If you have ever wondered where authors get their ideas, this is your chance to find out. We have asked our fantastic finalists for the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults all about their work, and they have been very generous in their responses!
Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story is a finalist in the non-fiction category of the awards.
Thank you to Philippa Werry for her responses:
1. As an author, you must have a lot of ideas floating around. How did you decide to write this book?
The idea behind Anzac Day came from my experiences of going to our local Anzac Day community service. Every year, people are waiting to hand out service sheets, and they collect them again at the end to re-use them on the next Anzac Day. That means that the format of the service – the words that are spoken, the music that is played, the songs that are sung – remains much the same.
I started to wonder why that was so, and why we always spoke those same words and played that same music, and I thought that exploring those ideas might give more meaning to an Anzac Day service for children who attended one. But then I realised that there was a lot more to find out: not just what happens in the service, but also how Anzac Day came about in the first place, and why we have the dawn service and the red poppy, and how memorials of different sorts help us to remember. I tried to put together a history of Anzac Day from many different viewpoints, without glorifying war but honouring the memory of those who served and died for their country, to show why it has been important in the past and why it still matters today.
2. Tell us a bit about the journey from manuscript to published work. What was the biggest challenge you faced in publishing this book?
There were two big hurdles. One was condensing the huge amount of information available, and working out what to leave in and what to take out.
The other was the question of images. We wanted the book to be richly illustrated with a wide range of images – modern and historic photographs, paintings, maps, diaries, even stamps. So that was a huge process in itself: tracking down the images, emailing institutions and museums and libraries to find out if they were available for use, negotiating payments, keeping track of a budget. Some people were very generous and let me use their photographs or images for free, as long as they were properly acknowledged. We’d have unexpected hiccups, like an image we thought had been cleared suddenly becoming unavailable so we had to quickly find a replacement. And then there were captions to write and the acknowledgements page, which had to be tied to the page numbers and was very complicated to draw up.
I thought at the time there must be an easier way, and I did work out a few practical steps to help improve the process but I’m going through it again for another book and it is just as complicated the 2nd time round!
3. Did you tailor this book to a particular audience – or did you find it found its own audience as it was written?
The publicity info says it is aimed at 8 to 12 year olds, but a lot of adults have told me that they’ve read it and enjoyed it, and they all say they have found out something they didn’t know before.
4. Can you recommend any books that you love, that inspired or informed your book in any way?
There are so many books written about war, World War One and Gallipoli in particular, and about New Zealand’s place in war. I found the oral histories very moving, like Nicholas Boyack and Jane Tolerton’s, In the shadow of war: New Zealand soldiers talk about World War One and their lives.
I also loved Anna Roger’s book While you’re away: New Zealand nurses at war 1899-1948 because my great-great-aunt, Louisa Bird, was one of the first group of WW1 nurses to leave for the war in 1915.
5. Tell us about a time you’ve enjoyed relaxing and reading a book – at the bach, on holiday, what was the book?
We usually spend New Year at my husband’s family’s bach in the Bay of Plenty. There are always lots of people – adults and children, and lots of books lying around. People bring books that they think others would like to read and we stock up supplies from the local library. This year, one book that fascinated us all was Tūhoe: portrait of a nation by Kennedy Warne, published by Penguin. It has stunning photographs – many of places that we have visited, and gives an indepth look at Tūhoe history.
6. What is your favourite thing to do, when you aren’t reading or writing, and why?
Swimming for exercise, walking because it helps me get ideas, movies because we have a wonderful local cinema just around the corner and cryptic crosswords because they provide a lot of fun with words.