Tag Archives: David Hill

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!).

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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.’

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Marimba in the library

There was one very special part of the event. A marimba group accompanied two children who recited poems from the Treasury. It was a wonderful experience. Beautiful sounds. They performed Melanie Drewery’s ‘Out in the Night Time’ and David Hill’s ‘Seasons.’ Again I wish the authors had been there.

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Reading Festival: The wonderful David Hill says it ‘sounded as if a family of elderly ghosts were reading along with me.’

david-hillDavid Hill is a favourite NZ author of mine as his books can make me laugh and make me cry. He writes for all ages, and he writes both stories and poems (some of his poems will be in the children’s Treasury I am editing). He lives in New Plymouth.  I love this photo where you can see a cute soft toy and his grandsons’ knees!

 

This is a wonderful snapshot of his reading life as a child:

I grew up in a small, old, crumbling, rented house on Napier Hill, while my Mum and Dad saved enough money to buy a place of their own. The whole house creaked and shifted and groaned all the time, and whenever I read, it sounded as if a family of elderly ghosts were reading along with me. I used to lie face down on my bed, stopping to stare out the window at the back verandah where my Dad kept his bike. I can’t see an old black bike now without thinking of reading!

It’ll sound shocking, but much of my early reading was magazines and comics. There were heaps of kids’ magazines or comics then, called Champion, Eagle, Tiger – all of them with long, chapter-book-type stories serialised over several weeks.

I also got hooked on Boys’ Own Annuals. There weren’t many NZ books for children, and I read huge numbers of these annuals, with their stories of English schoolboys who all wore long trousers, collars and ties and school caps, and said things like “Wizard show, old chum!” and “I say, Bertie!” For a while I went around talking like that to my friends, who looked at me strangely.

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Then I met Arthur Ransome‘s stories – the Swallows and Amazons ones, in which kids went sailing, met baddies, always won. I swallowed them as fast as I could get them from the library. When I was running out, I asked the librarian, “What else have you got – PLEASE??”, and she showed me another English writer, Richmal Crompton, who wrote the William books, in which a scruffy kid and his scruffy friends are always causing trouble in the neighbourhood, in a harmless way. I longed to be like him. Again, I read every book featuring him that I could.

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The Napier Public Library then was up a flight of steps in the middle of town, with an echoing hard floor, a big sign on the wall reading ‘SILENCE’, and a stern-looking lady librarian. In fact, she was a sweetie, and she introduced me to so many books – White Fang by Jack London, the Professor Challenger stories and Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle (Prof Challenger was a great big guy who was always finding dinosaurs or poisonous clouds in strange countries); Rider Haggard‘s novels of British chaps fighting against African tribes – very racist and very sexist, though I hardly noticed it then.

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I went to University and read famous, sometimes-boring, sometimes-wonderful authors. I became a high school teacher for a while, and taught books which I enjoyed, because I hoped my classes would. Sometmes they did – The Black Cloud by Fred Hoyle, about an alien intelligence; the World War 2 stories by Alistair Maclean; The Kon-Tiki Expedition by Thor Heyerdahl, in which the Norwegian explorer sails on a raft from South America to the Pacific Islands. I read some of these so often that I can still quote bits by heart – and that’s a real bonus for any writer.

NZ books for children began to appear on the market. I heard about an author called Margaret Mahy, and another one called Joy Cowley. “They’re quite good,” people said. Wrong – they were brilliant. I still read everything by them, and I pick up all sorts of techniques and ideas. I read heaps of NZ writers (though only when I’m not trying to write my own book; otherwise I get too depressed because they’re so much better than me!) I’ve just finished Des Hunt‘s new book, Project Huia, about an extinct NZ bird that suddenly reappears. It’s sooooo good that I’ve turned dark green with jealousy.

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David Hill has window cleaners cleaning the sun!

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David Hill is a great story writer but he also writes tasty poems (he has written some of my favourite NZ novels for children including See Ya Simon). He is latest novel for Young Adults, My Brother’s War, just won the Children’s Choice Award at The New Zealand Post Book Awards and the Librarians’ Choice at the LIANZA Children’s Book Awards. I highly recommend this book as David is very good at writing about tough subjects in such a way you don’t want to put the book down. You get into the grip of his story and you don’t want to leave! That’s skill.

David’s poems often tell stories (and there is nothing wrong with that, the poet James Brown once said all good poems tell stories). David’s poems also have a sense of humour and use zany similes. So the combination of humour and story can be a perfect mix for poetry. Have a go and send me what you come up with (paulajoygreen@gmail.com). Don’t forget your details. David’s poems are dotted throughout the School Journals. If you have read one that you loved, add a comment to this post and tell me which one it was. I love David’s poem about the window-cleaner trying to wipe the sun. I think he also mixes up bits of his imagination with bits of what he sees and experiences into a great poetry brew. I have posted the window-cleaner poem at the bottom. I love the image it makes in my mind knowing I would be too scared to climb such a tottering ladder.

I sent David some questions and this is what he wrote back:

I feel a bit awkward, writing about poetry. That’s because I’m not a good poet [editor disagrees!]. Quite often, I’m a rotten poet. I mainly write novels, plays, stories. Which is funny, really, because at school, I learned heaps of poems off by heart (and I’m glad I did; it’s cool being able to recite them to yourself). Plus I still read poetry. But I write only 1….2….sometimes three poems a year, and most are so bad, I never show them to anyone.

I’d like to be able to write like Glenn Colquhoun, Elizabeth Smither, Sam Hunt, Margaret Mahy, other excellent NZ poets. I’d like to be able to make marvellous comparisons, see things from interesting angles, have really original rhythms and rhymes or part-rhymes like them. But I always seem to end up telling a story, which I usually write as…..well, a story.

But I do like trying to write funny poems. I enjoy taking something weird (a window-cleaner on a high building, who seemed to be wiping the Sun that was reflected in the glass), and imagining other strange things such a person might seem to be cleaning. I always enjoy writing about my mistakes (trying to impress a girl when I was at school by writing stories, or tripping over on the footpath while I was watching a leaf fall). I believe people always enjoy reading about other’s blunders!

Reading other people’s books and poems always helps give me ideas, as well as giving me pleasure. There are some excellent NZ poetry books around; try Poetry Pudding, edited by Jenny Argante; 100 NZ Poems, edited by Bill Manhire, and Flamingo Bendalingo by Paula Green – yes, the same Paula who runs this website, and who will be very embarrassed I’ve mentioned her.

And of course, I try to write poems and stories about the activities that I’m keen on. I belong to an Astronomy Club, an Archery Club, a Walking Group, and I’ve written about all those. I’m never able to write a whole poem or story from scratch, the way some people can. I always scribble ideas, lines, people’s names in a notebook – maybe just five minutes one day; ten minutes the next day; another ten minutes three days after that. Slowly, the framework of the story / poem builds up. I’m always reading my stuff aloud to myself; that helps a lot with sentences and words. And I never, never NEVER throw any of my writing ideas away; you never know when you’re going to get an idea on how to improve it.

So – good luck with your own writing. Read heaps. Scribble heaps. Steal heaps of ideas from what your friends do and say. And don’t you dare throw any of it away……

 

Window Cleaners

 

There they were this morning,

 

High up on an office block.

 

 

 

One was polishing the sun,

 

Another rinsing fleecy clouds,

 

A third rubbing the blue sky.

 

 

 

If I come back tonight,

 

Will they still be there –

 

 

 

One scrubbing the shooting stars,

 

Another washing the moon,

 

A third wiping down the Milky Way?

 

 

© David Hill

 

NZ Post Children’s Book Awards

Book  awards can be nerve wracking times. My heart goes out to all those who didn’t get a gong and my delight goes out to all those who did. I was really impressed with the flurry of inventive activity that celebrated the shortlisted books throughout New Zealand. Bravo organisers!

I have read a number of the shortlisted books and I certainly had some favourites. Kate De Goldi generously answered some questions for Poetry Box ( May 19, 2013 — and I talked about what I loved about The ACB of Honora Lee). But I also loved Barbara Else‘s The Queen and the Nobody Boy. This is a book that is deliciously imaginative with exquisite detail. You enter the world of the book and you want to stay awhile! I really enjoyed Racheal King’s  Red Rock. This is like a beautifully written fable that is also grounded in the real world. David Hill‘s novel Mr Brother’s War won Best Junior Fiction and I was happy for David. His book takes you into the grip and guts of war in ways that are both complex and moving. It’s ages since I have read it — now I want to read it again ( I will publish one of David’s poems on Poetry Box sometime this year). I highly recommend all these books!

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AAhhh! Picture books. I love children’s picture books. And these two winners are heavenly. I have already flagged Mr Whistler on Poetry Box (March 28, 2013) — Gavin Bishop‘s lively illustrations and Margaret Mahy‘s brilliant story are a treat. This won best picture book. Later this year Kyle Mewburn is going to answer some questions for Poetry Box and I will share what I love abut his books. There is a poet lurking inside this fabulous storyteller that’s for sure. He knows what to do with words to make them sing and gleam. I was happy he won the children’s choice award. Well deserved!

A YA book won the top prize: ‘Ted Dawe’s book Into the River won the New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year and was also the winner of the Young Adult Fiction category.  This engaging coming of age novel follows its main protagonist from his childhood in small town rural New Zealand to an elite Auckland boarding school where he must forge his own way – including battling with his cultural identity.’

Simon Morton and Riria Hotere won Best Non-Fiction with 100 Amazing Tales from Aotearoa. Will have to get a copy of this!

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Now all the authors can get back to the real world of writing and reading and visiting schools and cooking dinner and driving children to school and feeding dogs and cats and walking on the beach or in the bush or up mountains and flying in aeroplanes and riding bikes and catching ideas and trains and going to the library and bookshops and watching movies and answering the phone and sending emails and posting letters.