The Treasury Interviews: Maddie, Benji, Tasman and Ella interview David Hill

Bio of Writing Group

The group is a Year 7 and 8 Extension Literacy class at Remarkables Primary School, consisting of four students: three Year 8 girls (Maddie, Tasman and Ella) and one Year 7 boy (Benji). All are avid readers, devouring a range of literature from classic to contemporary novels. The group are the Southern Kids Lit champions and came ninth at the National Championships earlier in the year ({Paula- Congratulations!). They meet once a week to discuss literature, looking at the thematic nature of books, the motive and nature of characters; and to swap ideas about new authors and quality books they have read (Paula — I am looking forward to meeting you all!).


Bio of David Hill

David Hill (born Napier 1942) currently resides in New Plymouth and is a popular and versatile New Zealand author, who writes juvenile and adult fiction, poetry, plays, textbooks and who makes frequent contributions to radio, newspaper and NZ journals. Graduating from Victoria University with an MA (Honours) in English Literature, David went on to teach English in secondary schools for 14 years, before leaving to write full-time. His books have won numerous awards and he won the much-coveted Margaret Mahy Award in 2005. His books include See Ya Simon, My Brother’s War, Running Hot, No Safe Harbour, Duet, Coming Back and Right Where It Hurts. In his spare time, David likes reading, tramping, astronomy, supporting the All Blacks and playing with his grandkids.


The Interview:

Hello, you remarkable Remarkables,

Thanks for the excellent and thoughtful questions. Here are some confused replies.

You are obviously a very versatile writer, able to produce quality novels, plays, poems and articles. How does your mindset or approach differ, when writing in these different genres?

Not very much, actually. For everything (except poems, possibly), I take heaps of notes, usually scribbled in my untidy handwriting in a notebook that I carry with me almost everywhere. Then I cluster other ideas/incidents/lines around these notes, and something starts to build, very slowly, like a whole lot of cells slowly linking up. Poetry – and I write very few poems – is the only genre in which I try to build the whole thing in my head before I write it down. Everything else, including plays, articles, reviews, are stories in one way or another, and I guess my approach is the same for them all.

If you could have been the writer of any book of all time, what would it be and why?

Very difficult. Animal Farm by George Orwell: one of the saddest, most honest books I know, because it’s the story of a noble, glorious idea gone wrong. The Road, by US writer Cormac McCarthy, a disturbing adult novel of a man and his son crossing America after some terrible holocaust. Very grim, yet full of love and hope. Or almost anything by Maurice Gee.

Which character in your books do you most closely identify with and how/why?

Actually, there are bits of me in most of my main male characters – and bits of my son Pete and my grandsons. Maybe Peter Cotterill in Journey to Tangiwai. He and I both grew up in Napier, went to Scouts, had a paper round. He’s named after my son; and “Cotterill” is a family name. And yes, there was a girl like Barbara Mason whom I was a bit sweet on….

If you could rewrite the ending to any of your books, which would it be and why?

No, none of them, sorry. I like to end my books with the main character starting on a new phase in their life, and I guess I’m happy to leave them like that.

How do you overcome writer’s block? I make sure I keep sitting there for at least 10 minutes. I’ll re-read ALOUD the last few sentences I’ve written. I’ll make the characters talk, or ask questions, or I’ll jump in time and place to a new scene. These don’t necessarily solve things completely, but they help.

 See Ya Simon is an all time favourite of our group. What inspired the story?

One of my daughter Helen’s best friends did die from Duchenne MD when they were in Year 10. His real name was Nick – you might notice the book is dedicated to NJB. Helen is in the book; the pretty little dark-haired Nelita with her terrible jokes is very like my daughter as a teenager. I wanted to write something to acknowledge how brave she was when Nick died. It was meant to be a short story, but it grew into a novel. Nathan has bits of me and my son. Other characters are often based on kids I taught when I was a high-school teacher.

Can you tell us how you go from an initial idea to writing the novel?

As I said above, I take heaps of notes. That includes research. I’m trying to write a novel just now, set in a POW camp for Japanese prisoners in NZ during WW2, and that’s needed lots of research. I also build up character profiles – what they look like, names, favourite sayings /food / music, etc. When I’m ready, I write the first draft in hand-writing for 3 hours a day, stopping EXACTLY after the three hours are finished. When it’s finished, I transfer it to the computer (which means lots of changes), then I revise and revise. I probably go over it about 12 – 15 times. I’m lucky; I’ve got time. Please don’t think that everything I write gets published. I have heaps of rejections.

Hope that helps, folks. Best of luck with your reading and YOUR writing.

David Hill


Thanks for a great interview David and the Remarkables! David has three poems in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children. David’s poems often have an infectious sense of humour but sometimes they offer a striking image, such as in ‘Seasons.’

9780143305910 9781742532653 9780143308584 693056 9780143308157

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s