For doing that homework assignment that should have been handed in yesterday
Where were you born?
In Dee Street Maternity Hospital, Invercargill, New Zealand in 1967
Where did you grow up and go to school?
I grew up in Invercargill and went to Waverly Park Primary School (a five-minute walk from home), Lithgow Intermediate (a 15-minute bike ride into a southerly wind) and James Hargest High School (a 10-minute walk). I did a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in English Literature at Otago University in Dunedin and graduated from Victoria University in Wellington (the final year at Otago was a lot of Old English – have you ever tried reading that stuff!).
Where do you live?
Just out of Dunedin on a small sheep farm. We also have a few cattle (no dairy cows – I don’t want to get up early in the morning to milk them!)
Do you ever do tours or author visits?
Send me a plane ticket and I’ll be there, especially if it’s Italy, or Greece or somewhere else exotic and/or hot. In New Zealand I visit lots of schools thanks to New Zealand Book Council.
Is Ella West your real name?
It’s a pen name, also called a pseudonym (which is trickier to say and impossible to spell so just use the words pen name). Ella was my great aunt who went to Otago University and studied English, just like me. I have some of her books with “Otago University 1909 – 1910) written by her on the first page. It’s very cool. West was because I wrote Thieves, my first book, when I was living at the time on the West Coast of the South Island. Lots of writers use pen names like John Le Carre and Lee Child. It makes us mysterious!
Are you married? Do you have kids? Tell me all about your family.
One husband, two children, one cat, two farm dogs and chickens (varying numbers).
Do you have another job besides writing?
I also work as a journalist.
Do you have a favourite food?
Pizza, a perfectly cooked steak (medium rare), chocolate cake.
What subject did you hate the most in high school?
PE – I was useless at it. Don’t ever pass me the ball.
What’s your favourite colour?
What’s your dream job?
James Bond movie script writer.
When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer?
When I was really young, I can’t remember what age. The first thing I ever had published (besides stuff in the newspapers I was working for) was in New Zealand School Journals when I was about 30. It was a play about the Santa’s reindeer going on strike on Christmas Eve.
Why do you write?
Because it's fun
Why do you write for teenagers?
See above – and really? If your teacher wants answers to dumb questions like this tell them to think up something better!
What awards have you won?
I won the Louis Johnson New Writers’ Bursary in 2006. Thieves (2006) was a finalist in the 2007 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and was listed as a 2007 Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Book. Anywhere but Here (2008) was a finalist in the SFFANZ (Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand) Sir Julius Vogel Awards in 2009 as was Real Life (2009) the following year. Night Vision (2014) won the 2015 Young Adult section of the LIANZA Awards and was the 2015 Young Adult Children’s Choice winner in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults as well as a finalist for the judges awards.
Is there going to be another Thieves book?
I’m working on that one. If you’re a publisher contact my agent Frances Plumpton at Frances Plumpton Literary Agency and MAKE IT HAPPEN.
Are there going to be any movies or TV series of your books?
What gave you the idea for Night Vision?
I saw, by chance, a 60 Minutes documentary on kids with XP and started thinking – what could happen to a kid who only goes out at night . . .
Is there going to be a sequel to Night Vision?
No – how many murders can one girl see?
Has the stuff that happens in your books ever happened to you, are the characters real people in your life?
It’s all mostly made up. Except for Jim, the dog in Night Vision, he was our very first farm dog. And in Rain Fall there is a whole lot of stuff that really happened, like the penguin. But none of the people are real so if you live in Westport where the book is set don’t start thinking you are any of the characters!
Do you get to have any input on book covers?
I get to see them and comment. Most of the time the publisher listens.
Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
No – not really. I can write whenever or wherever. I think it’s the journalist in me.
What do you do when you have writer’s block?
I don’t get writer’s block. I think it’s a myth, or an excuse.
Will you or could you ever write a book with a male protagonist (main character).
I know, never say never, but I think it would be unlikely. I’m still figuring out how boys think – even after years of living with three of them!
What did you read as a kid?
The entire Children’s Library in Invercargill then I stole my older brother’s library card and started on the Adult Library (there was an age restriction on getting out adult books back then). I remember reading the entire Swallows and Amazons series which is about kids having boating adventures in England, The Lord of the Rings (which I vowed afterwards I would never read another book because I had read the best – I lasted two weeks), lots of sci-fi like DragonSong and Wizard of Earthsea, Watership Downs (which is about rabbits and not dragons) and some classics like Jane Eyre.
Is there going to be a sequel to Rain Fall?
Does it really rain that much in Westport?
It can rain just like in Rain Fall, but not often. Once, when we lived there, it rained for six weeks non-stop. Westport also has beautiful sunny weather. We used to go to the beach lots to swim.
Ella West is a multi-award winner teen thriller writer who farms sheep and beef with her husband near Dunedin in the South Island of New Zealand. She likes cooking and gardening but doesn’t like cleaning the bathroom. She occasionally goes trout fishing with her family and they hate her when she catches a fish and they don’t. Her chickens keep getting out and destroying her garden. In other words, life is tough.
And then there’s the sheep.
WARNING: Do not start reading an Ella West book when you are about to go to sleep. Ella West will not be responsible for late nights, sleeping in or missing the start of school the following day.
I lived in Westport for about 15 years after I graduated from university. I went there for my first fulltime job and fell in love with the place. When I went back a few years ago for an author tour, a pupil at one of my talks asked me why I hadn’t written a book set in Westport and I didn’t have an answer. So I wrote this book.