‘Organic’ plots as grower-author branches out in diverse directions

Teacher-cum-author Clyde Sutton reckons the writing of his first published book ‘William’ was an “organic” process – much like the growing of trees on his 16 hectare Te Mata lifestyle block where he and wife Diane have brought up their two sons.

No surprise then that the couple have set up a mini-publishing company called Living Tree Press to handle the distribution and marketing of this and a few other books Clyde has on the go, the second of which is already with an independent editor up in Auckland.

Clyde plants trees simply to better the world, he says. “They’re such an asset to the planet.”

And the fourth-degree black belt aikido enthusiast writes books to “reflect my philosophy on life”.

‘William’ is a 170-page work of fiction that doesn’t fit into any genres, Clyde explains. It’s a cross between social comment and sci-fi in which he has used his extensive knowledge of aikido – a non-violent, “intuitive” way of living – to trace the life of a soldier suffering post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq.

The American army veteran has a breakdown, practises meditation and experiences an altered consciousness which changes his world. He also falls into a reluctant friendship with a young woman who helps him overcome his personal demons.

Clyde says he clearly dreamt the start and end of the book – “almost like my subconscious” – but it took a long time before that dream looked like a book plot. It was about a 15-year process, he calculates, from the time his sons were preschoolers until they were in their teens.

He used to carry the draft around on his computer while commuting from his Waimaunga Road farmlet as a teacher at Fraser High School and as an aikido instructor at a dojo in Hamilton.

The plot grew organically, says Clyde; it had its own momentum and kept “surprising” him by going in different directions part-way through from what he expected. “It’s not formulaic.”

Pulling the whole manuscript together a few years ago took a lot of time and expense, the 60 year old master’s graduate adds, and he wasn’t happy with the end result. Koehler Books publishing company in Virginia had put an American slant on Clyde’s Kiwi style so he had it re-edited recently with PressGang, reputed self-publishing experts in New Zealand.

He says the story is both complex, in that it has a double or parallel timeline, and simple in that it’s a mindful read – with William seeking solace in the Japanese discipline of aikido – rather than being purely for entertainment.

Clyde’s second book – which is again social commentary but minus the sci-fi – is now with PressGang, a third book is “in abeyance” and his fourth is shaping up.

It’s called ‘The Silent Wizard’ and is based on a “celtic” version of Mt Karioi.

His inspiration? “I love New Zealand and the bush.”

“And Raglan,” he adds, having lived here the past 20 years.

Edith Symes

*’William’ is stocked locally at Atamira and Raglan Book & Gift Centre.