DH. Possibly. I’m usually a deep sleeper, so perhaps I’ve been sleeping the last thirty-five years and was lucky enough to wake up just at the right time with a decent book in my hand. So I think in reality, I have to say that the answer is no.
SO. When did you first start writing?
DH. Oh, I think I got the hang of running writing quite early on. Probably about Fourth Grade. Up until then I’d only been printing really.
SO. Perhaps I should have been more precise with my question. When did you start writing books?
DH. Sorry. Yes I misunderstood your question. Well, books were a little late in coming, although I had collected a lot of silly little notes, bits of useless information and the odd poem or two most of my life. Even a song or two. It all seemed to come together around my forty-second birthday for some reason. Just seemed like a good time to start putting all the pieces together.
OS. Interesting that you mention forty-two. Some have compared your writing to Douglas Adams.
DH. I think these ‘some’ you refer to are off the mark really. He was a pure genius. And a very tall one too. I’m quite short and am not a genius, so it’s irrational to compare. I mean, he didn’t like Thursdays and it’s Wednesdays that really peeve me. He did write on a Mac though, so maybe that’s where your ‘some’ may have been heading. I also use a Mac, so I’ll agree that we are comparable in that way.
SO. You live in Switzerland now, but were born in Australia. Why did you move?
DH. As a child I was a perennial runaway. First tried at about four, but had a flat tyre on my tricycle and my father had to help me make it to the front gate. I got a bit more adventurous and had some success in my teens, making it some miles from home on my bicycle on a number of occasions. When I finally got to Sydney, on the other side of the country at eighteen, I knew I was making progress. Then as life progressed, I wandered further. Finally coming to a halt in Switzerland. It is the furtherest point on the globe from where I was born, so if I move one more inch, I’ll be going backwards.
SO. And has all this travelling had a positive effect on your writing?
DH. Well if it is true that travel broadens the mind, I must have a mind the width of a double barn door. So in that respect, I suppose I have a few little life experiences to draw on; and exploit. But mostly it’s the number of street names that I’ve collected that is really valuable in my books. Hight Street Road is one of my favourites.
SO. Would you class yourself as a novelist or a satirist?
DH. Perhaps a novice would be more accurate. As close as I get to a satirist is drinking one of my favourite wines from my district. It’s called Satyre. A wonderful Pinot Noir. So a red wine drinking, novice scribbler would be better.
SO. But you do use humour in your writing.
DH. I have to really. It really was getting far too depressing for me writing about life, reality and people. There was also the research and getting my facts right. It was getting me down. So I started looking at my writing differently when I wrote Milo Moon. Lightened up a little and started having some fun.
SO. So you found a writing formula? DH. Yes. SO. And what is it?
DH. My business. SO. Is it a secret? DH. Some things are better kept classified. With all the wikileaks business going on now, one can’t be too careful.
SO Can I ask you one more question.
SO. But it’s my job. DH. I’m sorry. That was a bit mean of me, wasn’t it. Please. Stop fretting and ask me something incisive.
SO. Alright. When is your birthday?
DH. February The Fifth.
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Derek Haines is an author of fiction, historical fiction, essays and poetry. Born in Australia, but now living in Switzerland, his stories cross a wide geographical range but often draw from his life and experiences in the two countries he calls home.