Emily Perkins

Emily Perkins is an award-winning writer of novels, short stories, personal essays, plays, and screenwriting. Her latest novel, Lioness (Bloomsbury, 2023), won the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards 2024. Emily’s other books are Not Her Real Name (Picador, 1996), Leave Before You Go (Picador, 1998), The New Girl (Picador, 2001), Montana NZ Book Award winner Novel About My Wife (Bloomsbury, 2008), and The Forrests (Bloomsbury, 2012), which was longlisted for the Women’s Prize. Her play The Made, about emotional AI, was produced by Auckland Theatre Company in 2022. Emily lived in London for many years before returning to Aotearoa in 2005. She has hosted TVNZ7’s books programme The Good Word and convened the MA in Fiction at Victoria University's International Institute for Modern Letters, and lives in Wellington with her husband, the artist Karl Maughan. Emily was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature in the 2017 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

2024 festival sessions

An hour with Emily Perkins

Emily Perkins in conversation with Nikki Macdonald

4.30pm-5.30pm, Fri 26 July, Marlborough Library at Te Kahu o Waipuna, $25

Novelist, screenwriter, creative writing teacher and reality TV fan, Emily has won NZ Book of the Year twice, as well as Best First Book of the Year and the UK’s Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, and been longlisted for the Women’s Prize. She was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature in 2017. Emily reflects on her writing life in conversation with Nikki Macdonald. 

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Lioness

Emily Perkins in conversation with Nikki Macdonald

6pm-7pm, Sat 27 July, ASB Theatre Marlborough, $25

Emily talks about her novel Lioness which won the big fiction prize of 2024, The Acorn Fiction Prize at the Ockham NZ Book Awards. Judges described the novel as “an incisive exploration of wealth, power, class, female rage, and the search for authenticity”. The main character, Therese, is in her early 50s and her life is unravelling; her wealthy husband is being investigated for fraud and she is fascinated by a new friend Claire who has cast aside family and societal expectations. But as Claire’s sister points out, not everyone has time for midlife reinvention. Someone has to earn money, do the caregiving and put out the compost. Warmth and humour - including a chaotic party scene at a flash Marlborough Sounds holiday home - are used to explore questions we might have hoped feminism would have solved years ago and to examine tensions of class and wealth. Emily talks to Nikki about Therese's coming of (middle) age.

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Turning Points

Emily Perkins and Sue McCauley in conversation with Jane Forrest Waghorn

9.30am-10.30am, Sun 28 July, ASB Theatre Marlborough, $25

What would Briar Howland and Therese Thorne talk about if they shared a table in a Wellington cafe? The protagonists of Sue McCauley and Emily Perkins’ latest books have little in common on the surface, but both are tired of being manipulated and shoehorned into roles. Both are seeking freedom and belonging around genuine people. They are making decisions about how to go forward in their lives and relationships, choosing what to keep and what to let go. Sue and Emily talk with Jane about challenges, choices and consequences facing the two characters and, by extension, many other women of a certain age in contemporary New Zealand.  

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