The Mahy Questionnaire: Kat Quin

Here’s a fresh instalment of the Margaret Mahy Questionnaire, featuring author-illustrator Kat Quin. Read on for her takes on changeovers, rattlebang cars and sonsense nongs!

1. Describe yourself in three words

I’m still learning.

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

I found out I was going to be a mother at the height of adolescence, so changeover was swift, brutal and beautiful.

3. Are you haunted by a particular memory?

When I was 6 or 7, I had a prize-winning calf-club lamb. Her name was Brown Sugar. She was the best. Our farm worker strolled into our farmhouse one afternoon and asked my Mum, “Where do you want Brown Sugar?” He was carrying a box with a decapitated, skinless, ready-to-roast carcass. I cried for hours. And, what really haunts me, is that she tasted so good.

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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?

For me, the most rewarding part of being a writer/illustrator is accessing, and outwardly expressing a world that doesn’t exist outside of my own imagination. My real experiences intrinsically impact my inner imaginings. Tough life stuff often transforms into creative work that connects with people.

5. Have you ever owned a rattlebang car?

I was a country girl in a city school. My townie mates would swarm to the farm to practice ‘defensive driving’ in my rattle bang Mitsubishi Mirage (paddock racer). If only handbrake skids between the ragwort was NZTA criteria, I would not have failed my license twice.

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

My older sister read Roald Dahl’s ‘The Witches’ to my little sister and I, when we were too young to read it on our own. My favourite has to be the Grand High Witch.

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

Certainly feels like a romantic dream, from a post-pandemic lockdown viewpoint.

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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?

A lion in a meadow – and maybe a mother in a meadow (and out of the kitchen).

9. When have you been at your most discombobulated?

When in a hurry, simply trying to articulate the name of one of our 6 children.

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

Waking to the sound of the kids giggling, instead of our alarm. Bottomless coffee, long snuggles, and treating the troops to pancakes with fresh lemon.

11. In what way might you be a trickster?

Every now and then, I have a sinking realisation that I am not actually an author or illustrator, and any moment now, someone is going to notice. Tricky little imposter.

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

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

I have a real phobia about putting my fingers down the back of any couch crevice. I can feel the crumbs under my fingernails right now. So, if you want to be rewarded, our couch probably has many undiscovered treasures.

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

My mum used to race yachts, drink grog, and had a terrifying stare.

14. Would you babysit someone else’s shadow?

I have too many little shadows to keep up with as it is!

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?

More like my cat watching, silently judging me struggle to write a poem.

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

Cheese. Just cheeses.

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

Our 7-year-old Nico is obsessed with, and has an encyclopedic knowledge of sharks. If I asked his advice on what to do, he would tell me it is a snout, not a nose. So, I would probably just be eaten.

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?

I do like reading about the lives of my favourite authors and illustrators, and it would be a shame not to hear those stories. The faults of humans are bloody interesting. I would also love to have seen if things were different if I was a male author/illustrator. Mat Quin maybe?

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

At any Christmas Party, any year: “I have this book idea. Can I have your email address, so I can send it to you to illustrate (for free)? I just need it done before Christmas”.

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

My partner is a musician. He has some old school mates, when they get together, usually after a night of yarns and beers – lyrical hilarity. Not so entertaining for the neighbours. Ronsense nunk pock.

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

In the hands of my family.

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?

Giraffes. Hippos might eat all my cake, and my roof is a bit steep.

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

Thanks to Hilary Barry, it’s Buble…

Kat Quin
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Kat Quin's passion for all things children's books and illustration is apparent throughout all her works to date. Author and illustrator of the award-winning Kuwi the Kiwi series, Kat has expanded her range to include Flit the Fantail, Kiwicorn, and most recently, the #1 best-selling He Papakupu Whakaahua - Māori Picture Dictionary.

Gaining inspiration and critique from her sparkling offspring, her honest accounts from a birds eye view are endearing to readers of all ages. She is quintessentially Kiwi, which erupts through her quirky illustrations.

Kat extends herself to play an ambassador role for the very appropriately chosen, Kiwis for kiwis, which supports human Kiwis to support native kiwi conservation projects, New Zealand wide. To date, she has raised over $40,000 for the charity, through book sales.