Hunter, Eirlys

Hunter, Eirlys


Primary publisher
Scholastic NZ, and Random House NZ
Rights enquiries
Email the author: [email protected]

In Brief

Eirlys Hunter is a London-born fiction writer who moved to Wellington in 1983. She has published several books for children including The Robber and the Millionaire which was short-listed for the 1997 Aim Children's Book Awards. Hunter's first novel for adults, Between Black and White, was published in 2000. She has had stories published in Landfall, Sport, and various anthologies.


Hunter, Eirlys (1952 –) is a London-born fiction writer for children and adults. She moved to Wellington in 1983, as 'a refugee from Thatcher's Britain'.

In 1991, Hunter joined the Original Composition class at Victoria University, and in 1998 completed an MA in creative writing there. Her short stories have appeared in Landfall and Sport, and in various anthologies including, Best New Zealand Fiction 2 (ed. Fiona Kidman) and Best New Zealand Fiction 4 (ed. Fiona Farrell).

Hunter's children's titles include The Robber and the Millionaire (1996), The Astonishing Madam Majolica (1996), The Quake (1999) The Queen-Seekers (2000) and Coldkeep Castle (2001), the sequel to The Queen-Seekers. The Robber and the Millionaire was shortlisted for the 1997 Aim Children's Book Awards.

A ten year-old fan wrote to Hunter: 'I got The Queen-Seekers for my birthday. I like it as much as the Harry Potter books, if not more!'

Coldkeep Castle was listed as a 2002 Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Book.

Hunter's first novel for adults is Between Black and White (2000). 'Between Black and White is an impressive debut. Read it,' writes Catherine Von Bohemen in the Evening Post.

'Hunter's character development is superb,' writes Tracie Barrett in the Otago Daily Times. '[T]he result is a beautifully crafted, incisive work that draws the reader into its world. I recommend it highly.'

Hunter's book The Slave-Stealers (Scholastic, 2004) is the final instalment in the Finn's Quest trilogy. Finn is standing in a silent, empty street under a boiling white sun. He's back in The Ultimate Adventure! But everything looks strange ... Where is he?

Eirlys Hunter teaches Writing for Children at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University.


Hunter is available to talk to school students over the age of 5 years as part of the Writers in Schools programme, and feels best suited to students 9 years and older. She is happy to talk about being a teen fiction writer, and a novelist/adult fiction writer. She is prepared to discuss where stories come from, being a writer and anything related to writing. Hunter can give an introduction and talk, a reading and Q&A session and workshops, including a gifted and talented workshop and talk. She can also do an extended attachment at a local school. She is available to run workshops for up to 15 students, by prior arrangement. She is able to travel out of town for visits. Hunter is able to travel outside of her region for school visits.

KAPAI: Kids' Authors Pictures and Information

Where do you live?
My home is in Wellington. It’s down a lot of steps but I have a wonderful view of the city, harbour, hills and sky. There’s always something to look at.

What books do you read?
All sorts! I read picture books, children’s books, YA and adult novels. I also love biographies, memoirs and travel books for a different kind of story....

Who is your favourite author?
I have so many - I think my all-time favourite book is Winnie the Pooh, and my favourite authors are Margaret Mahy and Jane Austen.

How do you think up your ideas?
Ideas come from everywhere. From dreams, from things I overhear, from things that have actually happened to me, from things that I’m afraid of.... Most of the time I don’t see ideas coming though, they sort of slide at me sideways when I’m thinking about something else.

What is the best thing about being an author?
There are lots of good things about being an author but the best is being able to make up stories all day. I love the feeling that happens sometimes when the story I’m working on becomes almost real and it’s as if I’m moving around in the world that I’ve invented. It’s also good being able to work when I like. And it’s a real buzz to go to schools and libraries and meet children who like reading and writing.

What sort of pets do you have?
When I was young I had guinea pigs. They were named after chocolates in a fancy box I was given one Chistmas: Nougat, Praline, Montelimar, Truffle, Fudge and Caramel. And I had a white rabbit with mean red eyes called Svetlana Beriosova - she was named after a ballet dancer. Now we have two cats called Pebbles and Lucy. We had a dog for a long time but he died.

Favourite things?

Colour? Blue-green like the sea. Food? When I’m away from New Zealand the thing I miss most is Vegemite on Vogels toast. Mmmmm! Movie? I can’t choose. But my favourite tv show is The Simpsons. Game? Dead Seals. I am soooo good at Dead Seals. Also Racing Demon (though I never win), Spotlight, and Scrabble.

What is the most fun thing about being an author?
Going into schools and libraries and talking to children. The most exciting thing is reading aloud - sometimes the room goes absolutely quiet, not because the teacher’s told the children to shut up, but because they are totally concentrating on the story, and that’s magic. I also love getting letters from children who’ve enjoyed my books.

How do you make books?
Making a book takes a long time and I only do the first part. It goes like this: I have an idea and write a story. Then I write it again and again — about five drafts to make it as good as I can. This usually takes a year. Then I send it to my publisher, and the editor makes corrections (she puts in missing punctuation and points out that Finn was wearing shorts so he couldn’t have got his jeans muddy on page 110). Meanwhile someone else illustrates the book, or designs the cover. Then the book gets checked one last time before it goes off to be printed. Somewhere like Hong Kong, or Malaysia usually. Then boxes of the finished book are delivered to the publisher’s warehouse and from there they’re sent to bookshops. The time from manuscript to bookshop is usually another nine months.

I spend a lot of time in Otaki. I love walking on the beach there watching the waves.

What was the naughtiest thing you ever did at school?
I went to the sort of primary school where you didn’t have to be naughty to get into trouble. I was always getting told off for doing things I couldn’t help — like splotching my ink, or not ruling my lines straight enough. I was much too scared of those powerful, sarcastic teachers to be deliberately naughty. Now, of course, I wish I’d been like Pippi Longstocking and laughed at them all.

How did you get started?
I loved making up stories when I was young. I was given an old typewriter for Christmas when I was ten and I planned to write a great novel on it, but I didn’t get very far. I didn’t want to leave anything out so after six long pages my main character still hadn’t decided what to have for breakfast. My teachers at secondary school were very encouraging — and they didn’t mind about spelling. I wrote out of my own need when my children were very small, but when I decided I wanted to learn to shape a story for an audience I went on a creative writing course.

Who inspired you?
Jane Austen has always been an inspiration. She wrote with a quill pen and constant interruptions and if she could do that, then I have no excuses as I have a computer and a room of my own. And Bill Manhire, who is an inspiring teacher.

Advice to aspiring writers
Just do it! Read and read and read, and write and write and write. And remember that authors often write four, six or even ten drafts of something before it’s good enough to publish. Don’t be disheartened if you get rejections at first — it may take years and years before you write something someone wants to publish. Fortunately writing is not something you get too old to do.

Is it difficult making a living writing in NZ?

Yes! Very few writers of fiction make a living in New Zealand — but there are lots of other sorts of writing that writers do to make extra money. Some write for TV, some for web sites, some write reading books for five year olds and others write for radio, newspapers and magazines.

What were you like as a teenager?
I just scraped by in the real world of school, but that didn’t matter as I mostly lived in a parallel world, in which I was the heroine (or hero) of whatever book I was reading. Then when I was about sixteen the real world started to come into focus. I began to understand what my teachers were getting at, and do much better at school. My great passion was acting and going to the theatre. When I was acting it was as if I was allowed to actually become someone else, instead of just secretly pretending, and I discovered what a wonderful power it is to make people laugh and cry. Writing is quite closely related to acting in some ways.


Updated January 2017.