I first became interested in Saint Joseph and levitation in 2013, but it wasn’t until I was fortunate enough to be the Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago in 2017 that I had the time and space to break the back of this novel. That year I was also able to get to Italy to do my own location scouting (though there’s one town I didn’t visit that features in the novel … can you guess which?).
Questions for discussion
- My previous novel was set between the 1870s and the 1970s, set largely in New Zealand, with lengthy detours in Scotland, Australia and the sub-Antarctic. In what ways do you think the experience of writing historical fiction may have informed how I wrote Nailing Down the Saint?
- Aside from a couple of flashbacks, New Zealand isn’t a major setting in Nailing Down the Saint. In what ways do you think it could still be considered a novel about New Zealand?
- While working on this book, I had many discussions with people who’ve had experiences that are difficult to explain or even classify. Premonitions, messages from the dead, poltergeists. How many of you have had a brush with the paranormal? Would you describe yourself as a natural believer or a sceptic?
- Do you think Saint Joseph of Copertino really levitated? How much of your answer relates to your view of the Church, or religion in general?
- I’d nearly finished the first draft of this novel when the #MeToo movement arrived in 2017. In what ways do you think Nailing Down the Saint mirrors the concerns of #MeToo? In what ways might it run counter to them?
- What do you think about where Duncan winds up in the final section (October 2019)? Should his choices be applauded, or does his situation reflect a failure of nerve?