The Sharks are a reading group in Room 1 at Adventure School in Whitby. They love to read and write and listen to stories and poems. They also love to run, swim and go on the classroom iPads. There is a photo of the whole class and a photo of The Sharks.
Elena de Roo: When she was growing up Elena went to seven different primary schools all around NZ but has lived in Auckland since she was eleven. She likes chips and ice cream (far too much and occasionally together) and has a tortoiseshell cat that sits on her knee and purrs while she writes. Elena writes poems, picture books and quirky stories and has just finished a fantasy novel.
We love The Rain Train! What is your favourite book that you have written?
Just between you, The Rain Train is definitely one of my favourites too. It was the first picture book I ever had published. I was SO excited when I found out, one Guy Fawkes night, that it had been accepted by Walker Books Australia. I wrote it on a rainy night when everyone else was asleep and I wouldn’t change any of it. Brian Lovelock (the illustrator) very kindly let me choose my favourite illustration from it to keep. It was very hard to decide, but in the end I picked the one where the train steams over the viaduct.
My eldest daughter likes the Ophelia Wild series best and made me promise to dedicate all of them to her.
We like making poems that rhyme. Is it very hard to write a whole chapter book in rhyme?
Yes, it takes much longer to write it in rhyme than it would in prose, but Ophelia’s story just seemed to start off that way. And (like most things) the more you do it, the easier it gets. I’ve learnt to make sure I have the plot worked out first so I don’t write lots that has to be changed later. Also, going over and over a couple of lines in your head to make them sound the best you can, is a good way to get to sleep at night.
Do all of your stories rhyme?
No, I’ve written some plays, short stories and poems that don’t rhyme and I’ve just finished a fantasy novel.
How many awards have you won for poetry? Do you have one that is very special?
I’ve won three awards, but the most special was the Todd New Writers’ Bursary because this meant I could spend a whole delicious year at home writing poems.
If you wrote a book for the Royal Family, what would it be about?
That’s a tricky one. I live next door to Cornwall Park and there are lots of lambs bleating for their mothers at the moment, so maybe I’d write a book about a lamb called George who loses his bleat and the trouble this gets him into.
p.s. When I was little I loved the poem ‘The King’s Breakfast’ by A. A. Milne.
What happens if you get sick, and you can’t write?
That almost happened when I was writing Zombie Pox (in Ophelia Wild Deadly Detective). I had a deadline to meet and I was horribly behind schedule because I’d procrastinated so much about starting to write the story, and then I got sick as well. I couldn’t sleep at night because I had a horrible cough, so I ended up writing through the night and taking naps during the day for a week or two. Maybe it helped my writing because I was writing about Ophelia being sick too.
Did you have any poems or stories published when you were at school?
When I was nine or ten, I won a competition for writing a poem about the mountain near our town. It was published in the local newspaper and the prize was some movie tickets.
Note from Paula: Thanks for the wonderful interview Elena and The Sharks. What great questions and what great answers. Elena has lots of poems in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children because she is one of my favourite poets. Her poems are good to read aloud because she really knows how to use her ears when she writes. I also love her Rain Train book because it sounds so good! Her latest book is called The Name at the End of the Ladder (Walker Books). I am taking that on my Hot Spot Poetry Tour.