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Janice Marriott is a leading writer of books for children and young adults. Among her best-known novels are Letters to Lesley and Crossroads, which won the 1996 NZ Post Supreme and Senior Fiction Awards as well as the Esther Glen Medal.
Her books also include The Soldier in the Yellow Socks based on the war experiences of Charles Upham and the historical novel Thor’s Tale.
What kinds of books do you like reading?
I like books that make me laugh. I like books that make me see the world differently. I like stories where you want to find out what happens next and you have to read on to find out. “Janice, come and help us in the kitchen!” “I can’t. I have to finish reading this book!” THAT sort of book.
Who are your favourite authors?
Because I like funny books I like authors who make me laugh. I like William Taylor’s books, like Agnes the Sheep, and I like Paul Jennings and Roald Dahl.
What does it take to be an author?
You have to be persistent. You have to keep trying to get it right. It’s the same with trying to be the best you can be in all sorts of different fields. If you want to be good at sport you have to be disciplined and keep on trying to get better and better. Writing stories is the same. You have to keep practising.
What’s the best part about being an author?
The best part is inventing characters you like and then setting them off to have adventures. Arlo, in Chute Thru, is a character I particularly like. He keeps inventing wonderful things and no one takes any notice. But he just keeps on doing it. I loved inventing him. When the book was published the person who designed the book’s cover named her new baby Arlo. I thought that was great.
Do you write full-time or do you have another job?
I have another job as well. I like to be very busy. When I’m not writing I record all the Kiwi Kidsongs CDs that come to your schools. I enjoy music and I love working in recording studios. I get to meet many very talented children.
Why did you start writing?
I started writing because I had moved from one country to another and I’d left all my friends behind. Writing them letters was the only way I could keep in touch with them. I realised I liked writing and I just kept doing it. My first book, Letters to Lesley had lots of letters in it. I like writing letters and emails.
How old were you when you started writing?
I have a mystery story that I wrote when I was nine. That’s the first time I wrote a chapter book. It wasn’t very long but I took the trouble to write it all out as neatly as I could and put cardboard covers on it. I sometimes take it to schools and show children. But that book was just for me and my family. The first book I wrote for lots of people to read was Letters to Lesley and then Brain Drain. They are funny books about a boy called Henry who finds it hard to understand the world of adults. I had great fun inventing Henry and his friends.
Where did the idea for Thor’s Tale come from?
I read about the Antarctic explorers and I thought about what sort of people they would have been – very different from me! They would have not minded the cold and bad food and no comforts just because they wanted to explore places no one had been before. I thought that was interesting. When I found out there were young boy whalers living in the sub Antarctic I wanted to know how they had survived the hard life, and I wanted to know what they thought of the explorers. So I just thought a lot about it and the book started to take shape in my mind.
Who are people who you most admire?
I admire people who know what they want in life and have the confidence in themselves to go for it and try to reach their goal – like the Antarctic explorers. I like people who enjoy life because they put so much into it. And I like people who make me laugh. That’s a great gift.
What else have you written?
I've writing another funny science fiction book about Arlo. This one is even more crazy. It is set in a completely different place from the raft of the first book. I love inventing strange places and people. And I’ve also written a very serious book about a girl who is going blind. The book is about her and her uncle flying a plane. It’s got lots of information about flying in it. I had to have flying lessons so I could research how to fly a plane. This book is called Taking Off.
I now write books explaining to children how to grow your own food. I have written a series of these books for Harper Collins and for Yates. The latest is called "Get Your Hands Dirty."