How did Earthquake! come about?
The editor at Scholastic sent me details of a new series of NZ historical fiction for children and I offered to do one on the Napier earthquake.
The book focuses primarily on life through 11-year-old Katie’s eyes during the Great Depression in Napier. What did you do to ensure you captured this time accurately?
Lots of things: I interviewed my father and uncle who were young children at the time. I read a lot of first-hand accounts of the time and place. I found documents and newspapers with articles of the period.
Have you ever been in an earthquake?
Yes, I grew up in Napier and we often had earthquakes. When I was a student in Wellington we had earthquakes there too.
How much were you able to draw on your own experiences when writing the book?
I do know the feeling of the earth moving and you simply can’t do anything about it – it is very scary. You don’t know when it is going to stop and it seems much long longer than it actually is. Time really does stretch out.
Did you use any other techniques to help imagine what it must have been like during the Napier earthquake?
Part of the research was finding first-hand accounts of some people who were there and were able to describe details such as windows smashing, furniture being thrown across the room and chimneys falling down.
When asked what is the most important thing a budding writer can do to improve their writing, many authors suggest reading as much as possible and/or keeping a journal or ideas notebook on hand at all times. Besides these two excellent suggestions what would be your top tip for writing students?
Be prepared to rewrite your stories, again and again.
What writing project are you working on in 2012?
Mainly on a biography of a children’s writer from long ago, but I am also finishing a young adult novel. I have other ideas, but those are enough to be going on with for now.
For more information on Janine McVeagh: