Getting to Know Brannavan Gnanalingam

6th March 2021

We're celebrating more shortlisted authors this week on the Journal! With the finalists announced for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards' on Wednesday, we're revisiting our interview with Wellingtonian Brannavan Gnanalingam, author of Sprigs. His sixth novel, Sprigs is up for top prize in the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction category. 

Brannavan is no stranger to literary shortlists, his other novels include Sodden Downstream which was shortlisted for the 2018 Ockham Book Awards. Brannavan appeared at last year's Verb Festival in Wellington so we caught up with him to find out what he was most excited about ahead of the packed programme of literary events. 

Sprigs is one of four novels shortlisted for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction category ($57,000). The winners will be announced at the Auckland Writers Festival on May 12. You can view all the shortlisted titles, here >

This interview was originally published in October 2020. 

What is your day job?


What is your connection to Vic Books?

I studied and worked at Victoria University for 7 years. Part of that time was writing for Salient, and when Vic Books was in the Student Union Building, it was an easy walk up the stairs. Since then, I've always popped in if I'm in the area.

What are you working on at the moment?

Nothing, except my day-job! I'm taking a break from writing (apart from articles / columns). I have a plan for a book, but I'm going to recharge for a while before writing that.

What is your latest publication?

Sprigs is my latest novel, which came out in July. I also now have a regular fortnightly column for the Sunday magazine.

Sprigs is your sixth publication and has been lauded as a great New Zealand novel. It covers some heavy subject matters - how would you describe the writing process for it?

I spent a long time planning and thinking about the book before I started writing (18 months or so). And then when I was actually writing, I'd walk to work and marshall my thoughts, and then write it in my lunchbreak. The one exception was Part 4, which I wrote in a two week burst when I was in Toronto. And then I edited and edited and edited and edited and edited.

What are you most looking forward to about appearing at Verb?

Hanging out with the other writers and artists and thinkers to be honest! I love the community aspect of Verb. That said, it's an utter privilege to be interviewed by Elizabeth Knox and James Nokise, two artists I admire heaps.

Who are you most excited to see at Verb?

Everything, and I don't want to think too hard about it as I'll suffer from FOMO.

Some quick fire book recommends please!

Ooh.. Rat King Landlord by Murdoch Stephens is great!

I've also recently loved Fortress Besieged by Qian Zhongshu and Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor.

What are you reading at the moment?

I've just started reading Fake Baby by Amy McDaid.

What do you like about it?

I'm one page in, but it's... a great opening! I've enjoyed chatting to Amy in the past, so I'm sure it'll be great.

Which literary character do you most identify with?

Jean-Marie Medza from Mission to Kala.


I identify with feckless, young men, unfortunately.

Hardback or paperback?


Favourite coffee?

Long black.