Joy Watson was born in Gisborne in February 1938, the second (and only girl) of four children. They were a farming family, moving about fairly frequently so the children began their educations by correspondence school. Joy calls her writing a hobby which began after her pharmacist husband, Kevin, and she had raised nine children.
Joy’s love of words and what could be done with them blossomed when she read the books her children were reading, and realised that writing was something that she could possibly do. To test the waters she sent off a poem called ‘Pets’ to the (then) Education Department and they published it in their Ready to Read series, illustrated by Gavin Bishop. Her life changed forever.
There was a reader, Mouse in the House, after her initial success and then came the Grandpa series of books that have placed her high on the list New Zealand children’s favourite authors. Grandpa and Grandma are characters children have come to love with sometimes one, sometimes the other, winning their gentle battles. Joy says, 'I have to say here, that these are Wendy Hodder’s books as much as they are mine. She has brought the old couple to life.’
Joy is constantly amazed at the books’ popularity, but she believes children and grandparents have a very special bond which thrives on being able to laugh at each other. Joy’s 2006 picture book, Zita the Zebra was ‘just a bit of nonsense’ derived from having discovered there was indeed an animal or a bird for every letter in the alphabet.
Joy has also written three junior novels. No Porridge, Please is a warmly humorous look at the relationship between a small boy and his grandfather; Highway Rabbit is a straight-out adventure story with plenty of tension; and Birthday Flood is an adventure story for mid-primary children about a family and a community caught in the devastation of a flood.
Joy does not describe herself as a disciplined writer: 'I write when and if the mood strikes, but if there’s a story on the go I practically live it, day and night. Most of it takes place in my head, long before I put pen to paper. So no office, no special place and no timetable.’