Check out these videos of Derek Landy talking about the final Skulduggery Pleasant book, The Dying of the Light. Derek Landy is coming to Christchurch on Thursday 2 October and you can meet him. Read our post about Derek’s tour to find out all about it.
Archive for Author Interview
April 10, 2014 · Filed under 2014 NZ Post Children's Book Awards, Author Interview, Book Awards, Books, NZ Post Children's Book Awards, Star Author, writers · Tagged A Winter's Day in 1939, April 2014 Star Author, author interview, Melinda Szymanik, NZ Post Children's Book Awards
The NZ Post Children’s Book Awards finalists were announced this week, and I was thrilled to see Melinda Szymanik’s wonderful book A Winter’s Day in 1939 was on the list.
“Adam is 13 years old and lives with his family on a small farm in rural Poland. It is 1939 and the war has just broken out. Russians invade Poland and confiscate Adam’s family’s house and farm. They are sent to live with another family nearby, but are then moved on and put on a train for a Russian labour camp as refugees, prisoners of Russia.”
If you haven’t read this book, you should rush to your library or bookstore now! You’ll be gripped by Adam’s story, which is based on what actually happened to Melinda’s own father. So while you’re getting engrossed in what happens to Adam, you’ll be amazed to know that it’s all based on truth and the things described in the story really did occur!
I asked Melinda a few questions about her writing, and this is what she told me:
TANIA: Congratulations on being a finalist in this year’s NZ Post Book Awards! A Winter’s Day in 1939 was also named as a Storylines Notable Book this year. How are you feeling, and did you have any idea your book would be so widely acclaimed?
MELINDA: I am feeling beyond thrilled. And I am so happy that I have had this opportunity to introduce readers to a little known side of World War 2. You always hope people will like what you have written but this kind of response is like a dream come true.
TANIA: How did you research the book and how long did it take?
MELINDA: My father made about 20 pages worth of notes which I referred to continuously – these provided the main underlying structure of the story. Details were added by referring to books, information gathered off the internet or from my parents. I was keen to focus on a single experience and I think this makes ‘Adam’s’ story a more personal one for the reader to connect with. Research was an ongoing process throughout the writing and the book took me roughly 18 months to two years to write.
TANIA: A Winter’s Day in 1939 is based on your father’s real experiences during the war. How do your family feel about the book? Are they pleased his story is being told?
MELINDA: My family are very happy with how the book turned out. My mother was always telling me to write my father’s story. In the end I saw it as an opportunity to honour his experience and his bravery and they feel the same.
TANIA: Have you visited any of the places mentioned in the book?
MELINDA: No, but I would like to.
TANIA: What new books have you got coming out, and what are you working on now?
MELINDA: I have a new picture book coming out in July (The Song of Kauri, Scholastic) which is a little like a Maori myth and is about a Kauri tree. The illustrations by Dominique Ford are stunning. There is also a Maori version of this book. And I am currently working on several new stories at the moment – another historical story based on the Polish orphans who came to New Zealand in 1944 (it’s the 70 year anniversary of their arrival this year) for an intermediate aged audience, and a young adult fantasy story.
Thanks a lot, Melinda, for answering my questions, and good luck with the awards.
If you want to know more about Melinda and her wonderful books, check out her blog site by clicking here.
Thank you for having me as guest author this month! I’m very glad to be here.
By way of introduction, for my first post I thought I’d share a couple of pics and also a story I wrote so you can get to know me a little.
The first thing to know about me is that I’m crazy about animals. I have three cats, which doesn’t help at all when it comes to writing. Here are two of them on my desk. Where’s my keyboard? Good question! It’s days like this I don’t manage to get much writing done.
As well as writing, I work for a company that makes computer games, which means I get to play lots of games… which doesn’t feel like real work, but hey, who’s complaining? The main game I work on is a virtual world called SmallWorlds. Here’s a picture of my avatar in the game firing a toilet paper gun at someone. Yes, I am working hard!
So to finish off my introduction, do you want a story? Here’s one I wrote that won a prize but hasn’t been published anywhere… except right here, right now! So you’re probably the only kids anywhere in the world who get to read this story. I really hope you like it!
Chemistry in a Yellow Dress
(A short story by Tania Hutley)
Being good at sport doesn’t make me dumb. I can write an essay that makes my English teacher rave. But chemistry’s another thing. All those stupid element names!
Jamie’s top in chemistry and I think that’s why Mr Black paired me with him. “There’ll be no final exam,” Mr Black said. “Instead you can present a project on anything you want. But you have to do it in pairs.”
While everyone else was talking about their projects, Mr Black drew me aside. “This is your last chance, Max. Fail this and you fail the whole subject.”
Feeling sick, I slunk back to my seat next to Jamie. “What project are we going to do?” I asked.
He just stared at me with his arms folded. “I’m not going to do anything,” he said. “Why should I help you? I’ve already done enough this year to get Merit.”
I couldn’t believe it. He couldn’t still be mad, could he? “I said I was sorry, okay?”
“You said it, but you’re not.”
He was right. Just remembering the trick I’d played on him made me want to crack up. His expression when he went to get changed after PE and found his uniform stapled to the ceiling was so funny the whole class killed themselves laughing. “It was just a joke,” I said. “You can’t still be mad. If I fail chemistry they might make me repeat the whole year.”
“It wasn’t personal or anything, I was just being funny. And I had to do all that detention.”
Jamie thought about it. “I’ll help you on one condition,” he finally said. “You get your sister to go to the social with me.”
My sister? She was a year ahead of us and so tough I swear she ate small children for breakfast. And she hated me. No way was she going to do me a favour.
I asked her anyway. She made me beg for a while, then laid down her conditions. “You gotta go to the social too,” she said.
“Let me finish.” Her grin was pure evil. She opened her wardrobe and whipped out a yellow polka-dot dress with frills on it. “You gotta go wearing this.”
“And a wig.”
“High heels.” She rubbed her hands together. “And makeup. I think bright red lipstick would suit you.”
She smirked. “That’s the deal. Take it or leave it.”
Then it struck me. The social was the night after our project was due. I could just pretend I was going to go through with it until our project was presented, then pull out. Sneaky. I got guilt pangs thinking about it. It would be too late for Jamie to ask anyone else, but he already hated me, so he probably expected me to betray him. At least, that’s what I told myself.
I nodded slowly. “Alright, I’ll do it.”
When Jamie heard, he laughed like a maniac. “In a dress?” he kept saying, then laughing some more. “This is going to be great!”
“Why do you want to go out with my sister?” I had to ask.
He shrugged. “I don’t like the girls in our year.”
“Not even Mandy?”
“Mandy’s a friend,” he said. “But she’s not my type.”
I couldn’t believe it! You’d have to be blind, deaf and totally dumb not to like Mandy. “I didn’t know you were friends with her,” I said. “I’d have asked her to the social, but she won’t even talk to me.”
He grinned. “Mandy’s got taste. She doesn’t like bullies.”
“I’m not a bully!”
I thought he was talking rubbish. But later I started to wonder. Was I a bully? I’d never done anything really nasty; I just liked joking around. My mates thought I was hilarious. But I guess some gags might have seemed mean. I decided maybe I should give the tricks a miss for a while. I’d still clown around, but I’d try not to make anyone else the butt of the joke.
Jamie kept his end of the deal. “Our project should be about Ernest Rutherford,” he decided.
“He was from Nelson. Got a Nobel Prize in Chemistry.”
“Boring? He was the first person to split the atom.”
He stared at me like I was dumb. “The first to get a nuclear reaction.”
I imagined a mushroom cloud over Nelson. “That’s kinda interesting,” I admitted.
“And he was the first person to figure out how old the Earth is.”
“How old is it?”
“Find out for yourself. This is your project too. I’m not doing all the work.”
When I googled the guy, I found out heaps more stuff. “Did you know Rutherford invented smoke dectectors?” I said to Jamie.
“Great, we’ll put that in the project too,” he said. “Want to draw diagrams of his experiments?”
By the time it was due, our project looked awesome. And I was proud of myself because I hadn’t played a single trick on anyone, even though I’d thought of some really funny ones. I hadn’t told anyone about my resolution, so I got no credit for resisting. But I told Jamie that I really was sorry for the joke I’d played on him, and this time I meant it. He didn’t say much in return. I was hoping he might admit I wasn’t a bully, but he just changed the subject.
When we presented our project we blew Mr Black away. He asked me a million questions, trying to catch me out, thinking Jamie had done the whole thing. No way! I answered everything right and pointed out the diagrams I’d done. His grin when we finished told me I’d passed.
So that was that, right? All I had to do was pull out of that stupid deal I’d made with my sister, and everything would be great.
Just one problem. I couldn’t do it.
Jamie was a mate now, even if he was still mad with me. I couldn’t let down a mate, could I? And he’d been looking forward to the social. If you ask me, having a crush on my sister was like fancying a poisonous snake, but he acted all goofy when she was around. So lame, but I felt sorry for him. Of all the girls at our school, he had to fall for my sister!
So on the day of the social, I pulled on that awful yellow dress. My sister had her fun painting colours on my eyes and lips, and putting a blonde wig on my head. She’d even found a pair of high heels in a thrift shop that would fit me. I told you she hated me!
Five million times I almost pulled out. But I didn’t.
Walking into the school hall wearing a dress was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Word had got out about the deal I’d made, but no-one thought I’d go through with it. The spotlight was on me as I walked in. I almost drowned in the sea of laughter. My so-called mates were on the floor laughing. Then wolf whistles started coming from all directions. I would have turned and run, except for those stupid high heels. I could hardly even walk in them.
Jamie came up to me, grinning. “Joke’s on you,” he said. “Your sister was coming with me anyway. We cooked this up together.”
Sure enough, my sister hooked her arm through his and the two of them sniggered.
I swallowed. Everyone thought of me as a trickster. Getting mad would make me look like I couldn’t handle it when the tables were turned.
“Good one.” I forced a smile onto my face. “You got me, alright.”
I left them looking surprised and hobbled over to the drinks table. I’d have one glass of punch, let everyone have their laugh, then get outta there.
I’d just drained the glass when I felt a tap on my back. It was Mandy, in a white dress, looking so pretty I thought angel wings might suddenly sprout from her back.
She tilted her head to one side. “You know, I used to think you were a loser,” she said. “But Jamie said you were okay.”
“Did he?” For some reason I’d lost the ability to string more than two words together.
She smiled. “And you look quite pretty in yellow.”
Pretty? My face caught fire.
“Wanna dance?” she asked.
Was she kidding? I glanced around to make sure it wasn’t another joke and saw my mates staring. They weren’t laughing any more; they looked like they wished they were wearing dresses too.
I managed to grin at Mandy and my brain started to reboot after its initial melt-down. “Promise you won’t step on my high heels?” I asked. Not much of a joke, but she laughed anyway.
“It’s a deal,” she said.
In Year 9 at Katikati College, Ashleigh Templeton likes to draw, play hockey and squash, and read vampire stories. It turns out Ashleigh’s also a pretty good writer, winning the Year 8 section in last year’s Beyond This Age national writing competition with her fantasy suspense story, Mirror Mirror, which is to be released this week in Beyond This Age a collection of science fiction, fantasy and horror stories by New Zealand intermediate students.
Initially, Ashleigh’s story started out as something the class was doing, part of their school work, but Ashleigh says she took the story home and did lots of work on it, discovering that writing was ‘quite fun.’ That doesn’t mean to say it was easy. Ashleigh admits that she finds finishing stories hard, a problem encountered by many more experienced writers. However she offers this writing tip for other young writers: ‘Put your writing away and think about it for a while, and then come back to it.’
Ashleigh has two younger siblings, a brother and a sister, but she hasn’t included either one of them in her prize-winning story. Instead, in the tradition of famous stories such as Snow White and Alice through the Looking Glass (Lewis Carroll), Ashleigh’s story explores the sinister ‘side’ of mirrors, everyday objects found in almost every room of the house.
‘Mirrors are quite creepy,’ Ashleigh says. ‘I always wonder what’s on the other side of a mirror because you don’t actually know.’
What does she think about the experience of entering a competition for the first time?
‘Entering the competition was amazing – having a story published. It’s amazing having a book finished, something that other people can enjoy.’ Ashleigh says she didn’t have any particular readers in mind – just other kids her age. She’ll says definitely be entering some more competitions.
Beyond This Age is a writing competition for intermediate school students held annually in Term 4 with the best stories (chosen by a panel of writers) included in an anthology of the same name. If you’d to know more about writing competitions for students take a peek on firstname.lastname@example.org If you’d like to read Ashleigh’s story and others like it, go to www.oceanbooks.co.nz or ask your librarian for a copy of Beyond This Age.
March 9, 2013 · Filed under Author Interview, Authors, Books, Children, New Zealand, NZ Book Month 2013 · Tagged Fast Five, Fast Five Questions, Michael Oehley, New Zealand author, NZ Book Month, NZ Book Month 2013
- Why did you want to be a writer?
I wanted to write since I was a little boy. There has never been a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. I think I was born to write.
- What’s the best thing about being a writer?
Being able to make up a whole world in my imagination and put it to paper. It’s pretty cool.
- What’s your favourite New Zealand book?
Probably the stories of Barry Crump – he wrote really good yarns.
- What do you love most about New Zealand?
It’s the best country in the world to live in – and I’m not just making that up! Lots of international lists have New Zealand in the top five places to live. We’ve got some of the best schools and hospitals. We’re safe and clean, and Kiwis are rated the friendliest people in the world.
- What do you love most about libraries?
Libraries are a great place to escape and find another world to read about.
Michael Oehley is the author of The 4 Powers of Daren Saner and The Vitality Code. When he’s not writing Michael works as a doctor in remote Australian hospitals and loves to travel.
March 1, 2013 · Filed under Author Interview, Authors, Books, New Zealand, NZ Book Month 2013, writers · Tagged author interview, David Hill, Fast Five Questions, New Zealand author, New Zealand Book Month, NZ Book Month 2013
- Why did you want to be a writer?
- What’s the best thing about being a writer?
- What’s your favourite New Zealand book?
- What do you love most about New Zealand?
- What do you love most about libraries?
Thank you so much for organising the interview with Derek for me. Also big thanks to Harper Collins and The Children’s Bookshop.
It was the best day of my life meeting him in the bookshop. I am ever thankful!
So, my interview was very long but very interesting. I had to transcribe the whole thing but here it is!
Warning! (Spoilers included)
Me: What was your inspiration to write?
Derek: Wow, what a first question. Ho, I don’t know because I was always a writer, because when I was a kid, always writing. It kind of just bled into my teenage years, always writing, and my twenties. I taught myself to read by reading comics. Anything that told a story I loved and basically, if you are a writer, you reckon you might be a writer then you are a writer. It’s not something that occurs to you when you’re 27. It’s a burning passion.
Me:How did you come up with ideas?
Derek: The titles are a cross between being really simple and really, really difficult. Like Skulduggery Pleasant, the first book, just nice and easy. The Faceless Ones I knew starting out that it would be called that because that’s what the story’s about. Dark Days was kind of tricky, that took me a while. Mortal Coil, well I knew instantly and Death Bringer, again it’s about the Deathbringer. Kingdom of the Wicked, this occurred to me about a few weeks into writing it and the only title that, I’m not happy with is Play with Fire, which was originally called Praising Cain and that’s what I wanted it to be called but the American publishers were worried that it was too much of a biblical reference. They didn’t want to annoy any religious people, so they said can we not call it Praising Cain and I said but that’s what it’s called.
I didn’t like their title; they didn’t like mine so I just said Playing with Fire. And Oh! We love that! And I mean yeah, it was ok. So if I could go back I would change only one title and that was Playing with Fire.
Me: What are the joys of writing?
Derek: The fact that, I don’t have a boss. Because that’s a big thing. So no one could tell me what to do. But writing it’s also the only thing I can do. I was incapable of doing anything seriously, I’m not a serious person and I’m not a highly responsible person either. So, I’m just living for myself because just like all writers are self-centered because we have to be, we have to ignore people and just live in our heads which suits me fine because I hat people, they’re weird and they talk funny! And I’ve got my cats and dogs and I can understand them, I can understand animals and the fans who are a certain type of animal themselves.
Me:What character is most like yourself?
Derek: Well, Skulduggery is like me. He’s charming, witty smart, suave, debonair, dangerous, unpredictable, cool and yes narcissi. A lot of people ask am I like Gordon. And no, I’m not like Gordon, I mean Gordon’s like an uncle, a doddery old uncle, and especially because when I started the first one I had no intention of having a char like Gordon but it’s not that when I started writing I became more like him, he has become more like me as he’s gotten older.
Me: Any tips for young writers?
Derek: This is one piece of advice I give to everyone who asks me this. If you knock me off the bestseller charts I will hunt you down and kill you with a spoon. That’s my one tip and other pieces of advice include ignore everyone, literally ignore everyone else. You write what you want to write. When I wrote Skulduggery Pleasant I didn’t have a contract I wasn’t paid I didn’t have anything and because of that I just put in anything really, monsters, murder mystery, and there’s fights, there’s comedy there’s this, this and this. If I had looked around at books that are all pretty out there I wouldn’t go oh no I can’t do this because nobody’s done it before so I can’t do it. I just wrote what I wanted to write. And what I wanted was to put everything into one. So that’s what I did. Basically, you write what you want to write and forget about everyone else.
Me: At Age 12, where did you see yourself?
Derek: In the mirror.
Oh! I see, I see, what I saw myself doing in the future.
Writing. Either that or an artist because I wanted to work with comics but I wasn’t that good of an artist, I got kicked out of art college, but writing was the one thing that stayed with me.
Me: Was there any other purpose of Skulduggery Pleasant other than entertain and amaze?
Derek: No, I didn’t write it as any type of career move, I didn’t write it to educate or teach valuable lessons. I’m not concerned about things like that but there is no message. The only possible message that could be derived from it is how to be a good person. Because Valkyrie is based on a real person and I think she is a decent person and so Valkyrie and Skulduggery behave how I reckon people should behave. So it’s just to be a good person, to be strong and honourable, stick up for a little guy no matter what.
That’s my message. I’m just trying to make the world a better place!
Me: What’s the best thing about writing?
Derek: That fact that, you get to do as a career what you would be doing as a hobby. That put simply.
Me: Why Tanith?!
Derek: Because I the first book, I was going to kill her off, but my agent told me I couldn’t do that so we made a deal, I said Ok we’ll keep her, but so long as I can torture her in every book since. So, she’s been shot, stabbed, thrown off a building, she’s been nailed to a chair. And really, being possessed is just an extension of that, it’s the logical conclusion. And I have the right to kill her in the last book if I want to.
Me: Would you consider making Skulduggery Pleasant into a movie?
Derek: I would consider it, it was with Warner Brothers then the writers wrote back and we’re working on the script with some great people, but I cannot guarantee that a movie will be made and that, if it is made that’ll be any good. And as for who would play Valkyrie and Skulduggery, just an open audition for Valkyrie, around the world. And personally, I think I should play Skulduggery. Just motion capture me, CG, personally, I think I should play all the part. Skulduggery, Valkyrie, I could play the furniture, the trees. Just, they can do amazing things with computers.
Me: Are you going to write another series?
Derek: Yes, now, I don’t know what it’ll be. The Skulduggery books: There’ll be nine books in all, and then many people’s lives will be over and end in sorrow but after that I don’t know. I will obviously continue to write but whatever my next series will be it is going to have to tick all the boxes that Skulduggery Pleasant did so it’s going to have the horror, the action, the fantasy, the fun. Characters that speak really fast and annoy people. So I don’t know what it is yet but when I write it, it’ll be bloody brilliant.