Here's a picture of me*, yesterday, talking to about 90 kids at the Shirley Library in Christchurch. Being as how it is New Zealand Book Month and the theme is "Books Change Lives", I took along a selection of books that changed my life - books I still own from childhood. The kids seemed fascinated to see the small, yellowed, 1970s versions of books they still read today: Danny the Champion of the World, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I also showed them an old copy of Under the Mountain and was very pleased to find how many of them had read it, and how many had seen the film. I was able to tell them about how I auditioned for the TV series when I was 10 years old, and how (in my mind) my chances were thwarted by my older brother, who went on to be the voice of Theo in the Radio NZ version, then to direct and co-write the film all those years later (still rubbing my face in it!).
I then talked about writing Red Rocks and read a spooky passage. One little girl in the front looked so scared I had to keep reading to the end of the chapter so she knew that Jake, the protagonist, was okay and was not actually murdered by seals.
We finished up with some questions from the audience and what great questions they were. Unlike adults at literary festivals, kids really don't hold back. The best one was "What do you like about Red Rocks?" which really made me stop and think. In the end, I said I liked how personal a story it was to me, about how much I had unwittingly inserted myself and my experiences into it, and how my two boys, when they are old enough, will be able to read it and I can use it to tell them about my own childhood.
I'll be doing it all over again tomorrow (Friday March 15th) at Christchurch's South Library, at 11.30am, and very much looking forward to it.
*Thanks to Zac at Shirley Library for the great photos, and thanks to the library for hosting me.
The Sound of Butterflies was the title of my first novel, published in the UK by Picador, in the US by William Morrow and in New Zealand by Random House, and translated into eight foreign languages. In 2009 my next novel, Magpie Hall, was published in New Zealand by Random House, and in 2012 my first novel for children, Red Rocks. This blog is my thoughts on the world of writing and books.
Photo by Sharon Blance.