Much-loved author Joy Cowley steps into the Canvas Confession Box and owns up to three sins, two of them deadly.
You nominated ignorance, which is not one of the official seven deadly sins.
I think ignorance - a failure to understand others, a failure to be well-informed - causes so many of the world's problems. At one time innocence was thought to be a virtue but another name for that is ignorance and I would call that a sin. I have travelled a lot and I see the way we think if we put certain labels on other people that justifies us in our judgment of them, because they're not like us. That escalates and it causes huge problems in the world.
Are there any examples that are particularly bothering you in 2019?
There are examples that have delighted me, for example the whole loving reaction of New Zealanders after the massacre in Christchurch. That made me so proud of my country, because generally there has been an "us" and "them" understanding of a religious group that wasn't "ours" and to see that disappear, and we were all suddenly brothers and sisters in this one New Zealand family, it was good.
You have a story about ignorance?
Ignorance and gluttony. I stayed with Pat and Roald Dahl when Roald was making a film of my first novel. I had never had much to do with alcohol and they fed me martinis and I drank them like lemonade and they showed me this beautiful blue swimming pool, because it was a heated swimming pool and in those days no one else had heated swimming pools, and I fell into it. And then I vomited into it. It was probably the worst thing that had ever happened. They were actually very nice about it, but I just wanted to curl up and die.
Why does gluttony resonate for you?
Well I'm a vegetarian and one time I went down to a cafe in Wellington and sat by myself at a table and ordered a big meat pie - beef with rosemary - and it came with a couple of bits of lettuce and when I got home and was asked what I had for lunch I said I had a salad. I left out the meat pie.
Did you say you're a vegetarian, though?
Yes. Generally, I don't eat my friends and I have had so many animal friends of all kinds who thought I was their mother. You can't eat your children, so I don't generally eat chickens, ducks, sheep, cows or pigs. I occasionally have fish.
It's an unusual vegetarian who ever admits to eating meat.
I have given up getting upset about myself, I just have too many failures. Accepting the whole of oneself comes with age and understanding that generally a weakness is attached to a strength. I would say that I have an instinct to be judgmental, because that's a downside of discernment, and I have great discernment.
People can be quite judgmental about sloth. How do you view it?
In small doses, it is delicious. I am busier now than I'd like to be. I'm caring for my darling husband Terry, a beautiful man, and he's had three strokes in just over a year and needs care 24 hours a day, so I am doing that and attending to the house and garden and cooking and laundry and all the things one must do, and I would love a day of sloth. I would probably sit and dream and do nothing and eat and sleep and play music. It's not a big thing but, if I could choose, I would like one day off a week.
What else would you like more of?
Sin changes as you get older. A good example of this would be if I were 18 and had a dream about sex, I would have been embarrassed and confused. At 83 I am just so grateful for an erotic dream, and I would wish for more of them! So yes please, more sloth and a little more lust.
You've written more than 600 books, mostly for children, and you are still writing.
I'm still writing but in big kindergarten print because I have macular degeneration. The world looks lovely and soft and misty, but that doesn't quite work for the computer. I write slowly and make lots of mistakes and editing is a problem - I have to do it with a big magnifier I got from the Blind Foundation. I wish I had three hands so that I could hold the magnifier against the screen as I typed but it's okay. I am very strong, and there are worse things when you are in your 80s. - Eleanor Black
Joy Cowley's book Veil Over Light is a finalist in the Ashton Wylie Charitable Trust Mind Body Spirit Book Awards. Winners are announced August 16.