Author of Dirty Chick: Adventures of an Unlikely Farmer
Q: Because we very much live in the instant information age, could you summarize Dirty Chick in one hundred and forty characters?
Q: I know that you’ve always been a writer, and you’ve written some great travel stories in the past. What was it about the move to New Zealand that inspired you to compile all of your experiences in a book, instead of just a travel piece?
Q: What was the most challenging aspect of writing Dirty Chick?
Q: I’ve seen a lot of positive reviews compliment you on your realism (and occasionally gross – hah!) details in sharing the ups and downs of farm life. Did you ever hit a point where you wondered whether you could ever fully relate the challenges of farm life to a reader? And if so, how did you work it out?
Personally, I find that aspect of farming fascinating. I’m a serious cook and it’s meaningful for me to feed and raise animals, give them a good life, and then kill them humanely. But I recognize that some people are squeamish around death, or they prefer not to think about the animal that gave its life for their dinner.
I wanted to communicate the uncomfortable realities of farming without upsetting people too much. That’s where humor is helpful—if I keep you laughing about the horny rooster, then you might not think too hard about all the omelets we’re making from his babies.
Q: There have been a number of autobiographies written over the years by individuals such as yourself, who have uprooted their lives for the countryside – e.g. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle. Do you feel that there’s a common thread between your respective experiences at all? And why do you think your stories are so compelling to other readers?
Something happened, though, during the year that formed the story for Dirty Chick. My son had a major medical crisis, and purely by accident this gave the story a note of drama and suspense that it wouldn’t otherwise have had. (Don’t get me wrong—I’d rather my kid was healthy—but this happened, and it helped shape our story.)
People like reading these stories because they’re aspirational. I should know—I’m a huge fan of extreme adventure memoirs. I just finished reading Savage Harvest by Carl Hoffman (amazing book, by the way!), which is about Michael Rockefeller’s journey among remote New Guinea tribesmen in the 1960s. I won’t be buying tribal art from cannibals anytime soon, but I can thrust myself into that world with a good book. Likewise, not many people get the chance to move to Provence or run a small farm in New Zealand. I give readers a little taste of what it’s really like, and I’ll probably give them a good appreciation for city life!
Q: Each reader's interpretation is different when reading, even when it comes to non-fiction. If there’s one thing that you hope that readers will take away from reading Dirty Chick, what would that be?
So I guess I would hope that people come away from the book with an appreciation of just how many skills are involved in farming. It’s not just being a hipster who grows heirloom tomatoes. Farmers are accomplished professionals, and we should respect that.
I also just love making people laugh. My ambition for Dirty Chick is that it makes you shoot coffee out your nose at least once while reading it.