Chris Tse has worked in various editorial and publishing roles over the last 12 years. As a writer, his work has been widely published in New Zealand and overseas. He’s the author of How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes (named Best First Book of Poetry at the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards) and He’s So MASC, both published by Auckland University Press. Chris is also an occasional blogger for the Wellington On a Plate food festival.
1) Firstly, how did you get into the world of publishing? Why did you choose publishing and not just writing?
Even though I knew I wanted a career with words, I didn’t set out to enter the world of publishing (and I knew that full-time writing at that stage in my life wouldn’t be enough to pay the bills!). My first job out of university ended up being with LexisNexis, which became a crash course in not just editing but the world of legal publishing. I think having a writing background has helped me a lot while working in publishing – it’s helped me to see both sides of an issue or problem.
2) You’re on the Whitireia Publishing Advisory Committee; how did that come about?
One of my former colleagues is also on the committee and suggested me. A lot of graduates of the publishing programme do end up doing related work in the public sector, so the committee wanted someone to represent the public sector.
3) You are also a published author, with your second series of poetry out now (He’s So MASC in good bookstores everywhere). What’s it like balancing a life of publishing/editing and writing? Do you think you are harder on your own work because of it?
I keep the two separate, but they do influence each other in little ways. I’ve adopted aspects of my previous editorial and publishing jobs (like language or syntax) in some poems. I’m pretty fortunate that I can leave the office at the end of the day and not take a lot of work-related stress and worry home with me, so if I am working on a writing project I can put my all into it after hours. I guess I am harder on my own work because of it – I want to make my editor or publisher’s job easier – but when people find typos I get very cross with myself for letting them slip through!
4) What prompted you to write He’s so MASC now?
Something I wanted to overcome as a writer was a fear of being typecast or put in a box, so the book is in part a response to that. It also charts the last sixteen or so years of my life, and it felt like the right time to release those old anxieties and uncertainties and give myself some closure. Some of these poems have been floating around in some form for a long time, and I finally felt ready to share them in this way.
5) Who are some authors you admire and why?
Some of the writers I’ve enjoyed reading recently are George Saunders, Maggie Nelson and Chen Chen. They’ve all got very unique ways of looking at the world and I find the way they create and inhabit space as writers very enticing. Closer to home, I really admire Pip Adam, Louise Wallace, Hera Lindsay Bird and Anna Jackson – the four of them demonstrate how magnificently varied and exciting contemporary New Zealand literature is right now.
6) Finally, what books are on your bedside table and what do you plan to read next?
My Writers and Readers book haul includes Therese Lloyd’s new collection The Facts and Patricia Lockwood’s memoir Priestdaddy. I’ve also got Jesmyn Ward’s Men We Reaped to read for one of my book clubs, and I want to make sure I read Jenny Zhang’s short story collection Sour Heart before her appearances at Auckland Writers Festival.