The Mahy Questionnaire: Mary-Anne Scott

Here’s our first Mahy Questionnaire of the year, featuring author, musician, and columnist Mary-Anne Scott. She tells us tall tales about her spontaneously honking horn, and how she transforms into an electrical kitchen appliance.

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1. Describe yourself in three words

Music, people, words.

2. During the height of adolescence, was it good changeover?

No, I was trouble.

3. Are you haunted by a particular memory?

I once told people on a boat that I could easily swim to shore. I jumped overboard and the boat headed back out to sea. I swam and swam; the shore was farther than I’d realised and I’m still haunted by my relentless struggle to reach safety.

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The Haunting by Margaret Mahy (J.M. Dent, 1982)

4. MM: ‘Imagination is the creative use of reality.’ Is this true for you?

Reality is my friend, I don’t really ‘get’ fantasy. So, I begin with reality and use my imagination to ask myself, ‘what if’.

5. Have you ever owned a rattlebang car?

We used to have an old Fiat in London that had a faulty horn. It would spontaneously start honking at the lights or in a carpark and we’d have to apologise to some very confused and often annoyed people.

6. Which witch? Identify a favourite one from literature.

The Good Witch of the North. I love finding connections between music and literature and I’ve always loved Elton John’s Yellow Brick Road link to the Wizard of Oz.

7. ‘Come dance all around the world. And see all the beauty that surrounds us.’ Words for a romantic or just being mindful?

This classic kiwi song from Blerta was synonymous with my early teens. I played along to it on my guitar like a romantic, mindful Nana Mouskouri.

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The Lion in the Meadow by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Jenny Williams (F. Watts, 1989)

8. A lion in the broom cupboard or a lion in the meadow?

Definitely a lion in the meadow and even then, it’s a bit close.

9. When have you been at your most discombobulated?

With my music I get a bit confused. I want to play the cello in a rock band and my guitar in an orchestra.

10. What is your most favourite thing to do on a summery Saturday morning?

I quite like housework. Is that odd?

11. In what way might you be a trickster?

I can turn myself into an electrical kitchen appliance. Teenagers talk across me as if I’m a toaster or kettle but actually I’m a secret listening device.

The Tricksters by Margaret Mahy (J.M. Dent, 1986)

12. Have you ever been rewarded when looking down the back of the chair?

The treasures brought up from the back of the chair reflect the cycle of my life: baby toast, LEGO, Pokemon cards, guitar pics, insulin pens, money, and now, back to baby toast and LEGO.

13. A pirate for a mother or a jester for a father?

I think I had both.

14. Would you babysit someone else’s shadow?

Yes, I would but I wouldn’t want it sewn onto my foot.

The Boy With Two Shadows by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Jenny Williams (J.M. Dent, 1971)

15. ‘Horrakapotchkin,’ said the cat. ‘I want to write a poem.’ Is that how it works for you?

I wish it was that easy.

16. What I like for dinner when I am on my own is…

Dinner alone is simply a matter,Of getting together a grazing plattera gherkin, a chocolate, some cheese and some fish,all jumbled together upon the one dish.

17. If you find yourself nose to nose with a shark, the only thing to do is to…

I’m surrounded by people who spearfish or dive and they say sharks are to be admired and treasured. However, I’d walk on water to escape a close encounter!

The Great White Man-Eating Shark by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Jonathan Allen (J.M. Dent, 1982)

18. MM: ‘If things were fair, all stories would be anonymous…set free from the faults that go with its author’s name.’ Would you set your stories free in the name of anonymity?

Yes, I totally agree with this sentiment. I love the concept of Elena Ferrante trying to keep her anonymity and I think all stories should be anonymous.

19. You’re at a party and someone finds out what you do. What is the question they invariably ask?

Have you written anything I’d know? The answer is inevitably ‘no’.

20. Who do you go to be entertained by linguistic pyrotechnics? Or entertained by sonsense nongs?

I make up songs as I bath my grandchildren and they think I’m funny and clever… but the queen of word-play would have to be my mother. No one can ‘pun’ quite like her.

21. Which way does your heart lie: between the stars or anchored to the trapeze?

Between the stars. — the sight of the stars makes me dream. Vincent Van Gogh.

The Wind Between the Stars by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Brian Frood (J.M. Dent, 1976)

22. Would you rather be followed home by hippos or giraffes?

I love giraffes. Fun fact: No two giraffes have the same markings — a bit like finger prints.

23. Never mind a baby in the bubble. Would you rather – rice bubbles, bubble gum, bubble ‘o’ bill ice cream or Michael Bublé?

None of the above, thank you, I prefer my bubbles in champagne.

Mary-Anne Scott
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Mary-Anne Scott is an author, musician and speaker from Havelock North, New Zealand. She's married to Paul and we have four sons, who have been been generous and unsuspecting contributors to all aspects of her writing. Her novel Snakes and Ladders, won the young adult section of the Children’s Choice Award in the 2013 NZ Post Book awards. Coming Home to Roost was published in 2016, and shortlisted for the NZ Book Awards for Children & Young Adults in 2017. Sticking with Pigs was published by OneTree House in 2018, which was shortlisted for the NZ Book Awards for Children & Young Adults the same year. Her new book, Spearo, is out with OneTree House in March 2020. She writes a weekly agony aunt column called 'Ask Mary-Anne' for