LyZadie Design Studio • Meet the makers: Lyzadie interviews writer Michele Powles
Michele Powles and Lyzadie for the launch of UNBOUND, Stories & Poems of New Zealand written by Michele as part of the ReLEATHERED Collection.
  • Introduction by Lyzadie – “When I first imagined the ReLEATHERED Collection, it was always going to feature used leather belts at the heart of the design. I loved the challenge of upcycling these belts into an end product which would redefine luxury, making it more sustainable: positive luxury. I also relished the opportunity to create a product with a profoundly felt narrative story. I want to give my customers products that have depth, that are rich in meaning, whether it’s through the inspiration, the materials, the craftsmanship or the giving back. So when it came to designing the ReLEATHERED Collection I was in love with the fact that these used belts had had a past life or lives with different owners or the same owner. Who were the people who wore these belts? What were their stories? There are about thirty belts in the credenza and over a hundred in the armoire, so that’s a lot of people, a lot of stories. When I spoke with writer Michele Powles about my inspiration and saw her passion for the project, I got very excited that we just might bring these stories to life in an even bigger way.” 
ReLEATHERED Sideboard made from used black leather belts, Rimu wood, blackened steel and polished brass.
  • Michele – Despite training in law (or perhaps because of it), Michele has been a writer, producer and dancer across the globe, from India to Bosnia, Brazil to Edinburgh. She is now the mother of two boys, who seem equally obsessed with creating new worlds (mostly under their beds). Her fiction and non-fiction has been published widely across many mediums and broadcast for radio both in New Zealand and the UK. Michele was New Zealand’s 2010 Robert Burns Fellow and write for both the page and screen with a number of projects in development.
Michele’s diagrams to write UNBOUND.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? I didn’t have a firm idea about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I knew I loved to make work, to create things that moved people, and so initially I worked as a dancer. It was when I was commissioned to make a new short dance work about women of three generation that I realised what I was actually doing was creating material for a written project. And that, eventually, became my first novel, Weathered Bones.

How long does it take you to write a book? It very much depends on the book. Some of my commercial fiction comes out very quickly, in a matter of weeks. But then the editing process takes another few months to hone the story into something I can share with the world. Some of the poetry too comes out all in a rush. But for other projects like my collaboration with pediatrician Renee Liang, it took years, that one took five years, to bring all the strands together.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? I’m the primary caregiver to my boys so things are dictated a lot by the school day. I used to be someone who woke early and wrote until I was hungry, but that’s no longer an option. I have discovered rising at 4am though to be a golden, productive time, but it takes it out of me over time when I have to maintain the rest of life around it. And it makes me very boring in the evenings!

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk? I move my hands when I’m trying to describe something. I am a very visual writer, so I need to see the character, object or world in my head clearly before it can escape onto the page, that sometimes means moving my hands about to put them where the objects of the story are, be they a river, a person or even a leather belt! 

UNBOUND Stories & Poems of New Zealand – exclusive to the ReLEATHERED Collection.

“I was in love with the fact that these used belts had had a past life or lives with different owners or the same owner. Who were the people who wore these belts? What were their stories?”

– Lyzadie Renault

UNBOUND – Stories & Poems of New Zealandis not on sale like in traditional ways, you can only get the book if you buy a ReLEATHERED Credenza, or the Armoire or the Benchseat. What were your thoughts about writing a book as part of a piece of furniture? I think it’s a wonderful concept. To know that there is such a depth of story, of history and thought within the thing that you’ve brought into your home? It’s very exciting to me.

ReLEATHERED Armoire/Tall Cabinet – “I was in love with the fact that these used belts had had a past life or lives with different owners or the same owner. Who were the people who wore these belts? What were their stories?”

Where did you get your information or ideas for UNBOUND? I initially used some research I’d done on historical figures in New Zealand colonial past, and then that spiraled into looking at places with historical events, and the people, all imagined players, within real life context.

When did you write your first book and how old were you? I wrote a play for a group of children I was working with in India in my very early twenties, but my first published novel I wrote when I was thirty.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Play, bake, read, practice yoga, garden, watch Netflix! I have found myself with a bit of reputation for making extravagant vegan cakes, so I am often making them for the charity Good Bitches Baking or for friends.

What does your family think of your writing? My kids think it’s fun but they’d like me to write more books for them! My husband is very patient when I disappear into my head for a time and very supportive. He is a scientist, so investigating worlds isn’t new to him, but making them up from scratch it something he finds hard to fathom!

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books? What about in creating UNBOUND? With UNBOUND, it was a fun process of delving into parts of New Zealand history that I hadn’t researched before. It was also a chance to really stretch my poetry muscles, to see how far I could push them as I usually restrict myself to fiction.

Michele at the launch of UNBOUND at the Grey Place.

How many books have you written? I write commercial women’s fiction under a different name in the USA and have written twenty novels and novellas in that genre, and I’ve written both fiction and non-fiction in New Zealand.

Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they? I have it as a header on my website: Dream, Write, Read, Repeat. Writing uses muscles that need building, just like sports used muscles that we practice and build up. The more you write, the better you get. And the best way to decide on what you love to write, is to read. Read everything and anything and then try and take a step back to see if there is a common theme within the things you are drawn to. Then write that. Write what you love.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say? Writers some times get in touch to tell me things they loved about my work, and that is the absolute best thing for a writer. To know that what you’ve slaved over, often for years, has touched someone’s heart is the thing that keeps us doing what we do.

“I think it’s a wonderful concept. To know that there is such a depth of story, of history and thought within the thing that you’ve brought into your home? It’s very exciting to me.”

– Michele Powles

What do you think makes a good story? Truth and conflict. There is no drama without conflict, so within narrative story, there needs to be the spark of something not fitting right, not working, not being lived up to, for characters to rub up against. And if you draw authentic characters, almost inevitably, truth is revealed. There are universal truths within all of us, and when we read a character who touches us, or moves us to despise them, they’re usually have something we relate to: something that is true to us.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up? I am often asked this by children when I do school visits and I always say I wanted to make cool stuff happen. I didn’t know it would be with words, or, initially, with dance, but I knew I wanted to be part of something bigger that make experiences for others rich, and raw and real.

What are you working on now? I have a few screen projects in development at the moment which is keeping me busy, but I also have a novel to finish for Christmas this year and a poetry collection I want to keep adding to. It’s a busy and full time creatively!

Thank you so much Michele for sharing a bit of your life with us and for writing such a beautiful book for LyZadie Design Studio as part of the ReLEATHERED Collection.

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