Dili book launch speech

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Geoffrey Robert speaking at the book launch, Discover Inn, Dili, Timor Leste, 1 September 2015


Bonoiti. Benvindu ba imi hotu.
Hau hakarak ha to-o hau nia benvindu especial ba kolega sira hosi Timor Leste, ho mos hau nia maun ho nia kaben hosi Nova Zelandia.
Hau hakarak rekonyese prezensa iha kalan nee ba Maun Naldo Rei, nudar hakerek nain nebee diak los ba livru ho titlu Resistance: A Childhood Fighting for East Timor.
Hau kontenti los ba foo sai hau nia livru primeiru iha nasaun nebee forak nee.
Obrigadu barak ba ita boot sira nia atensaun.

Good evening, kia-ora, and thank you for coming.
A special welcome to our friends from Timor Leste, to my brother and his wife who have come all the way from New Zealand.
I also want to acknowledge Naldo Rei, author of Resistance: A Childhood Fighting for East Timor. If you haven’t already read Naldo’s book, it is an amazing story. I highly recommend it.
Some of you may have seen the interview I did with a book reviewer in Michigan, who asked me – among other things – what was the inspiration for the book?
I told her about standing in the New Zealand bush above the wild Whitcombe River on the West Coast, and thinking this is as good as it gets.
As far as you could imagine from a test tube or biotech lab.
Which was true – but not the full story.
Tonight, its time to come clean.
The initial impetus for writing this particular novel was my wife, who will tell you I‘d been working on various book ideas for several years. After putting up with my writing ideas and half completed manuscripts for so long, she gave me an ultimatum.
And a deadline.
You’ve got 12 months, she said, then it’s time you got a real job. And if it’s going to be a novel, at least write something that has a chance of selling more than six copies to your mother.
So here we are today.
I completed the first draft of the manuscript, sent it off to a few agents. I got an encouraging nibble from one in New York who said she liked my writing but it didn’t fit her publishers’ schedules at the time.
I got a few rejections, most didn’t bother to reply.
My deadline was up.
I got cold feet.
So I went back to journalism and the manuscript was tucked away in the bookshelf of our cottage in North Canterbury.
Where it remained stockpiling dust until March this year, when I was promoted from being editor of five newspapers to being houseboy of uma ida (one house).
Suddenly, between rinse cycles on the Sanyo Twin Tub, I had the time and the creative space to revise the manuscript, update it, improve it, polish it.
And finally – as another Kiwi once famously said after climbing a much higher mountain — I knocked the bastard off.
It was always my intention to tackle an important international issue – genetic modification and the devious ways public opinion can be manipulated by vested interests – in a uniquely New Zealand way.
To take readers on a journey through the environment, the culture, language, attitudes, people – warts and all.
For those of you old enough to remember the classic Kiwi movie, Goodbye Pork Pie, I had the maverick road trip idea in the back of my mind when I was planning the scenes.
Many of the techniques of corporate manipulation featured in the novel are happening now to a degree.
I got an insight into what’s possible during my years working in Parliament and as a reporter and editor on the receiving end of the avalanche of propaganda.
The book explores what could happen on a grand scale – and what a ruthless corporation could get away with – during an international crisis.
As one of the main characters, Jay Duggan, would say: ‘She’s scary stuff’.
I have many people to thank.
My wife for her patience, for being my manager, for organising this event here tonight — and for not complaining too much when I put the whites in with the coloureds and turned things pink.
Many people from various countries gave me advice, including several here tonight who took the time to look over the manuscript and offer helpful suggestions before I hit the Upload to Amazon button.
My old hiking mate Andrew Budd.
Andrew was with me in the Whitcombe Valley when I came up with the idea for this novel.
The basic plot is pretty much what we discussed over the following three days as we made our way across the Alps and out to Hokitika. I’ve used Andrew’s name for one of the characters in the book.
Speaking of characters, and without wanting to give too much away, the names of several people in this room appear in the novel.
For example, an American television network producer on the take is called Dave Lowe.
Shelley is the communications manager for a biotech corporation, and Joris is chairman of the International Federation for Biotechnology Information.
I made that federation up, so I’m reasonably confident there won’t be a law suit.
With us this evening are also people whose names were used for real estate agents from a house in Mt Eden which was modelled on the villa formally owned by my brother and his wife.
A retired Army major and his wife who own a farm outside Napier.
There are organic food fanatics and social media novices from Creston, British Columbia,
Former colleagues of one of the protagonists – a biology PhD from the University of Berkeley in California.
There’s a diplomat at the New Zealand embassy in Washington.
A journalist from Radio New Zealand.
A no-nonsense Maori woman from a horsetrek base near Lake Waikaremoana.
And several former drinking mates of another of the protagonists – an IT expert from England.
And that’s just the ones in this room.
I hope I haven’t embarrassed any of you too much — other than those who specifically asked to be cast as a villain.
I hope New Zealand readers enjoy the road-trip through their homeland, and that international readers get an insight into the country and what makes us Kiwis tick.
If it encourages some of you to venture there for a look-see, even better.
When you’re up to your armpits in researching and editing and revising, when you start having nightmares in HTML after spending days trying to format the ebook to be readable on various devices, the thing that keeps you going is the hope that one day someone will tap the Buy Now With One Click button.
If they like the story, maybe they’ll recommend it to a friend.
If not, and I do end up only selling six copies to my mother, I guess I will have learnt something and move on.
After nearly six months in Dili, I’d like to think I have a bright future as a houseboy.
Obrigadu, kia ora, and thank you.