More Classic Rhymes for Kiwi Kids

It’s mid-December. That means there’s only a few more days before school breaks up, and Kiwi families start getting together to celebrate the holidays and ring in the New Year. Whether you spend Christmas holidays camping out in the bush or at the beach, meeting up with the whānau at the bach, or just hanging out at home playing backyard cricket or basketball, there are some things that just scream ‘Kiwi summer holidays!’

Heading over to the West Coast? Watch out for the tricky kea – they might try and attack your car! Going to stay at the bach in the country? Remember to check for daddy long legs in the outhouse! Taking the whānau to the beach for a picnic? Those seagulls will try and snatch your kai, so keep a good eye on your picnic basket!

It is these Kiwi classics that Peter Millett and Scott Tulloch draw on in their new book, More Classic Rhymes for Kiwi Kids (Bateman Publishing) where well-known rhymes like ‘I’m a little teapot’, ‘Old McDonald had a farm’, and ‘Wee Willie Winky’ get given a Kiwi twist. There are sheep, kiwi, and huhu grubs galore in this book, and because the pictures show typical everyday scenes, they are a great starting point for talking to children about family holidays you have taken together, sports you used to play when you were little, and about that squiggly, squirmy huhu grub you ate that one time when you were camping.

If you have whānau members coming from overseas, borrowing More Classic Rhymes for Kiwi Kids will introduce them to a side of New Zealand they might not get a chance to see. If you live here in Aotearoa New Zealand, it is a fun book to read and see characters just like you – playing rugby, mountain biking, and camping in the rain.

This book has something for everyone, and make sure to check out Classic Rhymes for Kiwi Kids for even more Kiwi nursery rhymes.

Holiday boredom-busters

The holiday season is upon us and it’s a great time to spend time with some quality books, movies, and music.

Here are some titles that will tantalise you with their mystery, entertain you with their storytelling, amaze you with their creativity, and leave you with a sense of satisfaction. We’ve got Fiction, Audiobooks, Graphic Novels, Music CDs, and DVDs, all just waiting for you at your local library.

Cover of An unwanted guestSo firstly, if you find yourself in the mood for a well crafted locked-room mystery in the style of an Agatha Christie murder mystery, get yourself a copy of An Unwanted Guest by mystery master Shari Lapena. It’s a group of strangers held captive by the elements in a secluded boutique hotel. When the guests begin to fall victim to murder the story weaves and wraps around in a classic whodunit style with a good twisty-turny plot. A perfect choice for a bit of summer escapism.

How about hearing some tales of the Norse Gods, written and read by Neil Gaiman – a self-confessed devotee of the classic sagas.

Cover of Norse mythology by Neil GaimanThese stories are fantastical, full of deceit and murder, trickery and beauty, and expertly read by the author in the audiobook edition available on our eResource BorrowBox. You’ll discover the strange relationship between Thor and his brother Loki, learn how the Gods came to be in possession of their most treasured artifacts like Thor’s hammer, named Mjolnir, or how Loki came to bear his children – a brilliant story of Loki’s trickery coming back to bite him. Amazing stories and a privilege to be able to listen to the author present them just as intended – casual and conversational storytelling.

What about music…? If you’re looking for some tunes this season then I would suggest you check out the award-winning new album from Kiwi contemporary music legend Eve De Castro RobinsonThe Gristle Of Knuckles. New Zealand’s contemporary music is in a fine state if this album is anything to go by. It’s from the hand/mind of one of the countries most respected music educators and composers and features many of our most celebrated musicians. It’s outstanding – dynamic, inventive, masterfully performed, and well worth a listen if you like jazz and contemporary music as an artform.

Cover of DemonAnd there’s always a Graphic Novel to help you while away an evening.

A darkly comedic tale of a man who wants to die but instead, whenever he tries to die, he just shifts over into whoever is around him. A brilliantly funny and darkly curious take of modern life by an expert artist. It’s simplistic artwork counterpoints the bleak nature of the subject matter – a comedy about suicide!? And what results is book of gravity and heart.

And finally, what to watch..? If you like twisted retellings of classic folktales then you’ll love Tale of Tales

A grown up fairytale from the legendary Giambattista Basile that is dark, twisted, and engrossing. Three kingdoms exist within the lands, each ruled by very different monarchs. Through the lives and demands of the people and the supernatural worlds, their stories intertwine to create a masterpiece of imaginative film making. A brilliant cast and a story that will stay with you long after.

Definitely some good options if you’re looking to enter our Summertime Reading Challenge!

Happy festive season and good reading to you,

^DevilStateDan

Recent necrology, November 2018

Some well-known people who have died recently.

  • William Goldman, 1931-2018 American novelist, playwright and screenwriter.
  • Stan Lee, 1922-2018 Legendary writer and creator of Marvel comics (Read Renee’s tribute to Stan Lee: Excelsior!).
  • Peter Peryer, 1941-2018 NZ photographer, one of the first five inaugural laureates of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand.
  • Brian Priestley, 1926-2018 Christchurch journalist, media commentator and author.
  • Nicolas Roeg, 1928-2018 Film director whose dazzling style was best seen in The man who fell to earth.
  • Douglas Wright, 1956-2018 NZ dancer and choreographer.

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Cool stuff from the selectors: History in colour

9781786692689The colour of time: A new history of the world, 1850 to 1960

A history book spanning one hundred years is nothing out of the ordinary, however what makes this book so unusual is that all the photographs have been fully and painstakingly redigitised in colour by Brazilian artist Marina Amaral. The detail and exhaustive research that has gone into ensuring the colours are correct is amazing. The black and white pictures come to life, bringing new meaning and poignancy to many famous photos that we are familiar with. It is a shame the cover is so dull and monochrome but perhaps this is to heighten the surprise of what is inside.

9780994146021Scenic Playground: The story behind New Zealand’s mountain tourism

This book is an absolute treat and is beautifully produced by Te Papa Press. The blurb describes it as “lavish” and it really is. Highlighting old advertisements, photos (many hand-coloured, quite different from The Colour of Time, but just as beautiful) and paintings, the New Zealand alpine experience is brought to life. As an aside, I couldn’t get over how well-dressed and smart the people are in all the photos, no tatty jeans, nasty track pants or daggy shorts here, they all look incredibly glam and well put together in amongst the most stunning scenery.

 

한 해 마감은 도서관과 함께

올 해도 Summertime Reading Challenge 가 시작되었습니다. 좋아하는 책 많이 읽으시고 다양한 상품도 받으세요. 가까운 도서관에 준비된 엽서나 온 라인으로 등록하세요. 12월 1일 부터 내년 2월 28일까지입니다. 어린이는 0 – 13살까지, 어른은 14이상입니다.

 이 달에도 많은 새로운 책들이 도서관에 들어왔습니다.  여행계획이있으시다면 도서관 전자책을 가져가세요. 훨씬 가볍게 떠나실 수 있을거예요. 도서관 카드 잊지마세요.

림태주 작가의 ‘관계의 물리학’ – 사람에 대한 애정, 세상과의 관계에 지치고, 나답게 살기를 원하지만 끊고 맺음의 균형에 서툰이들을 위한, 작가 특유의 위트와 통찰력이 시적인 감수성으로 잘 그려진 책입니다.

나는 그냥 버스기사입니다’ 운전하며 글 쓰는 버스기사 허혁, 자신의 버스안에서 바라본 세상, 그 세상 속의 자신을 이야기한 책입니다. 

우리 엄마가 나와 형제들을 키우며 느꼈을 슬픔과 기쁨, 괴로움을 똑같이 겪으며, 나는 엄마와 다시 이어졌다. 딸을 키우며 단 하루도 엄마 생각을 안 한 날이 없다. 그만큼 엄마가 절실히 그리웠다. 우리 엄마는 얼마나 외로웠을까? 이런생각을 할 때마다 가슴이 무너졌다 – ‘ 시읽는 엄마’ 프롤로그 중에서. 

달빛 변호사’ 저자 김영훈 – 현직 변호사로서 법정에서 일어나는 또 다른 세상의 이야기를 소설 형식을 빌려 쉽게 풀어나간 책입니다. “ 법정은 우리 삶의 축소판이다. 법정에 선 이들은 원고와 피고, 피해자와 가해자를 가리지않고 모두 어려운 상황에 직면한 사람들이다. 이들에게 격려와 위로가 되어주고 다시 일어나 앞으로 나아갈 버팀목이 되어 주는 것이 변호사의 역할이다.”  

혼자서 본 영화’ – 여성 학자 정 희진이 20년간 본, 저자 자신의 인생 영화 28편을 책에 담았습니다. 한편 한편 섬세하게 분석한 이책은 영화를 좋아하는 분들에게 새로운 재미에 빠져들게 합니다.

 ‘ 나는 간호사 사람입니다 :단 한번의 실수도 허락하지않는 삶을 사는 사람들의 이야기’ 저자 김현아 – 간호사로 일하며 일반적으로 우리가 알고 있는 단순한 백의 천사가아닌 그들의 애환과 고초를 자신의 경험을 통해 이야기하고있습니다.

지난 11월 14일Te Hāpua: Halswell 도서관에서 “땀띠” 라는 사물놀이 팀이 크라이스트 쳐치를 방문해 교민들을 위한 아주 툭별한 공연을 펼쳤습니다. 크라이스트 쳐치 시립 도서관에서는 항상 여러분을 위해 준비되어 있습니다. 도서관 웹-사이트 참고하세요.

Book launch: All the Other Days by Jack Hartley

Cover of All the Other DaysIt’s not often you get to attend the launch of a book written both by a local debut author but also by someone barely into their twenties. Book publishing is a competitive business and the path to publication can be slow and dispiriting (for those that make it there at all), so it’s an impressive achievement at any age.

All the Other Days is a book for teens, first written when Hartley was still a teenager himself. He was encouraged in this by his Shirley Boys’ form (and English) teacher who spoke at the launch, as well as by his family. While there were many subsequent years of hard work on the manuscript, interrupted by a degree in Psychology and a foray into teaching, it’s a testament to the positive influence the right teacher at the right time can have for many people — and also how the work of one author is built with the support of the community around them. A glance at the acknowledgements at the back of a book can give an idea of just how big this community can be.

Hartley is clearly passionate about bringing an authentic voice to Young Adult literature, particularly an authentic male voice which he struggled to find in his youth. (Should’ve asked a librarian.)

Many teens struggle with mental health during adolescence, on top of the usual mix of first love, dealing with school, and potentially problems at home, so being able to connect with characters having a similar experience can be a lifesaver. I have yet to read All the Other Days so can’t speak to the validity of the comparison, but the themes remind me of Will Kostakis (by coincidence another author who broke into publishing very young). If you’re looking for an exciting new addition to YA fiction then put yourself on the waiting list, because it’s looking like All the Other Days is already shaping up to be a big hit.

More blog posts about All the Other Days:

Author Jack Hartley at his book launch

World Languages Collection at Tūranga receives warm welcome

“It is my first time to see Korean books in a library!” an elated Donggi Jun said when he saw the shelves of books in his native Korean, a part of the World Languages Collection Ngā Reo o te Ao / World Languages, Auahatanga | Creativity, Level 4 of Tūranga.

Jun hails from South Korea but has been a Christchurch resident for years. “I’m so happy to see lots of popular authors. A lot of us miss our country. These books will be a source of comfort,” added the 58-year-old who also renewed his library membership card so he can start borrowing Korean books “as often as I can”.

Jun is only one of many migrants who were delighted to see the World Languages Collection since Tūranga opened on Friday 12 October. The collection aimed to reflect the thriving cultural diversity of Christchurch. It enables migrant communities to maintain a connection with their language and culture, as well as provide study materials for English language learners.

At present, the World Languages Collection at Tūranga comprises of books in 13 languages including Afrikaans, Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Polish, Russian, Spanish, and Thai. In addition, it has magazines and periodicals in Afrikaans, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese and Russian. It also includes an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) section for English language learners.

Customer browsing the World Languages Collection, Auahatanga | Creativity, Level 4, Opening day, Tūranga, Flickr TU-2018-10-12-136

Olivier Hoel, who left France to work in Christchurch a year ago, was thankful to find his beloved French titles housed at Tūranga:

“It was a great surprise when I saw them first at Peterborough Library and now, they’re here, more accessible in a such a lovely place.”

CoverVisitors to the city were equally impressed. “We are in the wrong city! How come you have this!?” a South African visiting from Wellington exclaimed while lifting an edition of the Afrikaans magazine Rooi rose from the rack. She was also able to find a book in the Afrikaans section written by a friend, quickly getting a snapshot for Instagram.

German tourist Horst Schnidt was also pleased. Looking up from reading the pages of German periodical Der Spiegel, he commented, “This new library is in itself amazing. But having items in various languages like German makes it more special.”

The collection has been well-used. An average of 30 items are being marked “used” every day, at times peaking up at 50. This doesn’t include the many more being borrowed. Many customers also joined the library or renewed their membership (like Jun) just to access the collection.

ESOL tours have proven to be quite popular as well. Over 350 individuals from various cultural backgrounds have been toured around Tūranga since its opening and shown World Languages materials (adult and children’s) including the eResources they can access from the library website. Among them were students from Hagley Community College, Papanui High School (Adult ESOL Department), and Wilkinson’s English School.

“The ESOL items are a big help to me,” said Chinese student Rita Xu who was also thrilled to see the Chinese books section, the most extensive in the collection. “My friends will be happy. I will tell them about it.”

The collection, however, is not only popular with English language learners but also with students of other languages. For instance, German language students from Hagley College were keen on the German books and magazines that could aid them master German.

No doubt, the World Languages Collection in Tūranga is a hit.  As Anne Scorgie from South Africa puts it, “Having this collection shows that Christchurch is really now recognising its growing diversity. It’s a great step.”

Hayley Concepcion and Crystal Betito
Auahatanga | Creativity, Level 4, Tūranga

Dan recommends: The best of fiction

Another year is coming to a close and it gives me pause to think about what an amazing year it has been for fiction! We’ve been bestowed with such a wealth of quality new releases, from longstanding authors continuing to deliver, debuts of such genius it boggles the mind, sequels that have been waiting more than a century, and a bold author new takes on an old classic.

Catalogue link to Flames by Robbie ArnottMy highlights for this year start with not only the best book I’ve read this year but possibly the best I will ever read, ever!

I’m talking it up, I know but here’s some of the reasons why… Flames is a tribute to nature, the environment, our place in it, the unseen elements, the powers that rule, and the lives of all things. It weaves myths and small gods into the fabric of the environment, masters of unseen systems which shape lives unbeknownst to the humans inhabiting their land. This is an astonishingly good book. It’s elemental, blurs the lines between reality and mythology, sweeps you up in atmosphere and the sense of place, and the use of language is sublime. The story is set in Tasmania and centres around a family with deep connections to the land and environment. A young woman sets out south, alone to the wilderness of ancient Tasmania, while her brother sets out to build her a coffin and sends a private detective to track down his sister and bring her home.Through the course we discover an ageless world, gods of nature, young people coming of age, and what it is to engage with your world. Superb effort and the best thing I’ve read this year – quite an effort given the next titles I’ll share with you!

Catalogue link to Macbeth by Jo NesboWhen Hogarth Shakespeare set out to create modern retellings of the great works of Shakespeare, they were inspired by their choice of Jo Nesbo to retell Macbeth. Macbeth The master of noir violence and mystery has done an absolutely brilliant job of turning Macbeth (the man) into a Scottish police officer, wracked with guilt of the past, plagued with addiction, and hungry for power. It’s so obvious to me now that Macbeth was MADE for the Scandi-Noir genre treatment. It’s gritty, dark, violent. Full of power, betrayal, and characters walking the fine line between sanity and madness. For this story Macbeth is head of SWAT in a dangerous and corrupt town and together with his mistress, Lady, the rags-to-riches casino entrepreneur, they embark on a powerplay to seize control of the city. But Macbeth has a sketchy past full of drug abuse and violence and as he relapses things get out of control, people get killed, lines get blurred… A great read and a must if you like Scandi Crime!

Catalogue record for The shepherd's hut by Tim WintonThe next two I’d like to share are by two of the most important authors of our contemporary world right now – in my humble opinion. The first is the Australian writer Tim Winton and his newest book The Shepherd’s Hut. It’s the very colourful and memorable account of a young man forced by circumstance to take to the outback roads of rural Western Australia. Such brilliant descriptive writing will have you smelling the eucalyptus in the air, and hearing the crispy arid saltlands crunching underfoot. Jaxie is running and he’s got a vague destination in mind – north. And he’s got to survive the perils of rural Australia, criminals, and the very land that seems to want to kill him from heat, thirst or animal attack. An outstanding book from a great Australian author and written in vernacular language too, strengthening characters and adding some lightness!

Catalogue record for Don't skip out on me by Willy VlautinThe other amazing offering comes from an American author; Don’t Skip Out on Me

Willy Vlautin is one of my favourite authors writing today and his works just keep getting better and better. He writes of contemporary everyday life and he tells the stories of working class Americans and the very real struggles faced by ordinary people in the America of today. This one is concerning a young American Indian man who passionately desires to be a champion boxer. He begins his journey on a ranch in Nevada where an ageing couple has adopted him, and follows him to Arizona as he sets his mind to a life of pugilism. Beautifully written and full of the heart and pathos that Willy Vlautin is famous for. A stellar effort and worthy of much praise.

Catalogue record for Only killers and thieves by Paul HowarthAnd now for the fans of gritty Historical Fiction and WesternsOnly Killers and Thieves

Another great debut from Australia that really captures the Australian Gothic story. It’s the story of two young men, not boys but barely men, after a traumatic family event that sees them on a journey not of their choosing. The book describes the brutality of life in 1800’s Australia, the treatment of the indigenous population, and the rigourous adherence to the ‘old ways’ in this vastly alien and seemingly lawless world. If you like your reading to be vivid, violent, confronting, and troublesome then you’ll sure like this one!

Catalogue record for Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J. D. BarkerI was originally going to keep this list of highlights to five titles but there’s another one that came to my attention recently. It’s the sequel (a prequel to be more precise) that’s taken over a century to come into existence. Dracul

The official prequel to the great work, this one penned by none other than Bram Stoker’s great-grandnephew and authorised by his estate. It’s told in the familiar form of diary entries and personal notes, and tells the story of Bram himself who along with his siblings encounter some serious evil and a creature so powerful and unknowable that it threatens their very souls. So well written and very readable, good pace (bit of a page turner), and language that would please the original author. A great read for fans of horror, mystery/suspense, or the classics. Definitely one of my best picks for 2018 and a worthy inclusion to this highlights package (and my colleague Fee loved it too)!

Now I look at the titles that missed out on inclusion to this list with some sadness – like I say, it was a remarkable year for quality fiction! Here at least you have a selection for your holiday reading this summer. Grab one at your local library, settle in with a cup o’tea (or something else), and get some amazing stories in for the hols.

Happy reading,

^DevilStateDan

A Very ‘Smart’ Library – Tūranga

We were privileged to host Christchurch East School for our first two-day school in Tūranga, a programme called ‘Smart’ City. Christchurch is the City Of Opportunity where new, advanced technology is helping the city use resources more efficiently.

This was the focus of our programme, looking specifically at the advanced technology in the library. Jack Hartley, the Operations Support Coordinator, gave Christchurch East students an in-depth, behind the scenes tour to discuss the range of sensors used within the building.

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Little did we know there was an enormous aquifer underneath the site heating and cooling the building, or that the solar panels angle with the sun to adjust the temperatures and automate the blinds.

Our students used Microbit electronics to create their own sensors. They then filmed each floor using a 360 degree camera to capture the variety of sensors used. The footage collected was then uploaded as a virtual tour.

https://poly.google.com/view/3uIthmT9xpa/embed?chrome=min

If you want to know more about two day school programmes please contact Christchurch City Libraries Learning Centre, phone 941 5140, email learningcentre@ccc.govt.nz

Stacy Gregg interview: “I write for strong, brave independent-minded readers who aspire to be heroes”

CoverSeveral years ago now, I bought Mystic and the Midnight Ride by Stacy Gregg as a Christmas present for Miss Missy, my daughter. We read our way through all the Pony Club Secrets books as I (and other members of my family) bought them for her as Christmas and birthday presents. Miss Missy quickly become a huge Stacy Gregg fan (seriously, just the other day we were chatting about favourite authors, and Miss Missy said, “Jacqueline Wilson and J.K. Rowling are great of course, but Stacy Gregg is the author I’ve been the most obsessed with.”)

I even persuaded my twenty-something year old brother to get a signed copy when Stacy attended Storylines in Wellington. He willingly, if somewhat embarrassedly, stood in line with a crowd of young pony-mad girls to get her signature. Miss Missy was very excited when, a few years later, Stacy visited Christchurch Storylines, and willingly signed the rest of her entire collection of books (there are a lot!!) We sent Stacy a photo of Miss Missy’s dedicated Stacy Gregg shelf, which Stacy then shared on her blog—super cool!

So I sort of feel as though I’ve been with Stacy Gregg from the start. I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve read (though I haven’t kept up with them all, I have to admit). I loved The Diamond Horse, and have just finished The Fire Stallion. I think it’s my favourite book so far, although I’m now reading The Princess and the Foal, which I didn’t read at the time when Santa gave it to Miss Missy — I think it might be my favourite too.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Stacy Gregg at WORD Christchurch Festival, and being able to chat to her afterwards, and so I was very excited to be able to ask her a few more questions.

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First of all, what gave you the idea of writing about Brunhilda? I was fascinated to learn a little about her, and about Viking girls. I’m curious: Did you like the story of Sleeping Beauty when you were little? What were your favourite fairytales?

I think my favourite fairytales were always the creepy ones. Hansel and Gretal hanging in a cage in the witch’s living room while she fattened them for the pot, wolves eating grandmothers whole, that kind of thing. The romantic ones left me cold. Brunhilda is all kinds of mythic and historic figures. Yes, she’s the origin story of the Sleeping Beauty myth, and she’s also the Queen of the Valkyries from Wagner’s Ring Cycle, and she’s the Icelandic Princess who is central to Snorri Sturluson’s Eddic poem. There are different versions of her throughout time – this is the update in which Bru reclaims her power and stops waiting for true love’s kiss to wake her. I don’t think girls have time for that anymore.

Brunhilda and her brother had some pretty serious sibling rivalry, and so did Anna Orlov and her brother. Do you have any brothers and sisters? If so, did you fight with them a lot?

I know! What’s my problem with siblings? You would swear I have a brother that I hate like poison. In fact I have just one sibling, a sister, and we get on famously – although we did fight like cat and dog when I was a kid so I do understand that complexity of being rivals I guess.

I was surprised by some of the things I read about the Vikings in your book. What was the most fascinating thing about Vikings that you learned while you were researching the book?

In the past I’ve written books with historical narratives anchored in the time of Empress Catherine the Great in Russia, Queen Isabella and Christopher Columbus in Spain and the Italian Civil War, but this one with Vikings was definitely the most fun yet. They had such a brutal and noble way of viewing the world and their pantheon of gods is so nutty, so there’s a lot of Norse mythology in this book – Thor, Odin and Loki all make an appearance and I really enjoyed researching them. And of course travelling to Iceland and visiting Thingvellir – standing on the Law Rock where the Viking counsel held their AGM – that was very inspiring. The landscape of Thingvellir is spectacular – it’s the shooting location for everything “Beyond the Wall” in Game of Thrones – so dramatic and beautiful.

What did you enjoy most about Iceland? How cold was it when you were there? You’ve been to Russia too; do you enjoy the cold?

I had originally planned to go to Iceland in December until I realised that it would be too wintry – Iceland only has a couple of hours of daylight a day in that month. By the time I went it was spring – which meant minus five degrees during the day. I really feel the cold so I pretty much lived in a massive duvet-like Canada goose jacket the whole time I was there, sometimes teamed with fleece lined overalls. So no, I don’t theoretically like the cold, and yet I would say that Iceland and Russia are my two favourite places that I’ve ever been. Russia for the food (I know! Who would have thought?) and Iceland is just so outrageously beautiful. The next book is set in Berlin and Poland I’ve just been there on a research trip and it was freezing too! I need to start writing in warmer places.

What’s the weirdest things you’ve eaten in your travels? And what is your favourite food?

Fermented Greenland Shark is the iconic traditional food in Iceland. In my book Hilly explains how you take the shark, which is totally toxic if eaten fresh, and crush the poison out by burying the shark under boulders on the beach for a month. All of which is true. By all accounts it tastes disgusting. I never gave it a go because the Icelandic people told me it’s just for tourists now – the Vikings ate it out of necessity. Puffins are on the menu for tourists too – they catch them in giant butterfly nets and they taste a bit like muttonbird apparently. I didn’t eat them either on the grounds that they are too cute. I did eat reindeer carpaccio at an amazing hotel called the Ranga down on the southern coast which is the best place to see the Northern Lights. And in Russia my favourite meal was probably raw mince with raw quails eggs and pickles. I thought I was ordering a burger at the time but it turned out to be amazing.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve been able to do because of being an author?

I was incredibly lucky when I was working on The Princess and the Foal to be given full access by Princess Haya’s staff to do my research in Jordan. I spent time at the royal palace where she grew up and spoke to people who’d known her as a little girl. I visited the royal stables and rode Arabian horses in the desert and floated in the Dead Sea and ate amazing food and was made to feel so welcome. Afterwards, when the book was published in Arabic, I did a book tour in Beirut fell in love with the place. It’s a really liberal Middle Eastern society there, with a strong French influence to the food – again it’s all about the food!

What was your favourite book as a kid?

Ohhh – there are so many. Watership Down was a standout at primary school and Charlotte’s Web. When I met Princess Haya we both bonded over our mutual love for Walter Farley’s novel The Black Stallion. And at High School it was Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole and probably by then To Kill A Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m wading my way through various titles on Hitler – the new book is set partly in Berlin from 1939-45. I haven’t struck one book yet though that has gripped me. I try not to read when I’m writing as I’m a terrible mimic and I adopt other people’s styles too easily so I have to read in the gaps between writing. The last book I read was Paul Cleave’s The Cleaner and I’m onto the sequel – Joe Victim. Cleave is very dark and very funny and Joe is my favourite psychopath since Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.

Did you enjoy English when you were at school? What was your favourite subject?

I loved English. But I always tell kids that if they want to be writers it’s not all about getting the best marks in class because sometimes within the school system I’m not entirely sure being creative is rewarded. Passing exams is about ticking the boxes not thinking outside them. I also think that grammar skills don’t really get taught in English at school. I didn’t really learn how to use apostrophes until I was working on newspapers as a journalist. I learnt my writing skills being chastised by sub-editors. As a consequence I think my copy is very clean now and my editors don’t have to correct much. The most important thing you can do if you want to write is read, and think critically about the work you are reading and then try and utilise what you’ve learnt in your own writing.

Do you (as an adult) read pony books by other authors?

No. I read the “Jill” books by Ruby Ferguson as a girl. I don’t read any modern pony fiction and I guess now I don’t really consider my books to be pony fiction. I think of them more as far-flung epic action adventures that just happen to feature girls and horses.

Are there any authors that you’d recommend to girls who’ve read all your books and are wondering what to read next?

I think I’m more in the vein of adventure – I write for strong, brave independent-minded readers who aspire to be heroes. I’d probably be inclined to point them towards male authors who occupy similar terrain – like Rick Riordan or Michael Morpurgo. I’m not a girly writer, despite the glitter on the jackets.

Blaze from Pony Club Secrets always reminded me of another pony called Blaze from a picture book Billy and Blaze by C.W. Anderson which I loved as a child. How do you come up with all the names for the horses in your books?

Oh it was really hard to name the horses in the Pony Club Secrets series! That’s because the name of the horse features in the title. And often in real life a horse is given a human name – our horse for instance is called Cam, and he shares a paddock with a horse called Dennis. But you can’t really have a title like “Dennis and the Golden Trophy” because it gets confusing. Who is Dennis? Is he human or horse? So the horses have to have ‘horsey’ names like Blaze and Fortune and Storm.

Although Pony Club Secrets is set in New Zealand, when I was reading the books, I thought it seemed like a slightly English version of New Zealand. Did you do this on purpose?

Well the books were always intended for the UK market and my publishers HarperCollins are based in London so it kind of naturally evolved to be slightly a combination of the two countries which I think works.

Stacy Gregg. Image supplied.
Stacy Gregg. Image supplied.

Do you have a favourite horse colour?

I like a really bright bay or a very rich golden dun with black points. Although lately all the horse-protagonists in my books seem to wind up being grey for some reason.

Do you have a favourite character (girl and or horse!) from your books?

I am totally besotted with the two girls in my new book, The Fire Stallion. Especially my Viking princess Brunhilda (Bru for short). Bru is so sword-wielding and stoic and yet she’s still sensitive and devoted beyond all else to her horse. She’s a hero in the true mythic sense and she just sort of leapt onto the page right from the start and gripped me by the throat and said “let’s do this”. I want to be her.

Did you have a pony when you were young? Can you tell us about your first horse?

I had to beg my parents for years. They were convinced I was going through a phase. When I finally did get a pony (her name was Bonnie) they didn’t have a clue what to do. Neither did I although I was convinced I was a genius. I was very lucky that they enrolled me in pony club. My sister rode too and we competed every weekend but we never had starry ponies and we wore homemade jackets and jodhpurs held up with safety pins. My daughter was lucky to have a horsey mum I think, and also times have changed and everything is so much swisher now than it was back then – there’s so much gear to buy and the horses are so fancy now. Cam is actually my daughter’s horse but I’m lucky I get to ride him quite a lot at the moment as she’s busy working on Power Rangers!

Do you have a special place where you write your books?

The Fire Stallion is dedicated in part to the Sea Breeze Café in Westmere – which is where I am sitting right now answering these questions. I’ve just bought a new apartment and also a new desk in the hope that I can spend more time writing at home in future.

You were a journalist before you became an author. What did you like most about that job?

I loved the variety. I did everything from features and fashion so one day I’d be interviewing Donna Awatere Huata and the next I’d be down at Mount Ruapehu because it was erupting and then I’d be in Sydney for a Louis Vuitton launch eating fancy canapes and drinking champagne. Journalism taught me so many skills that I use all the time – I research in the same way now that I did back then and I’m pretty fearless about bowling up to people that I need to talk to and asking them the right questions. Plus I can hammer out a super-huge word count under time pressure. It’s also the reason today I like to work in a café – it reminds me of the buzz of the newsroom.

Stacy Gregg. Image supplied.
Stacy Gregg. Image supplied.

Did you always want to be an author?

Totally! I just didn’t think it was a realistic expectation. I mean riding horses and writing – it doesn’t sound like a real job does it?

What is the best thing about being an author?

Everything. I love the freedom of it, creating your own routines. The flipside is that it’s a very uncertain profession. You have to have a bit of steel in you to get through the phase when you’ve been working on a manuscript for three or four months and no one has seen it yet and you’ve hoping it’s as good as the last one and that you’ll be able to continue to pay the rent. That sort of existence is not for the faint hearted.

Do you think being a journalist has made you a better writer?

Absolutely – although I was always a “style writer”. I did features, not hard news reporting. I never actually went to journalism school – I don’t think I would have survived that environment of nuts and bolts reporting. I managed to pester my way into a job at More Magazine and I learnt from the editors I worked for – Lindsey Dawson, Warwick Roger, Paula Ryan, Donna Chisholm, Wendyl Nissen, Stephen Stratford, Steve Braunias. It was an education.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be an author?

You need a back-up career – books are a slow business and even once I was getting published with Pony Club Secrets it took about three years for the royalties to begin coming in. The average author in the UK earns two thousand pounds a year. In New Zealand I’d think it’s probably about the same. If you are determined to do it, look at the market and do your research and think about your career as a big picture, not just one book. And then write. And rewrite. And get your manuscript into perfect shape before you approach agents to take you on – you’ll only get one chance to impress them so the work needs to be tight.

What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?

What? In my entire whole life? Like I’m going to tell you that! I am mortified by things all the time that I do and I have no memory of my victories but a long memory for all the times I’ve been a twit. My days as a fashion editor left me open to daily embarrassment. I was at the Viktor and Rolf show at the Tuileries in Paris and I was allocated a seat in Row Z but I was so busy chatting to my friend Lisa Armstrong who was front row I didn’t realise I was single-handedly holding up the runway show because Vogue editor Anna Wintour couldn’t get past me to get to her seat. Her people had to move me on. That was a bad moment.

Lastly, where did you get those amazing silver boots you wore to WORD? Do you have lots of shoes?

When the Sunday Star-Times first launched their magazine “Sunday” I was their fashion editor and I had a column called Shoe of the Week. So yeah, it was a work-related hazard that I developed a shoe obsession. The silver boots are Balenciaga and despite the fact that they look crazy to walk in they are super comfortable. They were also nose-bleed inducingly expensive. They have since been surpassed on my latest London/Berlin trip by a pair of black patent Prada stilettos and some furry Birkenstocks that make me look like an Ewok. I shall have to write a lot of books to pay for them….

The Fire Stallion by Stacy Gregg is available now ($24.99 RRP, HarperCollins)

The Fire Stallion
by Stacy Gregg
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9780008261412