Close your eyes and travel to Thames, New Zealand, a hidden treasure rich in quiet beauty and precious minerals.
Educator Jan Eriksen has lived and worked in cities all over the world, but to her none compare to her stunning hometown: Thames. Capturing the life and habits of New Zealanders as well as raising social concerns, Eriksen pens new novel, Goldmine Experience.
Goldmine Experience shares the story of a career-minded, single mother who struggles to find love in the beautiful town of Thames, a task that becomes difficult as she continues to encounter men of questionable character. Murder, romance, travel and the controversy of mining vs environmental protection make up this entertaining read.
A single mother herself, Eriksen's own experiences influence the dynamic characters and events in her new novel. Both environmentally-focused and a commentary on women's role in society, Goldmine Experience will have audiences dreaming of New Zealand and contemplating their own views on these controversial issues.
'Goldmine Experience is local to everyday New Zealand life, detailing our life and habits," Eriksen says. 'New Zealanders will love the portrayal of our culture, and anyone interested in armchair travel will enjoy it too."
Author: Jan Eriksen
What inspired you to write the Goldmine Experience?
Jan Eriksen: I'd love to bring more people to visit Thames in the Coromandel, because it's such a beautiful part of New Zealand. I've also written the novel as a form of healing process for the main character, Julia Wells. Julia could be any single woman anywhere in the world. She has to cope with the loss of her husband, and with raising her children by herself. She goes through the trauma of one unhappy relationship, and then finally she gains confidence and is happy by the end of the novel.
Question: What is it about Thames, New Zealand that makes it perfect for the setting of Goldmine Experience?
Jan Eriksen: Thames is perfect for the setting of Goldmine Experience because it's a small town that could be anywhere in the world. Sometimes people feel trapped if they live in a small town, because there's not enough diversity of ideas to be able to think freely. Sometimes people are critical and judgmental, or even jealous, if anyone does anything that's seen as different and possibly threatening to the way that people in the town or village have lived for the last three generations. Thames is unique because it's on the coast, and has real old gold mining tunnels. This makes for a fantastic plot setting.
Question: What do you hope readers take away from Goldmine Experience?
Jan Eriksen: I want readers to feel good after reading my novel, Goldmine Experience. I want them to know that it's possible to go through difficult circumstances and still come out smiling. I want them also to feel as if they've had a little virtual holiday to the Coromandel in New Zealand, to Queenstown in the South Island, to Brisbane and to Noumea in New Caledonia. It's a lot easier and cheaper to enjoy these experiences by reading a novel, though I hope that some readers do decide to visit Thames.
Question: How much of your life inspired the story of the Goldmine Experience?
Jan Eriksen: The novel is definitely fiction. However, I have used events in my own life as triggers to the imagination, and then continued with the fantasy. For example, I am a schoolteacher and a widow. I've made the protagonist, Julia Wells, a schoolteacher and a widow too, because this is my first novel, and I needed to learn how to write a main character. In my next novel, the main character is going to be a man, which will be much harder and more interesting to write.
I do know that some people, e.g. single women who are raising children without the support of a partner, are emotionally vulnerable. This leads to emotional abuse, which can happen either in a relationship or in the workplace. I've expanded this idea in Goldmine Experience.
I did work in Germany for three years before I was married, and I did visit one family in a very small German village where one elderly gentleman had kept his copy of Hitler's -Mein Kampf'. All these books were supposed to have been burnt at the end of World War 2. This man was certain that his copy would be very valuable one day. I think that this sowed the seed for the Nazi plot in Goldmine Experience.
Also, in my school summer holidays, I enjoy being a tour guide at the real old gold mine in Thames. I love taking the tourists through the underground tunnels, because they find it exciting. It's a very rewarding form of teaching. Again, this makes a unique plot setting for Goldmine Experience.
Question: Many issues are raised throughout Goldmine Experience was this deliberate or did they evolve within the story?
Jan Eriksen: The issues evolved as I developed the character of the protagonist, Julia Wells. She has to handle the feelings of being a teenager again when she starts midlife dating. She suffers emotional abuse, and learns how to escape it. Julia raises the question of mining versus the environment, because, as a single woman, she's always had to handle her own money. She can't help wondering where money comes from.
It's important for me to portray a slice of life in New Zealand, particularly in my hometown of Thames in the Coromandel. This is because, when I was at school, we had to read all British authors, apart from Katherine Mansfield. It's time that New Zealand authors have a voice.
Interview by Brooke Hunter