1. You worked on TVNZ documentaries covering diverse topics from rugby in The Game of Our Lives to World War I tunnellers in Journey to Arras. Which did you enjoy most?
Billy T James - A Daughter's Story. During my research I discovered Billy's real dad in some old National Film Unit footage. I recognised the name Jimmy Smith in the Karapiro Dam archives and when I saw the film there was no mistaking it. Billy was so like him. Billy's real mother and brothers and sisters were in the film too. It was so satisfying to be able to show it to Billy's adopted daughter Cherie.
2. Your ground-breaking production of Children of a Lesser God starred both deaf and hearing actors. How did that come about?
I was relief teaching at Kelston School for the Deaf and I invited Miranda Harcourt to do a theatre workshop with the children. She'd learned sign language when she'd done Children of a Lesser God in Christchurch. The kids made up their own story and performed it in a very moving production which I filmed for a documentary called The Magic Park that sold in 11 countries. So the Auckland production of Children of a Lesser God grew out of that. I got some actors who were deaf and hearing actors who could sign. It worked very well and sold out.
3. How did you come to produce New Zealand's first Samoan play?
John Kneubuhl, the Samoan playwright, asked me to produce it for him. Think of a Garden was the first play in New Zealand to have Samoan actors, Samoan roles and some Samoan language. John was a very educated man, a contemporary of Tennessee Williams. He wrote for TV series like The Fugitive, Gunsmoke, Star Trek and Hawaii Five-O. We ran the play fully booked for two weeks at the Waterfront Theatre. Samoans from around Auckland flocked to it.
4. Voluntary work has been a big part of your life. When did you train to be a counsellor?
When we moved north in 1975, I really wanted to learn more about Maori, so I did a Maori studies paper at university with Anne Salmond. While I was studying I volunteered at Citizens Advice where I met two marvellous Maori women, Betty Wark and Anne Tia, both stalwarts of penal reform. Anne worked in prisons helping people who couldn't read. Betty ran a hostel for children who were sleeping on the streets. I admired them enormously. To actively help people, you had to do a counselling course
5. You then got a counselling job at New Zealand's first abortion clinic. What was that like?
It was quite dangerous working at the Auckland Medical Aid Centre at the time. They had a police raid and then a fire. But I loved it. I'm a very strong feminist and believe in women's right to choose. We were able to help women in some really sad situations, like when a father had made a daughter pregnant and didn't want her to have an abortion.
6. Why did you leave?
The Centrepoint commune got themselves on the board and took over. They got virtually all the land, the premises and the money. It was a shocking scandal. Our clinic manager had allowed more and more of these Centrepoint people to come to the clinic and train as counsellors. We were supposed to do other courses to broaden our experience. So I went along to one run by a couple who were very close to Bert Potter and found out I was the only one there who hadn't screwed the guy running it. He told me I was frigid and I walked out. Some of the other people went to Bert Potter in Centrepoint and they had to do terrible things like spend the whole weekend in one room and pee in a bucket in a corner. I left the clinic before it was sold.
7. You did crisis counselling for the Domestic Violence Centre for years. What was that like?
It became very depressing because there just aren't enough refuges. I'd have women on the phone, scared of their husbands returning and I couldn't find anywhere for them and their kids because the refuges were all filled.
8. In the 1960s you were an advertising copywriter. Was it like the TV show Mad Men?
It wasn't at all. I worked at a big agency in Wellington called Carlton Carruthers du Chateau making TV and radio commercials. There was only one other woman there at the time, but there was no sexism - we were all equal. Because we were a small team everyone did writing and production. John O'Shea used to produce some of our commercials to finance his films. I wrote the Cadbury's advert "How do they get the caramel in the Caramello?" which ran for a long time.
9. Were you a communist when you were copywriting?
Sort of. I worked at the communist bookshop Modern Books when I was pregnant with Julian and I did freelance copywriting at the same time. The whole idea of communism was really romantic. I'd been to May Day celebrations in Moscow when I lived in London. Once I had children I just became more pragmatic.
10. How did you combine motherhood with work?
My aunt, a retired schoolteacher, offered to nanny the kids. I got a job editing the Sunday Times children's page. It was funny, once I got very irate with the editor, Frank Haden, because he took one of my stories for the front page. There was an old Greenpeace ship, the Fri, in port and I'd asked them to drop paintings from New Zealand children to places around the Pacific. Frank put my story on the front page and I was furious because I had to think of a whole new children's page.
11. Where did you get the idea of writing Positively Parkinson's?
It's the book I would like to have read when I was diagnosed in 1998. At the time there was only a pamphlet which the neurologist handed me with a prescription for some pills. Research has always been my first love, so I began interviewing other people with Parkinson's and it grew from there.
12. You've now written a children's book on the subject, Grandma's Brain. What's next?
I'm writing a book on caring for people with Parkinson's. I hope I can finish it because I'm now facing the really heavy stuff. You don't die from Parkinson's, you die with it. You deteriorate to the point of not being able to move or talk or feed yourself. I was shocked when some geriatric care nurses told me they knew nothing about Parkinson's and they hadn't even been told which residents had it. I said, "These people may not be able to talk to you but their minds are just as good as yours. You must find other ways to communicate." I guess that's why I want to write another book - because it keeps me going.. I've had so many people contact me to say Positively Parkinson's made a difference and I believe Grandma's Brain will too.
• To buy Ann Andrews' books, visit http://www.grandmasbrain.com/