Interview with Jean Bennett

Jean BennettName: Jean Bennett

Date of birth: 10 January 1945

Place of birth: Invercargill

Now living in: Tauranga

What is your favourite food?
Anything that someone else cooks always tastes good, and I especially like juicy, raw Bluff oysters straight from the shell.
Do you have a nickname and if so what is it?
My birth name is Jean McDonald and my classmates were forever singing ‘Old McDonald had a farm’. I usually joined in because I liked making the animal noises.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
There’s been so many! One that stands out was taking part in a gymnastics display in front of a crowd of people when I was about eight years old. I got my feet stuck leaping over the wooden horse and froze on the top. The coach had to help me down.
How do you relax?
I love to read and read and read and…
Book Cover of Below the MountainsWho inspired you when you were little?
A teacher in the junior school who said Everyone has a special talent. Find it and use it. After years of searching I thought I’d missed out until I discovered the joy of writing. I’d love to thank her.
What were you like at school?
A freckle-faced tomboy with skinny plaits who asked too many questions and often stumbled into trouble.
What was your favourite/most hated subject at school?
I loved English. I was hopeless at Home Economics, got expelled from cooking, and the pyjamas that took me all year to sew fell apart the first time I wore them.
What was the book you most loved as a child?
My parents gave me Pookie by Ivy Wallace. It’s a story about a rabbit with wings who was teased for being different. He ran away to ‘ceek mi fourchune’. I still have the book!
Which person from the past would you most like to meet?
The mummy from the coffin at Invercargill museum that I often visited as a child. I always wanted to know who the person was in real life.
Who is your favourite author/children’s author?
I enjoy reading New Zealand writers’ work. In particular, books by Patricia Grace and Sherryl Jordan.
Why did you want to be a writer?
I love anything to do with words! Telling stories and reading were a huge part of my family life – I loved the magic of stories and wanted to share the pleasure with others.
Do you have a special place where you write your books?
Now that my children have left home, I have the luxury of a writing room. Before that, it was anywhere I could find peace and quiet.
What’s the best thing and worst thing about being a writer?
The best thing for me is when an idea comes bubbling to the surface, demanding to be written. The worst part is the anxiety of sending a story off to an editor and hoping she’ll like it.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you like to be?
I’m also a librarian, which I enjoy. But I’d really like to be an archaeologist – museums, history, and old things fascinate me.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read lots of books. Be passionate and enjoy what you’re writing about, then it will show in your work. Never give up!

Read a poem by Jean Bennett
Read some books by Jean Bennett
More information about Jean Bennett

Read posts featuring Jean Bennett from the Christchurch Kids Blog.

This interview is from 2002.

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