Interview: Anna Kenna talks about Viola Vincent Reporting – Troubled Water
Kāpiti Coast author Anna Kenna is former radio and television reporter. After a 30 year career in journalism, she now writes for children and her books and stories can be found in classrooms around the world.
The Viola Vincent Reporting series explores real issues in society through the activities of fiercely determined Caitlin V. Nove. Viola Vincent (an anagram of her name) is the pen name the 13-year-old uses to disguise her secret identity as a rookie reporter for the local paper. The first book in the series, originally published by Scholastic, won a notable book award. Anna is adding to the series as an independent author. Anna has also written numerous school journal stories, 10 chapter books and two picture books.
She has two adult daughters and lives near the beach with her husband, and publishing partner, John and their two terriers.
Tell us a little about your novel.
Viola Vincent Reporting – Troubled Water is the third book in a series featuring young reporter Caitlin Nove. The story follows Caitlin’s investigation into a polluted swimming hole in the beach settlement where she is holidaying with her granddad. Along the way she meets Anahera, a young Māori woman, who believes local farms are responsible for the contamination and says her iwi is fed up trying to get the council to do something about it. Caitlin sees the opportunity for a story but her attempt to expose the issue backfires, stirring up feelings in the community that run as deep as the river itself.
This is a story about two young women with very different perspectives who share a common goal to save a dying river. The quest tests their friendship and ultimately requires Caitlin, to open her mind and to embrace a different world view.
What inspired you to write this book?
I spent my early childhood in the countryside and loved visiting a nearby river with my father to walk, swim and fish. In those days there was no suggestion of pollution or that messing about in the water could make you sick. When I realised the extent of the degradation of New Zealand rivers and streams I felt shocked and saddened that today’s children are being denied the opportunity to enjoy local waterways as I once did. When I was looking around for a modern day issue for Caitlin to get her teeth into, water quality seemed obvious.
What research was involved?
I read widely, accessing articles and speeches by New Zealands foremost freshwater ecologists and reports by numerous environmental agencies on the state of New Zealands fresh water resources. I read media reports of actual instances of people becoming sick after swimming in contaminated rivers and of communities upset about pollution of once pristine rivers and streams. Radio New Zealand’s Water Fools programmes provided valuable research material, particularly on the relationship of Māori to water. After I left journalism I worked for a time as a communications manager for a local council so I had a good grounding in the impact of climate change on New Zealand coastal communities and the responisbilities of local councils.
What was your routine or process when writing this book?
I have to squeeze writing around part time work and my various other responsibilities but I find my most productive time is early morning. I set my alarm for 5.45, pour myself a large mug of tea and retreat to my office, where my terriers usually join me (I have two dog beds in my writing den). Sometimes I go to the local library to write. I find being surrounded by books inspiring – as well as a little intimidating.
If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.
Bob Marley – “Get up Stand up.”
John Lennon – “Power to the People”
If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?
Young New Zealand actors – possibly making their debut.
What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?
Experiencing Caitlin’s growth and enlightenment as the story progressed.
What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?
I went out for a nice dinner with my husband.
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
I am currently devouring novels by Irish crime writer Jo Spain. She is a truly amazing storyteller.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
Caitlin wants me to write another book about her latest investigation. She can be very persistent, and slightly annoying, but I know I’ll give in to her in the end.