For the second in our series profiling authors who are appearing at the Bookworm Literary Festival, we talked to David Hill. David is a New Zealand author, best known for his stories for young adults.
You were writing for a long time before you started writing for young people. What inspired you to turn to YA fiction?
I’d been writing mainly fiction and non-fiction for adults. Then one of our daughter’s best friends died when they were both 15. I saw her sadness and courage, wrote a book called See Ya, Simon for teenagers, and realized what a rich lode of material there was to write about their lives. Plus I was a high school teacher for some years, and so many of the events and students I knew gave me ideas for stories and plays.
Did your own teenage years provide you with material for your books?
I appear in a lot of ways in my books. A lot of the protagonists think (or fail to!) like me. And like my son and my grandsons. A few books – one set in 1950s NZ, called Journey to Tangiwai have events lifted straight from my own childhood. But mainly it’s attitudes and feelings that I’ve had which seem to appear in the books.
Your event at the festival centers on Maori mythology. When were you first exposed to these stories and how have they shaped you as a writer?
In fact I haven’t written a great deal about Maori mythology, though the novel I’m trying to start does incorporate some elements of it. I feel it’s best written about my Maori writers. But of course there are some wonderful myths and legends, and I’ve felt privileged to write about a few.
What advice would you give to a young person who wants to become a writer?
To any aspiring young writer, I’d say: a. Read heaps. Every time you read, you’re seeing how other writers use certain tricks and techniques; b. keep a copy of everything you write; never throw anything away. You don’t know when you may be able to improve it or use it in something else. c. Think about mistakes you’ve made, embarrassments you’ve had, things you wish you had done better. Writing about your own blunders can result in some great stories – both tragic and funny.
David will be sharing Maori Legends of New Zealand on March 15 at 10.30am at the Bookworm.