Q&A with Lee Murray (Author of The Taine McKenna Adventures)

What is something unique/quirky about you?

Fun Fact#1: You know that old story about having to smooch a lot of frogs before you find the prince? Well, before becoming a writer, I tried on a lot of hats: I was a research scientist, a massage therapist, a safety and health officer, as well as New Zealand’s Energy Advisor to the OECD. I’ve also done some time putting up kiwifruit irrigation lines, serving chateaubriand, and as a wallpaper hand. These days, you’ll find me in my natural writing habitat, in my home office overlooking a cow paddock.

Fun Fact#2: A serious cheese junkie, I’m lucky that our travels have allowed me to indulge my addiction. In fact, we have lived for several years in some of the most significant cheese locations of the world, beginning with my home country of New Zealand, then England (home of Red Leicester and Wensleydale), France (my favourite is still the Tome de Savoie) and America’s Dairyland, Wisconsin, famous for its cheese curd and Montforte Blue.

Fun Fact#3: One of my great grandmothers was Rebecca Brooker (née Jenner) 1819-1887. The daughter of famous British physician Edward Jenner (inventor of the smallpox vaccine), she was a missionary nurse and a signatory to New Zealand’s famous Treaty of Waitangi. Rebecca Avenue in New Zealand’s Christchurch is named after this famous ancestor.”

What do you consider is your biggest failure?

I’m excellent at failing so it’s hard to pick just one! One of my keenest regrets though, is failing to learn Cantonese—my mother’s first language. Later in life, I learned to speak French, and of the insights into a people and their culture which can be achieved through understanding the language. So while being bilingual is a good thing, it has led me to understand that by not speaking Cantonese, I am missing a part of myself.

What got you into writing?

I don’t really know. I’ve always been a scribbler, a prehistoric blogger before they were a thing. Encouraged firstly by my dad, and later by various teachers and mentors, it was always on my mind to write, but it wasn’t until my children were small, and I was at home during their naptimes, that I made a conscious effort to ‘become’ a writer’, completing some masters papers in creative writing, along with a couple of unfinished novels which had been sitting in boxes. Then, a decade ago, on the advice of a colleague, I started to call myself a writer, and even wrote ‘writer’ against my occupation on my passport, which made it more real somehow.

Tell us something really interesting that’s happened to you!

There was the time my husband and I had just landed in New York for the New York marathon (where I did an epic run and I came in about 33,000th in a field of 39,000) and we were walking past the Ed Sullivan theatre, slightly jetlagged, just taking in the atmosphere, and we got randomly selected as audience members for the David Letterman show. We sat in the second row, and our kids, back home in New Zealand, got to see us on television that same night. (Yes, the rumours are true: it is really cold in those television studios.)

What are some of your pet peeves?

Have you ever noticed how pretentious the verb ‘to do’ is? Not the everyday version of the verb, but those condescending in-your-face formulas intended to remind you who’s boss, when that tiny little word conveys so much contempt. Airlines are often guilty of this. “We do ask that you take care when opening the overhead lockers as items may have moved in transit.” “We do require that you wait for the aircraft to reach the terminal before unclipping your seatbelt.” What’s wrong with saying please? That’s just one of my peeves.

Who is your hero and why?

My mum. She’s a tiny little thing, but as my dad always used to say ‘good thing come in little packages’ and he was never more right. When I tell stories of my childhood, Dad features a lot. Hardly surprising because he was a big personality. An athlete, a storyteller, and a real camp Dad, he was the sort who could fix a bicycle with a plastic BBQ plate. Mum’s approach is less flamboyant, but she’s always there, in the background, getting on with things with integrity, kindness, and courage.

What kind of world ruler would you be?

A kind one, I hope. I find you can make a lot of progress when you act from kindness.


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