Photo: Duncan Brown/Napier Courier

I originally interviewed Napier, New Zealand-based author Charity Norman for a story that was published in the May 2, 2012 edition of the Napier Courier. Charity, who is related to Virgina Woolf, chatted with me for nearly 30 minutes. I wasn’t able to fit all of Charity’s quotes into the newspaper and so, in the interest of the world-wide writing community, I’ve decided to put together this blog post based on our conversation.

Charity, 47, was born in Uganda but grew up in England. After turning her back on a career as a barrister to concentrate on her writing, Charity and her Kiwi husband, Tim Meredith, moved to New Zealand in 2002 and then to Napier three years ago. They have three children.

Her first book, Freeing Grace, was published in Australia and New Zealand by Allen & Unwin in 2010. Her second book, Second Chances, will be published on July 2.

BMM: Did you always want to be a writer?

CN: Yes. As a child, I lived in Yorkshire and my father is a vicar – like the Bronte sisters, whose father was also a vicar. My father had seven children and Patrick Bronte had a similar number. I thought I was Emily Bronte as a child. I used to make up really appalling poetry. But, as life went on, I realised I needed a proper career and proper money. I was a barrister for about 15 years or so in the northeast of England. I practised in crime and family, which feed into (Freeing Grace). The book is about adoption and so I was able to use a lot of my experiences in court and experiences with working for local authorities taking children away from their parents or acting for parents attempting to have their children not taken away. All of that has fed into this book and the next and, I suppose, into my life.

BMM: Tell us about your first foray into writing, after you and Tim moved the family to New Zealand.

CN: The intention was I would have time to write, because I’d always wanted to, and I’d started a book after I had one of the children. I finished that book, which is now in a drawer, and I just kept writing. It’s very difficult to write in a vacuum, not knowing if you’re wasting your time, if you’re being selfish in throwing away financial stability for no reason. And then I started worrying that I was setting a bad example for the children. And then finishing the book and finding an agent and a publisher is such an incredibly nailbiting business. It was a huge process, that first (published)book.

BMM: What was your reaction to receiving the email from an agent asking to see the full manuscript?

CN: It was like a miracle because you can’t really believe it’s going to happen. You’ve lived in this vacuum for so long and you start to lose confidence and have this niggling doubt that you might be rubbish.

BMM: You’ve said that the hardest part came after you signed with an agent.

CN: When I got the agent, I was so happy. She is excellent and I thought it would be easy from there but, in some respects, it actually got so much harder. They wanted it rewritten. I did that, sent it back to the agent’s editor and I got an email back saying it’s not ready, you’ve got to rewrite it again. By the time I sent it back, that editor had left and the new one wanted different changes. I think I had four different editors and all of that was quite soul-destroying. I spent two years rewriting, which was an anxious time as I didn’t know if I’d ever get it sold at the end of it. Every line has been rewritten; some may have been rewritten 50 times. I’m not complaining because I genuinely think it was good for me. It was a great exercise. It was a bit like doing a degree in being forced to continually look at every sentence.

When my agent finally sent the book out, it sold within a few months.

BMM: What originally attracted the agent to your manuscript?

CN: They liked the writing, they liked the story. I think a good agent knows what she likes in terms of writing style. I sometimes wonder if it isn’t a rewriting test. Agents and publishers like to see an author who is prepared to rewrite. I do think the biggest secret to being a published writer is being prepared to take constructive criticism onboard. You’ve got to be able to cross it out and start again.

BMM: How would you describe your genre?

CN: I am not fond of pigeonholes but (the publishers) call it as ‘upmarket women’s fiction’. I don’t really try to write literary, because that can be incredibly boring. I want what I write to be very readable. I want it to be fun. I do have things I want to say but I want it to be entertaining at the same time. Daphne du Maurier, for example, writes really good stuff, but thoroughly readable. Intelligent fiction doesn’t have to be turgid and impregnable, as some work is. I care about the writing but it shouldn’t get in the way of a good story.

BMM: Reviewers have generally been kind to Freeing Grace. How do you react to having strangers comment on your work?

CN: I’ve got better at it but you find yourself doing sad, sad, sad things like Googling your own name, Or getting your child to. Here, in New Zealand, there was much more interest in me than there was in the book, which is perhaps a cultural thing because I’m local.

BMM: Do you write for love or money?

CN: For the love. Although, if I didn’t think it was going to bring in something, I’d feel tempted to go back to what was a lucrative job, an interesting job. (The book) has started to make more –  in particular the French have been really good and have sold many thousands of copies. That’s started to make more sensible money but if I worked out how much I was paid per hour for writing that first book, I suspect it would be half a cent, or something ridiculous.

BMM: With Second Chances hitting bookstores in July, are you worried at all about the dreaded sophomore slump?

CN: (With the first book) it was such a long slog – so many false dawns, so many times I thought they’d say this time it’s ready and it wasn’t – all those constant disappointments give you a better attitude. Eight years ago, I would have been biting my nails but I’ve got so much better at thinking, ‘I’ll just keep going. If it’s not selling, don’t panic. You’re lucky to be published.’ And I do feel so incredibly lucky to be published at all.

BMM: Tell us about your writing routine.

CN: In theory, it starts as soon as the children go to school. And I carry on without stopping, at all, until they come home from school, and then I write at night. In theory, I can go from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. In practice, someone phones, someone comes to the door, my husband walks in and out of the house saying annoying things, I have to go do this or that – so it never works like I’m hoping it will. And so I end up doing an awful lot late at night. When I get really desperate, I go stay in a cabin belonging to some lovely friends. Twice I have gone up there and done nothing but write for a week and that really helps. That’s really good for getting you over the hump.

The owners of Thorps Coffee House (in Napier) have also been incredibly good to me. When my house is chaotic, the washing has piled across all surfaces, the phone won’t stop ringing and I am completely desperate, I can go down there. It’s a haven. They let me plug my computer into their power source. I have a quiet table at the back that I think of as my emergency office. That and several cups of coffee – to which I am addicted – normally gets 1,000 words written. In fact (Second Chances) owes a lot to them.

BMM: Where do your book ideas come from?

CN: I used to take very long walks and a lot of ideas would simply come to me. I think that was a better way to write, to have time to let ideas form. I should make myself do that now more. Snippets from newspapers. The library. People tell you stories or you hear of stories. When you are thinking of things you can write about, things take on a different meaning to you.

BMM: What advice can you offer to new writers?

CN: Keep writing. You’ve got to write. A lot. Hone that skill. Never assume that you are skilled enough. You can always get better. Keep reading and keep rewriting. If you are criticized constructively, be grateful.


They’re the words no journalist wants to hear.

“There’s a typo in your story,” said my colleague.

“What?” I quickly flicked through the newspaper to the indicated page. “That can’t be. I read that thing through at least a half dozen times.”

And yet there it was. My eyes zoomed right to it: an extra “s.” It could not have been more obvious if it were circled in cocaine and lit by a disco ball.

I’d written “professionals photographers” instead of “professional photographers.” Crap!

I know: it’s not the end of the world. But the reading public expects a newspaper’s content to be perfect. I’d let them down. On top of that, I imagined staffers at the The Competition shaking their heads, making a “tsk-tsk” sound and noting that “oh, so he’s not as perfect as he’d like everyone to believe.” Double crap!

It’s not the first time a typo has slipped through. Inevitably, and unfortunately, it won’t be the last. And, I suppose, in the grand scheme of things, an extra “s” is more sloppy than embarrassing.

If you’re looking for embarrassing, the king of them all is, of course, omitting the “l” from “public.”

“The mayor called for a pubic debate on the issue.” “The president was encouraged by pubic reaction to his speech.”

Ouch and double ouch. That is the epitome of cringe-worthy. And yet I have seen it done.

An interesting flip side to that was found in a magazine story I was reading about Brazilians. It read something like, “More and more men are opting to have the hair removed from their public areas.”

A typo in reverse. Now that’s a new one.

I was spurred to share these thoughts by a recent headline I spotted in one of our national newspapers.

It was datelined the United States and read “tenn girls murdered by ‘Speed freak killers’ named”.

My first thought was that the headline writer was using the abbreviation for Tennessee (Tenn.) and had simply forgot to uppercase the “T” and add the period. I was wrong. Because the third sentence in the story mentioned teen girls. So the headline should have read “Teen girls murdered . . . ”

Somewhat less than professional, methinks.

Of course newspaper typos aren’t limited to journalists — sales reps have messed up as well. Viking Woman should know. In another life, she sold newspaper ads and told me the normal chain of command would involve a design person putting the ad together, which would then be proofed both by the sales rep and the person/company paying for the ad. So that’s three sets of eyes before the ad goes to print.

Which doesn’t explain how one supermarket ended up advertising a 99-cent deal on two-litre Cock. I’m going to guess that store manager sprayed Coke out his nose when he read that in the morning paper. On the bright side, he did report an upswing in the number of female customers. I guess size – and weight – does matter.

Another Viking Woman whoopsie involved a small classified ad that was supposed to read “some shift work required.” It appeared in the paper (after passing through the proofing process) as “some shit work required.”

Not exactly a laughing matter at the time but Viking Woman did hear from several sources that various staff room bulletin boards had that ad posted and circled with remarks along the lines of “So you think your job is bad.”

An extra “s”? Yeah, I’m not going to sweat it. But lesson learned: I will be more diligent in the future. Especially if the story involves someone drinking Cock in pubic.

I closed a chapter of my life this week. And by that I mean I finally finished reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest. It only seemed like it took a lifetime to struggle through to the end.

Call me a silly optimist, but I tend to go into movies or start books with a fervent desire that the time I’m about to invest in them will be worth the effort.

The restricted version of the poster for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo that won't be coming to a theatre near you.

On far too many occasions, however, I’ve emerged on the other side with a “meh” shrug of indifference, neither the journey nor the destination having lived up to expectations.

That’s is how I felt about Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. While I wasn’t overwhelmed by the same tsunami of hype that accompanied The Da Vinci Code (the sound and fury of which cleverly masked what was, ultimately, poorly-written tripe), I’d heard enough positives about the late Swedish writer’s books to give them a go.

Certainly the timing was right – I was, after all, living by myself on a tropical island where the absence of a TV and evenings that plunged into darkness by 7:30 provided the perfect inducement for cracking open a book.

There was a time, when I was much younger and my responsibilities did not extend much beyond finishing homework, where I would cruise through two books a week. My nose buried in the pages, the rest of the world went by unnoticed, so engrossed was I in the adventures of Biggles or John Carter of Mars or whichever unfortunate character happened to be fleeing from Stephen King’s latest monster.

There was no cruising when it came to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo or The Girl Who Played With Fire or The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest.

Larsson’s books are corpulent with details (not the least of which must be every street name in Sweden) and littered with characters, most of whom are of the minor variety and not worth remembering. Did I mention that all their names sounded the same after a while?

While Dragon Tattoo at least had a mystery – albeit a fairly pedestrian one – at its core, the other two were about, well, I’m not really sure, to tell the truth.

Larsson, a journalist by trade, had a few cats to kick as far as the Swedish government was concerned and he gets so busy taking shots at every institution or group or agency that pissed him off that he seems to have forgotten that he’s brought a reader along for the ride.

The plots are needlessly convoluted, the characters little more than ciphers: mouths Larsson uses to spout his theories, the majority of which are of the conspiracy variety.

Much has been made about how fascinating a character is Lisbeth Salander. Tattooed, pierced, ambivalent when it comes to bedmates, a brilliant computer hacker. Violent and, at times, bat-shit crazy.

She should have grabbed me by the balls, or at least the throat. And yet I never felt she came alive for me. Probably because Larsson insisted on abandoning her in dark corners for long periods of time, especially in the final volume.

She is a one-trick pony, a carnival freak show.

It took me so long to slog through the books, the act of reading so onerous at times, that I never felt swept along by the flow of Larsson’s narrative current.

I was bored. OK, there, I said it.

And that’s the real crime of the Millennium Trilogy.

Let me add this sidebar: During an online creative writing course I took from New Zealand writer Jill Marshall, she asked her students to submit the first thousand words of whatever piece we were working on. I sent her the first chapter of The Blue Beneath, the sequel to Brown Girls.

One of the notes Jill sent back was to caution me to be very careful about using too many different character viewpoints.

Read Larsson and you’ll note how he changes point-of-view willy-nilly, often from one paragraph to the next.

And yet he still became a best-selling writer.

Which leads me to this obvious conclusion: one of my characters needs a tattoo and a nose ring.

I can already hear the cash registers ringing.

Little Old Lady has haunted me my entire journalism career.

I’ve never actually met her but I imagine her to be sour of expression, someone who stands in her front yard shaking her cane at the kids playing in the street, berating them for being too loud, having too much hair, wearing their pants too low and their baseball caps backwards.

She owns a small dog and feeds it slices of cheese even though that nice man on the TV says human food is not good for animals. She knits while she watches daytime soaps and yells at the characters for being gullible fools. She doesn’t answer the phone if it rings during American Idol, thinking only an idiot would dare interrupt quite possibly the greatest entertainment ever invented.

She forgets where she put her glasses. She sometimes forgets to put her teeth in. She believes anyone who survived the Great Depression and the Second World War has the God-given right to bitch about everything and anything.

And, oh yeah, she hates me. Or, more specifically, my writing. In fact, she hates all journalism.

I know this to be true because every newspaper I’ve ever worked for — a Times, a Star, a News, a Herald, another Herald and now a Courier — fear Little Old Lady more than they fear the Internet.

Which is why every story I’ve ever written — every story you see printed in a respectable newspaper — has to pass this litmus test: Will it offend Little Old Lady? If an editor experiences even the slightest niggle that Little Old Lady will take umbrage with the content, the story will be edited or quite possibly  killed.

Little Old Lady enjoys sharing her opinions. Her morals violated by something she finds offensive, she will phone an editor to vent her spleen. Or, even worse, mail (!) a handwritten (!!) letter explaining, in no uncertain terms that, should the paper continue to print such objectionable trash, she will have no alternative but to cancel her subscription. No one has the balls to tell Little Old Lady that the paper is actually delivered free.

I was envisioning Little Old Lady this week while writing a story about a new horse trail. On the surface, this is not the sort of story that would normally raise wrinkled hackles but my plan was to use the word “shirty” to describe some rather nasty people who’d objected to equestrian invaders.

“Shirty” is one of those Kiwi-isms Viking Woman and I encountered when we moved to New Zealand. I know it’s not a real (read: North American) word but I have this sneaky hunch Kiwis use it in polite company when what they really mean is “shitty.”

Is Old Little Old Lady going to read that sentence and not give it a second thought because, after all, that’s how everyone speaks here?

Or will she stop short, raise a weathered eyebrow, clack her dentures in disgust and reach a quivering hand for the phone?

I guess I’m about to find out. Wish me luck.

A recent casual look through a random magazine revealed a surprising fact: teenagers still produce zines.

My exposure to these self-produced/self-photocopied literary offerings has been limited over the years. That’s primarily because they are usually placed in music stores and I haven’t had much call to visit such an establishment since the Baby Jesus invented iTunes.

We encountered a number of zines when I worked for the Langley Times, inevitably included in the portfolio of every kid looking for a summer intern job.

Looking through them was akin to experiencing a bad acid trip. At least that’s what people told me.

The type would swirl and dance around the pages like the hard copy version of ADHD. Font styles would come and go like a hungry cat through the door flap (a production trait known as “using every crayon in the box.” The writing would be juvenile in scope and style, the artwork crude, the production values pretty much nonexistent.

And yet . . . and yet you could practically smell the teenage spirit emanating from each and every page.

I actually admired the tenacity that went into these desperate attempts at sharing the writers’ opinion with the Great Big World. It’s not easy to create in a vacuum, without any clue at all whether your words are finding an audience. The 20th century equivalent of writing blogs, I suppose, and I’m guessing a lot of those zine-iacs are, this very instant, elbowing me aside as we all compete for our share of the blogosphere.

My favourite zine of all time was called Douche. Partly because of the edgy name, partly because of the superior quality of the writing, but mostly because one of the three 16-year-old girls who produced it was my daughter Brooke.

Brooke is my first-born child and, if reading The Hockey News to her when she was only days old somehow did not manage to impart my love of Canada’s national winter sport, I was pleased to see she did inherit my love of writing.

I asked Brooke about the Douche days and this is her reply: “I loved that time of my life. When you’re 16, every idea you ever have feels like it’s important and must be heard by the world NOW. Having a zine gave you a voice. I also love the DIY spirit. It still exists now, but with less crude tools.”

She then directed me to an entry she’d posted on her blog ( where she notes, “If our goal was to create the most frustrating thing to read in the universe, job well done! Typed up nuggets of anger, love, fear or outrage printed off and Scotchtaped to pages, then copied at my patient father’s office after hours, where we’d make him tend to the printing while we wasted that compressed air in a bottle stuff shooting each other.”

Yes, I did have a small hand in the production of Douche. I would usher the trio through the back door of the Langley Times’ office, fire up all three photocopiers and have at it.

It was a smooth operation, well, except for that one time when the publisher – a pinch-faced Scorpio of a woman – walked in unexpectedly on a weekend.

I quickly explained that the girls were working on a school project and had provided all their own paper. The publisher was kind enough not to point out that, paper aside, they were still using the company’s toner and power.

“It was the most fun I had at that age,” Brooke writes in her blog. “Having a focused way of guiding my writing, so tender and silly back then, was a lifesaver and an early start to this word-strewn path I’m attempting to gallop down now.”

In the end, Douche only lasted four issues (the final cover is included with this posting). Interests changed, best friends drifted apart, and yesterday’s Most Important Thing in the Whole Universe was too soon relegated to Tomorrow’s Fond Memories.

Oh, right, that name. I’ll let Brooke explain: “ . . . Douche, as best as I can remember, was chosen because it was one of those female devices we thought most hilarious and foreign.”

Yup, that’s my girl. I could not be prouder.

Reality checks come in many guises. This week, for instance, it was the kid manning the cash register at the nearby Caltex petrol station.

I’d stopped in to buy a newspaper and, noticing a photo of reigning Miss South Pacific Joyana Meyer on the front page – clad in a coconut bra and grass skirt as she attended the Pasifika Festival in Auckland – I blurted out that I knew her.

(Full disclosure: I actually consider Joyana a friend. I took her photo on several occasions when I worked for the Cook Islands Herald. I also shot her for the 2011 Miss Cook Islands calendar, only to have her father insist he had the better shot. Yes, his sunset was more colourful than mine. But I couldn’t help but notice that Joyana is wearing more clothes in Daddy’s photo.)

The kid was impressed. He asked me how I knew her.

I told him I’m a journalist, that I’d just spent a year working on Rarotonga.

“A journalist,” he said, his eyes lighting up at the sheer glamour of it all. “How do you become a journalist?”

I very nearly told him the truth: being in the right place at the right time, lucky breaks, knowing people. Instead, I put on my Mature Adult Hat and said, “I went to school.”

That was not a lie. I did attend Kwantlen University College for a year. Even scored a Certificate in Communications. Says so right there, on my CV. Not sure I remember anything I learned in class. Not sure anything I learned in class ever helped me get a newspaper job. But, hey, like I said, it does look impressive on a CV.

“I’d like to do something like that,” said the kid. “I’m 23 years old, working in a petrol station, and I don’t know what to do with my life.”

Oh. Really?

I very nearly told him another truth: That faint light I see at the end of the tunnel? It’s a birthday cake with 60 candles on it. I very nearly told him that, even with 23 well and truly in the rearview mirror, I, too, have no idea what the hell to do with my life.

The kid was impressed that I was a journalist. I didn’t spoil the moment by saying I was an unemployed journalist. That I’d just spent the previous week sending off job applications to newspaper editors I am reasonably confidant will never bother contacting me. That I have e-mailed all my media mates in town and none of them has even bothered to expend the energy it takes to hit Reply and type “Go away.”

That, right after I bought the paper, I was heading to a seniors’ residence where I would spend the day in the laundry room, praying to the Baby Jesus that I would not have a close encounter of the fecal kind.

Twenty-three and no direction? Ah, my friends, those were the days.

I was thisclose to packing it in. To placing my MacBook in a sack of rocks and dropping it off the wharf at the Ahuriri Marina.

I had once taken joy in writing. Hell, I’d once made my living by writing, in the glory days before newspapers started hemorrhaging money and journalists.

These days, I sit my unemployed ass down in front of my computer and question the wisdom of wasting good electricity on bad ideas.

As a novelist, I’d hit a wall. A huge, hard, intimidating expanse that impeded any forward momentum.

Having grown weary of banging my head against the closed doors behind which black-hearted literary agents sit snickering, I’d edited my book, Brown Girls, for the umpteenth time and posted it on Smashwords, where it is available for sale in several different ebook formats (

There it sat, glory shining from every polished word, on the Smashwords home page. For about three seconds. Until the next 7,000 wannabe authors did the exact same thing as me — posting their deathless prose, submitting their mailing address and then sinking into the nearest chair with a view of the mailbox to await the arrival of the postman bearing a huge sack of royalty cheques.

In the meantime, to garner more attention (because writers are expected to not only supply their own PR drums but to bang them as well), I joined the Authonomy website (, which, to date, has turned out to be nothing more than the slush pile for HarperCollins (and, yes, I am now naming names after being discreet in Publish or Die! Part 8). The site is basically a popularity contest where the best way to move up the rankings is to play nice with others and hope they reciprocate. And where every Forum features one more writer admitting they have two chances of actually being published by HR: zero and none.

At one writer’s suggestion, I also joined, which is more of a blind taste test — the samples you are asked to review are generated randomly and you have no idea who is going to be looking at your work, so you can’t cajole them into saying something nice. That all sounds a bit fairer except . . . except to date I have handed in six reviews and have only received one in return.

That’s the bad thing about being between jobs — everyone assumes you have plenty of time to waste.

What I should be doing with that time — rather than trying to say something (anything!) positive about the drivel I’ve encountered at both review sites — is writing. I’m about a third of the way finished with the sequel to Brown Girls. I’ve got at least four other books percolating in my brain. I have a completed novel from 12 years ago that is begging to be dusted off and loved again.

And then I hit that wall. That great, soul-sucking vortex of frustration where you could search in vain forever for a single crumb of encouragement.

Smashwords certainly wasn’t supplying it — I posted Brown Girls on May 17. To date, I have sold one (1) copy. I have earned $4.69. Yes, that is in US funds. Yes, that is $7.24 NZ. No, I do not feel any better.

The darkness was nearly complete. I was closing my MacBook and eying the stones in our yard.

And then . . .

And then a young lady calling herself newtowritinggirl happened.

We’re not exactly strangers, her and I. She is, in fact, the owner of the only ebook copy of Brown Girls ever sold. But buying something and liking it can be two different things.

Fortunately for my ego — and my MacBook and any sea critters in Ahuriri Harbour — newtowritinggirl appears to have enjoyed her adventures with Jack Nolan and Nurse Heather and Maina.

She sent this comment to my blog page: “I read it. I loved it. I will rave about it to anyone that listens!”

She posted this entry on her own blog (

The book was Brown Girls by John Wesley Ireland.  I read a review of it at Workinggirlreviews and had to read it from this.  I don’t know if it was the setting of the novel, the plot or the review, but I knew I had to read it.  Smashwords give you the first 20% free, a very good idea – especially in this case.  Ireland couldn’t have timed it better if he tried.  The last page of the 20% left you on  a cliff hanger.  I had to buy it to find out more.  HAD TO.  I’m very glad I did, it was great. I’ll do a full review of it when I have a little more time.

Today I am feeling better about life. Today, I am friends again with my computer. Today, I want to return to the Cook Islands, or Gisborne or New York state or Greece or B.C. — to wherever my next book is  set.

Today, I am a writer again.

Thanks, newtowritinggirl. Thanks for the puff of oxygen you breathed onto the dying embers of my creativity.

Should we ever meet, dinner’s on me. Anything you want.

Just as long as it doesn’t cost any more than $4.69 US.

Attention, ladies: I’m using this blog posting to conduct a poll.

Please tell me which of the following titles makes you go all weak in the knees and want to swoon in my presence:

a) Sir John

b) Baron John

c) Lord John

d) Your Grace

d) The Most Majestic Ruler of Many Fiefdoms

Personally, I’m going for e) King John. Because, let’s face it, we all know it’s good to be king. Plus there’s that whole concubine thing that’s always fascinated me.

What’s put the shine on my armor these days, you might well be asking.

It’s simple really, at least to me. I’m not so sure about you lowly peasants and dung-speckled country folk.

You see, I’ve recently enjoyed a close encounter of the royalty kind. Not that I like to drop names or anything, but let’s just say the fellow’s initials were Prince Edward and the brush with the blue of blood came during his visit to B.C. earlier this month.

Actually, I didn’t personally have the close encounter — it was one of my stories that was so honored.

In 2004, I met a First Nations carver named George Van Meer and proceeded to write about this very talented man for a magazine called Sounder Profiles.

Skip ahead five years and George was chosen to present one of his carvings to the prince. The carving was accompanied by a framed copy of my story.

And, yes, if you want to go all picky on me, that pesky frame will most likely prevent the royal fingers from actually caressing my words. But we don’t let trivial matters such as details poop the party here on Planet Man. Which would explain why I’m now pretty much famous and expect to be treated as befits my new station in life.

And before you turn your heads — thou foul knaves! Thou cottars and husbandmen! — and snicker into your poncy sleeves, ask yourself who among you coarse commonors has their words stored in the Royal Gift Closet, between the mummified kangaroo and the witch doctor’s amulet from Botswana.

No? Just as I surmised. Hah and double-hah!

I’m reasonably positive an accolade of this magnitude gives me permission to drive through town, honking the horn while waving at all the loyal subjects of the Commonwealth. Some of them actually wave back. Although, considering most of them are using but one finger, I’m not sure they understand the true grandness of my accomplishment.

The problem obviously stems from the fact New Zealand — thanks to a decree by the newly elected government — has reinstated the granting of knighthoods. In their haste to make up for the old government’s obvious narrow-mindedness, Kiwis are now creating Sirs and Dames out of practically everyone who makes the effort to put their hand up.

C’mon, I mean, really, being honored for playing cricket? Hell, everyone who manages to merely stay awake during a game should automatically be made a corgi.

If New Zealand is passing out the royal treatment like so many lollies on Halloween, then it only seems fair for me to step up, point out my byline to Eddie (as we who dwell in ivory towers like to call him) and then take my rightful place at the big persons’ table for afternoon tea. Pass the cucumber sammies, would you, old dear.

Having said that, I will admit adapting to my new status has produced its own set of challenges at home.

For instance, my demand of Viking Woman to drop to her knees whenever I enter the room brought, not instant obedience but, rather, the promise to punch me in the crown jewels when I’m least expecting it.

Which is why, upon reflection, I’ve decided to leave the whole being famous thing to the Windsor Family after all. Before it becomes, you know, too much of a royal pain.