Author Nadine Christian Is Pitcairn’s First Novelist
Want to get away? Forget the tagline of a rather large American airline from the past decade. It doesn’t fly anywhere close to where you really want to go. It’s not Venice. It’s not Paris. It’s not Sydney — though that’s in the proper hemisphere, at least.
Pitcairn (also known as Pitcairn Islands or the Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands) has the smallest population of any country or territory in the world. Located deep in the South Pacific, it is impossible to land an airplane on the small tropical island that measures just 3.6 kilometers (2.2 miles) from east to west. Even large boats cannot dock along its shores, requiring residents to paddle out to help bring in much-needed supplies from cargo ships to land.
The history of Pitcairn is the stuff of legends — literally. A mutiny on an English sailing ship called the Bounty in 1789 — immortalized in books, including Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall’s 1932 novel Mutiny on the Bounty, and films such as The Bounty (with Mel Gibson as chief mutineer Fletcher Christian and also featuring Anthony Hopkins, Daniel Day-Lewis and Liam Neeson) — resulted in six men, 11 women and a baby settling on the uninhabited island, where over the years they built their own virtually self-governing society in almost complete isolation. The population has never risen above 240, and today is about a fourth of that.
Such an isolated place, bringing to mind TV shows like Survivor or Lost and a dearth of literature such as Robinson Crusoe, would seem as unlikely as any to be home to a published author. But Nadine Christian is just that: the first published novelist in the 223-year history of human habitation on Pitcairn.
Remembering Love, released Feb. 1, is a romance novel unlike any other. In a refreshing change from recent trends, there are no vampires, werewolves, fallen angels, or other supernatural beings caught up in bizarre love triangles requiring an entire soap opera series (or five movies) to explain. Romance novels often thrive on exotic settings and this one features among the most exotic of all: Pitcairn and its main community of Adamstown.
The story focuses on a woman named Holly. When her foster parents pass away, she soon discovers a shocking secret from her past: the murder/suicide of her biological parents on Pitcairn when she was five, an event so traumatic she erased all her early childhood memories. Encouraged by her foster sister Rosy, she travels to the island home she does not remember, reconnecting with childhood friend Jack. Their old friendship quickly becomes more than just casual merrymaking.
But the star of Christian’s novel is unquestionably Pitcairn itself. She does a magnificent job bringing the island to life with radiant brilliance, showcasing as well as educating readers about a place 99.9 percent of whom will — unfortunately — probably never visit themselves, and a fair number who have probably never heard of Pitcairn in the first place. All the joys — and challenges — of living in such an isolated place are described, and in the end Christian achieves the ultimate goal of any writer: making the reader feel as if they’re there. The reader can almost literally smell the flowers and feel the cool sea breeze blow through their hair as warm sand shifts underfoot. It’s enough to make one want to jump on the next plane to Tahiti and on to Mangareva (via Air Tahiti), before taking a 36-hour boat ride to Pitcairn on the MV Claymore II (more information on visiting Pitcairn can be found at http://www.visitpitcairn.pn/).
GALO recently had a chance to speak with Christian. Here’s what she had to say.
GALO: You grew up in New Zealand. How did you come to Pitcairn?
Nadine Christian: I actually came here on holiday. I meant to stay six months and then return home to New Zealand to busy city life and work….but six months later, instead of boarding a ship home, I was walking down the aisle. I married my husband in 2002 and never left. I returned to New Zealand in 2010 to have my youngest child, and ended up having to stay for the term of my pregnancy, and found NZ too fast and overwhelming. I guess in eight years I was used to the life on Pitcairn. I don’t think I could ever return to the “big smoke” now.
GALO: What inspired you to write Remembering Love?
NC: I actually had a dream about a stand of Banyan trees that started me thinking. Banyan trees are majestic, old and scary looking to be honest, but the kids use them as a playground — swinging on the roots, hiding in the naturally formed hidey-holes. I started thinking about two kids playing hide-and-seek in that stand of trees and being silent witnesses to something horrible… What would happen if one of those childhood friends was ripped from the other, and then, what would happen if they were both brought up in different lands? What if they were reunited and had to find a way to reconcile their past? So, from a landmark in the center of Adamstown, a story of love lost and found was born!
GALO: In what ways does Pitcairn influence your novel?
NC: I think it winds its way into every nook and cranny. Love — which is the basis of the story — is universal. Pitcairn though, is a place both exotic and unusual. People know the story of HMAV Bounty and the Christian/Bligh saga, but not of the island itself. Living here and being brought up in a land so far away I can appreciate the pure beauty of this island, and blend its culture and language into the story in a natural way.
GALO: What is the most important thing you hope readers take away from Remembering Love?
NC: Enjoyment first of all. I’m a great reader myself and know the joy of closing a book and realizing you’ve been in a wholly different place for a few hours. I hope that using the Pitcairn world as a backdrop of my love story, it will take them to my world for a while.
GALO: Everyone has a slightly different approach to writing. What is the writing process like for you?
NC: I’m a fly by the seat of my pants writer — or was. I tended to think about or even dream about a storyline and just have to write, no outline or rough draft to go by. As I’ve learnt and grown in my writing, I’ve started to map out where I wanted to go. With my latest novel, I woke up from an extremely vivid dream and had to write it down immediately — and for the first time had a whole outline from start to finish. With its sequel, I wrote out the basis of the storyline chapter by chapter, writing from there. Sometimes my characters do or say something that takes me completely off track, and gives the story a completely new twist, but I run with it letting them tell me where they want to go. It keeps the story from going stale, and gives them their head to steer the story more naturally.
(Interview continued on next page)