Frequently Asked Questions
You have written over 20 books in your career as an author. What is it that drives you to keep on writing?
- The pernickety characters and stories all shouting at me for attention and demanding that their stories be told. I don’t listen to an ipod when I walk, I listen to characters and think about stories. I’m kinda hoping I’ll get all of them told within the next ten years so that I can retire in peace.
- But, George Orwell said it best in his essay Politics and the English Language: There are four key reasons writers write: 1) Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, 2) Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. 3) Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity. 4) Political purpose. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people’s idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.
- I’d like also to add that there is a desire to become stinking rich so that I can pay off all debt, afford to go overseas, afford to pay for my highly talented (and therefore expensive) children’s expenses and get someone else to walk the dogs!
Do you have any modern authors who inspire you? ‘Inspire’ is an interesting verb. I love reading. And, there’s a small kernel in me that hates the talent of the writers I’m reading eg Diana Gabaldin, Maurice Gee…. I sometimes find myself caught up in novels that, when I finally resurface, I’m at first stunned, then grief-stricken and then damn jealous.
As a writer, it’s basically given that you spend your days away in other worlds. If you could live anywhere, anytime, where would you spend your days? I actually spend my days being a mother and domestic goddess (from 6am till 8am), then teacher (from 8am to 4pm) and then domestic goddess and accountant (from 4pm till 8pm). I write in the weekends and school holidays. But, I put my hand up and confess that yes, while I’m making the lunches (and don’t give me a hard time about doing that for my teens – it means we save money and the girls eat decent food) I’m thinking, thinking. But, usually, I get woken up at around 3 or 4am by a scene from what might be in the next book.
But, another answer to your question would be to go to Rarotonga or Hawaii – warm but not too hot. Great food. Relaxed attitudes. Anywhere where this is: flush toilets, strong, hot showers, internet access and warmth.
Where do you live? I used to live on Auckland’s North Shore, New Zealand. We were close to the beach with our house is nestled in a quiet cul de sac with lots of bush (especially good for hunting lions and tigers and bears!) or playing spotlight. Now, after half a year living in Dunedin in 2006 while a writer in residence, and, because we loved it so much we have moved to Dunedin to stay. My favourite thing to say in mihi is this: I whanau ahau ki Ōtautahi engari i tipu ake au ki wīwā ki wāwā (I was born in Christchurch but I grew up all over the place!)
What sorts of books do you like to read? Mostly children’s books eg. Fleur Beale, David Hill, Tessa Duder, etc. I read what my daughters and students read so I can keep up with them. Fantasy is hard for me cos intelligent people read Fantasy and I don’t think I’m that clever. I read as many New Zealand authors I can.
Do you have a favourite author? I don’t have a favourite, but I will always grab a new book by any New Zealand author. Maurice Gee (the writer I want to be), Vanda Symon, David Hill, Fleur Beale, Brigid Lowry, Brian Falkner, Joanna Orwin, in fact, most NZ children's writers (like Tessa Duder). Also, John Green, John Marsden, Diana Gabaldin, Marian Keyes, hmm - sorry, I could keep going.
How do you think up your ideas? Something usually happens around me and I go ‘Oh, I wonder what happen if?’
What is the best thing about being an author? People saying – I’ve read your/that book! I loved it.
Do you have any pets? Two cats – one tabby and one fluffy. Two border collies – boy and girl. One horse, Dan.
Do you have a favourite colour? Blue
Do you have a favourite food? Chocolate and fresh bread - hmmmmm
Do you have a favourite movie? Hmmmm? I love movies, but I forget them. I know I liked 'The Shawshank Redemption' and Disney's 'Cinderella'. I watch a lot of dvds and love going to the movies. I have been known to spend a WHOLE day watching DVDs
What is the most fun thing about being an author? Getting letters from people and writing funny bits.
Where do you like to go on your holidays? Somewhere different every year. We’ve been to most places in New Zealand and have a HUGE map which we’ve documented our travels. In the last few years, we, as a family have enjoyed exploring Central Otago. Our favourite place at the moment is Naseby.
What was the naughtiest thing you ever did at school? I was very naughty at school and used to get into a lot of trouble. I wrote a mean letter to a teacher once who growled at my best friend. It made the teacher really sad and I felt terrible.
Who inspired you? When I was a kid, my teachers. Later, a group of friends who also wanted to be writers, we read our work to each other and discussed our storylines – it was very helpful.
What advice would you give an aspiring young writer? I got given this advice and I hated it, but it’s true: read; write a lot; and give your work time to settle and then go back and edit out the unnecessary stuff.
What were you like at school? Chatty; bossy; naughty when in high school. Read some of my novels to get an idea of my behaviour.
What was your favourite/most hated subject at school? Favourite: English. Most hated: Maths (because I had awful!!! teachers)
What was the book you most loved as a child? The Silver Brumby series by Elyne Mitchell.
Which person from the past would you most like to meet? Helen Keller - I did a project on her when I was nine - just for interest. What an amazing person.
What's the best thing and worst thing about being a writer? Best: letters from children; watching people laugh when I read funny bits. Worst: getting a sore wrist; bad reviews.
If you weren't a writer, what would you like to be? Someone who has a clean and tidy house!
What advice would you give to aspiring writers? Read and write - often - all the time. Write and read - always