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20 June 2024

NZCYA Author Chats: Ned Wenlock

In this series, one of our keen Hooked on NZ Books or School Library reviewers chats with an author shortlisted for the upcoming NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults about their mahi and kaupapa. This time, Jackie Rodgers, English Teacher at Wakatipu High School, and her students have some questions for Ned Wenlock, author of Tsunami (shortlisted for the Young Adult Fiction award and NZSA Best First Book Award).

Writers are often asked what made them want to write. Were there any special circumstances that encouraged you to write?

For me it was more about drawing. My sister and I used to draw wordless comics when we were kids and try and sell them, we mostly sold them to each other. They had simple stories, mostly about food to begin with. Then as we got older they reflected our growing interests and became more complex.

Who would you say the audience of your book is? Some may argue your language is a little too colloquial for teenagers to read. What do you think?

I think if I was writing exclusively for teenagers, Tsunami would be a different book.

You have spoken previously about "wanting to follow the characters." Would you explain exactly what you meant by that?

When I began the book I had Peter as a character in my head. All the other characters were created to serve a purpose in the story. However, once I started writing/drawing their scenes they effectively came alive on the page and started informing how a scene would play out. I was more interested in how the characters interacted truthfully, than contriving how they should interact. This effected the plot of the story.

“Although Tsunami is a made up story, a lot of the scenes are drawn from my teenage memories, or feelings I remember from that time.”

What memories do you have as a teenager and do they reflect Peter's whirlwind of a life?

Although Tsunami is a made up story, a lot of the scenes are drawn from my teenage memories, or feelings I remember from that time. My life was very stressful from 12 to 14 and Tsunami is a compact summery of that stress.

Some of my students ask, why did you need it to end so badly, so brutally?

One of the best things for me about writing fiction is that you can visit your greatest fears. Hurting someone badly by accident, or by being emotionally wound up and losing control, was one of mine.

Gus, Charlie, Peter. Who do you relate to the most in terms of your own life?

I like Gus the most, he knows what he wants and he finds a way to get it, he’s open about who he is. I’m more like Peter.

Do you envisage a second book as a follow up for what happens next?

I have ideas for a follow up but I’m not sure I can commit the time needed to fully realise it. I would like to give Peter the chance to grow!

Read Jackie's School Library review of Tsunami here, or learn more about the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults here.