2 Minutes with ...


Wayne Devine is one of the few people I (Malcolm - Ed.) had not actually met before interviewing them for these profiles. However if you Google "Thomas Devine Wellington", the first entry refers you to www.authors.org.nz where information about this week's 'subject' can be found. Wayne Devine is a not-yet-famous writer who lives in our midst, in Tawa's Main Road to be precise. He is a rather private individual who, according to the bio in his recently-published book "Tortolona", now writes full-time after a successful career in public administration. The bio states that he was born in New Zealand but has West Indian roots. His maternal great-grandfather in fact came from Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. The bad news is that his books can only be obtained through www.amazon.com. The good news is that my order is already en route.

Where were you born, Wayne?
Blenheim. Grew up there and left at about age 19.

Where were you educated?
Marlborough College when it was still a coed school. The year after I left it was split into separate boys' and girls' colleges.

What is your line of work?
Started working with Lands & Survey as a cadet. Got promoted to Invercargill after 18 months - "The end of the earth, as I used to refer to it, but lovely people." There for about four years. Promoted to Hamilton. Came to Wellington in 1974 in various roles with Lands & Survey. In 1987 it was dis-established when SOEs were set up. I was Deputy Director of National Parks & Reserves in its final days.

Went into DoC (Department of Conservation) as Assistant Director of Recreation, Tourism and Historic Resources. "After that, largely because of organisational re-structures, it was all downhill for my career, you could say." My last fulltime job with DoC was as a land expert (Senior Land Advisor) in the legal services unit and, during a two year secondment, I worked exclusively in treaty claims. I retired (early) five years ago.

I still work a few hours a week for DoC from home, mainly for the Waikato office. I do volunteer work as an adviser (and chairperson) with the Porirua Citizens Advice Bureau and am treasurer for the Wellington Branch of the NZ Society of Authors (PEN) Inc. The rest of my working time I spend as a writer.

What about family?
Married to Gabrielle with 7 children, 20 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren (all bar 5 in the Wellington area).

What are your interests/hobbies?
I read [no surprises there - Ed.] Picnics - a big interest of mine - Kaitoke, Queen Elizabeth Park, Aotea Lagoon, parks in Tawa. Going to cafés.
The local Catholic church. "Just got myself a diploma in Religious Studies and Catechetics."

How long have you lived in Tawa?
Since 1974. "More of a Tawa boy now than a Blenheim boy."

What do you think is great about Tawa?
"I fit. It's a community I feel comfortable in. I like it being a halfway point between Wellington and Kapiti. We're well-placed to go north or south."

What, if anything, would improve Tawa?
"Given its size it probably has all the amenities one could expect, and having been on the steering committee at the early stages, I'm looking forward to being a user of the (to-be-constructed) Porirua Stream Walkway/Cycleway through Tawa."

What is your favourite dessert?
I do without it most of the time. I would say ice cream if I could indulge in it often enough.

Favourite sports team and/or sportsperson?
Not really a sportsperson. Used to fence, but whoever hears of that these days? I grew up on pirate movies where sword fighting was a great attraction.

Favourite musical group or style of music?
Anything really, but unlike my grandchildren I can't stand rap. I don't listen to a lot of music. If I chose my favourite it would be Italian opera.

Favourite holiday destination in New Zealand?
The Coromandel, Marlborough Sounds, Blenheim and Northland. We spent most of our time when the family was young camping at Kaitoke [past Upper Hutt]. Still like going there for picnics.

Favourite quote(s) or saying(s)?
[He didn't answer this one initially but simply pointed to his favourite quote on the wall - Ed.] ..... "I don't intend to grow old, there's no future in it."
Also [one that applied towards the end of his career] ..... "It's frustrating when you know all the answers, but nobody bothers to ask the questions."
And ..... "Time may be a great healer, but it's a lousy beautician."

If you could meet any two or three people (alive or dead), who would they be?
I'd like to meet Michael Crichton, the "thriller writer" [American author, producer, director, and screenwriter, 1942-2008, whose books have sold over 150 million copies worldwide, and many have been adapted into films. From Wikipedia - Ed.] "Of all the writers, he's the one I'd like to meet."
Also Alexandre Dumas and fils (son). Wrote some controversial dramas in the 19th century, though quite tame by modern standards.
"And, having just completed my religious diploma, I'd have to say Jesus."

What three things would you take with you if you were stuck on a desert island?
The wife. And being a very practical fellow, enough food and water to get by. I'm probably ingenious enough to make a rudimentary shelter. "I'd then regard being stuck as an adventure."

What is one talent you would like that you do not have?
Greater self-confidence, I think.

What is one talent you have that you could not do without?
Tolerance, keeping the peace. With a big family it's an important talent.

What accomplishments/achievements in your life give you much satisfaction/pride?
Family, it goes without saying.
I think what I did in Lands & Survey in terms of setting up new parks and reserves, mainly in Waikato and Coromandel, but also in Southland, was very satisfying.
Also, getting a tertiary diploma at my age - it was like going back to school after a very long break.
Becoming a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in 2007, an international competition. As a result of that I had my first novel published in the US.
Finding out I'm a good storyteller. "I do love writing. It's been a passion since I was a teenager, except for a break while I was totally committed to bringing up a younger family."

What are two or three interesting things about you that local people may not know?
I've been to some of the farthest parts of New Zealand, sub-antarctic islands like Campbell Island and Snares Islands, and flown over other sub-antarctic islands in an Air Force Orion. Also been to Mangere in the Chatham Islands where the black robin colony is. And to White Island, an active volcano in the Bay of Plenty.
I had a collection of poems published in the UK when I was a teenager, and two novels published more recently - "Reversal Point" in 2007 and "Tortolona" in 2010.
I'm a Francophile. Been interested in things French ever since I was a teenager and read the French classics. Going to New Caledonia last year was a compromise of my long-sustained teenage dream of seeing Paris.

What is one thing you would like to do before you die?
Write a best seller. "We can all dream!"

Compiled February 2011.

Other Tawa people