The Mahy Questionnaire: Dahlia Malaeulu

This month’s Mahy Questionnaire is here, and this time we have award-winning author, publisher, and creator of Mila’s Books, Dahlia Malaeulu, with us! Read on to hear Dahlia’s takes on all things Mahy-related, including hauntings, changeovers, and what to do with someone else’s shadow.

1. Describe yourself in three words.

Learner, Talk-er, Do-er.

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

Was there a changeover? Lol! Actually chatting to a childhood friend recently, she said I was, ‘A very logical and practical child, turned-independent-take-on-the-world-teen who grew into a strong woman who wants to see Pasifika win.’ So I guess more of an alignment over time.

3. Are you haunted by a particular memory?

My mother falling asleep on the couch during an episode of Unsolved Mysteries on a Friday night, leaving me to watch it alone when I was younger. Landing in Japan and not having access to any Islander food. My oldest son making his own way to the top of the highest waterslide at Splash Planet (who did not meet the height requirements at all) but was still allowed to slide down happily waving at us as we held our breath.

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

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

Always. My imaginings come from my wonderings of the worlds I live in and observe. I am also very logical and practical which helps to balance my creativity and persona. So it’s nice to take a break from reality to dream up new ideas, which usually leads to new projects and initiatives. 

5. Have you ever owned a rattlebang car?

I hate driving and would rather walk everywhere if I could. But I remember being in a Hillman Hunter and the whole backseat moved each time we hit a road bump. One time it moved so much that we could see the road underneath. This was when seatbelts weren’t compulsory so it was like a free roller coaster ride.

It wasn’t until I was older that Dad said it was an abandoned car in our street and the local police had told him to look after it for a week in case someone came to get it. Explains why we literally only had it for a few memorable days.

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

The Witches by Roald Dahl was read out aloud to our class and I thought it was the creepiest and craziest thing ever.

My nana also used to tell me about the Telesā in the mirrors at night and that was why I had to tie my hair up and cover our mirrors. Thank God Lani [Wendt Young] wrote the Telesā series so I could see the multi-faceted nature of Telesā, who are pretty much strong kick-ass women that maintain the balance of our worlds—well, at least I like to think so ☺ 

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

First thoughts, ‘No thanks, too busy noticing the beauty that surrounds me right now…Unless you are my husband who is actually surprising me with a trip around the world, in that case let’s start dancing.’ So a bit of both, but only if it involves my husband because he’s the only one who understands my dance moves lol.

A 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 meadow, dark cupboards scare me.

9. When have you been at your most discombobulated?

When band-aid solutions are proposed and carried out instead of tackling the heart of issues. People who cannot talk straight, don’t take responsibility for their actions and blame others for their own issues #gaslighters. Keep it real or keep it moving, thanks ☺

Also when KFC runs out of chicken, like how does that happen?

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

A walk in nature, a new track or mountain and end up at the moana because the moana restores and heals.

11. In what way might you be a trickster?

I’m not good at being a trickster, like, at all. I #nearly #always #accidentally #on.purpose ruin tricks, jokes or surprises because I get too excited thinking about the end result.

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

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

Absolutely, I remember telling myself that all the coins I found in our couches growing up was my ‘pocket money.’ 

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

Wow, I had both of these growing up—a good balance. My mum was strong, soft, very intelligent and charismatic. She also never drove anywhere and had her first mate #dad take her everywhere. Dad was Islander strict, sporty, a hard worker and a big-time joker.

14. Would you babysit someone else’s shadow?

It can be a big job carrying other’s shadows but I think we unconsciously do this sometimes, especially for those we love. You also really don’t know what’s lurking in people’s shadows these days, and Mum used to always say that ‘What happens in the shadows always comes to the light.’ So I’d rather guide the shadows towards the light instead of being their babysitter. 

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?

Yes. When I think about it I’ve always had a creative spark. My family called it being cheap lol because I made my own clothes when I was younger, created art if a space needed it, spray- painted old shoes to make them look like a new pair But overall I think it served me well since I really enjoy problem-solving, which makes it easier to come up with new ideas or projects and just make them all happen.

16: What I like for dinner when I am on my own is…(entertain us)

Fly to Vietnam to try their prawn toast, summer rolls, bao buns, warm noodle salads or a tasting platter of everything I haven’t tried yet. 

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

Pray what happens next is in one gulp.

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?

Setting our stories free in this context would mean having way more Pasifika stories and storytellers published in the first place. Freedom would be having an unlimited amount of Pasifika stories for all ages and across all genres.

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

Why are your books not in all schools in New Zealand?
Where can we buy your Mila’s Books stories?
I’ve always wanted to write a book, can you help me?

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

Our eldest son who has autism. We are so grateful for his unique views of the world which can come in the forms of silly stories, songs, sayings and even new book ideas.

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

Definitely between the stars with my mother, who helps to light up the moana at night.

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? 

Giraffes because of my niece, Analia. The other day she told me she wants a pet giraffe and to dye her hair purple #auoi #OML

23. Never mind a baby in the bubble. Would you rather—rice bubbles, bubble gum,  Bubble-O-Bill ice cream or Michael Bublé?

None, I would rather a bubble bath.

Dahlia Malaeulu

Dahlia Malaeulu is a Wellington-born Samoan author of Children’s Pasifika books and creator of Mila’s Books. She is a passionate educator who enjoys creating stories that develop cultural confidence amongst tamaiti (children), fanau (families) and faiā‘oga (educators) within the home, schools and communities.