The Kid had Duncan as his guest recently - here's a few notes the Kid scrambled together:
It was one of the great southern scandals of the 1990s. Dunedin's beloved Century cinema was pulled down in 1993 to make way for a tyre shop that's never been built.
A pocket car park still taunts film-lovers as they head along Princes or Jetty streets. While this sorry episode from Duncan Sarkies' hometown wasn't the direct inspiration for his new, second novel The Demolition of the Century, he says the story was very pertinent. "I interviewed quite a lot of people from the demolition industry and it was very interesting chatting to them about it and how it happened." Those discussions helped form the character of Spud, whose wrecking ball is taking down the movie theatre of the book's title. He is also one of the men following Tom Spotswood, an insurance investigator who has lost his socks, suitcase, career, ex-wife and son Frank.
Despite still featuring a main cast of "loser" characters ("I've always been drawn to characters who are a little bit ugly and aren't necessarily going anywhere"), the detective novel represents a departure for the now over-40 Sarkies. "I bit off several challenges here and also had to research for the first time. While I love that I can read my own books and go 'Oh, that comes from here, that comes from there', I thought I'd mined my own life for all it's worth...
"With this, I had to pull a lot of stuff from outside my own life. I'm not an expert on demolition, and I wasn't an expert on horse insurance, so many aspects of the book involved a massive research job. I thoroughly enjoyed all of it, but it took a long time."
He describes the novel- writing process as similar to marathon-running. "A weird mental marathon - you've got to push yourself through, even though you know the end is a long, long, long way away, and the first draft is not one you are going to enjoy reading for posterity." Having taken a long time to get to the writing phases this time, Sarkies set himself goals via a reward system.
"I'd say, 'in this hour I'm going to write 750 words or a full hour, depending on what comes first', which is a good motivation to get the words done so you can knock off early. Setting time goals isn't a good idea because it encourages you to procrastinate." In Sarkies' case, that involved an addictive online game he refuses to name for fear of encouraging others. "I don't know why my brain needs to organise balls and colours, " he lets slip.
He was pretty fit and his Wellington home spotless during Demolition's construction phase.
"I didn't set out to write a detective novel but suddenly it turned into this major piece of structuring and I've always found that the most challenging part of writing. I tried to turn it into a fun process but spent a long time putting cards on the wall and reorganising them - it just turned into a big mess of cards." Ad Feedback Some things are familiar. As in his first novel, Two Little Boys, Demolition uses multiple narrators. "I haven't explored that style of writing of where you play God and get into the thoughts of everyone. I'm quite curious to try that at some point in the future. I do really love getting locked in someone's head, I guess that's the secret buzz of the whole thing in terms of writing prose - getting lost in someone else's thoughts. I have to engage those thoughts, so I guess it's method writing."
With that in mind, Sarkies admits that at times Demolition was quite stressful to write. "When I was writing well that was very painful. That Spud character is really wound up." Although Sarkies currently has no plans for Demolition to follow Two Little Boys' footsteps to the big screen ("I've written too many film scripts that haven't been made"), he's working on projects for both TV and radio. "I've written two episodes for a kung fu comedy for the ABC (currently titled Maximum Choppage) - one features an aphrodisiac duck recipe that causes all sorts of chaos and the other has a fighting fish. It's set in Cabramatta, which is a Vietnamese, Chinese and Cambodian district of Sydney . . . All the whiteys used to be too scared to go there. "When I went there years ago I went to a video game parlour and within two minutes someone was offering to sell me drugs. I think it has changed vastly."
Meanwhile, The Mysterious Secrets of Uncle Bertie's Botanarium is an audio collaboration with artist Stephen Templer and musician Lawrence Arabia. Jemaine Clement plays a fictional Joseph Banks who is on a voyage to look for his long-lost Uncle Bertie who believed he had discovered a plant known to be the source of all pleasure. Having made one episode so far, Sarkies says they're trying to work out what to do with it. "We might pitch it to the BBC or go the podcast route and sell it for $1.99 online."
The Demolition Of The Century by Duncan Sarkies, Penguin, $30.