Rebecca loves writing even more than she loves boats. Inspired by her father, sailor and author Adrian Hayter – the first New Zealander to sail solo from the United Kingdom to New Zealand – her passion for the written word led her to become a prize-winning editor, as well as a successful freelance journalist.
Apart from authoring three non-fiction books, Rebecca has contributed to many publications, nautical and mainstream, both in New Zealand and overseas, winning five Journalist of the Year awards. She is now working on her first novel.
CAROL MATTHEWS caught up with her on dry land and asked her about her life in the world of journalism.
Q. Your father, Adrian, had a great influence on you becoming a writer, but you say your mother wanted you to be a doctor. Was it a difficult career decision to make?
A. It wasn’t difficult; it just didn’t present itself until quite late, when I was 29. I thought I wasn’t good enough to be a writer. It wasn’t until I was placed in the top 20 out of 700 entries in a short story writing competition, that I knew I could write.
No-one ever mentioned magazine journalism to me; I’d assumed all journalism was hard-nosed reporting. Then one night I woke and saw ‘journalism’ written on my ceiling in mirror writing. It was my epiphany. I enrolled in a journalism course the next day.
Q. What has been your greatest writing achievement?
A. Winning Editor of the Year – Supreme Overall Winner, in 2006, for Boating New Zealand magazine. I took a ‘boys own’ style publication and turned it into a high quality magazine.
One issue I was especially proud of was when New Zealander, Sir Peter Blake [ex-skipper of the America’s Cup yacht] was murdered by pirates. The article brought so much solace to the grieving yachting community.
Q. Do you have any regrets?
A. It is awful if you get facts wrong and upset people. What you write becomes the history that someone else builds on, so you can’t afford to be careless.
Q. Tell us about working in a male-dominated industry.
A. I decided early on to put my head down, work hard and wait to be accepted by the marine industry. In the early 1990s I attended a marine industry event in Auckland and, apart from the lady serving drinks, I was the only woman there. The men didn’t know how to treat me at first. Having my own boat and being Adrian Hayter’s daughter helped my credibility.
The great thing about print journalism is that ultimately you’re judged on what you write, not your gender.
Q. How easy is it to make a living out of writing?
A. I think it’s the hardest now that it’s ever been. Good novelists can make a lot of money; fishing books sell well. As a journalist I think you must be open to new ideas, recognising a story, recognising a strong angle. There will always be a demand for well-written articles.
Q. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers/journalists just starting out?
A. Go with what you know, your interests and passions. Read magazines and look at their websites. What stories do they want? Use other writers as your training ground; critique their work and apply it to your own writing.
In my career I have had some amazing experiences and fantastic adventures. Enjoy your writing and make the most of the opportunities it brings you.
Links to Rebecca’s books:
About The Author:
Carol Matthews recently returned to her roots, migrating south with her husband and son; trading the buzz of Auckland City for a more ‘laid back’ lifestyle in Nelson. She loves writing, cooking (and eating) Asian food and having adventures. She has completed the Basics of Creative Writing Course and the Magazine Journalism Course with the NZ Writers College, and has had an article published in the Canvas magazine, NZ Herald.