Margaret Mahy

Margaret Mahy is one of the world’s best and most famous children’s authors. She was born in Whakatane in 1936, and wrote her first story at the age of seven. She won numerous awards for her work, including the prestigious international Hans Christian Anderson award in 2006. Margaret lived in Governor’s Bay, New Zealand until her death in 2012.


What was your favorite book when you were a child?

Too many to count, but they include Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, King Solomon’s Mines by Rider Haggard, Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight and short stories by Eleanor Farjeon and Walter de la Mare.

Who are your top three favorite authors or illustrators?

This is an impossible question as there are too many answers. Say Russell Hoban, because I like his adult books and his children’s books too.

Do you have any advice for future authors or illustrators?

Most authors teach themselves to write the sort of stories they want to write. It can be useful to go on courses, or to weekend schools, but mostly writers learn by writing stories, making mistakes, recognising what the mistakes are and never making them again.
I love being a writer, but I do think I work very hard at what I do, so don’t think of being a writer if you imagine it is an easy way of making a living.
You need to be tough, because most writers get stories turned down, particularly in the beginning, and you must not let yourself become too discouraged.
You need to be persistent, because you have to keep sending stories away to publishers, magazines, newspapers and so on.
I think you need to read a lot because that is what I do. I do know writers who don’t read much, partly because they are frightened of somehow copying stories they are currently reading. However, I think most true writers are so interested in their own ideas they can’t be bothered copying anyone else’s, so personally, I think reading lots and lots of books is always a good thing.