Posts tagged author interview

An Interview with NZ Post Children’s Book Awards Finalist Melinda Szymanik

wintersdayThe 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 Szymanik

Melinda Szymanik

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.

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Fast Five with Nic Brockelbank

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

To fundraise for charities.  My first hand-written cookbook I sold to raise money for the Christchurch Earthquake Relief Fund, and then I hand-wrote two books to raise money for the True Colours Charitable Trust in Hamilton.  “Nic’s Cookbook”, which has been published by Scholastic is raising money for the NZ Muscular Dystrophy Association.

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

The great experiences I have had, like meeting Simon Gault and Brett McGregor and going on “What Now” to do a cooking demonstration.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

Taste of a Traveller, by Brett McGregor.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

The great people that live here.  And luging in Rotorua.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

They are quiet and full of books.

Nic wrote Nic’s Cookbook, which was published last year by Scholastic, when Nic was ten years old.  You can check out www.nicocool.com and www.facebook.com/nicscookbook for details about Nic and his cookbook.

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Fast Five with David Hill

Throughout NZ Book Month we’ll be posting lots of mini interviews with New Zealand authors and illustrators.  Our first Fast Five is with David Hill.

  • Why did you want to be a writer?
Became an author partly because i wasn’t much good at anything else. Also because I liked telling jokes and stories to people and making them laugh and listen. Also (No 2) because when our kids were born, I thought they were so special that I wanted the whole world to know about them – so i started writing stories about them for adults.
  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?
When you write a story / poem/ review, you’ve made something that never existed in the world before. It’s an amazing feeling, and it’s one of the special pleasures of being an author.
  •  What’s your favourite New Zealand book?
I’m a great fan of any of Maurice Gee’s books. I love the ways he mixes reality and fantasy. He turns our world into something strange and fascinating.
  • What do you love most about New Zealand?
I like the light of NZ. It’s bright and clear and very special. I also like the fact that so many of our museums, libraries, art galleries, places like that are FREE! It doesn’t happen in many other countries.
  • What do you love most about libraries?
Libraries are gyms for the mind and the imagination. You read books; your mind becomes fitter and more active. You go on trips that people who don’t read will never experience. Books provide you with this. Libraries provide you with those books!
 
My Brother's WarDavid Hill is the author of See Ya Simon, Aim High, Journey to Tangiwai, and My Brother’s War.

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Romy’s interview with Derek Landy

My golly, it was amazing!

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.

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Derek Landy heads Down Under this week

Derek Landy hits New Zealand this week!  If you’re a huge Skulduggery Pleasant fan like me you’ll be itching to meet Derek when he comes to Christchurch on Friday.  You can meet him at The Children’s Bookshop this Friday (10 August) at 4:30pm.

In 2010 I got the chance to interview Derek Landy, author of the Skulduggery Pleasant books.  He is a really cool guy and very funny.  I asked him lots of questions about his characters, his inspirations and writing.  Read the interview to find out the answers to these questions and more:

  • How do you come up with your names?
  • Was Skulduggery’s sidekick always going to be a girl?
  • What specific books, movies and music inspire you?
  • Would you consider making a Skulduggery Pleasant movie?

The latest Skulduggery Pleasant book, Kingdom of the Wicked is out now.  You can reserve your copy at the library.

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Interview with Christopher Paolini, author of Eragon

Christopher Paolini, the author of the Inheritance Cycle, came down to Christchurch at the weekend for the Armageddon Expo.  Along with hundreds of other fans, I went along to listen to Christopher talk about his books and get some copies of his books signed.  I caught up with Christopher to ask him a few questions about his books and writing.

  • What inspired you to write the Inheritance Cycle?

Boredom, mainly, and the desire to have adventures myself. Growing up, I never wanted to be a writer. No, I wanted to be flying dragons and fighting monsters! But since I couldn’t do that, and since I had a lot of time on my hands after I graduated from high school at fifteen (I was homeschooled my whole life), I decided to write my daydreams down. Fortunately for me, enough people around the world have enjoyed reading them that I get to tell stories for a living.

  • How do you keep track of all the different characters within the world of your books.

With lots and lots and lots of files. I didn’t used to do that when I started Eragon, but very quickly I found myself with so many characters, I couldn’t keep track of all of them in my head. So I started writing them down in a file, along with all of the words of my invented languages, timelines, and so on. It can be a bit tedious, but in the long run, it saves a lot of effort.

  • How did it feel to get your story published when you were so young?

Well, it was gratifying to know that people actually wanted to read something that I had written. And it was really neat to see my books shelved in the library and bookstores just like all of the books I had read growing up. But at the same time, it was a strange experience to go from a rather rural upbringing in Montana to traveling all around the world and talking to thousands of people at a time. Writing and publishing these books changed my life completely, and again, I’m grateful for the opportunities they have given me.

  • The Inheritance Cycle has been a huge phenomenon. Do you feel any pressure from your fans to write something just as amazing, or even better, next?

Not really. I like to think that whatever I write next will be better than what I’ve written before (I’ve learned a lot from each book, after all), but either way, I’m happy with what I accomplished with the Inheritance cycle, and it won’t bother me if my future books aren’t as popular. When I started Eragon, I was just trying to write the sort of story that I wanted to read myself. Moving forward, that’s all I can hope to do. I can’t write to please others, only myself.

That said, I do think you’ll enjoy my next book. 🙂

  •  How did you find the experience of your book being made into a film?

Strange and surreal! I’m glad that the movie was made—very few books are ever adapted into films, after all—and I gave as much input as I could into the process, but ultimately, the movie reflects the director’s and the studio’s vision of the story, even as the books reflect mine. Hopefully we’ll get some more movies in the future, though.

  • What books would you suggest for anyone that loves the Inheritance cycle?

Dune by Frank Herbert, Magician and sequels by Raymond E. Feist; A Wizard of Earthsea and the first two sequels by Ursula K. Le Guin; the Belgariad, the Mallorian, and the Elenium by David Eddings; Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, by Tad Williams; the Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake; The Worm Ouroboros by E. R. Eddison; the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffery; the Pit Dragon trilogy by Jane Yolen, the Redwall series by Brian Jacques; Fablehaven and sequels by Brandon Mull; and many, many more. 

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

Because I didn’t have anything else to do at the time, and because I’ve always enjoyed creating things with my hands, whether it was knives, swords, drawings, chain mail, or books. Also, because stories (both in books and in other media) touch me in a way that few things in this world do, and I wanted to share that feeling with other people.

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

Worst thing? Having to sit down every day and work on the same thing for years on end, even if I don’t feel like it at that particular moment. Best thing? Getting paid to describe my dreams for a living, and knowing that what I’ve written has changed people’s lives all around the world.

  •  If you weren’t a writer what would you be?

A blacksmith, or a professional artist, or a film director. Whatever I ended up doing, I know that I would make things. That’s what I love to do—make things.

  • If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers what would it be?

Hmm. There’s no way I can restrict it to one piece of advice, so here’s what I always tell aspiring writers, regardless of their age:

  1. Read, read, read, read. Good writers are good readers. Read what you love, but also read things outside of your comfort zone, because you’ll learn more than if you just stick with what you’re familiar with.
  2. Write every single day. Don’t wait for inspiration. I only get inspiration about once every three months. In the meantime, I write. I write on weekends, I write on holidays, and I write on my birthday. In short, I write. I do take Christmas off—and of course I can’t really write when I’m traveling—but that’s the extent of it.  Writing is like playing a musical instrument: if you want to get good at it, then you have to practice every single day, even when you don’t feel like it.  So unless you’re in the hospital—and maybe even then—you better write.  Of all the traits an author can possess, persistence is the most important. It doesn’t matter how talented you are. If you don’t practice, you’ll never master your craft. As Calvin Coolidge said: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race”
  3. Write about whatever it is you care about the most. Writing is often difficult, but if you truly care about the subject material, that’ll help you through the rough patches.  And it doesn’t matter what your interests are. Just don’t let someone else tell you what you should or shouldn’t write. If you want to compose a twelve-volume epic about singing toasters and flying unicorns … then go for it! There are over six billion people on this planet. Through sheer odds, I guarantee that there are lots of other people out there who like the same things you do, no matter how obscure they might be.
  4. Learn everything you can about the language you’re writing in. Grammar is boring, I know, but the better you understand your language, the better you’ll be able to get what’s in your head onto the page and into someone else’s head.
  5. Find someone in your life—friend, family member, teacher, librarian, etc.—someone who is a good reader, who likes the sort of thing you’re writing, and who can help edit your work. As painful as editing can be, I guarantee that you’ll learn more from editing than you ever will from just writing. The trick isn’t just to perform (and make no mistake, writing is a performance), the trick is to perform and to consciously evaluate what you’re doing so that you can improve.  For example, when singing, it’s sometimes hard to hear if you’ve hit a bad note. That’s why every professional singer goes to a voice coach. Sometimes more than one. Writing is no different. Your trusted readers, your editors, are your voice coaches. Listen to them, and you’ll improve at your craft far faster than you would otherwise.
  6. This doesn’t work for every author, but I would also recommend plotting out your stories beforehand. Again, a musical analogy may serve: it’s hard to compose a piece of music while performing it, so first you compose it, and then you can concentrate upon performing it as beautifully as possible. So too with writing. Also, read the book Story by Robert McKee. It’s highly useful when it comes to learning how to understand the underlying structure of stories.  If I try to write without knowing where the story is going, I get instant writer’s block.
  7. As a corollary to No. 2 – don’t give up. It’s incredibly easy to give up, and there are many, many people in the world who will tell you that you can’t do something. Well, I’m here to tell you that you can, assuming you’re reasonably intelligent and willing to put in the work. Sure, you’re going to get discouraged, and there are going to be days when it seems impossible to finish a book or get it published. That happens to all of us. Even once we’re published. The trick is to keep plugging away and trying to get better.
  8. And lastly, try to have fun. You don’t have to have fun every day, but try to have fun more days than you don’t. If you can’t, maybe it’s time to think of a profession in a different line of work. 

 

Thank you for reading my books, and I hope you enjoy my future ones even more.

And as Eragon himself would say, “Sé onr sverdar sitja hvass!”

May your swords stay sharp.

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Fast Five with Fleur Beale

1. Why did you want to be a writer?

It happened by accident really. Mum was always writing and telling her own stories and when I’d left home she sent me notes from a writing course she went to. I started writing very short stories for Grampa’s Place which was a radio programme for pre-schoolers. Once you start writing, you get hooked.

2. What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Being able to be boss of my own world. It’s also a good thing to be if you’re curious because you always want to know more, you want to find out why and how. I fear that I’m horribly curious.

3. What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

That’s a hard one! I love Rocco by Sherryl Jordan, The Changeover by Margaret Mahy, See Ya, Simon by David Hill, The Bridge by Jane Higgins, and I admire and adore Lynley Dodd’s Hairy Maclary books. Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam by Juliette McIver is another favourite too. I’d better stop . . .

4. What do you love most about New Zealand?

I spent a month in London over Christmas and although I greatly enjoyed it, it was wonderful to come home to bright days, green landscapes and space. Yesterday I would have said Wellington’s balmy, beautiful weather, but today there’s a gale force wind again so scrub that. I hugely enjoy being able to go into schools – that’s a real privilege. I love it that the people who write for young adults and children are a friendly and supportive bunch.

5. What book changed your life?

I can’t really claim to have a book that changed my life, although possibly getting my first book published did because it made me want to keep going, to make sure that it hadn’t just been a fluke.

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Interview with Chris Haughton, creator of Oh No, George!

Chris Haughton is the author and illustrator of a very funny new picture book called Oh No, George!  It’s all about a naughty dog who keeps getting into trouble and the story will have you laughing out loud.  I was lucky to have the chance to ask Chris some questions about his new book and his quirky, colourful illustrations.

  • Did you have a dog when you were a kid? If so what was it’s name?

CH: I had 3! Tammy, Tessa and Milly. Tammy was the most like George in personality. She once ate all my Easter eggs.

  • What did you do as a kid that made your parents go, ‘Oh no, Chris!’?

CH: Probably annoying my sister. Maybe running after her around the room in a similar way to George and Cat.

  • While researching the book you watched lots of guilty dogs videos on the internet. What were some of the worst things that you saw dogs do?

CH: I think 90% of them had eaten something. I was just using google images to see their guilty faces so I could draw them but I noticed there was one dog in particular that kept coming up again and again. The guiltiest dog on the internet! I wondered to myself what on earth had this dog done to have deserved such a reputation and that’s when I discovered that video… (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=B8ISzf2pryI)

  • One of the reasons I love your picture books is because of your bright, bold illustrations. How do you decide what colour pallet to use for your illustrations?

CH: I just work on it as I’m going. I try to make the colours all work with each other and be bright and harmonious but be different enough to provide a bit of contrast and it just happens that it comes out like that. I ignore the ‘real’ colours of the animals and I just use colours in a way that best tells the story. For example the owl is the only thing black against the bright colours of the forest which helps define his shape. George fills so much of the book that he couldn’t be black, I wanted it to be a colourful book and for his shape to be easily recognised so I had him in one block colour which contrasted with the orange background and text. The whites of the eyes (which are the most important thing in every picture) are the only things that are ever white in any of the illustrations.

  • As well as being an author and illustrator you’re also a designer. How does your design work differ from your illustration work?

CH: There is a lot of overlap. A lot of the repeat pattern designs that I have done for dresses and clothes at People Tree have found their way into the forest and colours of A Bit Lost and Oh No, George! I think it’s nice to have a bit of variety between the different work I do because it all fuses together somewhere along the line and it helps keep it fresh in both directions.

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Fast Five with Kyle Mewburn

1. Why did you want to be a writer?

I never really thought I “want to be a writer”. Mainly because I was always told being a writer wasn’t a “proper job”. Besides, I knew most writers never made much money, and for a long time I believed making money was very important. (Because that’s what nearly everybody said.) Writing has always been like a bloodhound on my trail. Over the years I tried all sorts of other jobs, trying to throw it off the scent, but I never quite managed it. In the end it caught up with me. Now I realise there are much more important things than making lots of money. Like doing something you love. Or bringing wild and crazy ideas to life.

2. What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Getting to hang out with other writers. They are such an entertaining bunch. If I wasn’t a writer, I’d probably have to become a stalker. Or a librarian.

3. What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

I didn’t grow up in New Zealand, so I don’t have any all-time favourite New Zealand books. It kind of changes every year. At the moment my favourite books are Northwood by Brian Falkner (which is just such an original thrilling story) and Stomp! by Ruth Paul (because it’s delightfully simple and beautiful).

4. What do you love most about New Zealand?

I could say “that it’s next to Australia”. haha (I am, after all, originally from Brisbane.) Otherwise, I’d have to say its size. There’s so much variety packed into a small space. Two hours drive and I can be swimming in the ocean, skiing in the mountains or tramping in the wilderness. It’s unique and slightly magical. Though the flipside is you sometimes have to drive two hours to find like-minded people, too.

5. What book changed your life?

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. It’s deservedly a classic. My Year 7 teacher gave me his copy on the last day of school and I’ve read it every year since. If, like me, you love word games and puns, there’s no better book on the planet. It set me off on a life-long quest to write (or invent) the perfect pun. I haven’t done it yet, but boy I’ve had enormous fun trying!!

Kyle Mewburn is the award-winning author of Kiss, Kiss, Yuck, Yuck, Old Hu-hu, Hill and Hole and the hilarious and disgusting Dinosaur Rescue series.

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Fast Five with Gavin Bishop

1. Why did you want to be a writer?

So I could be in complete control of the picture books that I wanted to illustrate.

2. What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Besides working at home in my own studio I enjoy talking to children and adults about my work.

3. What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

“The Three Legged Cat” by Margaret Mahy

4. What do you love most about New Zealand?

Feeling as if I belong here.

5. What book changed your life?

“The Hobbit” by J. R. Tolkein

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Fast Five with Brian Falkner

1. Why did you want to be a writer? 

Don’t know. Just always did. Maybe because I was a keen reader as a child.

2. What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Visiting schools and literary festivals and meeting your audience. Without that, it would be quite a solitary vocation.

3. What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

Aarrgh! Don’t make me choose. Too many brilliant books to choose from.

4. What do you love most about New Zealand?

The people. The climate. Rangitoto. The beaches. Lots of other things. I miss NZ!

5. What book changed your life?

Any one of the Famous Five books by Enid Blyton. These were a revelation for me. It was fabulously exciting (with lashings of fun) to find a new Enid Blyton book was in the library when I was young. I am sure that these books are part of the reason that I became a writer.

Brian Falkner is the author of The Tomorrow Code, The Real Thing, Brainjack, Northwood, and his latest book, Team Recon Angel: Assault.

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Interview with Lara Morgan

Today we’re joined by Lara Morgan, author of The Rosie Black Chronicles, which includes Genesis and the latest book, Equinox.  We caught up with Lara to ask her about Rosie Black, future technology and the best things about being a writer.

  • What five words would you use to describe The Rosie Black Chronicles?

Dystopian thriller with romantic elements

  • What idea/s did the Rosie Black Chronicles grow from?

Essentially from my interest in climate change and how it will affect us in the future, and what I see as a growth in the power and influence of massive corporations within our political and social structure. I wanted to explore what kind of future could arise if we didn’t regulate the way we are going now and the world of Rosie Black is the result of that. I’m also interested in space travel and the possibility of outer planet colonisation so I threw that in the mix as well.

  •  Who is the character of Rosie Black based on?

No one in particular. Rosie has elements of my teenage self in her, but she is also a creation of the world she’s come from – the future Earth. I’m very much interested in the psychology of people, how they become who they are so the type of person Rosie is comes from the experiences she’s had as she’s grown ie losing her mother, being poor in a broken world, as well as just her innate self. I believe in strong rounded characters so I tried to create that in Rosie.

  • If you could have one piece of technology from Rosie’s world, what would it be?

Space ships – her Aunt Essie’s little ship would be a very cool thing to have. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of travelling through space.

  • Who is your favourite author/childrens author?

That is a very hard one to answer, but one of my favourites is Ursula Le Guin, especially her Earthsea stories.

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

It’s what gives me the most satisfaction. I’ve always been a daydreamer and writing is just a way of getting those dreams out of my head and onto the page. I just love making up stories and never feel as at peace as when I can get up from my desk at the end of the day and feel I’ve achieved something.

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

Best is definitely being my own boss and being able to work from home in my pyjamas. The worst is the need to promote yourself. These days being writer means having to be good at self promotion as well as promoting your work, building a known name, and that means talking yourself up at events and gatherings and that doesn’t come naturally to me, or I think most writers.

  • What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Make sure you finish what you start. I’ve spoken to many aspiring writers who focus too much on fine tuning a first chapter, or first few chapters, before they’ve finished writing the story all the way through to the end and that is a fine way to ensure you never finish anything. And you can’t get unfinished work published. It is hard and the temptation is to think that if you just get the first bit right then the rest will be easier, you’ll have a better idea, but really that only works for a minute amount of people. Usually the best way to get the story right is to write it all the way through to the end, not worrying too much about how some things might not quite make sense, or some metaphors are terrible, or your dialogue sucks, but going forward anyway until you finish it. Then you go back and start to refine it. You have to allow yourself the room to make mistakes in the first draft safe in the knowledge that only you will see it. And I mean no one else, really, don’t show it to anyone, not even your mum. That’s what works for me anyway – and for many, many other writers. And read everything. Writers read, it’s essential.

Check out Lara’s Facebook page to find out more about the Rosie Black Blog Tour http://www.facebook.com/therosieblackchronicles

Join Lara tomorrow on the Booksellers New Zealand blog.

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Interview with Charlie Fletcher

Charlie Fletcher is the author of one of my favourite reads of 2011, Far Rockaway, as well as the Stoneheart Sequence.  I caught up with Charlie to ask him a few questions about Far Rockaway, classic characters and writing.

  • Cat and her grandfather Victor, plan to go to Far Rockaway at the end of the subway line.  Is Far Rockaway based on an actual place?

Absolutely, Far Rockaway is based on an actual place. If you’re in New York you can jump on the subway, and take the A-line train all the way eastwards, under the river, through Brooklyn and across Queens on to a long sand spit sticking out into the Atlantic and then you’re on The Rockaways . Then you just stay on the train until it literally runs out of track and America too, and that’s Far Rockaway.

Of course the other Far Rockaway in the book is an imaginary place, but it’s based on two very real landscapes, Solas Beach on the island of North Uist, and the uninhabited island of Mingulay, both in the Outer Hebrides where we go every summer to recharge the batteries. They’re among my favorite places in the world.

  • Cat meets some of the best characters from classic adventure stories in Far Rockaway.  Was it difficult to make those characters sound authentic?

If I did get the voices of say, Long John Silver or Alan Breck right, it’s entirely because I’m a writer, and thus a thief, and I stole from the best, for example,  Robert Louis Stevenson. He’s such a tremendously good story-teller and  he created magnificent heroes and anti-heroes in such a well-crafted and distinctive way that their voices just can’t help but live on in your head. And if their voices live in your head, you can then imagine how they might say things the original author never made them say, which makes reviving them such a pleasure.  I can often be found striding up and down my office having imaginary conversations with myself in the guise of my characters, and doing the voices at the same time. It’s a lot less dangerous than the other times when I’m acting out sword fights or bits of action in order to be able to describe them accurately, but it’s MUCH more embarrassing if any of my family walk in and catch me at it.

  • The main character in Far Rockaway, Cat, is a strong, independent girl who doesn’t need anyone to save her.  Is Cat based on someone in particular?

My daughter thinks I was inspired to write the book FOR her, which is generally true, because I write books for both my kids first. And it’s specifically true in this case because when she was about 12 she fell for a certain series of vampire related books but then suddenly un-fell for them a year later .  When I asked her why, she said well, she’d kinda liked the girly romance thing and everything first time round, but on a re-read realized that the heroine was always hanging about moping and waiting for the glamorous guys to rescue her. She thought that on reflection this was ‘a bit wimpy and old-fashioned’, and that she wanted books with stronger heroines…I could have stood up and cheered. If you want to know how a Real Girl defines herself, there’s a big clue in the last four words on p.403.

  • If you could meet one book character in real life who would you choose?

If it was a female character, it’d be Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. Or Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. Or any or all of Terry Pratchett’s witches – Granny Weatherwax, Magrat or Nanny Ogg.  Or Eowyn from Lord of the Rings.  If it was a male character, then it’s Long John Silver from Treasure Island or Alan Breck Stuart from Kidnapped. Or  Mahbub Ali from Kim. I was going to say Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, but then I thought that Merlin from The Sword in the Stone might be more fun, since he’s not only a wizard, but is also living backwards in time. It’d be interesting to see what he had to tell us about the future.

  • What were the books that got you hooked when you were a kid?
Going from my earliest recollections, in order: being read to: Dr Seuss and Winnie the Pooh.  And then reading for myself, pre-teen? Tintin. Paddington. Asterix. Any comic I could find, especially The Eagle, Victor, Hotspur or The Trigan Empire strip off the back end of a mag called Look and Learn.  A book called Mary Plain, also about a bear. Biggles. Enid Blyton. The Borrowers.  The Rescuers. Alan Garner. Geoffrey Treece. Rosemary Sutcliffe. Ian Fleming.
  • If you could give one piece of advice to young writers, what would it be?

Read everything and anything you can lay your hands on. If you want to write: do it. Don’t let anyone discourage you about writing – LEAST OF ALL YOURSELF. Keep at it. Pay attention to everything, because everything matters. So does everyone. Keep writing, even when it’s hard. Don’t be discouraged because what you write sounds like something else you’ve read. That’s not a bad thing. Every writer began like that, and the ones that didn’t are lying.  Good luck and enjoy the ride.

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Interview with Zac Power author Chris Morphew

Chris Morphew is one of the awesome authors who are coming to Christchurch for the 2011 Storylines Family Day, on Sunday 21 August from 10am-3pm at Cobham IntermediateChris Morphew is one of the authors who write the Zac Power series (under the name H I Larry) and he’s also written the action-packed Phoenix Files series, about a group of teenagers who have 100 days to stop the world from ending.  I got the chance to ask Chris a few questions before he comes to Christchurch.

What is it like to be one of the authors of the Zac Power series?

It’s pretty cool! Whenever I visit a school and ask how many kids have read a Zac Power book, I’m always amazed at how many hands go up!

What’s your favourite Zac Power gadget?

I think Zac’s Turbo Boots in Volcanic Panic are pretty awesome. Jetpack shoes powerful enough to blast someone out of a volcano? That sounds pretty good to me!

Zac Power books written by Chris Morphew

What inspired you to write your action-packed Phoenix Files series?

This might sound a bit morbid, but one of the biggest things I want to do with The Phoenix Files is tell a story about hardship and suffering. I want to be really honest about the darkness and brokenness of the world. But I don’t want to stop there. I want to suggest that the darkness and the brokenness isn’t all there is, and that maybe there’s a bigger story being told that makes the bad parts worthwhile in the end.

In The Phoenix Files Luke, Peter and Jordan learn that there is only 100 days until the end of the world. What would you do if you knew you only had 100 days left to live?

I would pray a lot. And then maybe see if I could find a super-powered homeless man to tell me what was really going on.

What was the book you loved most as a child?

That’s a tough one! There are so many!
Fiction: The Narnia series, Animorphs, Where the Wild Things Are…
Non-fiction: The Bible and books about dinosaurs.

Who is your favourite author/children’s author?

It’s a toss-up between C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling.

Why did you want to be a writer?

Because I love telling stories! I think fictional stories have incredible power to help us understand the real world in new ways.

What’s the best thing and worst thing about being a writer?

The best thing is having the opportunity to explore interesting ideas. The worst thing is usually my next deadline. I write pretty slowly, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up!

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write about things that matter. If you care about your story, then other people are far more likely to care about it too.

 

Check out the blog on Monday for your chance to WIN a copy of Zac Power:Fear Files or The Phoenix Files: Arrival by Chris Morphew

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Questions for Des Hunt

I’m a huge fan of Des Hunt’s and I was very excited to have him as one of our Star Authors.  I’ve loved reading his posts about creating a setting, characters and plot and we hope that you all have too.  I’ve read most of Des Hunt’s books so I had a few questions that I wanted to ask him.  You can read his answers here and if you have your own questions for Des you could add a comment.

Why did you want to be a writer?

Since I was very young I’ve been fascinated by science. I ended up becoming a teacher because I wanted to help others develop a similar interest. I wrote text books, invented electronic machines, created scientific games, anything that would help others understand the world around them. Eventually I turned to fiction. My specific aim was to feature New Zealand wildlife, it’s special nature and why we should take care with the environment.

What do you like most about writing for this age group?

Their open minds, their sense of wonder at discovering new things, and their willingness to be adventurous, at least within their minds. They’re also wonderful to meet when I visit schools and discuss writing. Even those who are not so keen on reading enjoy the chemistry and biology that are part of my presentations. It’s all part of the adventure both for them and for me.

Your stories are set in different parts of New Zealand. What is your favourite part of the country?

Any place that has a small population set in a wild place. If there are caves, geothermal activity, and native bush then all the better. In no set order my favourite regions would be: Coromandel Peninsula (that’s why I live here), West Coast of the South Island, Taupo-Rotorua, Kaikoura Coast.

You’ve just released The Naughty Kids Book of Nature, a non-fiction book about New Zealand wildlife, and your books feature some of that wildlife. What is your favourite native animal and why?

This one is easy to answer: the tuatara. It is a truly unique animal as it has no close relation left anywhere in the world. It lives to be ancient and as a child, I wondered if it’s third eye helped it to see things that maybe other animals couldn’t. My second choice is the grey warbler. It is such a small bird, and yet it’s song is one of the most commonly heard around New Zealand. One of my best memories as a naturalist is watching a tiny grey warbler feed a huge shining cuckoo chick. It looked after a different species as if it was one of its own. I think there’s a message there for us humans.

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Andy Mulligan talks about Trash

Andy Mulligan is a fantastic British author who has so far written two books, Ribblestrop and Trash.  He worked as a theatre director and a teacher before becoming a writer.

Andy Mulligan’s new book, Trash, is one of my favourite books of the year.  It is one of those books that you don’t want to put down because you just want to find out how it ends.  When I finished Trash I had a few questions that I really wanted to ask the author, Andy Mulligan.   He very kindly answered them for me and you can read his answers right here.

You’ve taught English and Drama in India, Brazil and the Philippines.  Did your experiences in these countries inspire you to write Trash?

Yes, my experiences abroad inspired the book. The opening descriptions that Raphael gives us, about wading through human muck…that is completely real. There’s a dumpsite in Manila that I visited, and the things I saw will stay with me forever.  The book is inspired by Manila, but never identified as such – for the simple reason that such places exist all over the developing world. We are all familiar with stories of child labour, child poverty – but the dumpsites are particularly heartbreaking.

Did you meet kids like Raphael, Gardo and Rat?

The characters are all based on children I have met. I tend to fuse two or even three children together, so Raphael (for example) is a Calcutta streetboy and a Manila flower-seller. Both boys survived on their wits, trudging all day to make a dollar – resilient, charismatic and totally determined. The ‘Trash’ boys are instinctive and quick, and can swindle you in seconds…that’s my experience of street-children who have to be versatile and brilliant.

Did you know how the story would end before you started writing?

Yes, I did know the end. The story came to me almost fully-formed. I was thinking about it whilst teaching, and had no time to write until my Easter holidays. That meant that I had thought about the storyline and the characters for some time, and I found that when I did write it, there was rarely a temptation to go off on tangents. I liked the lean, quick, thriller-esque race, and the final images were there in my head at a very early stage.

What message would you like kids to take away from reading Trash?

I like the journey Olivia goes on – I like her realization that the world is more complicated than she’d thought, and being sentimental about poverty is not a valid response – I like her anger. I like the determination of my characters, and the notion that those without power will find a way of fighting, and winning.

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Interview with Steve Cole

Steve Cole photoAstrosaurs author Steve Cole was unfortunately unable to come to Christchurch last week for the launch of the Christchurch Kids Blog.   Luckily, I still got the chance to have a chat with Steve and I asked him about his books, writing, Doctor Who, and jamming with his band.

How do you keep track of the different series that you write?

“It’s a bit like going around and spending time at a friend’s house.  I like to enjoy the different worlds, whether it’s Trashland with The Slime Squad, deep space with the Astrosaurs or Farmer Barmer’s farm with the Cows in  Action.  It’s quite good to find yourself back there and I enjoy playing with those characters.  It’s always a bit scary inventing a new scene – the Slime Squad took about 3 goes to get it right.  The websites that fans create also help me to keep track of the characters and what is happening.”

Why did you want to be a writer?

“You get to make things up and people give you money for it.  When I was little I would make things up and get into trouble, but now I get rewarded.  It’s really good fun to be able to use your imagination and create characters, places, monsters, baddies and adventures.”

What’s the best thing and the worst thing about being a writer?

“The best thing is that you don’t have to get dressed in the morning, and you can work whenever you choose.  The worst thing is that it can be pretty lonely, just you and your computer or pad of paper, scribbling away frantically.   That’s why I  really enjoy going to festivals and schools so I can meet the children I’m writing for.”

You’ve written some of the Doctor Who book as well as your books for children.  Who is your favourite Doctor?

“I really like the new one (Matt Smith) and I didn’t think that anybody could beat David Tennant.  My all-time favourite is probably Tom Baker because he’s the one I grew up with.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Eoin Colfer talks about Atlantis Complex

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Interview with Raymond Huber

PhotoOur interview with New Zealand author, Raymond Huber, has just been added to the Interviews with NZ Children’s Authors pages on the library website.  Raymond’s book, a cool story about bees called Sting, was a finalist in the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards this year.  Check out Raymond Huber’s answers to these questions and more:

  • What was your most embarrassing moment?
  • Which person from the past would you most like to meet?
  • Why did you want to be a writer?
  • What’s the best thing and worst thing about being a writer?

Have a look at the Interviews with NZ Children’s Authors pages on the library website to find out more about your favourite New Zealand authors.  You’ll find interviews with Margaret Mahy, Joy Cowley, Lynley Dodd, Jack Lasenby and Gavin Bishop, plus lots more.

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What questions would you ask your favourite author?

Over the next few months we’ll be talking to lots of authors and you’ll get the chance to ask them some questions.  We want to know what questions you would ask your favourite author?  It could be a question about their favourite books, what things do they like to do when they’re not writing, or something that you really want to know about one of their books.  There will be a prize for the best, most original question.

Add your question as a comment on this post, and remember to put your first name so that we know who posts the best question.

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