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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Interview: Steven Moe talks about The Apple Tree


Steven Moe is the popular host of the Seeds Podcast, but he is also a lawyer who is about empowering impact and catalysing good ideas by helping get legal structures right. He is a partner at Parry Field Lawyers in Christchurch. Steven has over 20 years of experience practising law in New Zealand, England, Australia and Japan, and he works with start-ups, investors, tech companies, charities and purpose-driven businesses. Steven talks to NZ Booklovers about his book The Apple Tree.


Tell us a little about The Apple Tree. 

This is a short story which is in the form of a picture book so it looks like it is for children but the message is just as relevant for adults – that the actions we take today matter even if we do not see the results right away. 

 

What inspired you to write this book? 

I work as a lawyer and help people set up new initiatives or work with charities or purpose driven endeavours – often I saw them getting disillusioned so I wanted to encourage them and so thought doing that through the image of a seed and its life journey would do that.



What research was involved? 

It was really about remembering my own past – you see, my Grandfather had planted an Apple Tree in a valley just after World War II and by the time he died in the 1990s I could visit the same tree – it is still producing apples today.  So, I thought about what it would be like to experience seasons passing by like days and growing old thinking you had achieved nothing – or at least, you thought that was the case.

 

What was your routine or process when writing this book? 

My best stories surprise even me as I am writing them so I knew there was something special when I started writing the short story and found myself crying as I got to the end and realised myself what it was really about.  After that I edited it and changed some of the characters but it was just tweaking as the essence had been there at the start.  Then I shared with close friends who encouraged me that there was some truth in this and it was worth pursuing, and it was at that point that I asked Jamie Small from Wordshop to bring his skills as an editor. 

 

How did you work with the illustrator? 

Cricket McCormick is an amazing tattoo artist who had not done illustrations for a book before but I loved the detail in her tattoos of nature and knew she could do this.  So I shared the story with her and just asked her to let the words give her inspiration and see what happens.  I love that she included details I wouldn’t have thought to – like how there is a passing reference to fish in the stream, so she drew the shadow of a fish swimming under the surface in one picture.  It’s a subtle detail but it brings the story to life so well.

 

If a soundtrack were made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include. 

Actually, I commissioned the founder of the charity Youth Arts New Zealand, Matthew Goldsworthy, to compose a song for the book and so he did that after reading the story – you can listen to it on the website for the book (https://theseeds.nz/tree).  It is an instrumental piano piece that incorporates birds and sounds of a stream (recorded at my great grandmother’s childhood home) which aches with beauty and should be on a movie soundtrack. 

 

What do you hope readers will take away from this book? 

Encouragement that what we do matters, even if the results are not apparent right away – the same way a seed looks like it is dead, but there is life within and with the right conditions there will be growth and new life.

 

Is it a children’s book or a book for adults? It seems to be for both, so can you tell us about that aspect? 

I want the children who read it to enjoy the story but I want the adults who maybe read it to them to realise something about their own lives, or lives of people who have inspired them.  I have had many people tell me they give the book as a gift to encourage people in what they do.  Someone who runs courses for people on leadership just purchased 50 copies to give to everyone who attends as they saw it unlocked deeper conversations and thoughts.  Another story is of someone who took it into a Women’s prison and the korero and tears that resulted from reading it to a dozen women led to discussion about how no one had been like an Apple Tree for them, which also allowed a healing process to begin.

 

What did you enjoy the most about writing The Apple Tree?  

Realising myself there was a surprise ending that brought the message home - also the joy of collaborating with an amazing artist, with a designer, with an editor and with a composer – the skill that each brought resulted in a book that is better than just one of us could have done on our own.

 

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

I am creating an Artist’s retreat by a river so populating it with bookcases that need filling up so been busy getting through many – most recent has been “The Shadow of What Was Lost” by Australian fantasy author James Islington.


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