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Interview: Des Hunt talks abut Search for a Kiwi Killer

Des Hunt's novel Search for a Kiwi Killer is nominated for the Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction at this year’s New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

The judges describe it as a tightly written mystery set in a Northland forest, where a dog has been killing kiwis. Tom has rescued an injured dog and is set on proving its innocence — but there are multiple dog suspects in this clever reframing of the page-turner detective genre. This unputdownable novel captures our landscape and genuine characters, keeping the reader captivated through to the dramatic conclusion.

Tell us a little about your book. Search for a Kiwi Killer is set near Kerikeri with much of the action in Waitangi Forest. Lots of the scenes are based on news reports about dogs killing kiwi and the problems that arise when kiwi live close to residential areas. Often it is family pets that cause the greatest damage. What inspired you to write this book? I wanted to introduce readers to the problems faced by our national bird. During my lifetime I have seen the tui recover from the deforestation of colonisation to become one of our most common song birds in cities. I am hopeful that the children of today will see the kiwi become a common bird within their lifetime.

What research was involved? It started with a meeting with two Department of Conversation rangers who work with kiwi in Northland. They gave lots of information about problems with dogs in kiwi habitats. Altogether I visited Northland three times to become familiar with habitats and settings I would use in the story. Information on pig hunting came from talking to hunters and reading hunting magazines. What was your routine or process when writing this book? Most of my writing is done in the morning between 7.00 and 11.00. Afternoons are used to research the next bit of writing and edit what was written in the morning.

What did you enjoy the most about writing this book? The opening scene is based on a news report of a feral pig running around the streets of Kerikeri. I particularly enjoyed using that to introduce my main characters.

What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why? The Dry by Jane Harper. I like reading mystery stories set in remote parts of Australia. To me the landscape seems to be designed for unusual happenings.

What’s next on the agenda for you? A story set in South Taranaki that will feature dairy farms and attempts to reduce the release of greenhouse gases. The featured NZ animal will be the pūkeko.

The winners of the New Zealand Books Awards for Children and Young Adults will be revealed at a ceremony in Wellington on 7 August. Full details of all the nominated books are available here (


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