Hager, Mandy

Hager, Mandy

In Brief

Mandy Hager is best known as a writer for young adults, though her published work also includes novels for adults, non-fiction resources for youth, scripts and short stories. She has won numerous awards, with her first book Tom's Story (1995) recieving an Honour Award in the 1996 Aim Children's Book Awards, and her novels The Nature of Ash and Dear Vincent both awarded the LIANZA Young Adult Fiction Award in consecutive years. For Singing Home the Whale (2014), Hager was awarded the prestigious Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award in the 2015 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. In 2014 she was the recipient of the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship.


Hager, Mandy (1960–) writes within a range of different genres, but is perhaps most notable for her young adult fiction. Her broader catalogue of work includes adult novels, non-fiction resources, scripts and shorter fiction for younger children. Hager’s background as a teacher of children with special educational needs makes her youth writing uniquely insightful and understanding of the literary ingredients required to “hook” the young reader. Hager has a MA in Creative Writing from Victoria University and an Advanced Diploma in Applied Arts (Writing) from Whitireia Community Polytechnic, where she works as a tutor and a mentor.

Her first book Tom's Story (Mallinson Rendel, 1995) won an Honour Award in the 1996 Aim Children's Book Awards. It tells the story of a six-year-old boy whose father is killed in a boating accident, and looks at grief from a child's point of view. It has been adapted for National Radio.

Run for the Trees (Steele Roberts, 1999), Hager's second book, is an eco-thriller set against the background of protests in the South Island's rimu forests. ‘Definitely a page turner,’ writes Paula Boock, ‘a pacy, exciting story. The climax is riveting.’

She has published Double Danger (2000), Stumpy's Secret (2000) and a number of other titles for Learning Media, as well as short stories in Fresh and Broadsheet.

Juno Lucina (2000), Hager's first novel for adults, is an intricately woven story about fear and faith. Tess Chromain’s journey into the dangerous territory of religious fervour, domestic violence and sexual re-awakening is interlaced with her dreams, memories and research articles, so as to locate her intense grief within a burgeoning sense of hope.

Hager has also published numerous educational pamphlets and guides, including Help! My Brain Hurts: Special Tips for Special Kids (a guide for students with learning differences) and DARE To Be You (2006), five integrated resources designed and targeted at the nation’s at-risk youth.

Hager’s young adult novel Smashed (Random House, 2007) tackles gritty teenage issues - such as alcohol, physical/sexual abuse and anger - with an authorial humour and sensitivity that makes the subjects digestible for a younger audience. Smashed received the Esther Glen Award at the 2008 LIANZA Children's Book Awards. It was also listed as a 2008 Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Book.

Hager also writes for the Global Education Centre – producing resources on such issues as Violence Against Women; Parihaka and the gift of non-violent resistance; Weather Wars: the politics of climate change; Take Action; The Measure of Money; Who Are You: the search for self in the global village; Get Up! Stand Up!: music for change; The Trafficking Trap; Healing the World: back to the future? Hager also wrote the script for the dramatised documentary He Drove Me Mad (Point of View Productions, 2008).

The Crossing, Book One of the 'Blood of the Lamb' trilogy, was published by Random House NZ in September 2009. Margaret Mahy said of the novel: ‘[It’s] like 1984 for teenagers – direct, passionate and powerful.’ The Crossing was listed as a 2010 Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Book and won the Young Adult section of the 2010 NZ Post Children’s Book Awards.

Into the Wilderness, Book Two of the Blood of the Lamb trilogy, was published by Random House NZ in 2010. The final book in the Blood of the Lamb trilogy, Resurrection, was published by Random House NZ in 2011. The trilogy has since been published in the US.

Mandy Hager's novel The Nature of Ash was published in 2012 (Random House NZ). The Nature of Ash was a finalist in the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards in the Young Adult Fiction category, and won the 2013 LIANZA Young Adult award. Says awards convener Pene Walsh of The Nature of Ash, 'The strong and extremely well-developed characters, along with the dystopian theme, formed an action-packed story that in many ways reflects the current issues facing humankind today.'

Dear Vincent, a young adult novel about 'painting, suicide and Van Gogh' (Random House NZ, 2013), won the 2014 LIANZA Young Adult Award for the most distinguished contribution to literature for children and young adults aged 13 years and above.

In 2014, she published Singing Home the Whale (Random House NZ). Angela Oliver, reviewing for Booksellers NZ, described this novel as a 'beautiful tale of a friendship between two different species' and went on to say in her review, 'This is definitely one of the stand-out novels I have read this year, for both its beautiful, rich language and the deep emotional − but never sentimental − power behind the adversity, the tragedy and the triumph. Very few books have struck a chord in my heart like this one has.' For Singing Home the Whale, Hager collected the awards of Margaret Mahy Book of the Year and Best Young Adult Fiction at the 2015 New Zealand Book Awards.

Mandy Hager was the recipient of the 2012 Beatson Fellowship and the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship for 2014. She was the University of Waikato’s writer in residence for 2015, where she worked on an unnamed new project.

Last updated April 2016.


Hager is able to visit schools as part of the Book Council's Writers in Schools programme. She is happy to talk to children aged 10 years and over, and can speak to a large or small group. She is able to discuss being a teen and adult fiction writer, as well as a non-fiction writer and scriptwriter. Hager can give an introduction and talk, and give a reading and Q&A session. She can travel outside of her region with prior notice, though she prefers to speak to one class group per visit.

KAPAI: Kids' Authors Pictures and Information

Where do you live?
In Melrose, Wellington. We live in a house right on top of a hill with Lyall Bay on one side, and the zoo on the other.

What sort of books do you like to read?
I read all sorts of books. Lots of New Zealand fiction — and lots of non-fiction. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of books about evolution.

Do you have a favourite author?
I don’t have one favourite author — there are so many wonderful writers. In New Zealand I greatly admire Maurice Gee and Sheryl Jordan.

How do you think up your ideas?
Little snippets of things people say; weird articles out of the newspapers; things I see around me, or that I have experienced.

What is the best thing about being a writer?
Doing the thing I really love to do.

Some questions from Primary School students

Do you have any pets?
I have one black and white cat called Petal and a pond full of goldfish.

Do you have a favourite colour?
My favourite colours are gold and blue.

What is your favourite food?
My favourite food is crusty bread and salads.

Do you have a favourite movie?
My favourite movie is Adaptation.

Do you have a favourite game?
My favourite game is Scrabble.

What do you enjoy most about being an author?

Researching things that I know nothing about beforehand. Meeting lots of interesting people. Getting paid to tell lies!

How do you make books?
I don’t make books – I write stories! A publisher makes my story into a book.

Where do you go for your holidays?
I don’t go on many holidays. I used to spend a lot of time in the Marlborough Sounds. A holiday, to me, is being able to stay in bed and read all day!

What was the naughtiest thing you ever did at school?
I hate to admit it, but I really can’t remember being naughty at school. I do remember my Intermediate School teacher getting pretty mad at me the day I told him he was being immature! Anyway, if I could remember doing anything really bad — I wouldn’t tell you!

Some questions from Secondary School students

How did you start writing?
I don’t remember. I have loved writing ever since I can remember. When I was at Primary School I won a newspaper competition for writing and illustrating my own book – that was pretty encouraging!

Who inspired you to start writing?
My parents. There were always lots of wonderful books in our house and I was always read to, even as a baby. Reading was always valued — and later, writing was encouraged, too.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to be a writer?
Just keep at it — never give up! Believe in yourself. Write stories that you want to read.

Is it difficult to make a living as a writer in New Zealand?
Very, very, very!!!

What were you like as a teenager?
I was pretty quiet and shy. I worked hard at college. For one whole year (when I was about 13) I only communicated to my parents through notes — I wouldn’t speak to them! If one of my kids did that to me now, I’d really hate it!

What’s the most disgusting thing you do?
I have this terrible habit of eating really fast — so that I finish hours before anyone else. Then I start talking and somehow always end up describing something really disgusting and off-putting, or telling stories with lots of pooh and guts in them.

If you could be something other than a writer what would you be?
If I could start my life again, I’d love to be an opera singer. It must be the most amazing feeling to sing like that. Or maybe I’d be an archeologist … or a scientist … or a political scientist … or a … there are so many wonderful things to learn about and never enough time to learn them all.


Updated January 2017.