Place of birth: Adopted in Auckland
Now living in: Coatesville and Omaha near Auckland. Married for 35 years, 4 children.
What is your favourite food?
Sea air and sand.
How do you relax?
Who inspired you when you were little?
Beach and farm holidays. Diedre Sneddon, my speech and drama teacher.
What were you like at school?
Hated school, average student, probably a bit rebellious.
What was your favourite/most hated subject at school?
Favourite: Reading, drama, poetry and science.
Most hated: Latin, something I now really regret as it would be really useful scientifically.
What was the book you most loved as a child?
Famous Five and Secret Seven books by Enid Blyton; Arthur Ransome. Later Zane Grey (horses) and any pony book at all, Black Beauty, on to English Classics such as Charles Dickens, the Brontes, eventually The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I was an only child. Books such as Enid Blyton’s and Arthur Ransome’s allowed me to imagine and actually explore the natural world while pretending I was part of the story. The characters were my friends.
Which person from the past would you most like to meet?
Joseph Banks, naturalist on Cook’s voyage.
Who is your favourite author/children’s author?
Favourite children’s author: Margaret Mahy, opens a new window.
Adult: I don’t really have one, I read avidly, everything and everyone. Witi Ihimaera is my favourite NZ author. I love poetry.
Why did you want to be a writer?
I didn’t. I became one by default because I couldn’t buy the books about New Zealand creatures I wanted to use with children. I decided I’d just have to write them.
Do you have a special place where you write your books?
Yes and no. I put my research books into a carton and use a laptop computer so I can research anywhere, at home or at the beach. I have what I call my studio, full of specimens and rocks and models where I work a lot. The rest is done at the family computer.
What’s the best thing and worst thing about being a writer?
Best thing is seeing people using my books and getting to know the creatures in them.
Worst: Everyone expects you to remember every word you ever wrote!
If you weren’t a writer, what would you like to be?
An eccentric beachcombing grandmother.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read. Take an interest in every subject that’s offered to you. Open your eyes and really SEE. When you get older, read Wordsworth’s poem Ode on the Intimations of Immortality and NEVER let the vision fade into the light of common day!
This interview is from 2006.