Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wednesday Writers: Steve Theunissen

As an aspiring author, it’s always good to hear stories of other people’s success. They inspire us to not procrastinate, and reassure us that there is a light at the end of that proverbial tunnel.

This week I have another Kiwi author for you - Steve Theunissen, all the way from sunny Tauranga, who tells us about his shift from the fitness industry to teaching and writing his novel Through Angel's Eyes.  

Name: Steve Theunissen
Location and one thing you love about living there: Tauranga - the fantastic weather
Author of: Through Angel's Eyes
Book available: Through my author website - -
or directly from me at

Tell us a bit about yourself: I’m a 47 year old Intermediate school teacher. My first passion was the fitness industry and at age 19 I owned and operated my own gymnasium in Rotorua. I went on to become the first personal fitness trainer in New Zealand. In the mid-1990’s I combined my passion for fitness with my love of writing as I set about forging a career as a freelance fitness writer. From there I branched out to produce books about his next great passion – U.S. history. I’ve written extensively about the American Indian Wars in general and the Battle of the Little Big Horn in particular. I’ve been teaching at Tauranga Intermediate since 2007.

Tell us about Through Angel's Eyes: Through Angel’s Eyes is the first person account of a 13 year old Black girl as she experiences the pivotal events of the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama civil rights movement.
50 years ago the scourge of racism was stifling the development of millions of children in America. In 1963, a core group of these courageous young people stood up and said, “Enough!” The story of these child marchers imparts vital lessons that the 21st century child desperately needs to learn from - courage, resistance to peer pressure, empathy, non-violence and conviction.Through Angel’s Eyes brings the story of the 1963 Alabama child marches to life through the eyes of Angel Dunbar.

What sparked your passion for books and the art of a good story? It was the realisation that an author has the power to affect the reader’s emotions - to make them feel sadness, anger, hope and exhiliration - by what they put on the page.

Is there a particular book that changed or affected your life in a big way? Yes, when I was 15 my class was assigned To Kill A Mockingbird to read. I put if off, not keen to wade through a book about birds. When I finally got started I couldn’t stop. It hooked me in and kept me until the very last sentence. I knew then that I wanted to be a writer.

What was the seed of inspiration for your latest book? It goes way back to 1977 when, as a 12 year old, I watched the mini-series Roots on TV. I became intrigued with the African American story and wanted to know about their more recent struggles. I began studying the 1960’s civil rights movement and it was then that I came across the story of the 1963 child marchers in Birmingham. I was so inspired by their example that I wanted to get this story out to a wider audience.

Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp? Definitely. In my main character Angel Dunbar we see an example of a young person who faces up to many of the challenges confronting young people today - peer pressure, discrimination and the challenge to retaliate. The main message of the book is summed up by something that Martin Luther King once said: "We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people." So, if readers can come away with a renewed conviction not to turn a blind eye, stay silent or look the other way when they see an injustice, they will have grasped what I intended.

What challenges have you faced in your writing career? Banging my head against a brick wall while trying to break into the traditional publishing market, spending a fortune on sending out manuscripts, receiving a plethora of rejection slips - and keeping going anyway.

What has been your best moment as a writer? Receiving my proof copy of Through Angel’s Eyes.

Who is your author idol? Harper Lee.

Do you see yourself in any of your characters? Yes, I’d like to think that I’m somewhat like Mr Newton, Angel’s school teacher. His greatest quality is empathy and that’s something that all teachers need plenty of.

Do you feel like your dream has come true or is there much more to do? Well for 17 years I’ve lived with Angel and the ambition of getting her story into print. Now that it has happened, my dream is to share her with as many people as possible because I think that she’s got a worthwhile story to tell.

What is your personal cure for procrastination? Self imposed deadlines.

Are there any occupational hazards to being a writer? Fear of rejection.

Have you ever had a day when you just wanted to quit? No, the passion has never dimmed.

What do you do when you’re not writing? I try to share my passion for literacy with kids.

What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer? Self belief, a thick skin and perseverance.

What was the greatest thing you learned at school? That I had a voice that was worthy of hearing

Did you have a moment when you realised you were meant to be a writer? When I was in the Fifth form and read a short story I’d written about the Vietnam War and the kids said I should get it published.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors? Don’t let fear of rejection stop you from sharing your voice with the world.

1 comment:

  1. WOW! I had to share on facebook. I was in highschool when ROOTS was shown in the USA in the seventies and it was a very eyeopening series into the bigotry.
    Sadly to date an issue in America!
    M.C.V. Egan
    The Bridge of Deaths