An Interview with Des Hunt

Des Hunt is a bestselling author based in New Zealand. He specialises in children’s books with nature, science and technology themes, often set in his country of birth. Some of the books Des has written include Whale Pot Bay and Where Cuckoos Call. You can find him on his website here.


 

Tiegan:

Thanks for doing this, Des. So how did you get into writing? Did you always want to be a writer?

Des:

In 1960, I read a book titled These Lovers Fled Away by British Author Howard Spring. In the story the main character fought in WW1 and afterwards chose to write a play about his experiences. His whole life from that point revolved around that play. I got so involved with the story that I began to think I might like to be a writer later in life. I had my first book published 14 years later, but it was not the sort of book I had imagined. It was a nonfiction reader on the motions of the earth, moon and sun, and how they affect our lives. Other nonfiction followed over the next 20 years, all of it designed to interest young people in the natural world. Not until the 1990s did I seriously consider writing fiction. The transition from nonfiction to fiction was not easy: 10 years passed before my first novel – A Friend in Paradise – was published.

T:

Aside from being an author, what other hobbies do you have?

D:

I’m a keen nature photographer. Wherever I go I will have a camera close-by. In recent years I’ve visited places around the world just to experience and photograph things we don’t have in NZ. Last year we travelled to Hawaii to photograph the basaltic volcano of Kilauea erupting.

T:

What are some recent works- in the form of short stories, or novels- you admire?

D:

I have recently enjoyed reading the Rosie books by Graeme Simsion. I am also rereading Robert Goddard stories– and, book by book, I’m working through Michael Morpurgo’s list.

T:

What can your readers expect for your next book, Sunken Forest?   How will it be different to your other books?

D:

Sunken Forest is the story of a school camp that goes wrong. Readers can expect close contact with the natural environment, encounters with native animals, and natural disasters. The book is closer to my early novels than the ones published in the last few years.

T:

Do you have a favourite, out of all the books you’ve written?

D:

Frog Whistle Mine will remain a favourite because it is the first story that I felt confident in writing. With the two books that came before, I was still doubting my ability to tell a story that people would want to read.

T:

What advice do you have for young writers, or other writers who lack the confidence to get their work out there?

D:

Write, write, write. When I first started on fiction I wrote an adult novel of almost quarter of a million words. It was terrible — nobody except me has ever read it, and never will. But it allowed me to experiment with my writing and find out which was the best style for me. I soon realised that writing for children, rather than adults, was what I wanted to do. I then wrote a children’s book which I sent off to publishers. Each time it was rejected I took another look at the story to see what was wrong with it. That story took on five different forms and was rejected nine times before I gave up. Three years later I tried again with a different story, and this one was accepted. I don’t think there is any formula I can give that will lead to success. If you really, really, want to write, you will find a way.

T:

Do your children or other relatives ever inspire aspects of your writing?

D:

My wife, daughter and son feed me ideas at times, many of which have ended up in stories.

T:

If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

D:

Sir Edmund Hillary. I was 11 when he made it to the top of Mt Everest, and became instantly famous. The amazing thing about him was not that he was a great climber, but that he could live with fame in a way that every New Zealander could understand. He was truly a good man.

T:

What are you reading now?

D:

Umberto Eco’s Numero Zero. I haven’t read anything from him for years, but previously I have enjoyed The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum.

T:

Which character, out of all of your books, can you most relate to? How did you reach this conclusion?

D:

The old man Jim in Project Huia. The book portrays him as an old man and as a boy. I can relate to both, particularly the boy because the adventures he had were in a part of NZ that I knew well at the same age.

T:

What process do you usually go through which results in a published novel?

D:

I decide on a location and visit it for about a week. There I get ideas for scenes in the story. I then plan the characters and their experiences. The book gets written. I usually do three rewrites using the electronic copy. Then I will print it out and identify what needs to be changed to make it read better. After that’s done I like to leave the story for a few months, sometimes more than a year, so that I can revisit it with a fresh mind. That always results in more rewriting until eventually I’m satisfied that it’s the best I can do. Only then is it submitted to a publisher.

How would you describe your writing, in one word?

Adventuresome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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