The story of making my move to tween fiction ~
In 2005, I did a writing workshop with Kate de Goldi, followed by another course
with the same tutor the following year. This proved to be a turning point for me as a writer. I
had submitted a picture book that I’d written and illustrated. Kate encouraged me to consider
that it might be wise for me to make a choice between either writing or illustrating, and then
to focus upon that. I knew the time was right to really concentrate on one course. The natural
choice was writing.
During the first workshop, Kate had us write non-stop for ten minutes at the start of
each day—a practice she wanted us to continue. I found that right away, I was writing a
chapter book. The same insects who had peopled my picture books were older and involved
in an elaborate quest for treasure that came to me as I wrote. They began to morph from mere
critters of the underbrush to shape-shifters who could morph into human form. Kate
encouraged us not to judge what we were writing but to let it flow.
In letting it flow the story unfolded, morning by morning, over the following two
years. When I finally looked up, I'd written more than 300,000 words longhand. As a so-so
typist this would have been an epic undertaking for me to transcribe alone. This is where
family and friends stepped in. I’ll always be grateful for the help I was given with the typing
of the manuscript. Thank you, Jaguar Kukulcan, Rozi Pukepuke Hefferan, and Anastasia
Martin. I split the epic tale of love and loss into three books, and The Records of Aden trilogy
For me, the subject of grandfathers is one I find deeply moving. I've not had the
grandfather experience in my life. My parents were immigrants who left England and their
families. We grew up an isolated pocket, a little family of six. Our only experience of
extended family came through the letters, and the packages they sent us every Christmas.
My mother's father, Alfred, died of cancer six months after she came to New Zealand.
My father's dad, Jim, suffered a couple of massive strokes and although he survived he was
reduced mentally to being a child, so grandpa Hefferan was absent even from the letter-
writing process. Therefore I grew up without knowing either of my grandfathers.
I think this is why I am so drawn to write about them. I savoured writing the
grandfather experiences for the characters in these stories. The Papa Joe character in the first
book, Aden Weaver and the Or’in of Tane Mahuta, is dear to my heart. Somehow I have
given myself another grandfather.
My mother’s mother and father, Evelyn and Alfred Davies
Aunties' Lunch ~
Early on, in the writing of The Records of Aden, I was sharing my progress with the
ladies in my family. Our kids were pre-schoolers and we used to gather once a week at my
house--the old family homestead--in a shared feast we called Aunties' Lunch. Each week, I'd
bounce ideas off the aunties and get their feedback concerning my story.
One day my niece said that my story reminded her of a legend she’d heard. "That sounds like
the myth of Rata and Tane," she said. "Nanny used to tell us myths at bedtime..." And my
niece told us the mythology, as told to her by her grandmother. Then later, she researched it
online as well and sent it to me, but it was the oral version that I preserved.
As soon as I had the mythological link, it fit. I felt that in one fell swoop, my story
had landed. It was now grounded into this land where I have grown. I knew then for sure that
this story had legs.
The tricky part of using a traditional Maori legend was that I needed to alter it in
certain ways. I feared that this would offend people. I wrestled with the dilemma for a while.
Setting the entire story on another world, the planet Chiron and making the characters shape-
shifters would become one part of the solution. I also made subtle changes to existing
In the original version, it was a tree Rata wanted to take from the forest and offering
the chip of wood from this tree that resulted in being given the tree. But, I needed the myth to
end in a competition for the chip, which would then become this sacred talisman the Or'in of
Tane Mahuta. I also needed it to resolve the issue of how the island became invisible. The
tree became a stone, I changed the name of the chief from Rata to Kal. It became something
else—a new mythology for a new story.