Annaleese Jochems is a writer, novelist and bookseller from Auckland. In 2016 she completed an MA in Creative writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters. She was the Adam Foundation Prize winner of that year. Annaleese’s debut novel Baby was published by Victoria University Press in 2017. Baby was nominated for the Acorn Fiction Award and won the Hubert Church prize for Best First book at the 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book awards.
Annaleese Jochems was born in Whangarei in 1994. She grew up on a farm in Northland, between Kawakawa and Kaikohe. After high school, Annaleese moved to Auckland to study Creative Writing at the Manukau Institute of Technology. Annaleese said that during her studies at MIT she never felt discouraged. ‘We were empowered to take risks, and stimulated to examine the gaps in our thinking.’
In 2016 she continued her education at the International Institute of Modern Letters where she completed the Master of Arts in creative writing. The manuscript that she produced won her the prestigious Adam foundation prize for best manuscript. This manuscript would go on to be published as her first book Baby.
Baby was published by Victoria University Press in 2017. In the launch speech, Pip Adam said no one who reads this book will get off ‘scott-free’ which in her estimation makes Baby, ‘the most important book since Eleanor Catton’s The Rehearsal.’ ‘This is the genius of Jochems,’ Pip said, ‘The reader becomes part of the reality TV of this book the moment they turn the first page.’
Charlotte Graham-McLay in an article for The Wireless, described the books as ‘prodigious and precocious, a startling and blackly funny book. Its main character, Cynthia, steals her father’s money, and she and older fitness instructor Anahera run away together to the Bay of Islands. The spoiled Auckland princess spends her days lounging on a boat called Baby, watching reality TV, and obsessing about herself and Anahera. Throughout the sparse, taut novel, a simmering cauldron of grotesque sexual and violent tension bubbles up, threatening to explode.’
On the questionable morality of her character, Annaleese says, ‘ I think Cynthia does have a moral compass, but I think she’s like anyone, she doles her empathy out in different measures to different people, depending on her position in relation to them. She has values, but I think she’s very extreme in her way of valuing some things over others – which I think is what it means to be a romantic figure. In the book she comes to feel that extreme action is required, and she’s willing to take it. Then she enjoys taking it.’
In 2018 Baby was nominated and shortlisted for the Acorn Fiction Award, New Zealand’s biggest fiction prize at The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. She took home the Hubert Church prize for best first book. International guest judge said Alan Taylor, described Baby as ‘the kind of novel that lingers in the memory long after you put it down. It is by any standard a remarkable debut novel by a young writer who has set a very high bar for herself.’
In June, Annaleese and her mother Bridget Jochems opened a secondhand bookshop in Newtown called Book Hound.
Annaleese has also had work published in Sweet Mammalian, Turbine, Brief Magazine, and the Pantograph Punch.
Authors Page: http://vup.victoria.ac.nz/brands/Annaleese-Jochems.html
Interview with VUP: http://vup.victoria.ac.nz/blog1/interview-with-annaleese-jochems/
New Zealand Book Awards 2018 Award Winners http://www.nzbookawards.nz/new-zealand-book-awards/2018-awards/winners/
Updated July 2018.