Q+A with Josie Shapiro author of Everything is Beautiful and Everything Hurts



Tell us about yourself in two sentences.

I’m a writer who lives in Tamaki Makaurau Auckland with my husband and two daughters. As well as writing and reading, I love spending time doing hot yoga and going on long walks and hikes.


Can you share a little about your writing process to us?

When I’m writing a first draft, I throw in the whole kitchen sink. I write all the scenes I can think of, all the description, all the ideas. Then in the second and third draft I try to figure out the way the story should be shaped. I often play the scene in my head like a movie, and then try to write it down as I imagined it.


Congratulations on winning the Allen & Unwin fiction prize. Can you tell us a little about your experience applying for the prize, through to finding out you had won?

I applied for the prize with no expectation of winning – I’ve never had a novel published before, and there seemed little chance of taking it out. I didn’t look at my manuscript in the months between sending it in and a finding out I’d won, instead reading a lot and considering what I would do with the book once I knew for certain I’d not won. A rewrite, sending to other readers, possible author publishers who might like to look at it…it was six months of anticipation and I honestly could not believe I’d won when I got the call.


And then most importantly, how have you celebrated the big win, and the success of Everything is Beautiful and Everything Hurts?

We have popped a few bottles of champagne! The advance was spent on flights to the States. My husband’s family live there, so we will go later in the year to see his sister and extended family, spending most our time in Utah, but visiting Yellowstone and Disneyland too, of course.



Can you tell us the inspiration behind your debut novel?

I have always wanted to write about a marathon runner, because I find the sport elegant and filled with drama, and I’ve hardly read any fiction about running that featured a female protagonist. Plus there’s always been this strange tension between people who love reading and people who love sport, which I think shouldn’t exist. I wanted to try to bring these two things I love together in a story.


What do you hope readers takeaway from Everything is Beautiful and Everything Hurts?

To understand that they are beautiful just as they are. That community and support is essential and we should nurture friendships. That our dreams – no matter how big or small – are worth chasing, without too much riding on the outcome.


Describe your writing spot for us.

I have a little desk in a small interior room of the house. There’s a piano in there too, and a tiny cupboard filled with the kids arts and crafts stuff, that is constantly spilling out onto the floor. On the wall above my computer screen, I’ve blue tacked up postcards and photographs I’ve taken on travels – my prized possession is up there, a personalised postcard from one of my writing idols Claire Vaye Watkins that I won in an auction, telling me to keep making art.


What books have you recently read and loved?

Cold Enough For Snow by Jessica Au is an astounding novella which has won lots of awards, and deservedly so. Closer to home, I’ve recently loved reading Ruin by Emma Hislop (Kāi Tahu), a book of short stories that puts power, relationships and bodies under the microscope.


What book do you always recommend to others?

Lately I’ve been telling everyone to read Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin, and

two of my all-time favourites to recommend are the winner of the International Booker Prize The Garden of

Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng and the incredible memoir Wild by Cheryl Strayed.


Tell us what reading means to you…

Reading has been one of the great joys of my life. It’s my exploration, it’s my relaxation, it’s my growth, it’s my fun.


What is the one tidbit of advice that has stuck with you throughout your career?

I’ve been told that writing should feel like play, especially in that first draft, and when I wrote Everything is Beautiful and Everything Hurts, what got me through the hard times was making it feel like I was playing – it was fun to build this character and this world. I balance this with the idea that there’s no excuse for making bad art, so that I try to make it fun but also put as much care as I can into the work.

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