Q&A with NZ author Anya Forest

We’re delighted to have a question and answer session with Anya Forest, one of our Kiwi Kids’ Bookstore authors.

Anya is the author of Home from the Homer and A Doubtful Detour, which are time travel books set in Fiordland.

The books have a strong focus on adventure, history, and nature. They are chapter books for ages 10 and up, and include historical photos and illustrations.

Tony Orman, outdoor writer, reviewed Home from the Homer and said: Adventure abounds such as an encounter with the giant Haast’s eagle, (the predator of moa) crossing torrent like rivers and more. It is a book innovative in its concept, extremely well written and quite enthralling.”

What was your inspiration for the books?

I’ve been fascinated by moose since I was a child, and I’ve always wanted to write about Fiordland, as I have visited the area regularly since I was a teenager. I thought of the idea of a modern day family visiting Fiordland and going back in time to explore the region and meet the people and animals that make the area so special. That lead to the idea of writing a book about the Milford Road and Milford Sound (Home from the Homer) and then Doubtful Sound (A Doubtful Detour). I’ve always loved history, and so I started researching some of the people and events that were central to Fiordland. I thought if I could find their families, and learn more, I might be able to include more authentic details in my books. The stories grew from there!

 You say your books are aimed at 10 years old and up. In retrospect, would you think perhaps more 12 or 13?

Yes, perhaps 12-13 years, although I had a range of children read the books in draft from ages 10-15 (and adults as well). Of course, it depends on the children’s reading age rather than their chronological age. I also checked some of the concepts with the 10 year olds (and other children) – for example, things like compromise with a friend, what antibiotics are used for, and widowhood/remarriage, to make sure they would be understood, or else I tried to include an explanation in the books. They are used as class texts in several primary, intermediate and secondary schools. I’ve heard some teachers also read the books to classes of 8 and 9 year olds, who can still follow the plot and themes.

How did you find out about the people, families and businesses in your books?

With a bit of old-fashioned research! I am deeply appreciative to all of the families in my books for their encouragement and assistance, together with the businesses – the Manapouri Power Station, Gunn’s Camp, Real NZ, Wings & Water and Murrells’ Grand View House. My stories are made so much more authentic and detailed because of the families’ and businesses involvement, and the inclusion of some fantastic historic photographs. As a result, although my stories are fiction, they also weave in a large amount of historical fact, as well as referring to local businesses.

When I started writing I intended to write a children’s book – and then another – but I never expected to learn so much along the way on an adult level. This has meant my books also appeal to an adult audience. I have gained a completely different perspective on Fiordland, and what it means to face challenges. There were more than a few laughs when the families were reminiscing – hearing about people from the past in that way made them seem so real to me, and hopefully that shows in my stories. The research I have done and the people I’ve met and learned about have definitely given me a new appreciation of Fiordland.

Will there be a third book?

Yes, I’m currently researching, and starting to write a third book, so figuring out a storyline is always enjoyable! I’m also in the middle of a series of school visits talking about my books, Fiordland, and writing. My free resources for teachers that accompany my books have been really popular, so I’ve started presenting workshops to students about writing. In the middle of all of that I’m planning another trip to Fiordland for “research” – always a great excuse to visit and spend time in such a special area of New Zealand!