French writer Olivier Bleys combines astronomy and art in New Zealand novel

March 2009 — Award winning novelist Olivier Bleys returned to France this week, having made substantial progress on his latest work during his New Zealand stay.

Author of 12 books (including six historical novels) that have been translated into nine languages, Olivier used his six month stint as writer in residence at Wellington’s Randell Cottage to tackle his first contemporary novel.

Set in present day New Zealand, the novel combines meteorites and an exhibition of drawings by Piranese at Victoria University’s Adam Art Gallery, an eccentric astronomer based at Lake Tekapo, and an art specialist from France.

“I didn’t spend most of my time writing,” Olivier says. “It was important for me to travel and research my book.”

In the well loved Audi car he purchased here, Olivier covered more than 8,000 kilometres.

“You are lucky in New Zealand,” Olivier says. “It’s still possible to get off the beaten track here, and to feel that you’re finding things out for yourself. In France, there are always guide books telling you where to go for the best view.”

With his research and a good chunk of the writing done, Olivier expects to complete the novel on returning to his home town of Bordeaux.

“Once I have spent enough time thinking and preparing, the writing happens quite quickly,” he says. “I like to write to meet a deadline, and I think I can finish this work by July.”

Olivier’s most recent novel is being launched while he is flying back to France, and his next project?

“After that, I’m planning a science fiction work,” he says,” which will be another new departure for me.”