I guess it’s natural for a writer to cherish the memory of the first book their parents gave them. When I was eight years old, my parents gave me a book for Christmas, Myths and Legends. It made a lasting impression. Within the illustrated pages, I found a world of meaning and portent.

I pored over Myths and Legends, and a love of mythology had its genesis.

Throughout my life, I have collected books on mythology. I have North American Indian, Japanese, African, Greek, Roman, Indian, Celtic and New Zealand mythology. Whenever I’m stuck for ideas, stuck for character traits, stuck for the classic elements of a story, my library of mythology reference books is where I go. They are timeless, endlessly instructive and resonant, which is what I want for my stories.



Mythology in my writing

Early in writing The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, I was sharing my progress with the ladies in my family. Our kids were preschoolers, and we used to gather once a week at my house for a lavish feast we fondly dubbed “Aunties’ Lunch.” Each week, I’d bounce ideas off the aunties and get their feedback concerning my story.

One day, my niece said, “That sounds like the myth of Rata and Tane. Nanny used to tell us myths at bedtime…” And she told us the story. As soon as I had the mythological link it fit. I felt that in one fell swoop, my story had landed. I knew then that the story had legs.

We researched the official version of the myth of Rata and Tane held at Auckland Library. It was more or less the same as the oral version. My niece felt it was fine to change the myth as I wanted to for my story, but I didn’t feel entirely comfortable with the idea. So, I set the entire series in an alternate universe, on the planet Chiron, peopled by insects and shapeshifters. Then I felt free to change Chief Rata to Chief Kal, and I changed the wood chip in the myth to a stone (the Or’in of Tane).

I rewrote the myth, adding a new section about a contest set by Tane Mahuta. When the god asks the insects to take the stone chip from him, only a dragonfly is brave enough and strong enough to grab the stone. Although the mythology does not feature to a great extent in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series, it still informed the entire story-line being the basis of the legendary status of the Or’in of Tane.



The theme in my life is self-knowledge and therefore this is reflected in my books. The format is consistently the quest which is a metaphor for seeking self-knowledge.

In The Chronicles of Aden Weaver trilogy, the quest is for a mythical stone known as the Or’in of Tane. My protagonist, Aden Weaver, heads the team to search the world for the stone.

In a conversation I had with the author PJ Reece, about this theme he said, “Without knowing the details of your story, I can say that the sacred object should be a metaphor for what it is inside Aden that he hasn’t yet realized. I’m guessing that for a reader, Aden’s journey toward ‘self knowledge’ is more compelling than anything Ike (the antagonist) does. There’s a theory of mental growth that states we go through a series of psychological disintegrations on our way to becoming authentic persons. So it’s very much true to life that a character would be thrown into an existential void again and again. With each passage through the fire, so to speak and with each ‘reintegration’ the person becomes increasingly altruistic. In the final stage, he’s entirely selfless. Few of us ever get that far. (Name me one!)”



Why Anthropomorphism

Anthropomorphism gets a bad rap. Beginner writers are told by publishers and editors, ‘no talking animals!’ ‘no animals dressed as humans!’ I squirmed for many years trying to wear the corset of these guidelines.

Around the end of my twenties, I stumbled across an article in the New Zealand Herald about Jill Mitchell, a seasoned writer/illustrator and her frog and dog characters, Zip and Mack. I made contact with her and she became a friend. I remember I told Jill that I liked the story Free Wally! best because it was about an insect. With insects all things are possible, they can jump enormous distances, walk on water, climb vertically, walk upside down, defy gravity and fly. Jill asked me why I didn’t write more stories about insects? She said, “They’re your stories, you have to like them. You could change all your characters to insects if you wanted it’s up to you.”


Talk about a light-bulb moment. I went home and rewrote some of my stories, eliminating the humans. The stories came to life! It was the start of my love affair with writing anthropomorphic insects. I’ve received a lot flak over the years for this choice. When I showed the original version of The Or’in of Tane, to one assessor, she said, “The story’s great, but lose the insects!”

I took heart however from Kate de Goldi’s words when I shared with her my picture books and predilection. She said, “Write whatever your compulsion in your soul is to write. If you want to write about insects, there must be a reason for that.”

I did and the rest, as they say, is history.

Alice in Wonderland was published in 1865, and afterward a flood of anthropomorphic creatures followed. ~ Joe Bunting