Getting to Know Miriam Lancewood

October 30th 2020

Adventurer Miriam's first memoir Woman in the Wilderness was an international bestseller back in 2017 and she's recently returned from living the nomadic life walking 2000km across Europe. Wild at Heart is that adventure story and we were lucky enough to catch up with Miriam online before she appears at Verb Festival to talk about her journey next weekend!

What is your day job?

Hunting hares, gathering plants, picking mussels and baking campoven bread.

What is your connection to Vic Books?

Wellington's Verb Festival.

What are you working on at the moment?

Getting firewood to bake bread later on.

What's your latest publication?

Wild At Heart.

Can you describe the differences between your travels in your first book, Woman in the Wilderness, and Wild at Heart?

Woman in the Wilderness covered six years of living in the mountains of New Zealand. We moved around like nomads, cooked on a fire, slept in a small tent and I learned how to hunt with a bow and arrow, and later with a rifle.  

After the first book came out in 2017, we flew to France and walked 2000km through Europe and Turkey. We ended up in the desert of Australia where Peter fell ill with kidney failure. My second book is about walking on the edge, about living a nomadic life, and the necessity to embrace insecurity in order to be free.

Now that you are living in Golden Bay and the pandemic makes travel much harder, do you feel your life has become more stationery as well - do you miss your nomadic lifestyle?

Yes, I do miss not being able to travel overseas. But luckily we can travel freely in New Zealand. Soon we will pack up our camp and move back into the Alps. In New Zealand it is great to be near the sea in the winter, and in the high mountains in summer. 

How did you find the writing process for Wild at Heart - were you itching to get your backpack on again?

Yes, we were living in a house for the first time in nine years, and I couldn't wait to close the laptop, pack up and go back to the forest. I love the creative writing process, but when writing I'm re-living the past, rather than living the present. I loved it, but I'm glad it's done. 

The only bad side effect is that my eyes get used to a screen, and once the manuscript was finished, it took a month to be able to see in the far distance again (for hunting).

What has been your favourite or most interesting country to live in?

New Zealand, of course. The untouched wilderness in the southern Alps is an amazing miracle. But we also really liked Turkey. The people there seemed so genuinely friendly. With many people we met along the way we still have contact. Muslim countries are great to travel in, their hospitality is so heartening.

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

I'm doing a session with others, called "The Best Letter I Never Received" in which we read out my letter.

I have written about Eschatology, the belief in the end of the world. I am so curious to see how people respond to it. 

Who are you most excited to see at Verb?

Susie Ferguson - she is going to interview me. When we lived in a house, we heard her often on RNZ National. Her ears are tuned to hear the difference between the truth and a lie and she is not afraid to ask the right questions. I admire her for that.

What are you reading at the moment?

I Escaped From Auschwitz by Rudolf Vrba.

What do you like about it?

I find it fascinating to read about something unimaginable, yet it did happen on a vast scale - not that long ago. It teaches us that even if you support your government (in Germany's case the Nazi government), you can be punished later. You have to decide for yourself what is right and wrong, even if everyone around you says that what is happening is normal and therefore the right thing to do.

Which literary character do you most identify with? Why?

The main character, Rudolf. He is so determined to escape the concentration camp. What he did was ingenious and fearless. He used all his skills and abilities to figure out the entire system: then he found a way to freedom. 

He is my example. I don't feel civilisation is a prison at all, but our mind  can be locked into debilitating patterns. I think we should always try to keep on moving towards freedom of any kind.

Hardback or paperback?

The lighter the better since we have to carry everything on our back, so paperback.  

Favourite coffee?

Favourite coffee? Hahahhaa, no idea. I boil the billy, throw in a hand full of coffee, and that's it. The smokey taste is my favourite :)