Posts tagged David Hill

My Brother’s War by David Hill

My Brother’s War by David Hill is a finalist in the Junior Fiction category of the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.  This was one of the books that I hadn’t read at the time it was released, but I read it recently as part of my challenge to read all of the 2013 finalists. 

My Dear Mother,

Well, I’ve gone and done it. I’ve joined the Army!

Don’t be angry at me, Mother dear. I know you were glad when I wasn’t chosen in the ballot. But some of my friends were, and since they will be fighting for King and Country, I want to do the same.

It’s New Zealand, 1914, and the biggest war the world has known has just broken out in Europe.

William eagerly enlists for the army but his younger brother, Edmund, is a conscientious objector and refuses to fight. While William trains to be a soldier, Edmund is arrested.

Both brothers will end up on the bloody battlefields of France, but their journeys there are very different. And what they experience at the front line will challenge the beliefs that led them there.

My Brother’s War is a compelling story about two brothers who have very different opinions and experiences of the First World War.  William feels very strongly that he needs to play his part in the war and so he enlists in the army.  The people in his town commend him for being brave and doing his part.  He believes he is doing what is right to protect his country and the people he loves.  He can’t understand his brother and thinks that his refusal to enlist is ‘wrong and stupid.’  His brother, Edmund, is a conscientious objector who believes it is wrong to go to war and kill other people.  The story switches between their two points-of-view so you see the huge differences in their experience of war.  The story is mainly told in the third person, but each of the characters write letters to their mother which gives more of an insight into their thoughts and feelings.

You experience the build up to the fighting and the horrible conditions of the battlefield through William’s story, but it was Edmund’s story that shocked me.  I knew a little about conscientious objectors before reading this book but Edmund’s story really opened my eyes to how horribly they were treated.  Conscientious objectors like Edmund were labeled cowards and treated like second-class citizens.  Edmund constantly refuses to obey army orders, but in the end really has no choice.  He’s put on a boat and taken to France where he is forced on to the battlefields.  In the training camps he is locked away with little food and water, and he also faces excruciating punishment for not following orders.  Edmund is incredibly strong-willed though and stands by his principles.

A quote from Edmund towards the end of the book sums up war perfectly , ‘I never knew some men could do such dreadful things to one another, and I never knew some men could be so kind and brave.’

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David Hill – Author Blog 4

I’ve spent quite a lot of time this week working on TWO novels. Does that sound impressive??

First, I’ve been going over the page proofs of a novel that’s coming out in June, called Brave Company. It’s about a teenage NZ seaman, who is on a NZ frigate during battles in the Korean War of the 1950s. Page Proofs are the final stage before the novel is actually published. Everything is set out exactly as it will be on the pages of the book, numbers and illustrations and all, and the author has to go – very carefully – through them, seeing if any mistakes have been made. There hardly ever are any; editors are a very efficient lot. But a final check is always a good idea.

The page proofs come after a series of stages in the making of a book. First, the author writes it. (Easy! Simple!) Then, if the publisher likes it and agrees to publish – and this often doesn’t happen; please don’t think that everything I write gets published – the editor will make suggestions on how to improve the book (add details here; cut bits out there; stop describing so much; stop the feeble jokes, etc) and author/editor work on these till they agree. This part can take weeks. After that, the designers make suggestions about cover, set-out, illsutrations / maps / diagrams, etc. And then come the page proofs.

The second book I’ve been working on is one I wrote over the winter / spring / summer. It’s about a NZ teenager in the 1970s who somehow gets involved in French nuclear tests in the Pacific. How? You’ll have to read the book – if it ever gets published. If that does happen, it won’t be till next year. I researched it, I wrote the first draft. I wrote the second draft. I wrote the third…..   And now I’m going over and over it, taking out a sentence on Monday, putting half of it back on Tuesday, getting the book as good as I can before I submit it.

So that’s what the author’s life can be like. It can also be full of pleasure. When you write anything – a book, a story, a poem, a letter – you make something that never existed in the world before. It’s special. It’s unique. And that’s something that nobody can ever take away from you. So the very best of luck with your own writing and reading.

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David Hill – Author Blog 3

I took a day off during the week. Yes, authors are allowed to take time off, especially when they’re as lazy as I am. My wife Beth and I (I write about my dear wife a lot in my short stories for adults; I also write about my kids and grandkids in my children’s stories – but I always change details so they don’t recognise themselves and beat me up.)

I’ve lost track of where that paragraph was going……Yes, my wife and I rode a golf-cart along a railway line for 120 km. You know those funny little motorised carts that you sometimes see golfers trundling around golf courses in? A tourism business in Taranaki where I live has converted some so they run – very slowly – on railway lines, clattering along past farms and through tunnels. We rode in one from Stratford to Whangamomona and back. Isn’t “Whangamomona” a brilliant name? It’s right in the middle of inland Taranaki; it has no shops; one hotel, a population of about 20 people, 200 dogs and 2000 sheep. I may write a travel article about it.

I’ve also been trying to write a story about when I was learning to ride a bike for the first time, years and years (and more years) ago.

I’m a great fan of writing about your embarrassments and disasters and mistakes. Other people always enjoy reading about them, and you always feel much better after you’ve turned them into a story or poem or play. So I’m writing about how I could never stay upright on the bike; how I’d manage to pedal for a few metres only, then I’d start wobbling or leaning over to one side till I fell off. I just couldn’t seem to learn how to keep moving and stay on the seat. To make it worse, there was a guy who lived along the road from us, who was really good at sports and anything that involved being fit and confident. He could ride a bike and do no-hands tricks on it, and stuff like that. Every time he saw me trying to ride, he’d sneer and yell sarcastic comments.

Then one day I could ride. Just like that. My Dad had taken me down to a rugby field where nobody was playing, and he’d walked along beside me, holding the bike while I tried to pedal. Suddenly his voice sounded distant, and I realised he WASN’T holding the bike any longer. I was riding by myself.

I still fell off a few times, but I’d learned the trick. And a couple of days later I was riding (very carefully) along our street and met that other guy. I’ll never forget the amazed look he gave me. So that’s what I’m trying to write a short story about, and I think that in the story, I’ll make him so amazed that he falls off his bike into a hedge. That’s another thing I sometimes enjoy writing about: getting revenge on people…..

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Author Blog 2 – David Hill

I’m one of those authors who likes to try different types of writing, and I’ve been spending part of this week writing a long (1750 word) book review of some YA novels. They’re all by New Zealanders, and the are all GOOD.

So do try David Hair’s Ghost’s of Parihaka, a funny and frightening story of modern kids who keep being pulled back into the past where scary things are happening. And Anna MacKenzie’s Cattra’s Legacy, her novel of a young girl in a lost kingdom who has to save her people from a dark, advancing enemy. And Des Hunt’s Phantom of Terawhiti, in which the paw prints of a strange beast are found on the coast near Wellington. And R L Stedman’s A Necklace of Souls, the first novel by this Christchurch writer, in which a girl of high birth and a boy from the humblest of backgrounds unite to face a frightening foe.

I’ve also been away for a day – flying up to Auckland to visit St Kentigern College, where I was teaching a writing workshop and talking to some of the classes who have read my books or stories (poor things). I had to get up at 5 am – not good – to catch the plane, but it was brilliant watching the west coast of the North island crawling along below us, with the low morning light making long, dark shadows across the land. The waves on the coastline looked as if someone was lifting up the edge of a duvet to show its white underside.

In the writing workshop, I suggested that the best way to become a writer is to STEAL: to watch and listen, to get ideas from what people say and do; from what you read. We talked about topics, and the very nice kids tried a piece of writing about “A Moment You’d Like To Go Back To” – a moment in sport or performance, or with an animal, or at a special place, that was so brilliant, you’d like to relive it. OR that was so embarrassing or disastrous, you’d like to go back and change it, or stop it from happening. They came up with some terrific ideas.

I’ve finished the story that I mentioned in my last blog, about the kid who likes making terrible jokes, though I’ll probably go back and add some more jokes later. And I’m waiting for the page proofs of my newest novel to arrive from the publisher, so I can check them one last time. It’s called BRAVE COMPANY, about a teenage NZ sailor in the Korean War of the 1950s. It’ll be in the shops about…..May or June. I hope.

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Author Blog 1 – David Hill

I guess the main event for me during the first week of April has been that I’ve been lucky enough to be short-listed for the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards. My novel My Brother’s War is in the Junior Fiction section, so you all have to rush straight out and vote for me!

Authors are always asked “Where do your ideas come from?” and the idea for My Brother’s War came from my Uncle Fred.

The book is a story of two NZ brothers in World War 1. William can’t wait to enlist in the Army, and experience the thrilling adventure of war. Edmund however is a Conscientious Objector: he believes that all war is wrong, and he refuses to enlist. So he’s arrested and sent to prison. In different ways, the two brothers are sent to the terrible battlefields in France. What happens to them? You’ll have to read the book to find out, heh, heh.

Anyway, my Uncle Fred was my father’s eldest brother, much older than my Dad. He was a gentle, white-haired farmer, always shy and quiet. I never took much notice of him. Then Dad began telling me about him – how he’d been in WW1; how he’d fought in France and been badly wounded by shell fragments; how he had nightmares for years afterwards, and ended up totally opposed to war. So the book really began because I wanted to honour someone who mattered to me. A lot of what I write starts that way.

I don’t expect to win in the Awards, by the way. There are wonderful books by other authors. Do read Kate de Goldi’s The ABC with Honora Lee, or Mandy Hager’s The Nature of Ash, or…or ANY of the other finalists.

Anyway, I’ve also been writing during this week. I sit at my untidy desk, in a little room between the kitchen and the back porch, in a small side street in new Plymouth, and I mumble to myself and scribble and scratch on the paper. I’ve been writing some book reviews, plus a small story about a kid at a new school who wants to seem special, so makes up all sorts of stuff about herself, and gets into a real tangle. It’s full of terrible jokes. I like writing terrible jokes……

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Meet our April Star Author – David Hill

Our award-winning April Star Author is New Zealand author, David Hill.  David is the author of many novels for children and teens, including Journey to Tangiwai, Fat, Four-eyed and Useless, See Ya Simon, and his latest book, My Brother’s War.  David also wrote the wonderful Anzac story, The Red Poppy (illustrated by Fifi Colston).  As well as an author, David also teaches Creative Writing, and is a reviewer and columnist for several newspapers and magazines.  David has won many awards for his writing, including the Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award and the Margaret Mahy Award.

Thanks for joining us David!  We look forward to hearing all about your writing and your stories.

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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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Writing Tip of the Week – David Hill

This week’s writing tips comes from New Zealand author David Hill, author of See Ya Simon, Fat, Four-Eyed and Useless, and Running Hot.

“a. Read heaps. The more you read, the more ideas you get.
b. Don’t throw any of your writing away.
c. Start sending work away to places like The School Journal.”

You can read our full interview with David Hill on the Interviews with New Zealand Authors page.

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