Diana Harris is an author whose work tries to come to terms with the present by exploring the past. She is the author of the historical biography Johnny Jones: A Colonial Saga and three children’s books – Guardian of the Bridge, Litterbugs and The Kiwi Fact Book. For many years she worked as a freelance book editor and was also a magazine subeditor.
Harris, Diana (1947–) was drawn to writing from a young age and at the age of ten she remembers ‘I decided I wanted to be a writer.’ After gaining an MA at the University of Canterbury, she travelled overseas, spending a year at the University of Grenoble in France and working in London for three years. Her publishing career began on her return to New Zealand, where she worked with Heinemann Educational Books and later as a freelance editor.
In 1987 she was approached to write the The Kiwi Fact Book (Golden Press, 1989), a useful school resource that contains facts about New Zealand's culture, history and environment. Her writing career developed from there.
She wrote Guardian of the Bridge (Scholastic, 1990), a modern-day myth featuring Auckland's harbour bridge, which was republished by Random House NZ in 2009 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Auckland Harbour Bridge. This book was followed by Litterbugs (Scholastic, 1992), a cautionary tale about the perils of living in a rubbish-filled environment.
Johnny Jones: A Colonial Saga (Reed, 2007) is based on the life and times of Johnny Jones, an immigrant to New Zealand from Sydney in the early 1800s, and the man who founded the first European settlement in the South Island. Originally written as a historical novel, Diana Harris was told there was 'no demand for New Zealand historical fiction' and spent two more years researching and rewriting to publish it as a historical biography.
Of her writing, Diana Harris says:
I found stories were a way of expressing myself on matters I held dear. Since returning from the UK I had become aware of what a unique place New Zealand is, and I wanted to celebrate what made it special – the Maori culture, our history, and the native plants and the creatures of this land.
She has just completed a semi-contemporary novel (Eleanor’s Castle) and is now working on a historical novel for which she has been awarded a grant by Auckland Museum.