This week's Newsmaker is Rotorua author Tom E. Moffatt who recently held a pre-launch for his first published children's chapter book, Barking Mad.

-Tell us a little about yourself

My first book, Barking Mad, won the Tom Fitzgibbon award and was published by Scholastic this month. I'm married to a Rotorua girl and have been living here for a couple of years now. We have two beautiful daughters and a cuddly cat. Other than reading, writing and hanging out with the kids, my favourite pastime is coming up with terrible dad jokes.

Here are my top 3 dog-related puns:


Why did the dog breathe into the washing machine? It was trying to clean its pants.
What do smelly dogs say? Whiff whiff!
What do you call a dog that has finished pooing? A pooed all.

-What is it about writing that you love?

Absolutely anything is possible. You want to fly? You want superpowers? You want to burp really loudly on demand? Create a fictitious version of yourself and they can live out your wildest dreams.

My book, Barking Mad, is about a clumsy boy called Finn whose granddad accidentally swaps bodies with his dog. It's packed full of silliness, toilet humour and lots of burping. I'm not sure what that says about me!

-What are a couple of your favourite books and why?
Barking Mad by Tom E. Moffatt. How can I not choose my own book? I've read it about 200 times, working it and tweaking it until it's as good as I think it can be. So Barking Mad will always be one of my favourite books ... at least until the sequel comes out!

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusac. It's a breathtaking story written in such a unique, yet beautifully simple style. It is told from the viewpoint of Death and follows the life of a 10-year-old girl during World War II. You won't find a more compelling story.

-Where does some of your inspiration for writing come from?

Inspiration and ideas are like seeds - you can find them almost anywhere if you look hard enough. They are out on the street, in your home - I mean, you take too big a bite out of an apple and there are a dozen seeds right there. At first they don't look like much, but given the right environment and nourishment - such as lots of 'what ifs and 'how woulds - before you know it they have grown into an enormous tree filled with apples and, more importantly, thousands more seeds.

The idea for Barking Mad came to me when I moved from teaching in a primary school to teaching in a secondary school. I couldn't believe how different everything was. The classrooms, the behaviour, the teaching style ... everything. I remember wondering what a primary school student would think if they were dropped in the middle of secondary school for a day. And what if it were a boy in a girl's body? But how would they swap bodies? What if their granddad invented a mind-swapper? And what if he swapped bodies with his dog? Before I knew it the story had run from me, like it was chasing a rabbit. All I could do was follow to see where it went.

-What do you love most about Rotorua?

Rotorua is New Zealand in a nutshell. It's got everything ... culture, outdoor activities, beautiful scenery, The Warehouse. What more could you want? It really is the best place in the world to raise a family.

-Tell us three things about yourself most people wouldn't know

1. I haven't read an adult's book in a very long time. How can I? There are too many amazing kids' books to read.
2. I'm dyslexic and was hopeless at English at school. It wasn't until I got myself a laptop that I was really able to string a sentence together.
3. I can burp on demand. Really loudly. It's the closest thing I've got to superpowers!