From the Hawkes Bay Today: Linda Hall 2016
MARY-ANNE SCOTT’S first novel Snakes and Ladders, aimed at teenagers, particularly boys, is fantastic. It won the 2013 young adult category of the Children’s Choice award at the NZ Post Book Awards. It was also short listed for the 2013 LIANZA awards. However, the Havelock North-based author, mum and musician’s new novel Coming Home to Roost, also written from a young man’s perspective, is a whole lot better.
The story follows Elliot as his father sends him to a new city to start an apprenticeship, thereby taking him away from a “bad influence”. His new boss and housemate is a no-nonsense character named Arnie. As Elliot struggles with his new surroundings, his ex-girlfriend Lena is not done with him yet.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN AFTER PUBLISHING YOUR FIRST BOOK?
By the time Snakes and Ladders was published, I’d just completed a writing course at Whitireia. I’ve heard people say that you can’t learn to write but I don’t agree. I was your typical ‘adult nerd’ in the class, desperate for skills and I soaked up the knowledge like a sponge. I also learned that a new book is pretty much like a child — a lot of fuss and excitement to start with but eventually it has to find its own way in the world and it either sinks or swims.
COMING HOME TO ROOST HAS SOME FANTASTIC CHARACTERS. ARE ANY OF THEM BASED ON PEOPLE YOU KNOW?
Arnie has been the most commented on character in this book so far, and I did actually have a real person in mind. He’s the older brother of a very good friend of mine and over the years I’ve been amazed at how this particular man can say so much with so few words. I heard someone ask him once when his wife was due back from her overseas trip, and he said, ‘The calendar’s got ‘vacuum’ on the 29th so I’m thinking then’. My own boys said they could hear my voice coming through Elliot’s mother’s words occasionally . . .
WHAT FEEDBACK DID YOU GET FROM READERS?
You can spend years working on a book and it’s really appreciated when people say what they did, or didn’t like. The harshest criticism is sometimes the most beneficial. After Snakes and Ladders came out our esteemed local author, who’s now living in France, wrote to me and said, ‘I liked your book, I think you can write, but I couldn’t stand all the f…ing exclamation marks’ and then he went on to do a line of !!!!!!!!!!!
YOUR MUM IS JOY WATSON, AUTHOR OF THE FAMOUS GRANDPA SLIPPER CHILDREN’S BOOKS. DOES SHE HELP YOU WITH YOUR WRITING?
Mum and I share a love of books and words, but we don’t discuss my plot lines really. I’m quite spoilt because I have a sister, Jude, who’s an editor and we spend hours discussing every aspect of story, the dialogue, the plot, the characters and the themes. My mother’s stories are timeless and special. She has 28 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren who all love her books and it makes me realise what a legacy she leaves to our family.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING AN AUTHOR IN NEW ZEALAND?
There’s the standard answers about funding for the arts, or the dire state of publishing or the politics of the literary big guns, but I’m actually pretty happy to be writing here in NZ. Although my story situation is universal, the setting is uniquely Kiwi, and the characters are (mostly) the product of our culture.
HOW DOES IT FEEL SEEING YOUR BOOKS IN BOOKSHOPS?
It feels scary seeing my books in the local shops for some reason and buzzy when I find them in out-of-town shops. It seemed indecent to stare in the Havelock/Hastings area, when Coming Home to Roost came out a couple of weeks ago and it was fresh in the shop windows, so I snuck out at night and had a long look when no one was around.