Category Archives: NZ Book Month 2013

Fast Five with Kath Beattie

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

I’ve been writing since I was a small girl. Telling stories is just something I do and want to do and as a small child had to do. We didn’t have many books…we were poor (as many were way back then) so we wrote our own stories (and illustrated them!). We loved writing to the children’s page of the NZ Herald…and later as I grew I wrote stories for the local newspapers and various magazines.

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

I think the greatest fun is finding a way to tell a story in a new way or to find a new and different character. I still love the story I wrote where one of the characters in the story talks to me the writer! She gets mad because she doesn’t want to say what I want her to say! So I threaten to write her out of the story…sadly the story has never been published!

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

I always dislike this sort of question. I love many many books for many many different reasons. And there are SO many marvellous books written by New Zealanders.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

Again I have many reasons for loving NZ. I particularly love the outdoors…our beautiful wild coastline, the lush and glorious bush, rugged mountains and hills country and the growing interest in our ‘wildlife’. I also love that we have so so many opportunities for education, sport, the arts etc. and rejoice that we can have very full and interesting lives as well as helping the less advantaged.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

When I was much much younger I used to find libraries a little daunting…no longer.  Libraries these days are so welcoming. The staff are wonderfully helpful and almost any book we would like to read a librarian can find it or order it for us. Libraries don’t just have books…there are CDs and now electronic readers. I have written a couple of historical fiction books and the archivists at the libraries I have visited have been wizards at finding me information. Libraries are busy friendly places. Make sure you get to know yours. The books are free as well!!

Kath Beattie is the author of two books in the My New Zealand Story series, Gumdigger and Cyclone Bola (released this month).  Kath has also had her stories published in anthologies, including Dare and Double Dare and Mischief and Mayhem.

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Fast Five with Sarah Johnson

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

Stories are one of my favourite things in the whole world (as are books), so it made sense to me that I would enjoy writing them, and I do. I have carried the stories I read as a child with me into adulthood, and as I got older I read stories that I considered so incredibly beautiful (or moving, or sometimes funny) they were like sunsets or landscapes or other natural wonders. That’s a pretty amazing impact to have, and I wanted to give it a try. Imagine being able to create something that had that effect on another person! I haven’t managed it yet, but I’m still trying.

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Writing stories. Entering, and dwelling in, the fabulous zone they come from. Playing with the words (endlessly) until they make patterns and poems on the page.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

Oh, hard. For children, it’s probably Peter and the Pig by Simon Grant, because every single time I read it, I laugh. I wish I could write something that funny! For adults, anything by Patricia Grace, but then she writes wonderfully for children too.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

The colour and clarity of the light, the emptiness of the sky, the smell and the air of the bush. I lived in Scotland for a while and these were the things I missed. They were in my bones and they sung to me while I was away.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

How excited I feel every time I enter one. All that interest, all those stories, all that knowledge, sitting on a shelf waiting for me to find it. And knowing that I’m going to walk out the door with a book in my hand and a new possibility in my life. Libraries are portals. They should house them in a tardis.

Sarah Johnson is the author of Ella and Ob and the winner of the 2011 Joy Cowley Award, Wooden Arms.  Sarah has also written novels and short stories for grown-ups.

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Guest Author: Barbara Else on The Queen and the Nobody Boy

I’m very lucky today to be joined by New Zealand author Barbara Else.  As well as writing novels for adults and editing several short story collections for children, Barbara is the author of the magical adventure stories set in the land of Fontania, The Traveling Restaurant and The Queen and the Nobody Boy.  Barbara has written a wonderful post all about The Queen and the Nobody Boy and her wonderful new character, Hodie.

 

When you start work on a new story, usually you decide on the main character at once. But sometimes you might find your first choice isn’t the right one. It’s perfectly ok to change your mind.

This happened to me with my latest novel the second tale of Fontania, The Queen and the Nobody Boy. The obvious choice for main character was the Queen.  In the first tale, her brother has a series of adventures when he turns twelve. I thought that when she turned twelve, little Sibilla would have adventures of her own.  Because I didn’t want to simply repeat the same sort of story, I came up with the ‘nobody boy’ Hodie, who is the odd-job boy at the Grand Palace. I thought that I would use him as the main character for some sections and Sibilla in others.  The technical way to put this is, I would use two point of view characters.

Being a queen, Sibilla has some big problems – people gossip about her and keep expecting her to do great things. That can be very hard for a person to cope with. But when I wrote about her in her point of view she sometimes sounded too sugary (argh!). Sometimes she sounded like a spoiled brat (double argh!). I also worried that because she’s already a queen, readers might have thought, What does she have to complain about? Did I think she was sugary or a spoiled brat? Definitely not. But writing from her point of view didn’t show her in the right way.

For me, the passion and grip of story come from the troubled heart of the character. In his sections of the story Hodie was working well as a character in this way. So I rewrote the whole story in his point of view, in his thoughts, in the way he sees everything (even though it is 3rd person). Through his eyes, Sibilla began to shine. She became more interesting and much braver.  She became more vulnerable and charming in her own often very funny way. The whole story raced on much more smoothly.  That’s part of the fun of writing – gradually figuring the best way to tell your stories.

You can read my review of The Queen and the Nobody Boy here on the blog.

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Fast Five with Lindy Fisher

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

I can’t seem to help making images. I’ve done it forever! I enjoy texture and colour and playing with it. Sometimes my images are used to illustrate children’s stories, sometimes to feature on NZ postage stamps and other times on peoples walls in their homes.

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Being able to do what I love for my job and introducing other people to the fun I have so they can enjoy it too. Either using their imagination to interpret my pictures or using my techniques to make their own new ones.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

Always the one I am working on or have just had published. At the moment it is “Remember that November” by Jennifer Beck.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

Living by the sea on its gorgeous coast line under some pohutakawa trees.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

That books are free! BUT I never want to take them back!!

Lindy Fisher is an illustrator who has created the illustrations for stories by Jennifer Beck and Dot Meharry, including Nobody’s Dog, A Present from the Past, and Remember That November.

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Fast Five with Mandy Hager

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

It’s the way I best communicate and helps me to unravel all the issues that concern me.

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Sharing ideas and experiences with readers – and researching lots of things that fascinate me. I also have to add the magical way that my sub-conscious can deliver up thoughts and images that I didn’t know were in my head until they suddenly present themselves!

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book? 

Shonaugh Koea’s ‘Sing to me, Dreamer.’

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

The dry, understated kiwi humour. The environment. What Māori culture has gifted to us all.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

They allow anyone who can read, listen or interpret pictures to enter new worlds through shared stories and knowledge.

Mandy Hager is an award-winning author who has written novels for young adults and adults, non-fiction resources for youth, scripts and short stories.  Her books include Smashed, the Blood of the Lamb Trilogy, and her most recent book, Nature of Ash.

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Fast Five with Donovan Bixley

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

I wanted to illustrate things that I was really interested in, which doesn’t always happen when you illustrate other author’s stories. So I decided to write my own stories.

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Coming up with ideas is very exciting. The hard part is the months and years it take to make those ideas good enough. Through a lot of hard work they get turned into a finished book.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book? 

“Sydney and the Sea Monster” by David Elliot. I also love “The Word Witch” by Margaret Mahy and David Elliot.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

I love that we’re a small country, with a population not much bigger than a city in most countries. New Zealanders are fairly humble and relaxed people on the whole, and not too stressed out. I love being able to enjoy our lakes and mountains and coasts with my family.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

I like browsing the shelves and finding books that I would not normally look at. I still like to get reference books from the library. The Internet is not quite the same.

Looky BookDonovan Bixley is an author and illustrator who has created the illustrations for his own books and for books by other authors.  He has created Kiwi versions of The Wheels on the Bus and Old MacDonald’s Farm, and his latest book is the wonderful Kiwi-themed puzzle book, The Looky Book.  Donovan has also illustrated Brian Falkner’s Northwood and Maddy West and the Tongue Taker, and created the Dinosaur Rescue series with Kyle Mewburn.

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Picture Book Nook: The Silly Goat Gruff by Scott Tulloch

The Silly Goat Gruff by Scott Tulloch is the second fairytale retelling that Scholastic New Zealand have published this month and it’s absolutely brilliant.  Scott Tulloch presents a version of The Three Billy Goats Gruff that you’ve never heard before.

In The Silly Goat Gruff there are three goats called Willy, Billy and Silly Goat Gruff who want to get to the other side of the bridge, where there is lush, green grass.  They get sick of nibbling on pine cones and chewing on pebbles and so they each try to cross the bridge.  But we all know that there is a mean, smelly troll living under this bridge and he’s also hungry.  Just when you think you know how the story goes, Scott turns it on its head.

The Silly Goat Gruff is a hilarious retelling of the classic story, with a twist in the tale that you won’t see coming.  The rhyming text flows perfectly, making it a fun story to read aloud.  Scott uses some wonderful language throughout the story, words like leer, sneered and smithereens, that many children may not have heard before.  I love some of the phrases that Scott uses too, like ‘What the dickens are you doing?’ and ‘I’m scarcely a snack with salad and fries.’  The distinct characters in the story make it ideal for acting out in class, or for a librarian like me to do some great funny voices.  The twist in the story made me laugh out loud because it’s so funny and totally silly.  Needless to say, Silly Goat Gruff has some hidden talents that come in very handy when facing a hungry troll.

Scott’s illustrations add extra silliness and humour to the story.  Silly Goat Gruff doesn’t look the brightest or most handsome goat on the mountain, but I love the way Scott has drawn him, with his tongue hanging out, crooked teeth, and wonky eyes.  I’m sure if you were a troll you wouldn’t feel threatened by him in the slightest.  The moral of the story though is that looks can be deceiving and you shouldn’t judge anyone by how they look.  I also really like Scott’s troll, who looks both scary and cuddly.

4 out of 5 stars

The Silly Goat Gruff is another wonderful New Zealand book that you could borrow from your library or buy from a bookshop (using your NZ Book Month $5 voucher) to share during NZ Book Month. 

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Fast Five with Tania Hutley

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

I think most writers start by being enthusiastic readers, and I’m no different.  Through reading I discovered how much I loved the feeling of falling into another world, of living another life, becoming someone completely different to myself.  Writing is just another way of visiting different worlds – ones that I can control!

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

The best thing about being a writer is when someone reads your book and tells you how much they enjoyed it.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

That’s a hard one – there are so many great New Zealand books!  One that stands out for me is Salt by Maurice Gee. I love the characters and the way he has made the world they live in come to life.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

I love our beautiful beaches!

  • What do you love most about libraries?

All the great memories of when Mum used to take me and my brother to our local library once a week all through my school years.  Being allowed to check out five books a week gave me the freedom to try lots of different authors and types of books, so I read a lot of wonderful books I would never have discovered otherwise.  Come to think of it, that hasn’t changed!  I still love going to the library and checking out books I wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to read.

Tania Hutley has published short stories for adults and children, which have been published in Pick n’ Mix and Great Mates. Tania has also published two novels, Tough Enough and 99 Flavours of Suck.  She currently works full-time as the editor of an online newspaper.

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Fast Five with Rachel Steadman

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

Because I love reading so much. I could never find enough books that were exactly what I wanted to read. So that’s why I wrote my own.

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

You get to write :).  Most writers seem to really like finding out new things. I think most writers are little like ‘fact magpies’ we get to learn new stuff every day and we can call it ‘research.’ For example, through writing A Necklace of Souls, I learned a lot about knife fighting. I read a whole lot (and watched a lot of you-tube videos) about Kali knife fighting, which is from the Philippines. And I know how long an English longbow is – over seven foot. That is taller than most men. Do you know, if you use a long bow a lot, the bones in one arm grow heavier than the other? Skeletons of archers have bigger left arm-bones than the right.  That is why writing is so cool, you get to learn random stuff every day. (Makes you good in quizzes, too!)

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

I have lots of favourite books. It’s pretty hard to pick just one. At the moment, my favourite NZ book is Tu, by Patricia Grace, because I like her descriptions of how war changes a family.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

I love the wide open skies and the white-topped mountains. And I like the way you can walk along a beach and see only your footprints. And I like the way you find strange things in unexpected places. Like last week we went to Hampden Beach, near Moeraki, and dolphins swam past.

What do you love most about libraries?

The books! And the friendly librarians…

Rachel Steadman is the author of the wonderful new YA fantasy, A Necklace of Souls.  When she’s not writing Rachel works for the Ministry of Health and she enjoys hiking, cycling, running and reading.

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Fast Five with Roger Hall

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

So girls would like me. (It didn’t work.)

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

You can get to work in less than a minute.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

The Three Little Pigs by…..me.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

Serious now: the small population.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

They are a mark of a civilised society.

Roger Hall is one of New Zealand’s most well-known playwrights.  He has written for the stage, as well as scripts for radio, television and for children.  Roger’s retelling of The Three Little Pigs has recently been published by Scholastic New Zealand, which includes a play for five characters.

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