Meet … Isa Pearl Ritchie

Isa Pearl Ritchie is a Wellington-based writer. As a child, she loved creating imaginary worlds. She grew up in the Waikato as a Pākehā child in a bicultural family, and Te Reo Māori was her first written language. She has completed a PhD on food sovereignty in Aotearoa. Her second novel, Fishing for Māui, was selected as one of the top books of 2018 in the New Zealand Listener and was a finalist in the NZ Booklovers Award for Best Adult Fiction Book 2019. Into the Labyrinth is her second book for young readers and is a follow-up to 2019’s Awa and the Dreamrealm.

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Q: You’ve described yourself as a recovering academic. Is this a kind of sickness, an addiction like alcoholism, or something else? Is there hope for long-term remission?

A: I suspect it’s a bit like an addiction except you get more certificates and less enjoyment. To do academia for 13 years or so you need to be quite fixated on it, and although a lot of people assume you have to be smart to do a PhD, it’s probably more a combination of stubbornness, naivety and intense curiosity for most people. There is hope for long-term remission if you get sick of the insecure, competitive, and limited employment situation and get a real job.

Q: Your book’s about a dreamrealm, but leans into how dreams impact all of us. What was your inspiration for crafting Awa and her sidekick, Veila?

A: I was going to bed one night and I had this half-asleep lucid dream about a dream creature that visits sleeping humans and whispers dream suggestions in their ears… there were a lot of purple sparkles and stars. I had to get up and write it down, because the vision was so intense and brought together a lot of other things I was interested in potentially exploring, like Jungian concepts of the collective unconscious. I had to finish some other projects I was working on first, so I let the idea gestate for over a year, collecting all kinds of other debris with it. I would also get up and first thing and write down my odd surreal dreams as a kind of inspiration – so that I was somehow connected to that dreaming brain.

Q: You’re shopping for emergency food because of last night’s party. At the supermarket you meet Jean Luc Picard. A) what happened at the party and B) why is Jean Luc there?

A: First I’d say, “hey, aren’t you in the wrong time period?” Then I’d beg him to take me back to the 24th century where I won’t have to worry about money or common ailments. Then I’d look at him more closely and say, “Aren’t you also that guy from Xmen?”

I’m shopping for emergency food because I forgot that I kind of hate parties and accidentally let a whole lot of people into my apartment who stole all the toilet paper and disinfectant and all our disaster emergency food. They weren’t impressed when I told them not to drink my gin and offered them tea instead. I ended up drinking all the gin to cope with the influx of people and I spend the next morning feeling like I embarrassed myself somehow.

Awa and the Dreamrealm is a real treat, even if you don’t like gin or tea. You’ll love it whether you’re from Scotland or the 24th century.