31 Mar 2024

Stacy Gregg’s: The Easter Bunny Hunt

From Sunday Morning, 10:30 am on 31 March 2024
Stacy Gregg composite image

Photo: Stacy Gregg

Author Stacy Gregg has revealed how a no-nonsense message from her publisher helped her to write about her tūpuna.

Gregg - who is most famous for her Pony Club Secrets and Pony Club Rivals books for young readers - took on a family story in her latest book for eight-to-12-year-olds, Nine Girls.

The book, set on Gregg's family farm in Ngāruawāhia, concerns a cache of military gold buried by soldiers next to Taupiri mountain.

The soldiers, believing they were going to be ambushed, placed a tapu on the gold so no-one could dig it up, Gregg told Sunday Morning.

"My great-great-grandmother said, 'I will lift the tapu and bring the curse upon myself so that we can all be rich. I'm old now, I'll take the hit, I'll die'," she said.

"They went to dig up the gold with that plan - and i'm not going to tell you how it turned out because it's in the book."

Gregg (Ngāti Mahuta/Ngāti Pukeko/Ngāti Maru) said she approached the tale, which was based on one her grandmother told her as a child, with trepidation.

"I was very anxious to write a book that actually addressed colonisation and my tūpuna, and who I was, and who I'm trying to become," she said.

Photo: Penguin Random House NZ

"It wasn't until I had sent the manuscript to my agent in the UK and she said 'you're really holding back ... where's the emotion, what's going on with you, why aren't you the normal Stacy Gregg who writes these books?'

"I went, 'I'm just really terrified when I sit down to write about my tūpuna. It just feels so disrespectful', and she said 'get over it'."

That was when Gregg came up with the idea of introducing a character that was her tūpuna in the form of an eel.

She said the relationship between the eel and the protagonist "anchors the heart of the story".

As well as addressing the events of the 1800s, the book also covers the 1970s and '80s - the time of the Bastion Point protests and the Springbok tour, Gregg said.

That part was based on her own childhood growing up in Ngāruawāhia.

Nine Girls is one of two books Gregg, who now lives in Auckland, has recently released. The other is The Easter Bunny Hunt, a picture book inspired by the antics of her own cat and dog.

"It's a real cute story where they're trying to find the Easter bunny and things are going haywire - really deeply haywire and the house is descending into chaos," she said.

Nine Girls is published by Penguin Random House and The Easter Bunny Hunt by HarperCollins UK.