Sticking With Pigs
Sticking With Pigs is out now!
The tag line for Sticking With Pigs reads: A Pig-Hunting Adventure, and that is the essence of my new book. Wolf Miller lives a ‘townie’ life with his struggling family who are dealt an extra blow when Wolf’s brother Davey is diagnosed with Addison’s disease. Wolf feels neglected as he is constantly minding his six-year-old sister for his pre-occupied parents. Uncle Jeremy offers to take Wolf hunting, much to Wolf’s parent’s horror, but Wolf gratefully accepts.
What should have been a regular day out pig hunting turns problematic as things start to go wrong. Wolf has to be brave and resourceful if they are to make it home safely.
I wanted to write a book that didn’t deal with drugs, sex and rock and roll and big teenage issues that require a sensitive yet unflinching pen. I needed a change from that stuff.
A couple of schoolteacher friends told me ‘we desperately need books on hunting and the outdoors. There’s never enough.’ And my friend who owns a hunting supply shop said ‘the interest in hunting amongst adults and children has grown exponentially in the last ten years.’
One of my elder sons, now aged thirty, told me the books he loved most as a boy were the straight-out adventure stories where his over-riding question was: Will the hero make it home?
So, I thought about a hunting story and then I remembered how irritated I’d been years ago, when a different son begged me to let him go hunting. I protested, (fairly reasonably), saying we’d covered enough non-mainstream activities and couldn’t he please be grateful for his skiing, fishing, diving pursuits? My pleas fell on deaf ears and a family friend took him deer hunting.
Chris returned from his trip with plenty of meat, exciting stories and an ongoing love for the bush. It was a breakthrough for this particular son as he was always over-shadowed by his sportier brothers on the rugby field and tennis court, and by a younger brother who had a chronic illness.
Hunting became Chris’s thing and I learned to put up with animal skins on the walls, hunting magazines, gun talk, and a new sort of danger to worry about. (As you can imagine, I had no problem writing the mother scenes in this new book!)
My sister also has a boy with a chronic illness and I saw a similar brotherly dynamic between my nephews and my own sick son and his next-in-line brother. There seemed to be an extra layer of protectiveness and irritation in the relationship and I saw a real possibility that the non-sick boy felt overlooked by us, his parents. I gave my fictional brother Addison’s as someone I knew had just been diagnosed with it and she was a wealth of information.
Hawkes Bay and Gisborne are fertile hunting grounds. We are frequently given wild pork or venison and once I started talking to hunters I was inundated with ideas, close shaves, possible dangers. I visited the rescue helicopter people and I watched a friend tip a pig and slaughter it. He then showed me how to tie its legs and carry it away.
I met pig dogs and saw their travel cages. I learned about knee problems, knives, training regimes, bush craft, bush toilet paper, alcoholism, learning to drive using a column shift gear box, wasp stings and pig wounds for dogs, the landscape and the list goes on.
I wanted the children in this story to be strong and capable but normal kiwi kids as well. I wanted my readers to ask the question: will this boy get home?
After reading this manuscript my thirty-year-old said, ‘It’s the best story you’ve written, Mum.’ His response has made me think about other sports that lend themselves to comparable adventures, like spear fishing, bow hunting, duck shooting. I’ve got some ideas…..