Illustrator Interview


Where were you born? Where do you live now?

Auckland. I was an only child.  I now live in rural Tauranga with my husband Andrew and two of my children, Spencer and Cleo. My oldest daughter Diva is at Uni in Auckland.

Where did you go to school? Did you have a nickname?

I went to a lot of different primary schools, but ended up in Devonport, Auckland, at Takapuna Grammar School. My nickname was Norman, it started when I did a great Norman Gunston impression and it stuck.

What were you like in school? What is the naughtiest thing you did?

Naughty?! I know nothing your honour... I was actually a bit of a rebel, mostly low-grade misdemeanors! Also a bit of a clown, making people laugh at me helped me hide the fact that deep down I was shy and lonely and weird! Don't worry, I'm okay now...

What was your favourite book growing up?

Watership Down by Richard Adams.

Who is your favourite children's author?

I can't choose just one! Roald Dahl, Judith Kerr, Ursula Le Guinn, J. K. Rowling, Garry Kilworth, Laini Taylor. Quentin Blake is my favourite illustrator.

What is your favourite food/colour/movie?

Pizza, green, I love disaster movies where giant asteroids and things are crashing into the earth, superheroes are good too. Also Star Wars.

Who inspired you to write/illustrate?

I was always arty, and became a graphic artist. The first book I wrote and illustrated was a school assignment when I was in Form 1 (Year 7). It was called Turnabout Tiddler, and was about a goldfish with one fin. I still have it, all handwritten and coloured in with felt pen. My second illustrated work was when I worked for a printing company in their graphics department when I was 18. It was called Pruning for the Learner by Leo Stackpole. I had to draw a lot of trees!

How did you get started? How old were you?

Graphic design was mostly about designing logos and magazine layouts, sometimes I did book covers and illustrations though and realised that was what I wanted to do.

Why did you want to be a writer/illustrator?

Bringing stories to life and being part of imagined worlds. Remembering all the good parts of my own childhood.

How do you think up ideas?

My kids and their friends inspire me a lot. I read heaps of picture books and children's fiction. Usually the author provides lots of notes and ideas too. My favourite would have to be I Can't Imagine How That Happened, where Grandpa is based on my Dad and Grandad, and Meg is just like my daughter Cleo when she was little.

Do you have a special place where you write/illustrate?

I have a little studio but it can be a bit cramped when I have several projects on the go. Also I'm not very good at putting my stuff away. Mostly I take over the dining table where I have a nice view of the trees and farmland, and can hear the birds. We eat dinner on the couch.

What is the best thing about being an author/illustrator?

When I was a kid, I used to love colouring-in. Now it's my job! How lucky am I?

Have you had a funny or embarrassing moment as an author/illustrator?

After I had illustrated I Can't Imagine How That Happened by Aimee McNaughton, I discovered that Aimee was my youngest daughter's English teacher! We met for the first time at Storylines, then again at Parent/Teacher Interviews!

What do you do when you are not writing/illustrating?

I knit, crochet, paint and sew. I collect knick-knacks (things like little bottles and old clocks), and cats (real ones with whiskers and tails).

What would you have chosen to be if you were not an author/illustrator?

A vet or a car mechanic. I would love to own a second-hand book shop.

Which famous person from the past would you like to talk to?

Professor Dumbledore.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?

Although I plan to continue illustrating forever, I am currently having a go at writing a children's book. There's a talking weasel in it.  My daughter Cleo is named after a pet ferret I had when I was twelve.