Interview: Clare Scott talks about The Midnight Adventures of Ruru and Kiwi
Clare Scott has always been in trouble for talking too much (yes, even when she was the teacher!), and loves writing anything and everything. Books are a huge part of her world, and her crazy imagination persistently prods her with new ideas. The Midnight Adventures of Ruru and Kiwi is her first children’s picture book, although she has had many stories published with Sunshine Books. She used to love living by the bush, but now it’s life by the beach. Sometimes she even writes in the sand! She loves spending time with her family, adventuring with the grandies, and exploring this unique mesmerising land of Aotearoa.
The Midnight Adventures of Ruru and Kiwi is shortlisted for the NZ Booklovers Children's Book Award for 2021.
Tell us a little about your book.
The Midnight Adventures of Ruru and Kiwi is a New Zealand nocturnal version of the Owl and the Pussycat – a rhyming story of sharing, friendship and fun. There’s a little guide at the back of the book with some fascinating facts about the creatures in the story too.
What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always been a huge fan of the Owl and the Pussycat, loving the rhyme and rhythm and sense of fun. And who doesn’t love a midnight feast? I got to thinking, what would happen in Aotearoa’s bush if a group of our unique nocturnal creatures decided it was party time. Who would come? What would they eat? How would they decorate? What would they do? But I also wanted to keep the intrinsic storyline intact, albeit with a distinct New Zealand twist. Plus it was also a chance to have a real birdseye view of life at night. I used to live on a bush-covered section and loved hearing Ruru calling at night.
What research was involved?
I read the original story over and over, breaking down the style and the scansion. I thought hard about which two iconic characters and great party guests would suit the story. I wanted a variety of both less-known and well-recognised creatures. Who knew there were so many unique nocturnal creatures in our own backyard? There followed much reading, many internet searches, and some questions needing answers from experts such as the zoo and refuge/rescue keepers about Ruru, Kiwi and their big and little friends.
What was your routine or process when writing this book?
I sat and wrote. Then, once my research was complete, I rewrote and rewrote. I read it to myself, and out loud. I had others read it aloud too to make sure everything ‘worked’. Then I submitted it, over and over, and tried not to get too sad when it was rejected, because this story I truly loved and believed in. I hoped it would find a home. And then one day it did. The best one. I still can’t believe it…
If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.
Poi E (Patea Maori Club), Happy (Pharrell Williams), Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
All fun well-known songs, and the words seem to suit the story too.
If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?
Ruru - Taika Waititi or Kimberley Crossman Kiwi - Sam Neil or Rima Te Wiata
They all have great personalities, just like my book’s characters.
What did you enjoy the most about writing this picture book?
What’s not to love about spending time with friends under the stars and moon? It was a chance to celebrate our gorgeous Aotearoa and its unique creatures in a different setting. I learnt so much too. But nothing could top the sheer joy of my story finding a home, and then seeing it for the first time as a real book – just wow! Amy’s award-winning illustrations added essential touchs of whimsical magic to my words. Knowing that people are reading and enjoying it? Amazing!
What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?
I believed in my story and I hoped someone else would too. And finally they did. (Thank you, Penguin Random House NZ!) There was much yelling and jumping around when it was accepted, and sighs of relief, disbelief and utter joy when it was finally published. What a long, long time from writing the final draft till seeing the finished book! I was looking forward to finally sharing Ruru, Kiwi and friends with my own little book party. Sadly THREE book launches had to be cancelled because of Covid! But Covid can’t take away my excitement or keep these birds quiet...
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
I especially love reading and re-reading kiwi authors – their picturebooks, YA, novels, non-fiction, especially those written for our younger people. So much talent in this wee country. I recently really enjoyed Eileen Merriman’s A Trio of Sophies. Clever, gritty, real, current, engaging…
What’s next on the agenda for you?
I’m writing, and I’ll keep writing. (So many ideas!) I think I was born with too many words, so I’m trying to use them up in stories. Hopefully others may think those words, those stories are okay too…