Frequently Asked Questions
How do you think up your ideas?
Ideas are everywhere, you just have to look harder. A good way of coming up with ideas is to ask – “what if?” Like one time I was sitting in a playground and a big Dad sat on the seesaw. All the kids jumped on the other side but they couldn’t move him. So I wondered – what if a hippopotamus wanted to go on the seesaw. That’s how I came up with the idea for Seesaw Po. Of course, most ideas are very small and it takes ages and lots of work before they grow into a story.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
Getting to have adventures every day! One day I can be a pirate. The next day I’m in the Middle Ages battling dragons. And a few days later I’m running around with dinosaurs. And not many jobs let you make a living talking about snot and vomit. I love getting letters and drawings as well.
What is the most fun thing about being an author?
Letting your imagination go wild but nobody thinks you’re being strange.
Who is your favourite author?
I don’t really have any favourite authors. I have loads of favourite books though. The Phantom Tollbooth is my all-time favourite. I love stories that have BIG ideas and make me think. Oh, and make me laugh, too. I also think the words are very important, so my favourite stories have fun with words and language.
What was the naughtiest thing you ever did at school?
I was never very naughty at school – at least I didn’t think I was. In primary school I was often sent to the headmaster’s office for fighting. Which meant three strikes of the cane across the fingertips. I’d mostly stopped fighting by the time I got to High School, but nevertheless I was often kicked out of the classroom for talking or mucking around. Again I had to go see the headmaster. Which was OK because I discovered if I stood in a certain place outside his office, I was hidden from view every time anyone entered or left the office. So while I spent quite a bit of time standing outside the headmaster’s office, I didn’t get to see the headmaster very often.
What advice would you give an aspiring writer?
Read a lot and, more importantly, read widely. Don’t just read one type of book every time. The next important thing is to write! A lot. Write and write and write. Just like reading, don’t always write the same kind of story either. Experiment with different types of stories and, most importantly, have FUN!
What’s your favourite colour, food, movie and game?
I don’t have any real favourite anythings. I used to think blue was my favourite colour, but now I’m not so sure because I like green as well. I like German food a lot, though this might have something to do with the fact my wife is German. I LOVE pizza, too. I watch a lot of French movies, but I really enjoyed both Toy Story, Shrek and The Incredibles. I like most sports except car racing, though I prefer team sports like soccer, rugby and league.
How did you get started?
I’ve always loved writing. It was my best subject at school. If my teacher could actually read my writing! I always knew I wanted to make some sort of living from writing (it was the only thing I was really interested in doing) but never really considered being an ‘author’ as such, mainly because nobody suggested such a thing was even possible. So I looked for a career involving the most writing and eventually went to university and completed a degree in advertising and journalism.
I worked a while as a journalist, but realised I was only happy writing fiction. So I gave it up and went travelling for a few years, and started writing poetry along the way. Eventually I moved on to short stories. But in 1997 I decided if I wanted to get anywhere as a writer I had to focus on it. And I’ve been writing full-time ever since.
Is it difficult to make a living writing in New Zealand?
It’s difficult anywhere. In NZ, it’s very hard for writers to make a living. Most writers earn less than waiters. So the most important thing is to just enjoy the writing. Write stuff that makes you feel good. Write stuff that challenges and inspires you. Most of all – WRITE!