The Mahy Questionnaire: Fleur Beale

You know it, you love it – it’s the Mahy Questionnaire! This month’s instalment features award-winning author Fleur Beale. She tell us all about holey floors, and getting bitten by a chair.

1. Describe yourself in three words

Very very slippery.

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

I’ll let you know when/if it happens.

3. Are you haunted by a particular memory?

All those characters who are still looking for a story.

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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?

Yes. I like bossing reality around.

5. Have you ever owned a rattlebang car?

It was an Escort van. It had holes in the floor.

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

The witch in the cherry tree. Of course.

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

A very energetic mindful romantic.

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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?

The meadow. I would weave it a daisy chain crown.

9. When have you been at your most discombobulated?

The blank page and the blank screen are terribly discombobulating.

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

Crumpets, coffee and crosswords in a cafe.

11. In what way might you be a trickster?

Sorry, I’m afraid that information is classified.

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

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

I tried once to look but the chair bit me.

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

A mixture of both. Make life interesting.

14. Would you babysit someone else’s shadow?

No. I’d roll it up and send it back to its owner.

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?

No. I have to go searching and hunting for each new story.

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

A bucket of prawns

A smidgen of salt

Three platters of somethings

Flavoured with fancy

A cake made of mystery

And a long drink of sunshine

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

Say, ‘Hey shark, see that person over there? The one with the smug grin? That person is so much tastier than I’d be.’

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?

No. They have my DNA in them. Sorry stories, but you can’t be anonymous.

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

They don’t ask. They just look embarrassed and slink away in case I ask them if they’ve read anything I’ve written.

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

My nearest and dearest. They are all linguistic pyrotechnicians.

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

I tried a trapeze once. I did not manage to fly so now my heart lies with the stars.

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?

A pygmy hippo. I’d make it a mud puddle in the garden.

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

Speech bubbles, please – filled with tasty words.

Current recommendations for Fleur’s books:The Juno series is perfect reading for right now. Juno and her friends live in a tightly controlled society on an island within a bubble (see?), and are led to believe that the rest of the world has self-destructed. Juno discovers some startling abilities and embarks on a journey that will change Taris forever. The three books in the series are Juno of Taris, Fierce September, and Heart of Danger, and they are published by Penguin Random House. All are available on library ebook services Overdrive, and from Kobo as ebooks. Editor Sarah would like to say whoever she lent the first one to, she wants it back!

Fleur Beale
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Fleur Beale started writing in the '80s when she was teaching in a secondary school and couldn’t find stories that resonated with the kids in her classes because there were almost no books about NZ kids and their lives. Writing appeals partly because she can be the boss of her own world.