Poetry Box interview: Maisie Merriman (8) interviews Paula Green

Little Tales of Hedgehog and Goat, Paula Green, illustrations by Kimberly Andrews, Penguin, 2022

I loved writing this junior novel. And that’s the key for me. I write because I love writing. So what fun to invite Maisie – a an extra keen young reader and writer – to ask me a few questions to celebrate the book. Makes up for not being able to launch it in person.

Maisie and I did this interview in May before the book had reached our shores because I knew I would be out of public view with a long stay in hospital for a stem cell transplant.

Hope my book inspires you to write something too!

So exciting to think Hedgehog and Goat will be in the shops on August 9th!

What made you think of writing this story?

We were in the middle of a big storm, and then we had no power for a few weeks. We live in the country so we had no running water, no internet, no phone. We did things by candle light and lanterns. One day I went for a walk up the road and saw a goat sleeping on its shed roof. The idea for a friendship story fell into my head. I wrote by pen in the dim light like I was living centuries ago. It was such a good feeling writing it.

How did you come up with Goat’s character traits?

Hmm! Good question. I wanted Goat to be kind and funny and inventive. I didn’t plan Goat before I started writing, but discovered Goat as she fell on the page. She kept surprising me – like how she liked to goat dance. And how she liked to make up really tiny poems.

When Hedgehog got tricked by so many things, how did you think of all those things?

I think ideas fall into my head like a daisy chain. One daisy leads you to the next daisy and, before you know it, you have threaded a chain. Writing is such mysterious and exciting thing to do. It is like getting into a good rhythm when you ride a bike and the ideas just flow. Bits of the real world sneak in and loads of imagination. I thought of how things you see in the dark can trick you! Even in bright sunlight!

Which character is your favourite and why?

Hardest question of all! When I say Goat, I think it is Hedgehog, and when I say Hedgehog, I think it is Horse. I think the characters need each other. They bring out the best in each other. That’s what I love about them all! And they made me smile. Laugh even. I just love them all.

What place would this book take in terms of the most favourite books you’ve written e.g. first, second etc?

I think this is the favourite children’s book I have ever written because it gave me a warm glow to write. Aunt Concertina and Her Niece Evalina is also a favourite as I told the story to my girls for years when they were little and Michael did all the beautiful paintings. But Hedgehog and Goat feels like the perfect book to read when the world feels so corrugated with Covid and war and poverty. I also wanted to write a story that is a secret antidote to bullies. I wanted to write a feel-good book!

What age were you when you started writing?

I started writing when I was four. My mother says I used to sit at my father’s typewriter with a tea cosy on my head and write things. Goodness knows what! I didn’t know how to spell many words so it was gobbledegook to borrow a word from Joy Cowley. But I wrote for a very long time before I tried to get published.

What was your favourite book as a kid?

There was probably a different favourite book for each day of the week, and for each week of the year. Like you Maisie, I was a book gobbler. We used to go to the library on Friday nights and I would get as many books out as I was allowed. I loved Winnie the Pooh and A A Milne poems when I was little. Then I loved Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome as I wanted to camp on an island, sail on a lake, and have a summer load of adventure. I also loved the zany zippy rhymes of Dr Seuss. Sadly, hardly any New Zealand children’s books were published when I was young. Or even the magnificent feast of international children’s books we can read nowadays. By the time I was ten, I was reading Charles Dickens. He is really good at writing sentences! And all these years later, I am still a monster book gobbler.

Thanks so much Maisie – I loved your questions and I loved answering them!

Maisie is 8 years old and lives in Auckland. She likes reading, writing poetry and playing Settlers of Catan. Her poems have previously been published on Poetry Box.

Paula Green is a poet and anthologist. Her collection The Letter Box Cat and other poems won Children’s Choice at the NZ Post Book Awards. She has won a number of Storylines Notable Book Awards. Hedgehog and Goat is her second junior novel. She runs two blogs, NZ Poetry Shelf and NZ Poetry Box. In 2017 she received the Prime Minister’s Award for Poetry and was made Member of the NZ Order of Merit. She lives near Te Henga Bethells Beach on Ta ̄maki Makaurau’s West Coast.

Penguin page

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