Posts tagged Des Hunt

Phantom of Terawhiti by Des Hunt

It’s the school holidays and Zac thinks he might go crazy with boredom. He’s living in exile with his disgraced father on the remote Terawhiti Station on Wellington’s wild southwest coast. Then Zac and his dad witness a boat sink during a storm. Investigating further, Zac finds a set of unusual animal prints on the beach. Whose boat is it? And what creature could have made the prints? Soon armed men are prowling the coast, and threatening Zac, his friends and his family. He must do all he can to protect the Phantom of Terawhiti from those intent on hunting it down.

Phantom of Terawhiti is an action-packed adventure story, packed with mystery,  armed and angry Russians, brainless hunters, wild weather, a car chase, and a race against time.  Des Hunt is a gifted storyteller who never fails to write a story that grips readers and makes you keep turning the pages to find out what happens next.  In Phantom of Terawhiti there are plenty of heart-stopping moments, especially when Zac and Jess clash with the Russians.  The mystery of the ‘Phantom of Terawhiti’ draws you in and, even when the creature is revealed, you wonder how it will survive in the wild with the hunters trying to track it down.

Like the main characters in his other books, Zac and Jess are just normal Kiwi kids, who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (or maybe the right place at the right time).  Zac gets dragged by his dad to come and live on the remote Terawhiti Station, and it’s while he’s here that he discovers the wreck of the yacht and the paw prints in the sand.  When they discover the Phantom of Terawhiti, Zac and Jess know that they must do everything they can to protect it.

Phantom of Terawhiti is one of Des Hunt’s best books so far and I can’t wait to see where in the country he will take us to next.

4 out of 5 stars

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Steel Pelicans Update from Des Hunt

Steel Pelicans goes on sale 3 February 2012. In November 2010 I wrote about the story which at that time was in it’s very early stages. Here’s what has happened since.

I started writing Steel Pelicans on 18 October 2010 and finished the first draft on 4 March 2011. That’s almost five months, which is a little longer than usual for one of my stories. Of course Christmas and New Year came in that time as well.

The major change during the writing was that I shifted from the third person voice to the first person. To explain this, the original opening read:

As always, the view was fantastic. Looking north Pete could see across Port Kembla to the centre of Wollongong and a little further up the coast until the haze merged sea and hills into one.

After I changed the voice it read:

As always, the view was fantastic. Looking north I could see across Port Kembla to the centre of Wollongong and a little further up the coast until the haze merged sea and hills into one.

This change was made because in a lot of the story I had three boy characters in the same scene. In the third person I would always have to refer to each by name. In the first person, one of them could be referred to by I, me or my, making it much easier to write. However by making the change it meant that my storyteller, Pete, had to be in all scenes: something I wasn’t sure about until about half-way through.

At the end of the first draft the length was 62,000 words. Four rewrites and a month later it was 56,000 words. I’d removed about 22 pages. This was done to keep the story tense and get rid of the boring bits. The manuscript was sent to Harper Collins Publishers on 13 April 2011. I signed a contract another month later.

By July 2011 Harper Collins were beginning to consider the cover. I knew exactly the image I wanted: it was of a sculpture that sits on a pedestal in Brisbane River, Australia. As we were off to Darwin around that time, we changed our schedule so that I could visit Brisbane and photograph the sculpture. I think it captures the feeling of the story nicely.

Harper Collins finished their work on the book almost exactly a year after I had started writing. It was sent to the printers in Australia early November and I got my copies mid January 2012. I haven’t read it and I won’t. Only once have I read one of my finished books, and it was not the enjoyable experience I had anticipated. The problem was that I found things I wanted to change, and by then it was too late.

However I hope you will read it, and enjoy the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Ka kite.

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Frog Whistle Mine by Des Hunt

Frog Whistle Mine is Des Hunt’s fourth novel and the first book about Tony’s adventures. Tony and his mum move to Charleston, where there are abandoned mines to explore and friends to make. It seems Charleston might just be the place for them. Below the quiet, deserted surface of the town, however, is a shadowy mystery, lurking as deep as the mine. The few residents of Charleston hide many secrets, as Tony discovers. Tony and his new friend Rose are intrigued, and bit by bit, begin to piece it all together.

I really enjoyed reading this book. The characters were really well described and believable. The plot was exciting and I was pulled in like a nail to a magnet. I recommend Frog Whistle Mine to 9-12 year olds and rate it a 9/10

I am now reading the sequel,  Shadows in the Ice, which is proving to be as great a read as this book.

By Tierney

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Des Hunt – Last post

It’s now time to start writing. Beginning a story requires a lot of thought. In the first few chapters there is so much information that the reader needs in order to make sense of what is happening. The difficulty is giving that information without making it boring. Here are the first four paragraphs of Steel Pelicans.

“As always, the view was fantastic. Looking north Pete could see across Port Kembla to the centre of Wollongong and a little further up the coast until the haze merged sea and hills into one. Somewhere up there, less than 50 kays away, were the southern suburbs of Sydney.

The view to the south was equally spectacular with a long curving golden beach backed by the near vertical hills of the Illawarra escarpment. In the foreground, a group of surfers floated, waiting for the swells that could be seen arcing across the bay. Pete wished he was down there with them instead of up on the hill acting as lookout.

It hadn’t been his idea to come here. He’d wanted to do it in the culvert down by the shore which was where they normally went. But Kyle had said that his new and better bomb needed somewhere different, and as usual Kyle had got his way. So Pete had been sent up onto the lookout to warn if anyone was coming, while Kyle and the others broke into the building below. So far, the only spies he’d seen were the pelicans riding the updraft in the afternoon sea breeze.

Hill 60 was its military name. During World War Two it had been the home of the guns that had protected Port Kembla against attack from the Japanese or the Germans. Neither came and the guns had long been removed leaving a few concrete buildings and a honeycomb of tunnels. Kyle reckoned it was the perfect place to test his latest pipe bomb. This was made from more than just matches. He’d added a chemical from school that would, in his words, make it nuclear.”

The explosion will, of course, go wrong, giving an exciting start to the story. It also gives the opportunity for Pete and Kyle to show their strengths and weaknesses. I like some excitement at the start as I believe it helps the reader connect with the story. Once I have their attention, I can then take things a little slower for a couple of chapters or so, and get all the essential information out of the way.

That brings me to the end of this month of blogging. I’ve enjoyed it, and have been surprised by the way that writing about the story has helped me develop my ideas. Will Steel Pelicans ever get published? I don’t know. All I can say is that it is seven years since I had a book rejected by a publisher. That doesn’t mean that it couldn’t happen again: I’m always wary that if I let my standards drop I could once again get one of those dreaded rejection letters. If it is accepted, it will be 2012 at the earliest before it appears in bookshops. And it might not even be called Steel Pelicans. As a writer I can never be sure of anything until a contract is signed.

Many thanks to Zac and the team at Christchurch City Libraries for their help and encouragement. Ka kite.

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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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Des Hunt 5th Blog: The Storyline

By the time I’ve got the characters sorted, it’s time to give serious thought to the storyline.

I start at the end. Now this might sound a little crazy, but I like to know how my stories will finish before I start. To me writing is like a journey: you start from where you presently are, and end up in a different, new exciting place. And just like a journey, I think it is best to know where you are going before you start. That means I have to know what the climax is before I begin writing.

By doing it this way, I find that I don’t have to do as much editing. After completing any story there is always material that gets removed and some that gets added. It’s always hard to take out pages that you’ve spent hours writing; probably those words will never be used anywhere else.

I try to avoid this by good planning. But it is possible to do too much, and become a slave to the plan. A good story will flow in directions that were not anticipated. Characters often get a mind of their own and insist of doing things that you never thought they would. As a writer, you have to let that happen or the story will end up lacking something. It’s called verisimilitude. This word is pronounced ve-ris-i-mil-i-tood. It is a hard word to define, but here goes.

Writers of fiction are professional liars – everything we write is made up. If we do our job well then all this made-up stuff will seem real. However there is lots of fiction that can never be real: fantasy fiction is an example. And yet while we are reading it, good fantasy can seem very real – that’s if it has verisimilitude.

Take a Harry Potter story: if Harry were to pull out a mobile phone and begin texting, it would destroy the whole feeling of that reality. Likewise if one of my characters pulled out a magic wand and zapped the baddies, you would probably stop reading. Verisimilitude is an easy thing to destroy, but hard to create. If a critic says that some part of one of my stories seems contrived, then I know that I haven’t achieved the V-word, and it’s probably because I have too carefully followed my planning.

I can already see some things in my planning for Steel Pelicans that might affect the verisimilitude. One is the age of my characters: they could be a little young for the things I have in mind for them. But I don’t want to make them too much older as they could become too old for my readers to relate with. So I’ll have to watch what I ask them to do as I write the story, which could mean that the climax will be quite different to what I have in mind. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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Des Hunt’s fourth blog – Characters (Pt. 2)

I use a grid to work out my characters. Here it is for the main character:

Name Pete Kelly
Other names Pelly
Age 13
Defining Detail/Event Moving from Oz to NZ
Has to endure Taunts. Use the Pelly Can line. Ginga is used in NZ before Pelly becomes a derogatory name.
Appearance/Clothing Red headed, which can lead to some Rusty Pelican comments.
Mannerisms Scratches his head a lot.
Personality At first he is more of a follower than a leader, especially with Kyle. But in NZ he has to stand up for himself to survive.
Backstory Born in NZ but family shifted to Oz when he was two. Can’t remember anything about when he was young in NZ. Has been visiting with family to grandparents, but considers himself an Australian.
Blind spot
Failure to see that Kyle is not a particularly good friend. Kyle uses him to promote his own self-importance.
Conflicts Major ones with his family in the beginning. These get resolved through his strong actions at the climax
Resolution Required He becomes more confident to the stage where he stands up to Kyle. This saves Kyle’s life. He then realizes that in Afi he has a better friend than Kyle. Realizes that Kyle needs him more than he needs Kyle. This leads to an understanding that life in NZ might even be better than his life in Oz.

You may be surprised at how little I have about appearance. I have ideas of what they might look like, but unless it is important to the story I won’t give details in the book. I like the readers to put in their own images. My first novel A Friend in Paradise had no description of the main character, so the publishers thought they should show him on the cover. The boy they showed was nothing like what I’d had in mind. Fortunately, they no longer do this.

Next blog, I’ll talk about plotlines and problems.

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