I was born in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1973, which, by my calculation, makes me around twenty-four years old. I am very good at math, but quite a lot better at writing. I wanted to be a writer ever since I could physically write — and, let’s be honest, quite a long time before I could actually spell. Why? I’m not sure. I’ve just always loved stories. I love to make things up, and I love words, especially the way they sound. For me, language is like music — it needs to sound good. I published my first piece of writing when I was still at primary school, in a children’s magazine called Jabberwocky. It was a poem, and it went like this:
There was an old man of Doomsdillyday,
Who slept on a pile of rustly hay,
And in the evenings, with his lively little dog,
He’d settle on the haystack, and have a bit of grog.
I have been trying to come up with something as good as this ever since.
When I left school, I studied European languages — German, French, Italian —mostly because I thought they sounded so beautiful. Sometimes I would get so carried away listening to this strange “music” that I forgot to listen for meaning. Even so, I graduated with an MA in German from the University of Auckland, having written a thesis on cross-cultural versions of a Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale. Once I left university, I traveled, married, had two children . . . and wrote.
The idea for my first Candlewick title, Roadwork, goes back to when I was practically still a kid myself, pushing my baby brother around the streets in his buggy. Whenever we saw a big machine, we had to stop and watch, sometimes for what seemed like hours. I found this extremely boring, but it did make me wonder: what is it about little kids and big machines? I still don’t know the answer, but it has been so rewarding to experience the reactions of kids all over the world to my book, from the brave and beautiful Chace from New Zealand, who would use it as a pillow in the cancer ward during treatment, to Tyler from Colorado Springs, who gifted it to the mayor at a formal boardroom meeting with the director of public works in the hope that the town’s road problems would be solved. With such inspiring kids as readers, who wouldn’t want to be a writer?
Three things you might not know about me:
1. I enjoy writing plays. Is this because I like to talk too much?
2. I am very messy. I don’t mean to be, it’s just that whenever it’s time to tidy things up, I suddenly have a really good idea.
3. When people read my boisterous machine books like Roadwork, Demolition, and Construction, they often assume I am a loud, confident, shouty sort of person with a tribe of sons. Actually, I am rather quiet and shy, and I have two daughters . . . but I love challenging assumptions! It’s all part of the fun of being a writer.