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A gripping affair

Described as a rip-roaring wartime romance with chilling danger unknown to most, The Rigel Affair is the true story of Mattie Blanc and her love for US Navy Diver Charlie Kincaid. Metropol talks to local author L M Hedrick about this epic novel.


When did you first become aware of Charlie Kincaid?
When I was a child. The war bought Charlie Kincaid to my mother’s doorstep and the war sent him away. No one understands how situations outside of their control changes peoples’ lives. My mother (Mattie) could never find an answer. She married my father, Syd, and I was their only child. Mattie would pull the box of Charlie’s 30 letters down from the top of a bedroom cabinet and tell me their story like she was crying out to be heard.

What was it about their relationship that moved you to write their story?
Mattie pined for her fiancé, Charlie. It was like two lost souls who had the same story in different worlds and a love that would never die.

Is Mattie still alive?
Sadly, both Mattie and Charlie were long-since deceased when we decided to write The Rigel Affair. It’s a work of fiction, based upon true events. When my husband, Bud, read Charlie’s 30 letters, he said, ‘You must write this story’. So, the project began. This is a story of dedication of one woman and one man whose love transcended the war. It was heartache not only for her but for Charlie – a heartache that spurred his endurance to stay alive and fight the most horrific war in history.

In reading Charlie’s letters, did you begin to see your mother differently?
My mother would show me Charlie’s letters, but never read them to me. Only when Bud saw the letters did we read them. I now have a much deeper understanding and appreciation of my mother’s love for Charlie Kincaid.

What do you hope readers will take from this novel?
Beginning our research, we discovered interesting, exciting events that had never really been properly told. It became a historical feeding frenzy! We hope readers will enjoy the Mattie and Charlie story, but equally important is their historical journey through exciting and true wartime events.

What’s next up for L M Hedrick?
We’re about 50,000 words into The Rigel Affair sequel and I have a crime novel ready for the final edit and formatting.

When did your love affair with writing begin?
From an early age. Being an only child, the world of make-believe filled my senses. When Bud and I decided to write The Rigel Affair, we both attended numerous creative writing classes at Auckland University in order to learn the craft. Bud’s five years in the US Coast Guard after university saw him working three years as Operations Officer on a buoy tender. This tender was 1940’s vintage, so Bud has intimate knowledge and experience to portray life aboard the USS Rigel.

The Rigel Affair is available and in hot demand at Piccadilly Books.


Acclaimed British writer hits city

Fans of literature are in for a treat when highly acclaimed British author Zadie Smith hits the city for her first – and only – New Zealand appearance at the Christchurch Town Hall’s James Hay Theatre on 13 November, presented by WORD Christchurch and Penguin Random House New Zealand.



Smith has turned her highly acclaimed authorial hand to race, religion and cultural identity, and her novels are becoming known for their eccentric characters, savvy humour and snappy dialogue.

She exploded onto the literary scene 20 years ago with her debut novel White Teeth, which captured London in all its multi-cultural glory, and she has gone on to an illustrious career in writing, producing novels, essays, and short stories.

Out this month is her new book Grand Union, a collection of sharply alert and prescient short fiction stories which move exhilaratingly across genres and perspectives from the historical to the dystopian.

“Zadie Smith is one of the most important voices of her generation,” WORD Christchurch Programme Director Rachael King says.

“She is a sought-after voice on issues of culture and creativity, but also on race, class, politics and feminism. We couldn’t be more thrilled to be hosting her in Christchurch.”

Smith will appear in conversation on stage, with a chance for the audience to ask questions and to meet her afterwards at a post-show book signing.

‘An Evening with Zadie Smith’ is at 7pm on Wednesday 13 November at the James Hay Theatre, Christchurch Town Hall.

For ticketing information visit




Literary hot property: Q&A with Paullina Simons

Russian-born American writer Paullina Simons has weaved her name throughout the global bestseller lists for more than two decades. Author of the novels Tully, Red Leaves, Eleven Hours, The Bronze Horseman, Tatiana and Alexander, and The Summer Garden, it’s not surprising that her latest trilogy is hot literary property. We caught up with Paullina during her New Zealand tour about what these books mean to her.




Can you tell us about the End of Forever saga and what these books mean to you?
They mean the last five years of my life. Literally. It sounds like a lot of time, and it is, but bear in mind that my books tend to be long and I usually spend about two years on each. So for three books, I’ve come out about a year ahead. This trilogy represents all of my hopes and dreams for my work for those five years. Every writer on every book worries they are wasting their time; that the story will never work; that readers won’t care. So I had all those concerns times three. But if it didn’t work, I wasn’t risking just a year or two. They represented a significant portion of my lifetime of work.
In addition, this is the first time since The Bronze Horseman that I’ve written this kind of sprawling epic love story. End of Forever is everything I’ve thought and felt about love and life and fate and grief in the intervening twenty years.

The trilogy started with The Tiger Catcher, you’ve just released A Beggar’s Kingdom and you’re releasing the third – Inexpressible Island – later this year. How intense has this been for you?
I thought it was a great idea when my publishers first suggested it, and I still think it’s a great idea for my readers, not to have to wait some inordinately long time to read the next book and the next. And clearly I’m hoping that when my readers finish A Beggar’s Kingdom, they will not want to do or read anything else until Inexpressible Island is finally in their hands –because I certainly didn’t! But for me, to revise, copy-edit, proofread, do the illustrations, go on tour, and promote all three books in quick succession, is both exhausting and exhilarating. I love getting the feedback on one book while I’m working on the third and promoting the second. It’s a heady combination of overwhelmed and deeply satisfied.

How long did they take to write?
Five long, tortuous years. I’m still writing them. Still changing words, adding sentences, thoughts, jokes, as the publishers are prying the books from my clutching hands so they can go to print on the final book in the saga, Inexpressible Island.

When it comes to writing, how strict do you have to be? Do you write full time or just when the inspiration hits?
I have to be strict, and I have to write full time. Sometimes I’m not, and I don’t. But when I’m working on a book, I force myself to stay alone in my office for about twelve hours every day, and hope that I can squeeze out a few lines, a page, a poem, a thought, a character, a story. Sometimes there is a trickle, sometimes there is a flood. Sometimes I feel pleased, and sometimes I feel raging self-doubt. If I wrote only when inspiration hit, I would probably never write at all. The inspiration comes from the daily grind of the work, not the other way around.

How connected to characters and a storyline do you get during the writing phase… is it sad to finish a character’s storyline after being so invested for so long?
When I was writing The Bronze Horseman books and for a long time after, I would dream of Tatiana and Alexander as if they were real people. Same thing with Julian and Josephine. I feel not just connected to my characters when I work, I am completely immersed in their struggles and stories. They live in me in technicolor and much of my actual life fades to black and white.
It is sad to finish, it is very difficult to let them go, but once I do, the colour gradually returns to the rest of my life. And afterward, the characters from my books live alongside me as real people with real lives. I often think about where they are and what they’re doing.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get my inspiration from people who say hello to me, women who travel with me, my sister who breaks up with her boyfriend in the middle of the Stanley Cup Final, Olympic ice skaters, Ivy League colleges, my homeland, the prairies of America, Truman Capote, John Steinbeck, and my friend Penny who said to me when I told her I was writing my first book Tully, “Paullina, please, whatever you do, don’t write the parts that I don’t want to read”.
Oh, and I also get my inspiration from How to Train Your Dragon 2, the movie.

What do the next 12 months have in store for you?
There is a trip to the Grand Canyon, a cruise to Cozymel, a writer’s festival in Dubai, a research trip to Utah, and then four planned books that need to be written and finished before the year is out.