked about her fascination with darkness and comedy, Amy said, “Dark humour fascinates me — its ability to unsettle and challenge with a kind of fearless examination of the best and worst of human nature. Being able to ‘laugh in the dark’ is also closely related to high levels of empathy and intelligence. Perhaps because understanding dark humour requires an understanding of complex human motivations.”
Every writer’s process is different and for Amy, a day to write involves coffee, walks and writing against distractions in forty-minute snatches. “I usually start with re-reading and editing what I’ve written the day before, before charging on with new material. Once I’ve completed a full draft, I place it under my bed and literally ‘sleep on it’ for a few weeks before pulling it out and reading with fresh eyes.”
Lately, she’s only been able to write after her daughter is asleep, or after a long hospital shift. “I sit in bed, with my laptop on my lap and my back suffers. That’s all going to change now of course!”
When Amy received the news, her hands were shaking; “That’s just how much this means to me,”
“Finding time to write as a single mum and balancing everything is incredibly hard. For five precious months, I can step away from other employment and immerse myself in the world of my novel. I feel incredibly fortunate.”
The annual Todd New Writer's Bursary enables a writer or playwright at an early stage of their career to write a new work.
The Todd Corporation Ltd contributes $10,000 towards this bursary and the balance is provided by Creative New Zealand. More about Todd New Writer's Bursary.
Previous recipients include:
- Melody Thomas towards adapting an award-winning podcast, on sex and sexuality, to a book (2020)
- Sylvan Thomson towards a writer's stipend to write and complete the draft for a first novel (2019)
- Michael Steven to write a new collection of poetry (2018)
- Puleleki Bourke towards script development of a theatre work (2017)
- Lynn Jenner toward a work of creative non-fiction and poetry (2016)
- David Coventry towards a new novel (2015)
- Gemma Bowker-Wright towards a new novel (2014)
- Lawrence Patchett towards a new novel (2013)
- Gigi Fenster towards a new novel (2012)
- Tanya Moir towards a new novel (2011)
- Elena de Roo towards a collection of children's poems (2010).