Interview with Helen Beaglehole

Helen BeagleholeName: Helen Beaglehole

Date of birth: 27 November 1946

Place of birth: Hamilton

Now living in: Wellington

What is your favourite food?

I don’t think I have one - I like a lot, and we cook a lot with Asian spices like lemon grass and fish sauce.

Do you have a nickname and if so what is it?

Don’t have one. Never did.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

I have a twin sister whose name is Anne, and as we live in the same city I’m constantly getting mistaken for her, and people are always asking ‘Are you Helen or Anne?’ And I’m so bored with the question, and I’m not listening, and I say ‘Anne’ without thinking. And then I realise and is it better to say, I’m sorry, I made a mistake! or to try to brazen it out, hoping no-one will realise?

How do you relax?

I read a tremendous amount. But I also ride a mountain bike round the Wellington hills and on bike tours, and sail and tramp.

Book Cover of Strange CompanyWhat were you like at school?

I really like learning, and I liked learning when I was small. I guess I was one of those model pupils - except in one subject - see below.

What was your favourite/most hated subject at school?

Most hated: Maths!

What was the book you most loved as a child?

Can’t bring it down to one. Which part of childhood, anyway? When you were little and my mother used to read Beatrix Potter and the Winnie the Pooh books? Or when I was older and used to sneak read Enid Blyton (my mother didn’t approve of those!) No, better to say I read a vast amount, and on all sorts of subjects, and I loved historical fiction, and The Wind in the WillowsThe HobbitThe Fellowship of the Ring (and the rest of the Trilogy), Drovers Road, the Narnia booksKate Seredy books about Hungary before the First World War, Patricia Lynch books set in Ireland - all sorts.

Why did you want to be a writer?

I started writing as a child, and then it got lost, and it was only when I began reading to my own children that I thought ‘I could do as well as this person’. Now one of the great rewards of writing is having characters constantly in your head, and seeing the world through their eyes and thinking about how they might respond to things that happen to them, and being aware of yourself in them.

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

Writing is not about inspiration! In the main it’s about hard work and frustration and rewriting and rewriting. But there are moments. The best are when you’re writing and suddenly, words seem to flow from your fingertips and ideas happen that you haven’t had to work for and you don’t know where they came from.

The worst is when you can’t think where to go in your writing, and an idea won’t get written.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write! (See the first sentence above - ‘best and worst thing about being a writer’)

Read a short story by Helen Beaglehole
Read some books by Helen Beaglehole
More information about Helen Beaglehole

This interview is from 2002.

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