I wrote a gritty Young Adult novel about a Maori boy going to a prestigious school on a scholarship and being systematically deracinated.

It won the top NZ book prize in 2013 (NZ Post Book of the Year) and it recently drew the attention of a fundamentalist Christian group named Family First whose actions led to the book being banned from sale as of 6th September 2015.

My Proof: http://teddawe.com/images/redditphoto.jpg

12:00am NZST 16th - Thanks for all the questions! Going to bed now. Will be answering questions again tomorrow night for a few hours. (from ~6pm NZST/4pm AEST/2am EDT)

11:30pm 16th - Thanks for the questions. I've tried to answer all of them, from here out I will probably only answer questions that haven't been answered earlier

I have a confession to make: I am a very slow typer! So I have persuaded my son to type for me as I bark out impromptu responses. A colleague at work told me today that I seemed reddit-literate. What the hell's that!?

Comments: 1766 • Responses: 52  • Date: 

hedgehogsinhats1684 karma

Age restrictions on books? Banning a book? My question is: what the fuck?

TedDawe1964 karma


The35thVitamin1038 karma

Hi Ted. When I was 12 or so I read your book Thunder Road - pretty sure it was the first book I ever read that contained sex scenes and drug use, so yeah, thanks for that. You'll be pleased to know I turned out reasonably normal, which is unfortunate because if I had become a drug addict sex fiend I could probably blame your book and sell my story to Woman's Day or something.

Anyway, how many books did you write before getting one published?

TedDawe512 karma

Sounds like you've got a book in you already- Woman's Day is a good angle to take- wish I'd thought of it.

I had one unpublished one called The Third Law.

Called_Outt1037 karma

What does the ban actually entail? Could I buy it online in New Zeland? Could I bring a copy in with me if I was visiting? Do they burn the current inventory at bookstores?

TedDawe1543 karma

It entails a $3,000 fine for anyone caught selling a copy of the book in New Zealand ($10,000 if you're a shop). Theoretically I could cop this fine even if I loaned my copy of the book to my best friend.

cowsonmeth842 karma

If they asked you to change certain things in the book and than they will unban it, would you change the things?

TedDawe3314 karma

I wouldn't change a comma.

undeniabletroll528 karma

why was it banned?

nilnz816 karma

The ban is in NZ and it was after a Christian group called Family First NZ asked for it to be banned. The book was classified R14 back in 2013 but something appears to have changed as it is now banned since early Sept.

Into the River banned: Award-winning sex and drugs teen novel off the shelves and 'Will I be burnt next?' - Into the River author Ted Dawe on book banning are 2 articles by NZ Herald on 7 Sept 2015.

Here's a legal opinion + update on the order/ban.

An Auckland Bookshop Explains Why the Into the River Ban is Dumb.

TedDawe812 karma

This appears to be all correct and gives some useful links.

wowy-lied264 karma

The book was classified R14

This is so strange reading this sentence. I did not know some countries still use classification for books. I have never seen this in my country (France), it would create an uproar if politics tried to make this a thing.

TedDawe465 karma

I went to a bookshop on Friday. Only two books carried an R-rating: Into the River and American Psycho. Goes to show the company I keep. Vive la France!

gimmeabreaklady522 karma

Are there any books you believe should be banned?

TedDawe2352 karma

A big list, starting with Twilight. :)

Edit: cheap shot from me here. I'm sure many reluctant readers were brought into the broader reading community thanks to this series. Not my cup of tea though.

nilnz392 karma

Are you aware of the various protests held in NZ in relation to this ban? If not, let me know how to send you the pics etc.

TedDawe543 karma

Yes, I'm aware of protests that happened in libraries in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin. My friend Emma Neale organised the one in Dunedin, and I saw Timeout Books had a window display that reached 50,000 people in 4 hours on Facebook.

GearsPoweredFool343 karma

Besides it being banned, how were the people who supported/opposed the book?

Did you ever receive any threats? Anything that stuck out in particular?

Edit: Followup questions

  • Did this banning affect the sales of this book? Did the PR offset the losses in the country?
  • Do you plan on doing anything for your next book to prevent this fiasco from happening again.
  • Where were you when you found out that it was banned?
  • Whats your biggest take-away from this experience? Anything you'd like to tell aspiring authors?

TedDawe585 karma

I've found that I have many amazing supporters, the sort of people who I never knew existed. The opposers usually begin with the words, "Shame on you Ted Dawe," at which point I stop reading.

Never any threats, but I've had some pretty unpleasant accusations. People imagine that I actively do all the things mentioned in the book.

AdrianBlake478 karma

Shame on you Ted Dawe, for not doing an AMA sooner.

TedDawe511 karma

I apologise. I never knew what it was. I'm old-school.


Does NZ realize the internet exists?

TedDawe574 karma

Tell me about this thing called 'the internet'... does it burn fossil fuels?

alphawolf29189 karma

in a way it kind of does, servers definitely run predominately on coal energy.

TedDawe248 karma

Omg, would you believe it?!

LordHussyPants70 karma

The department which deals with the banned books process has suggested that anyone buying the book from overseas and bringing it into NZ(even for private use) contacts a lawyer first because they don't know how the law can be applied.

Since it's a $3,000 fine or something, easier to just wait until October to read it.

TedDawe148 karma

nice username!

jayfurbofficial215 karma

How many hours in a week would you say you spend writing? Also, do you have any new material brewing?

TedDawe366 karma

I usually spend 3 hours a day (I usually write when I'm on holiday from my normal job). After 3 hours the writing tends to deteriorate.

Yes, my next book is a sequel to Into the River, and it's called Into the World.

ragin--cajun151 karma

What was the book that was banned 22 years ago? If you wrote that one too, you wield a powerful pen my friend.

TedDawe330 karma

It was called "How to Build a Bazooka" (you can imagine why it was banned). My motto is "the pen is mightier than the bazooka"!

teenagelightning127 karma

Do you see this as a negative or positive thing overall? I'm only aware of the book because I saw articles about the ban, and now I want to read it very much. What I mean is that the ban has been major publicity, and subsequently opens a public dialogue on censorship, so it could be a good thing in that sense.

and.... how can I get the book! haha

TedDawe288 karma

It's positive in that it's now world-famous, which is unprecedented for a New Zealand Y.A. novel. It's negative because the R14 restriction keeps it out of the hands of Maori and working-class kids (who are the people whom I wrote it for in the first place).

Not from me until October 2nd! However you can get it from anywhere as long as it's outside New Zealand (Amazon probably).

CatMilkFountain33 karma

Have you considered other options for the youths or marginalized groups to get access to it? For instance open access etc.

TedDawe156 karma

My first novel Thunder Road was the most stolen book in New Zealand. You could say they had their own way of getting access to it...

Caddy666105 karma

How the feck do a religious group get to ban books?

TedDawe167 karma

I've been pondering that question for days, but from your accent I would say that the auld sod knows something about suppression of ideas.

MoreBrosseau97 karma

Are you fighting the ban in anyway? I'm not entirely sure how the process works in general actually, so any light on that would be appreciated.

TedDawe168 karma

Well, I have to put in a submission to the review committee but I have no confidence that they will reach a different decision because they are entirely the same group that got the book banned, and their positions are more entrenched.

hspace858 karma

Why not just submit one anyway, detailing your reasons, as a matter of record and principle. Maybe it will influence just 1 member of the board, and make it easier for the next book that is up for being banned. And it will help gather your thoughts for what you know you have done right.

TedDawe89 karma

I am drafting one at the moment but I am not hopeful of its ability to sway the board. Remember- I've already tried this once before.

LadyDeathMasque89 karma

We have a supposedly-secular-conservative-but-actually-fundamentalist-Christian group called Family First in the US, too! I bet they're all equally terrible.

Did you receive support from the general public? I hope the ban was condemned and not just ignored, or supported.

TedDawe140 karma

Yes, overwhelming support. People are buying the book (in Kindle form) just to express their opposition to the ban.

geraintm78 karma

Have you decided to name any characters in your next book after people from Family First?

TedDawe86 karma

There's no Bob or Don in there- Damn! (Wish I thought of that earlier)

Drassielle68 karma

What do you do when you get writer's block?

TedDawe201 karma

Writer's block is like getting a stitch when you're running. It is temporarily incapacitating but it will pass. Usually I go to bed and when I go back to the keyboard in the morning the muse speaks.

Manifolder748 karma

Hi Ted, have 2 questions for you:

Do you think that review boards like the one in question should even exist? Here is South Africa we have the Film and Publication board, and while they are necessary to put ratings on movies and games and such, they're a relic of the apartheid government that existed solely to oppress discontent and the spread of "dangerous" ideology.

My second question is, why is your book banned and this one isn't?

TedDawe79 karma

The review board purports to be a backstop to democratic protest, while in fact it has been hijacked by a clique of appointed (as opposed to elected) lawyers with no expertise in the YA Fiction field. It has made a travesty of the whole process.

"Ass Goblins of Auschwitz" - sounds like a good read!

jucka46 karma

Is donating your book allowed? Is there a way I could buy your book outside of NZ and donate it to kids in NZ?

TedDawe250 karma

I don't know, but here's the thing: my friend was in Sydney last week and tried to buy Into the River on their Kindle. Amazon recognised that it was a New Zealand-bought Kindle and blocked the purchase. George Orwell is alive and well it seems.

goteamnick44 karma

Sub-question: If George Orwell was alive and well, would you resent readers for picking his books instead of yours?

TedDawe93 karma

George is one of my best mates, so I'd have to forgive him.

geraintm0 karma

i am not sure what you expect Amazon to do, they are just abiding by a legal decision aren't they?

TedDawe19 karma

I haven't heard of too many web companies abiding by the law- next thing they'll be paying taxes.

rdancer21 karma

Not allowed, that would still be "distribution".


However, what are they gonna do to you, lock you up indefinitely in some off-shore prison, and strip your citizenship?

TedDawe56 karma

Pray not break my pencils and put viruses in my laptop!

toomanynamesaretook39 karma

G'day mate.

Marmite or Vegemite?

TedDawe74 karma

Vegemite everytime. And make sure it's thick.

AdseyV35 karma

Was it good or bad for your book to be banned?

TedDawe125 karma

It gave me unbelievable publicity and worldwide fame, hence this AMA, but it was bad for the guys who need to find out what happens when they're a little bit older. They won't get that from Harry Potter.

1983252633 karma

Coming from a country where around 100 books or more are banned, I thought that such thing would only happens in third world country. Damn, I was wrong...

I never read any book from NZ even I live here. I will see if I can buy your book on kindle and use USA credit card or something.

Wonder if i manage to get a hard copy of the book, can I send it for you to sign?

Also, you should come back and answer more questions at the USA local time!

TedDawe54 karma

If you buy through my website I can send a hard copy to you after the ban is lifted (October 2nd) and of course I can add a signature/dedication. If you can't buy through my website, Amazon sells Kindle and hardcopies of the book, but I don't have access to those books so I can't sign them directly.

Regarding USA time, I'm working so I need to stay on New Zealand times so most of my answers will have to come in at 6-10pm NZST (which is 2-6am EDT). I'll try to answer questions as often as I can though.

Nevertheless, I'll keep answering questions as long as new ones keep coming.

Blake756732 karma

What was your first reaction when you heard Family First were trying to get your book banned?

TedDawe77 karma

At first, Family First referred my book to the censor. I was shocked. NZ doesn't censor novels these days (I thought). When the censor passed it with the recommendation "suitable for older readers", I thought that was the end of it- but I was wrong. This happened again and again and finally resulted in the banning.

Shark_Train28 karma

Where do you draw inspiration from? How did this book come about? Thanks for doing this AMA, love your work.

TedDawe50 karma

Source of inspiration: 1)I wish I knew and 2)everywhere. Both of these answers are correct.

After Thunder Road kids in schools plastered me with questions about the enigmatic and amoral character Devon Santos. Why did he do this? Why was he the way he was? This book attempted to answer those questions.


samwaytla18 karma

How important do you feel it is as an artist in New Zealand to use your medium to push social boundaries? Did you intend to write something polarising and gritty in a bid to ignite conversation or were you simply wanting to tell a story?

TedDawe60 karma

I can only answer from my own perspective- I write social realism. I have an agenda. I see things I don't like. The story is just a mode of transport to make social comments.

petrichorE617 karma

What got you into writing and what do you do to you polish your writing style?

TedDawe65 karma

I wanted to write a book for the boys who didn't read books. The boys who ended up in the newspaper for the wrong reasons. The boys headed for jail, the mental hospital, or the morgue. It was my mission.

Polishing is endless rewriting and listening to the musicality of your sentences playing inside your head.

bludgeonerV16 karma

Will you address your letter of thanks for the free publicity directly to Bob McCoskrie or to Family First as a whole? I'm wondering how to most effectively rub it in...

TedDawe82 karma

I will send Bob a box of chocolates- well, make that a box full of brown objects...

Jamescurtis15 karma

Are you religious? Did the banning incident change your view on religion and in what way?

TedDawe65 karma

I find it impossible to believe in an omniscient being- and no. Sorry.

cleftintwain15 karma

What made you change from being a school teacher to being an author?

TedDawe40 karma

I've never stopped being a schoolteacher. I just took on extra work.

TheSilverwolfKnight14 karma

Hi, Kiwi here, really sorry to hear your book got banned here! I would've bought it if I heard about it prior to the 6th. As for my question, does your next book tackle any of the same subjects as Into the River does, and if so would you consider publishing it here in NZ again or just not bother with the potential hassle?

TedDawe43 karma

First of all, I was blindsided. Nice move, review board. I read about it in the newspaper. My next book covers more serious problems encountered by an older Devon. Of course I'll publish here, this is my country; these are my people.

nilnz12 karma

Do you have any objections if there's an online petition asking for the ban to be lifted? I am a NZer and would like to see the ban lifted.

TedDawe19 karma

No, I think petitions are great.

cmad18212 karma

A few questions:

Is the book available from iTunes or the Google equivalent?

How does it feel to be censored?

Has the publicity effected the books popularity positively or negatively?

TedDawe20 karma

The book is available through iTunes. I don't know about any Google equivalent.

How does it feel to be censored? It sucks.

The publicity has made it unbelievably popular.

liamlambchop11 karma


TedDawe11 karma

Yes, 2 people have. James Rolleston as the older Devon.

Cornaiel10 karma

Do you think this ban will in any way affect the content or how you write Into the World? What is your opinion on book banning in general? Thank you for taking the time to do this AMA, love your work!

TedDawe32 karma

Into the World is already completed, the publishers have been sitting on it for 2 years without progress. Book banning makes us look like a Banana Republic.

It's great fun doing this AMA. Thanks

im_always_fapping9 karma

Honestly isn't it more rewarding to be banned than to be accepted?

TedDawe15 karma

In the short term perhaps, but I still want my readers to be able to get their hands on it without having to break a law.

goteamnick5 karma

Do you think Richie McCaw is a bloody cheat at the breakdown?

TedDawe3 karma

What?! Are you from England?

Krypton-1155 karma

Do you have other projects in the works? Do you think you can un-ban your book?

TedDawe24 karma

Yes, I'm in the process of publishing another book. My next book is a sequel to Into the River, and it's called Into the World.

I think it will be unbanned, but it will be sold with an R14 restriction. This is a 'virtual' ban because it cuts me off from some of the reading public who I had hoped to reach.

mikelywhiplash3 karma

Is there a way to challenge the legitimacy of the ban altogether (as incompatible with NZ's constitution-equivalent), or are you stuck challenging the decision on its own terms (not harmful, etc.)?

TedDawe6 karma

That will be the next stage if I lose and it goes to the court of appeal.

Aluminium_Bikerack3 karma

Who did you vote for?

TedDawe7 karma

It's been a long time since I voted.

plimper3 karma

Has this experience changed your approach to writing in any way, especially regarding future projects?

TedDawe8 karma

No, I have a particular style and a group of characters who I am very fond of. I wouldn't relish the challenge of writing in a new genre for a new readership.

EggCouncilCreeper1 karma

As someone who has had their book banned outright, what is your opinion on censorship and censorship laws?

TedDawe5 karma

I think censorship has a place but I am yet to see a novel which I consider injurious to the public good. Call me a liberal.

nilnz1 karma

Are there effective ways to stop bullying in schools? I am concerned that this still happens in schools.

TedDawe2 karma

It does still happen in schools. Paradoxically enough, as the violence is more effectively contained, the psychological bullying increases exponentially.