I was born in Christchurch and later my family moved to Wellington, Auckland and New Plymouth. From when I was young, I wanted to be a writer. I wrote stories, poems and book reviews for the Children’s Page in the Saturday Evening Post newspaper – and I still have the book that I pasted them into!
After school, I studied English and Greek at university, went travelling, worked at random jobs overseas, came back, trained and worked as a librarian, got married and went travelling again. Our biggest trip was from England to China, on the old Silk Road, and then through Tibet and Nepal into India – all by bus, train, boat, taxi or rickshaw.
Back in New Zealand, when our children were small, I started to write for the School Journal. As our three girls grew up and I had more time, I wrote chapter books, then novels and non-fiction books.
I’ve written on many different topics, but I find history fascinating. Several of my novels (like The Telegram, Enemy at the Gate, Lighthouse Family and Harbour Bridge) are set in the past. I’m interested in writing about war and peace, and about how we remember and commemorate wars. Writing Anzac Day was special because of my grandfathers and my great-great-aunt (a nurse) who served in World War One, and my parents who met in World War Two. My research for The New Zealand Wars opened my eyes to the battles fought in our own country.
I love reading and writing, and I still like travelling (I’ve been lucky enough to go to both Gallipoli and Antarctica with my writing). My writing has been shortlisted for the Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Prize in Creative Science Writing (2012, 2011 and 2010) and the Text Publishing Prize (2010). “The Careers Room” was shortlisted in the Playmarket Plays for the Young Competition in 2014 and “Boss of the Beach” was runner up in the same competition in 2010. I was awarded the NZSA Mid-Career Writers Award in 2010 and the Jack Lasenby Award in 2006.
In 2016, I held the Anzac Bridge Fellowship (New Pacific Studio) and created a community project to link two war memorial bridges at Kaiparoro in the Wairarapa and Brooweena in Queensland. I travelled to Scott Base in 2016 with the Antarctica NZ community engagement programme. I held the Michael King Writers Centre Easter residency in 2019.
I was on the Wellington branch committee of the New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa PEN NZ Inc (NZSA) for thirteen years, and on the NZSA board for six years, including one as Vice-President. I’m also on the committee for the wonderful Wellington Writers Walk. I’ve been on the committee for the Wellington Children’s Book Association and helped to organise two national children’s writers and illustrators hui in 2009 (Spinning Gold) and Tinderbox (2015).
I’ve taken part in talks, presentation and panel discussions at LitCrawl, Yarns in Barns, IBBY, the Auckland Writers Festival, Bookrapt, SLANZA, Storylines, ReaLM, Friends of Kapiti Libraries, Waikato Children’s Literature Association, Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Collection and the National Library and visited numerous schools around the country.
I’m available for school visits through the Book Council’s Writers in Schools programme.