Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Review and Interview: Getting Rooted in New Zealand by Jamie Baywood

Getting Rooted in New Zealand
Jamie Baywood

I seem to be on a bit of an expat memoir mission currently. This is the second book in a month or so that follows a single female moving to a completely new country for a fresh start and new experiences (see also At Least You're in Tuscany). I'm not worried though, I've loved both of them.

Getting Rooted is a hilarious, often filthy (right up my street), honest and really quite uplifting (when you think about it) memoir about Baywood's experiences in New Zealand. The style took some getting used to as it is almost a collection of shorter impressions, sketches and stories rather than a structured, linear memoir. I think, considering the content, this is the best structure for it. Baywood's voice is so distinctive and friendly to the point that it feels like you are sat in a coffee shop having a catch up with her rather than reading her words on paper. Quite a skill that. 

I asked Jamie a few questions about the book and her experiences so read on if you fancy...

1. Much of the humour in Getting Rooted comes from your honesty - were there any experiences you had to psych yourself up to include?

Publishing my story was easily the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done. I barely slept the first half of the year worrying what people would think of my book. I still haven’t told my family or my husband’s family about the book.  My life is literally an open book, but Jamie Baywood is a pen name. I haven’t told my family or husband’s family that I’ve written or published a book. They think I’m just living in the UK working on a MA in Design studying book covers.

At the beginning of the book, I wrote a rather embarrassing and cringe worthy long list of ex-boyfriends and suitors. It explains why the fact that New Zealand’s population of 100,000 fewer men than women made New Zealand an ideal destination for me.  I think readers need to remember this is the dairy of a young, hormonal and confused twenty-something, this is not a travel guide to New Zealand. 

I know it sounds like a crazy reason, but I needed a serious change in my life and felt I needed to leave the country to do so. I started dating my first boyfriend when we were fourteen and the relationship ended when I was twenty-three.  I had never dumped someone and didn’t have the life skills to do so. Between ages twenty-three and twenty-six, I would only date guys I knew I could dump easily. Not surprisingly, only dating guys with clear and abundant flaws that were easy to dump, created a lot of chaos and drama in my life.

When I was twenty-four, I had my second boyfriend who I call Hank, in real life his named rhymed with Hank. Hank had a drug dealer that sincerely went by the name Stank. I took Hank to rehab, after that I had a string of crazy suitors and ex’s.  If you had Hank and Stank in your life, what other choice do you have, but to leave the country and become an author?

2. You faced some really challenging and absurd situations. Did writing them down have a therapeutic effect? 

While living in New Zealand, I had funny experiences that I had trouble believing were true. I wrote the stories down to stay sane. It was absolutely therapeutic.  I wrote situations down that were happening around me and shared them with friends. Most of the book was written as the events happened; it just took me a few years to work up the nerve to publish. Publishing my book Getting Rooted in New Zealand was my way of transforming poison into medicine. I hope that it can help people that have had bad dating experiences or bad work experiences – make them laugh and not give up hope.

3. Your book is non-fiction but readers coming to it blind and without and background knowledge of your journey could easily mistake it as fiction. Do you mind that? And do you think that is reflective of your weird and wonderful experiences?

That’s ok with me. My truth tends to be stranger than fiction, but it is really too weird to be made up.  I had good, bad and weird experiences in New Zealand and California. Although I hope that I have learnt from my mistakes, I wouldn’t change anything. My experiences have turned me into a writer and I am extremely grateful for that. That being said, I would like to go back to New Zealand and give it another try as a writer.

4. Did performing a monologue for Thomas Sainsbury encourage you to keep writing about your life?

Yes, absolutely. I had the opportunity to write and perform for Thomas Sainsbury the most prolific playwright in New Zealand. I performed a monologue about my jobs in the Basement Theatre in Auckland.  The funny thing about that experience was Tom kept me separated from the other performers until it was time to perform. I was under the impression that all the performers were foreigners giving their experiences in New Zealand.  All of the other performers were professional actors telling stories that weren’t their own. At first I was mortified, but the audience seemed to enjoy my “performance,” laughing their way through my monologue. After the shows we would go out and mingle with the audience. People would ask me how long I had been acting. I would tell them, “I wasn’t acting; I have to go to work tomorrow and sit next to the girl wearing her dead dog’s collar around her neck.”

It would be great to return to New Zealand to make Getting Rooted in New Zealand into a TV show with Thomas Sainsbury. 

5. Did you have any intentions of becoming a writer before moving to New Zealand? 

I didn’t start keeping a diary or writing until I moved to New Zealand. I wrote to keep in touch with friends and family.  I saved the emails that eventually became my book.
My education is in fine arts, I didn’t write until I moved to New Zealand. I had a lot of art shows in California and New Zealand and even managed an art collective in Auckland. I was bored with the fine art scene. Everything has already been done before in painting, but I am the only person that can tell my own story. Writing feels like a more honest form of art than any other method I’ve tried.

6. After New Zealand you moved to the UK - will there be sequels?

I’d like to write a prequel and sequel to Getting Rooted in New Zealand. I plan to divide my books by the countries I’ve lived in. My next book will be about attempting to settle in Scotland. I plan to publish it late 2014.

7. And finally, I ask everyone this, what has your favourite read been this year?

May I Ask You Something? by Cyan Corwine.

Getting Rooted in New Zealand is available in paperback and ebook on Amazon:
Jamie Baywood can be followed on the following sites:

Thank you to Jamie Baywood for providing me with a copy to review and for answering my questions so brilliantly. Good luck for the next project!



  1. I love this kind of book - makes me think I could do something like that one day! And I've always wanted to go to New Zealand so this book sounds perfect!

    1. Me too, it gives me inspiration and courage (even if momentarily)!


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