This opportunity, offered to me by a boy named Kit at a school talk in Nelson, sums up why I write for kids. They have no fear and no filters. Their heads aren’t clogged with mortgages, work woes or what to cook for dinner. So they’re not allowed ice cream for dinner, or to stay up past ‘X-Factor,’ but nothing tops climbing trees, licking the bowl or having a fist fight with your best mate.

For the past ten years I’d focused on writing non-fiction travel (UK on a G-StringBowling Through India) as well as humour (Kiwi SpeakRugby Speak). In truth, I wanted to write middle-grade fiction, like my hero Roald Dahl. But first I had to meet someone who knew what they were doing. That someone was Joy Cowley, who I accosted one day at the Story Lines festival in Auckland. A few days later – when she’d read my stories – she agreed to be my ‘Yoda.’ She is a very generous and smart lady.

Then one day I had the idea for Shot, Boom, Score! It came while on the sideline at my daughters’ soccer match. Like many kids, sport played a major role in my childhood. As did rewards for doing well. Many a parent has bribed their kids with a ‘pie for a try’ or ‘movie tickets for a wicket.’ With Toby in Shot, Boom, Score! I wanted to take this theme to a new level. Here is a boy who struggles with school, but excels at sport. When his father sets him the GameBox V3 Challenge Toby thinks he’s hit the jackpot. Sadly, he hasn’t accounted for class bully Malcolm McGarvy – who does his best to ruin the party.

Kids can be ruthless critics. If something stinks they’ll let you know. So it was with a certain amount of relief when my nine-year-old daughter Sophie (who was having Shot, Boom, Score! read to her class) came home and said, ‘Dad, even the bullies love this story – and they never share their feelings!’ Here’s hoping many other kids enjoy the book.

P.S. I did end up dedicating a novel to Kit, but as of yet haven’t seen any money.

Two months after 9/11 I found myself in the UK singing for my supper. I lost a bet and had to door-to-door busk my way around the Motherland mid-winter and make enough money to fly home to New Zealand. The result was a book – UK on a G-String.

A number of years have passed. Yet recently the trip came up in conversation when a girl at a party asked me what it was like to appear on the Richard and Judy Show.

‘It was bloody great,’ I said. ‘There was the ride there in a brand new Merc as well as copious amounts of food and drink in the green room with Enrique Iglesias. But there was also the moment Richard and Judy duped me on national television.’

Here’s what happened. I sang on the couch for the famous couple, at the end of which they pulled out a crisp, white envelope. Richard smiled.

‘Here is an open return ticket to New Zealand,’ he said.
I was speechless.
‘So when are you going back?’ Judy asked.
‘Well, when’s it for?’ I asked.
‘It’s open,’ said Richard. ‘Anytime you like.’

I could not believe my luck. After knocking on doors from Wembley to Wales and having them repeatedly slammed in my face, here was a free ticket back to New Zealand!

Only it wasn’t.

As I write this I can’t quite believe what eventuated. As I said my goodbyes and had a drink in the green room, I boarded the train to Liverpool, the last place I had busked. And when I opened that envelope, a dirty old boarding pass fell out.

barley ticket g string

The good guys! The decent couple! The generous TV stars! I had been duped. 

The girl at the dinner party suggested I try and track down Graham Barley through Facebook, which I thought was a sound idea. Anyone know him?

I’m happy to say that two of my travel books are now available to read on your Kindle. UK on a G-string is a tale about door-to-door-busking (I only had one song) around the Motherland and trying to make enough money for a flight home. The US version is called One Man, 23 Beers and a Crazy Bet. Next on my bucket list was an attempt to play golf around the U.S with whoever featured on the front page of the newspaper. In Search of Swingers was the result: a terrifying, yet liberating, glorious failure, full of crazy characters and surprisingly, very little golf. For more info on these titles head to my website. Enjoy!