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Interview: Kate Gordon-Smith talks about Maddison McQueen and the Cupcake Mystery

Kate Gordon-Smith is a Wānaka-based author of children’s fiction for readers aged 7 to 12. She enjoys writing kids’ mysteries and fantasy adventures, and loves creating unputdownable stories that offer young readers a chance to switch off from the real world and get lost in a great story. Find out more on


Kate also owns and runs the Kiwi Kids’ Bookstore, an online bookstore devoted to books by New Zealand authors for children and teens,

The Kiwi Kids' Bookstore are a sponsor of the NZ Booklovers Awards. Kate talks to NZ Booklovers.

Tell us a little about your novel.

Maddison McQueen and the Cupcake Mystery is a fun, adventurous story for readers aged 7 to 10 who love dogs. It’s the first book in the Red Collie Mystery series and set in my hometown of Wānaka.


Maddie and her grandma are all set to enter their cupcakes in the baking competition at the Wānaka A&P Show when someone steals Grandma’s cupcakes right off the table! Maddie hates seeing her grandma upset, so with the help of her loyal red-and-white collie, Ruby, and her friends Josh and Rose, she hunts for clues and evidence to figure out who stole the cupcakes.


What inspired you to write this book?

 I loved reading from a young age. I also loved dogs but so many dog stories of that era were sad or frightening and I wasn’t a very brave child. I also love mystery stories and always wanted to write my own. The characters of Maddie and Ruby sprung to mind one day while thinking about the sort of book I would have enjoyed reading when I was about nine years old. My own red-and-white Border Collie, Kenzie, was lying on the bed beside me at the time. And it was fun to write a story set in my hometown around our iconic Wānaka A&P Show.


What research was involved?

Fortunately I know our town and the Wānaka A&P Show pretty well so I knew most of the details I needed. The fun part was creating fictional aspects to suit what I needed Maddie, Josh and Rose to be able to achieve as ten-year-olds.  And, in terms of dog character and behaviour, I have the goofy, loveable, hair-shedding research model beside me – as well as her sidekick, our rescue dog Snow – virtually every minute of the day.


What was your routine or process when writing this book?

 Some years back I read that Marian Keyes writes her books on her laptop in bed and decided if it works for Marian, it’s good enough for me! So armed with tea and toast first thing, I sit up in bed writing on my iPad which syncs to Scrivener on the cloud for an hour or so, then get coffee and write for another half hour. This allows me to keep my fiction writing separate from my day job writing and bookselling, and while I’m often later than I mean to be at my desk, I’m always happy to have got some words done for my next book.


What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?

That it was so much fun to write! I’d been struggling with finding the joy in writing for a while and was so happy when I came up with the ideas for Maddie and Ruby because the inspiration and desire to write was there, the whole way through. It’s only the second book I’ve finished writing so that was an important milestone for me personally. I hope the fun I had writing Maddie’s first book flows through to the reader.


What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

I cracked on with writing the second and some of the third Red Collie Mystery because the ideas were bubbling away, just waiting for me to have time. I also told all my writing friends and celebrated with a nice bottle of wine shared with my husband.


What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

I know I’m a latecomer to the joys of Tessa Duder’s writing, but I’ve only recently read her classic Night Race to Kawau. Wow, Tessa keeps you involved in the excitement and fear that Sam is feeling the whole way through. It’s immediately become one of my favourite children’s novels.


What’s next on the agenda for you?

The first draft of the second Red Collie Mystery, Maddison McQueen and the Disappearing Dogs, is ready for me to start the multi-step editing and revision process. I think there ended up being eight or nine rounds of edits and polishing for the first Maddison McQueen story, plus the time put in by my editor, so I know there’s plenty of work to do on this second story to get it ready to publish later this year. That’s all fine because I like editing and looking for those plot holes which would leave a reader feeling confused or annoyed if they weren’t fixed. I’m looking forward to hearing what my beta readers think of this new story too. Lots to do, but as long as it’s still fun, that’s good with me!



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