The Mahy Questionnaire: Brian Falkner

You know it, you love it – it’s the Mahy Questionnaire! This month we are featuring award-winning author and internationally acclaimed writing coach Brian Falkner! His most recent title, Andromeda Bond in Trouble Deep (sequel to Brainjack) was a finalist in this year’s NZCYA Awards in the Young Adult category. So without further ado, here’s Brian on witches, rattlebang cars, and Ken’s specialty: beach.

1. Describe yourself in three words

Sure, ok, well…(sorry ran out of words)

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

When I finish my adolescence I will be sure to answer this question. Up till now adulthood, I feel, is something that has escaped me.

3. Are you haunted by a particular memory?

When I am, they become stories in my books, then they haunt me no longer because I have taken away their power.

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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?

What is reality? Are dreams real, and our waking life just an illusion? Have I answered the question? What is an answer anyway? What is a question? Is there even a spoon?

5. Have you ever owned a rattlebang car?

Yes! And it could fly. Oh, hang on, I might have read that in a book.

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

Badjelly to be sure. All other witches pale in comparison, although I do have a soft spot for Hermione… (Sorry Margaret!).

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

Oh I love this song.

“the guards threw down their weapons, and the tutors put aside their books and gowns,
and they threw open the castle gates and danced out into the fields!”

Words for life! (Wait… what? That was a Margaret Mahy book? I never knew that.)

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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 dragon in a matchbox!

9. When have you been at your most discombobulated?

I am discombobulated by this question.

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

Beach. No question. With a good book. And some hokey pokey ice cream.

11. In what way might you be a trickster?

I know the best card tricks. The kind that seem so simple, but so amazing, and nobody can figure out how they’re done. Go on, pick a card, I dare you…

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

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

Um, no, actually. But I have this crazy idea that I would like to leave copies of ‘Down the Back of the Chair’ down the back of random people’s chairs, so when they looked down the back of their chair they would find ‘Down the Back of the Chair’. I think that would be awesome!

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


14. Would you babysit someone else’s shadow?

Asking for a friend, right?

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?

Yeah, nah. I can’t write poetry. And I don’t own a cat. And my cat (that I don’t own) doesn’t talk. Or have I missed the point of this question?

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

Well… I have a favourite salad. Very simple and easy to make.

The ingredients are:
– Blanched broccoli
– Avocado
– Cucumber
– Tomato
– Toasted cashew nuts
– Watermelon
– Red Onion
– Crumbled feta cheese
– Hokey Pokey icecream

All chopped and drizzled with Walnut Oil. Just scrummy and very filling! (Oh and I was kidding about the ice-cream.)

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

Is this like a hongi? A shark hongi?

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?”

Actually quite an interesting idea because we do all approach a book with a preconception based on the author (unless we have never heard of them.) so if I pick up a Stephen King I expect to be scared, if I pick up a Margaret Mahy I expect to be delighted and entertained. But then there would be no stories because authors would not be paid. So probably not.

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

What have you written? Would I know any of your books? Which way is the bathroom?

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

The Goons! Every time! Ying tong iddle I po!

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

Not sure, but I am sure that my heart will go on (and on, and on…)

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

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

Giraffodils and Hippopotamice. They were characters in a book I once wrote. It was never published. Not sure why.

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

Bubble bubble toil and trouble. (Not sure about the Baboon’s blood though). And Hokey Pokey ice cream, not the one you said.

Brian Falkner

Brian Falkner wanted to be an author ever since he was a child. It only took him thirty years to realise that dream. Along the way he worked as a reporter; advertising copywriter; radio announcer; graphic designer; and Internet developer.Brian has had more than twenty books published internationally. He is also an internationally acclaimed writing coach—running workshops and writing camps around Australia, New Zealand and the USA.