NZ author Lee Murray picks up two Bram Stoker Awards®

A huge congratulations to the fabulous Lee Murray for her double win at the recent Bram Stoker Awards®  — the Oscars for dark writing and the world’s premier literary horror awards!

Catalogue link for Black CranesLee won in the category Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection for Grotesque: Monster Stories (link goes to Lee’s website, look for our copy on the catalogue soon); and for Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women (reserve your copy now) in the category of Superior Achievement in an Anthology.

Lee’s works and exploits in speculative fiction in New Zealand are numerous and wide-ranging. She has previously received the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novel (Into the sounds) as well as Best Collected Work as one of three editors on Te Korero Ahi Kā collection, but Murray’s work isn’t just limited to the page. She has also helped establish key writing communities in New Zealand and been involved with events such as GeyserCon. In 2020, she was made an Honorary Literary Fellow in the New Zealand Society of Authors’ annual Waitangi Day Honours. Her other works include the Taine McKenna military thrillers, and supernatural crime-noir series The Path of Ra, co-written with Dan Rabarts, as well as several books for children.

Find out more about Murray’s work on her website:

Visit Lee Murray’s website

Below we’ve included our exclusive video featuring Lee Murray and her The Path of Ra co author Dan Rabarts reading their work in our Home With Ghosts series.

Browse Lee’s work:

Black cranes : Tales of unquiet women.
“Almond-eyed celestial, the filial daughter, the perfect wife. Quiet, submissive, demure. In Black Cranes, Southeast Asian writers of horror both embrace and reject these traditional roles in a unique collection of stories which dissect their experiences of ‘otherness’, be it in the colour of their skin, the angle of their cheekbones, the things they dare to write, or the places they have made for themselves in the world.Black Cranes is a dark and intimate exploration of what it is to be a perpetual outsider.” (Catalogue)


Into the ashes / Murray, Lee
” The nation’s leaders scoff at the danger. That is; until the ground opens and all hell breaks loose. The armed forces are hastily deployed; NZDF Sergeant Taine McKenna and his section tasked with evacuating civilians and tourists from Tongariro National Park. It is too little, too late. With earthquakes coming thick and fast and the mountains spewing rock and ash, McKenna and his men are cut off. Their only hope of rescuing the stranded civilians is to find another route out, but a busload of prison evacuees has other ideas. And, deep beneath the earth’s crust, other forces are stirring, ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Into the sounds / Murray, Lee
“On leave, and out of his head with boredom, NZDF Sergeant Taine McKenna joins biologist Jules Asher on a Conservation Department deer culling expedition to New Zealand’s southernmost national park. Despite covering an area the size of the Serengeti, only eighteen people live in the isolated region, so it’s a surprise when the hunters stumble on the nation’s Tūrehu tribe, becoming some of only a handful to ever encounter the elusive ghost people. Besides, there is something else lurking in the sounds, and it has its own agenda. When the waters clear, will anyone be allowed to leave?​”(Adapted from Catalogue)

Into the mist / Murray, Lee
“When New Zealand Defense Force Sergeant Taine McKenna and his squad are tasked with escorting a bunch of civilian contractors into Te Urewera National Park, it seems a strange job for the army. Taine draws on ancient tribal wisdom as he becomes desperate to bring his charges out alive. Will it be enough to stop the nightmare? And when the mist clears, will anyone be left?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Te korero ahi kā : To speak of the home fires burning
“Here, between the realms of the Sky Father and Earth Mother, hellhounds race, ghosts drift and the taniwha stalks. Home fires drive them back, sparking stories and poems that traverse seconds, eons, and parsecs. Tales of gatekeepers, cloak wearers, and secrets. Of pigs with AK-47s or ruby-hued eyes, of love-struck moa, and unruly reflections. Stark truths and beautiful possibilities. Te Korero Ahi Kā-to speak of the home fires burning-is an anthology of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, showcasing work from award-winning and emerging members of SpecFicNZ (New Zealand authors, poets, artists of speculative fiction. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

At the edge
“Step up, as close as you dare… …to a place at the edge of sanity, where cicadas scritch across balmy summer nights, at the edge of town, where the cellphone coverage is decidedly dodgy, at the edge of space, where a Mimbinus argut bounds among snowy rocks, at the edge of the page, where demon princes prance in the shadows, at the edge of despair, where 10 darushas will get you a vodka lime and a ring side seat, at the edge of the universe, where time stops but space goes on… From the brink of civilisation, the fringe of reason, and the border of reality, come 23 stories infused with the bloody-minded spirit of the Antipodes. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Blood of the sun / Rabarts, Dan
“There’s been a gang massacre on Auckland’s Freyberg Wharf. Body parts everywhere. And with the police’s go-to laboratory out of action, it’s up to scientific consult Pandora (Penny) Yee to sort through the mess. It’s a hellish task, made worse by the earthquake swarms, the insufferable heat, and Cerberus’ infernal barking. And what’s got into her brother Matiu? Does it have something to do with the ship’s consignment? Or is Matiu running with the gangs again? Join Penny and Matiu Yee for the family reunion to end all family reunions, as the struggle between light and dark erupts across Auckland’s volcanic skyline.”–Publisher description.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Teeth of the wolf / Rabarts, Dan
“Scientific consultant Penny Yee has barely drawn breath before Detective Inspector Tanner assigns her another suspicious death, with Matiu tagging along for the ride. That’s fine as long as he stays outside the crime scene tape, but when one of Matiu’s former cronies turns up dead, Penny wonders if her brother might be more than just an innocent bystander. While she’s figuring that out, the entire universe conspires against her, with a cadaver going AWOL, her DNA sequencer spitting the dummy, and the rent due any day.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Hounds of the underworld / Rabarts, Dan
“On the verge of losing her laboratory, her savings, and all respect for herself, Pandora (Penny) Yee lands her first contract as scientific consult to the police department. Only she’s going to need to get around, and that means her slightly unhinged adopted brother, Matiu, will be doing the driving.  Matiu doesn’t like anything about this case, from the voices that screamed at him when he touched that bowl, to the way his hateful imaginary friend Makere has come back to torment him, to the fact that the victim seems to be tied up with a man from Matiu’s past, a man who takes pleasure in watching dogs tear each other to pieces for profit and entertainment.” (Catalogue)

A foreign country : New Zealand speculative fiction
“Strange creatures are loose in Miramar, desperate survivors cling to the remains of a submerged country, humanity’s descendants seek to regain what they’ve lost, and the residents of Gisborne reluctantly serve alien masters. The visions of New Zealand – and beyond – painted in this collection of short stories are both instantly recognisable, and nothing like the place we know. A FOREIGN COUNTRY brings together the work of established authors and fresh voices to showcase the range of stories produced by New Zealand’s growing community of speculative fiction writers.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Regeneration : New Zealand speculative fiction II
“Some things are gone forever; but that is not the end. There are new lives to be lived, new discoveries to be made, changes to be fought for, enjoyed, or feared. Experience worlds where existence continues beyond death and much-wanted babies become something else entirely. Where humanity endures in hostile environments, societies adapt to new challenges and inventions, and strange creatures live secretly among us. Travel from a curiously altered Second World War to other universes at the end of time, taking in diverse visions of New Zealand and worlds beyond along the way. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Featherston Library events at Booktown Karukatea Festival, 6-9 May 2021

Featherston Booktown (the only book town in New Zealand Aotearoa), will soon be hosting its sixth annual book festival. We’ve had a good perusal of this year’s programme — and what a fabulous line up of authors are going to be in attendance!

This year’s festival, like previous years, is aimed at book lovers of all ages — so there should be something for everyone. Featherston Library is hosting several events as part of the Featherston Booktown event that will appeal to families, including events featuring Donovan Bixley and Kimberly Andrews.

As a special, pre-festival taster for anyone considering attending, we thought we’d spotlight below just a few of the exciting authors who will be there, as well as some of their books to whet your appetite. Other amazing authors who will be there (not featured below), include Selina Tusitala Marsh, Gavin Bishop, Rose Lu and so many more.

Joy Cowley

We honestly can’t imagine that the wonderful Joy Cowley needs any introduction, but we’ll certainly attempt to provide one!

Joy is a prolific and celebrated author of both children’s and adult books (more than 600 titles!) and a patron for many years of the Storylines Children’s Literature Foundation. In 2018 she was awarded the Order of New Zealand, and over the years Joy has been very generous with her time and appeared at a number of events at Wellington City Libraries. Joy is a resident of Featherston and in 2017 she agreed to be Featherston Booktown’s Patron.

You can watch Joy below being interviewed by Wallace Chapman on National Radio in 2018:

David Riley will also be launching his latest biography in his Wāhine Toa series about inspiring New Zealand women at the festival, and the subject is none other than Joy Cowley. More information — David Riley Joy Cowley Book Launch Event.

It’s honestly impossible for librarians to choose a single favourite Joy Cowley book, but we’ve included one of our best-loved titles below with the caveat that there are so many more to enjoy!

Mrs. Wishy-Washy’s farm / Cowley, Joy
“Tired of being washed by Mrs. Wishy-Washy, a cow, pig, and duck leave her farm and head for the city.” (Catalogue)

More from Joy Cowley

Madison Hamill

Madison Hamill is based in Wellington. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters. Her work has appeared in The Spinoff, Sweet Mammalian, Turbine Kapohau and Pantograph Punch, and you can find her book of essays Specimen : personal essays on our catalogue (and a description below).

A reading from Madison of her Specimen collection featured in our Home with Ghosts video series last year — you can watch below:

Specimen : personal essays / Hamill, Madison
“A father rollerblading to church in his ministerial robes, a university student in a leotard sprinting through fog, a trespass notice from Pak’nSave, a beautiful unborn goat in a jar… In scenarios ranging from the mundane to the surreal, Madison Hamill looks back at her younger selves with a sharp eye. Was she good or evil? Ignorant or enlightened? What parts of herself did she give up in order to forge ahead in school, church, work, and relationships, with a self that made sense to others? With wit and intelligence, these shape-shifting essays probe the ways in which a person’s inner and outer worlds intersect and submit to one another. It is a brilliantly discomfiting, vivid and funny collection in which peace is found in the weirdest moments. ‘I never felt that I was looking at fine writing – only at astonishing writing.’–Elizabeth Knox.” (Catalogue)

Rachel Kerr

Rachel Kerr is a Wellington writer who lives in Island Bay with her family. Her debut novel Victory Park was published in 2020, and she was kind enough to appear at a Newtown Library writer’s panel earlier this year (‘Writers on Newtown’).

She is studying te reo Māori, has degrees in film and creative writing, and has worked as a librarian for Te Kooti Whenua Māori and Judicial Libraries. Watch Rachel share her writing tips as part of NaNoWriMo in 2020 below:

Victory Park / Kerr, Rachel
“Kara lives in Victory Park council flats with her young son, just making a living by minding other people’s kids – her nightly smoke on the fire escape the only time she can drop her guard and imagine something better. But the truth is life is threadbare and unpromising until the mysterious Bridget moves in to the flats. The wife of a disgraced Ponzi schemer she brings with her glamour and wild dreams and an unexpected friendship. Drawn in, Kara forgets for a moment who she’s there to protect.” (Catalogue)

Ben Brown

Ben Brown was awarded the 2011 Maori Writers’ Residency at the Michael King Writers’ Centre. This book’s English edition was shortlisted for the 2005 Russell Clark Award, and the Maori edition was shortlisted for LIANZA 2005 Book Award.

Ngā raukura rima tekau mā rima / Brown, Benjamin
“This is the Maori language edition of Fifty-Five Feathers. Pukeko is worried about her friend Gecko who seems to be suffering in the cold of winter. So she asks Wise Old Tree for some advice. ‘Make him a cloak of fifty-five feathers,’ she is told. So Pukeko sets out to help her friends. A delightful and beautifully illustrated story, brought to you by the author-illustrator team who produced Natural New Zealand ABC Wallchart and The Thief of Colours” (Catalogue)

Creature Feature. Our spotlight on Dylan Horrocks


When we make art, the landscape that we are really exploring is the landscape of the human imagination.” — Dylan Horrocks

Dylan Horrocks is one of the most talented and versatile cartoonists working in NZ today, his works range from the Tour De force that is Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen to Hunter: The Age of Magic to Batgirl and Supergirl as well as the acclaimed Hicksville and his illustrations have been exhibited in many galleries including City Gallery Wellington, The Dowse Gallery in Lower Hutt, Centre National de la Bande Dessinee Internationale (CNBDI) in Angoulême, France and Auckland City Art Gallery to name but a few.

Dylan is one of the four authors at our unmissable Monsters in the Garden event which will have conversations and readings from Dylan as well as Elizabeth Knox, Tina Makereti and Craig Gamble the event is Free and all are very welcome.

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9th December 2020

Te Awe Library – 29 Brandon Street

12.30pm to 1.30 pm

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Incomplete works / Horrocks, Dylan
“Daydreams, fantasy, true love, and procrastination feature strongly in this selection of Dylan Horrocks’s shorter comics running from 1986 to 2012. It is both the chronicle of an age and a portrait of one man’s heroic struggle to get some work done.” (Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Hicksville : a comic book / Horrocks, Dylan
“Introduction by Seth.,World-famous cartoonist Dick Burger has earned,millions and become the most powerful man in the,comics industry. However, behind his rapid rise to,success, there lies a dark and terrible secret, as,biographer Leonard Batts discovers when he visits,Burger’s hometown in remote New Zealand. A rich,and captivating book, one of the best graphic,novels of the past decade. World-famous cartoonist Dick Burger has earned millions and become the most powerful man in the comics industry. However, behind his rapid rise to success, there lies a dark and terrible secret, as biographer Leonard Batts discovers when he visits Burger’s hometown in remote New Zealand.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Batman : War games. Book two.
“The complete epic conclusion of the “War Games” saga that changed the criminal underworld of Gotham City forever Stephanie Brown, also known as the vigilante Spoiler, has made her former partner Batman’s training scenario a chilling reality. The various crime families are leaderless…the soldiers running for their lives while trying to grab a piece of the underworld pie for themselves. Batman is stunned to learn that the wave of terror and death threatening his beloved Gotham City originated closer to home than he ever imagined, and that someone he once trusted is responsible for the carnage. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Monstrous affections : an anthology of beastly tales
“Fifteen top voices in speculative fiction explore the intersection of fear and love in a haunting, at times hilarious, darkly imaginative volume. Predatory kraken that sing with — and for — their kin; band members and betrayed friends who happen to be demonic; harpies as likely to attract as repel. Welcome to a world where humans live side by side with monsters, from vampires both nostalgic and bumbling to an eight-legged alien who makes tea. Here you’ll find mercurial forms that burrow into warm fat, spectral boy toys, a Maori force of nature, a landform that claims lives, and an architect of hell on earth. ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Sam Zabel and the magic pen / Horrocks, Dylan
“A burned-out superhero comic artist goes on an adventure that spans time and space–with two female companions. Sam spends his days writing superhero stories for a large American comics publisher and staring at a blank piece of paper, unable to draw a single line. Then one day he finds a mysterious old comic book set on Mars and is suddenly thrown headlong into a wild, fantastic journey through centuries of comics, stories, and imaginary worlds. Accompanied by a young webcomic creator named Alice and an enigmatic schoolgirl with rocket boots and a bag full of comics, Sam goes in search of the Magic Pen.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Come hear Elizabeth Knox, Tina Makereti, Dylan Horrocks and Craig Gamble…

You are cordially invited to a very special lunchtime event for Monsters in the Garden: An Anthology of Aotearoa New Zealand Science Fiction and Fantasy.

In attendance we are delighted to announce will be four of our most accomplished writers in New Zealand: Elizabeth Knox, Tina Makereti, Dylan Horrocks and Craig Gamble.

The Monsters in the Garden anthology casts its net with tales from the 19th century to the cutting-edge present day. And stories of Spaceships, dragons, AI, worried sheep and even one about a shopping mall that swallows the Earth.

This wonderful anthology features New Zealand luminaries such as Janet Frame and Maurice Gee and as well as more contemporary writers.

This unmissable event will have conversations and readings from Elizabeth Knox, Tina Makereti, Dylan Horrocks and Craig Gamble the event is Free and all are very welcome.

______________________________

9th December 2020

Te Awe Library – 29 Brandon Street

12.30pm to 1.30 pm

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Monsters in the Garden : An Anthology of Aotearoa New Zealand Science Fiction and Fantasy / Knox, Elizabeth
” Casting its net widely, this anthology of Aotearoa-New Zealand science fiction and fantasy ranges from the 19th century to the cutting-edge present day. Tales of Spaceships, dragons, AI and a shopping mall that swallows the Earth. The anthology features New Zealand luminaries such as Janet Frame, Margaret Mahy and Maurice Gee and as well as contemporary writers such as the Hugo shortlisted Tamsyn Muir, (Booker winning) Keri Hulme, Elizabeth Knox, Tina Makereti, Pip Adam, Dylan Horrocks, Jack Barrowman, Craig Gamble ,David Larsen, Godfrey Sweven, Patricia Grace, Owen Marshall, Phillip Mann, Witi Ihimaera, Juliet Marillier, Bernard Beckett, Danyl Mclauchlan, Kirsten McDougall, Lawrence Patchett, Octavia Cade, Rachael Craw, Karen Healey, Jack Barrowman, Emma Martin, Samantha Lane Murphy and Jack Larsen.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Dreamhunter / Knox, Elizabeth
“‘ Set in 1906, Dreamhunter describes a world very similar to ours, except for a special place, known simply as the Place, where only a select group of people can go. these people are called Dreamhunters and they harvest dreams which are then transmitted to the general public for the purposes of entertainment, therapy – or terror and political coercion. Fifteen-year-old cousins Laura Hame and Rose Tiebold both come from famous dreamhunting families, but only Laura proves to be blessed with the gift and once inside the Place she finds out what happened to her missing dreamhunter father . ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The imaginary lives of James Pōneke / Makereti, Tina
‘The hour is late. The candle is low. Tomorrow I will see whether it is my friends or a ship homewards I meet. But first I must finish my story for you. My future, my descendant, my mokopuna. Listen.’So begins the tale of James Poneke- orphaned son of a chief; ardent student of English; wide-eyed survivor. All the world’s a stage, especially when you’re a living exhibit. But anything can happen to a young New Zealander on the savage streets of Victorian London. When James meets the man with laughing dark eyes and the woman who dresses as a man, he begins to discover who people really are beneath their many guises.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Sam Zabel and the magic pen / Horrocks, Dylan
“A burned-out superhero comic artist goes on an adventure that spans time and space–with two female companions. Cartoonist Sam Zabel hasn’t drawn a comic in years. Stuck in a nightmare of creative block and despair, Sam spends his days writing superhero stories for a large American comics publisher and staring at a blank piece of paper, unable to draw a single line. Then one day he finds a mysterious old comic book set on Mars and is suddenly thrown headlong into a wild, fantastic journey through centuries of comics, stories, and imaginary worlds. (Adapted from Catalogue)

Creature Feature. Our spotlight on Tina Makereti

The hour is late. The candle is low. Tomorrow I will see whether it is my friends or a ship homewards I meet. But I must finish my story for you first. My future, my descendant, my mokopuna. Listen.’ —Tina Makereti from The Imaginary Lives of James Poneke. 

Tina Makereti’s fabulous fourth book The Imaginary Lives of James Poneke was shortlisted for: The New Zealand Heritage Book Awards and Longlisted for Ockham New Zealand Book Awards and the International Dublin Literary Award. The story of a young Maori boy put on display as a curiosity in Victorian London the tale is told from the first person and is an enthralling, compassionate and engrossing read that deals with big issues that are all still very relevant to this day.

Tina is one of the four authors at our unmissable Monsters in the Garden event which will have conversations and readings from Tina as well as Elizabeth Knox, Dylan Horrocks and Craig Gamble the event is Free and all are very welcome.

______________________________

9th December 2020

Te Awe Library – 29 Brandon Street

12.30pm to 1.30 pm

______________________________

Where the Rēkohu bone sings / Makereti, Tina
“In the 1880s, Mere yearns for independence. Iraia wants the same but, as the descendant of a slave, such things are hardly conceivable. One summer, they notice their friendship has changed, but if they are ever to experience freedom they will need to leave their home in the Queen Charlotte Sounds. A hundred years later, Lula and Bigs are born. The birth is literally one in a million, as their mother, Tui, likes to say. When Tui dies, they learn there is much she kept secret and they, too, will need to travel beyond their world, to an island they barely knew existed. Neither Mere and Iraia nor Lula and Bigs are aware that someone else is part of their journeys. He does not watch over them so much as through them, feeling their loss and confusion as if it were his own.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Once upon a time in Aotearoa / Makereti, Tina
“Once Upon a Time in Aotearoa explores a world where mythological characters and stories become part of everyday life. Old and new worlds co-exist, cultures mingle, and magic happens. Familiar characters appear, but in these versions the gods live in a contemporary world and are motivated by human concerns. In this perplexing world, characters connect with each other and find ancient wisdom that carries them through. Bold and sexy, this collection is a crafty combo of mystery and history that makes the old new.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Black marks on the white page
“Stones move, whale bones rise out of the ground like cities, a man figures out how to raise seven daughters alone. Sometimes gods speak or we find ourselves in a not-too-distant future. Here are the glorious, painful, sharp and funny 21st century stories of Maori and Pasifika writers from all over the world. Vibrant, provocative and aesthetically exciting, these stories expand our sense of what is possible in Indigenous Oceanic writing. Witi Ihimaera and Tina Makereti present the very best new and uncollected stories and novel excerpts, creating a talanoa, a conversation, where the stories do the talking.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The imaginary lives of James Pōneke / Makereti, Tina
” All the world’s a stage, especially when you’re a living exhibit. But anything can happen to a young New Zealander on the savage streets of Victorian London. When James meets the man with laughing dark eyes and the woman who dresses as a man, he begins to discover who people really are beneath their many guises.Although London is everything James most desires, this new world is more dark and dazzling than he could have imagined.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Four writers writing about Newtown

Rachel Kerr author of Victory Park, Carl Shuker author of A Mistake and Michalia Arathimos author of Aukati in conversation with Mary McCallum about setting their fiction in Newtown.

With Jackson Nieuwland reading their poem from their collection I am a human being about working at Newtown Library.

Join us to hear these four esteemed authors all writing about Newtown talking about their work. All with very different voices and all with very different things to say. Yet all of the highest calibre this event this bound to be entertaining and stimulating and to make it even more complete we will be staging it at Newtown Library.


Friday, December 4   |   6pm   |   Newtown Library


The authors involved are…

Rachel Kerr has exploded onto the New Zealand literary scene with her debut novel Victory Park. About a single mother living on a block of flats in a fictionalised Newtown. Her life is humdrum until the mysterious Bridget moves into the flats, bringing with her unexpected friendship, glamour and wild dreams.

Carl Shuker’s A Mistake. When an operation what goes wrong, in a hospital based on Wellington Regional Hospital in Newtown a young woman dies, who is culpable and who is to blame. The moral and ethical repercussions of this tragic event are explored in this masterful work which was shortlisted for the Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize 2020.

Michalia Arathimos’s Aukati begins with two people arriving at a marae to protest fracking at a nearby farm. Family, political protest and culture intersect in this thoughtful, elegant, moving, and economically written novel. Michalia Arathimos describes herself as a Greek-New Zealander she currently is the Writer in Residence at Randell Cottage and will hold the Grimshaw Sargeson Fellowship in 2021.

Poet Jackson Nieuwland has been a busy person not only releasing their first beautiful, complex and surreal collection of poetry I am a Human Being, but also opening Food Court Books in Newtown and is also in the process of launching their own publishing house. This promises to be an unmissable event and all are very welcome.

Victory Park / Kerr, Rachel
“Kara lives in Victory Park council flats with her young son, just making a living by minding other people’s kids – her nightly smoke on the fire escape the only time she can drop her guard and imagine something better. But the truth is life is threadbare and unpromising until the mysterious Bridget moves in to the flats. The wife of a disgraced Ponzi schemer she brings with her glamour and wild dreams and an unexpected friendship. Drawn in, Kara forgets for a moment who she’s there to protect.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

A mistake / Shuker, R. Carl
“Elizabeth Taylor is a surgeon at a city hospital, a gifted, driven and rare woman excelling in a male-dominated culture. One day, while operating on a young woman in a critical condition, something goes gravely wrong. A Mistake is a compelling story of human fallibility, and the dangerous hunger for black and white answers in a world of exponential complication and nuance.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The method actors : a novel / Shuker, R. Carl
“The Method Actors traces the disappearance of a young, gifted military historian named Michael Edwards from his desk in Tokyo and his sister Meredith’s return to the city in search of him. Michael’s research into international war crimes trials will take his sister through four hundred years of history, myth and propaganda, love and infidelity, religious transport and hallucination.” ( Adapted from Catalogue)

The lazy boys : a novel / Shuker, R. Carl
“Carl Shuker’s protagonist, Richard Sauer, heads off to college for no reason other than to escape the stultifying normalcy of his middle-class family in Timaru, New Zealand. He may appear ordinary in his aimlessness, mangling his way through his first year in college, but his bonging and banging, his anger and rage, take a brutal turn at an out-of-control dorm party which lands Richey in front of the disciplinary committee with a sexual harassment charge. Dropping out of school before he’s thrown out, Richey and his housemates Matt, Nick, and Ursula begin a freefall that forces Richey to face his most destructive desires.” ( Adapted from Catalogue)

Overdrive cover Anti Lebanon, Carl Shuker (ebook)
“It is Arab Spring and the fate of the Christians of the Middle East is uncertain. The many Christians of Lebanon are walking a knife-edge, their very survival in their ancestral refuge in doubt, as the Lebanese government becomes Hezbollah-dominated, while Syria convulses with warring religious factions. Anti Lebanon is a cross-genre political thriller and horror story embedded within these recent events, featuring a multiethnic Christian family living out the lingering after-effects of Lebanon’s civil war as it struggles to deal with its phantoms, its ghosts, and its vampires. (Adapted fromOverdrive description)

Aukati / Arathimos, Michalia
“Alexia is a law student escaping the Greek family that stifles her, and Isaiah is a young Maori returning home to find the family he’s lost. Cut loose from their own cultures, they have volunteered to help Isaiah’s Taranaki iwi get rid of the fracking that’s devastating their land and water. The deeper Alexia and Isaiah go into the fight, the closer they get to understanding the different worlds they inhabit. But when a protest march becomes violent a boundary is crossed, and they need to decide where they stand and fast. It’s clear the police have been tipped off, and the activists gathered at the marae suspect they’re being watched or, worse, there is an informant in the group. Can Alexia and Isaiah be trusted? And more – can they trust themselves?” (Catalogue)

I am a human being / Nieuwland, Jackson
“Poet Jackson Nieuwland  first published collection is a beautiful, complex and surreal body  of work. The poems within are very intimate and display vulnerability, and fragility . Working with the concept that no single  word can adequately defines us. The multiplicity of who we are and what we have the potential to become is explored in a sequence of  poems such as I am an egg, I am a tree, I am a beaver, I am a bear, I am a bottomless pit etc. The works within are delicately accompanied by Steph Maree’s line drawings.” ( Adapted from Catalogue)

Creature Feature: Our spotlight on Elizabeth Knox

She said to him, ‘You might melt.’ And he said, “If I melt, you can make me again.”
― Elizabeth Knox.

One of the authors at our upcoming Monsters in the Garden lunchtime event is fabulous Elizabeth Knox.

Elizabeth Knox is one of the leading lights in the New Zealand literary world, she is the author of numerous books for adults and young adults including the much heralded Dreamhunter Duet of books, The Vintner’s Luck, Wake and Mortal Fire to name just a few.

In 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours she was awarded Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to literature

Elizabeth’s most recent novel The Absolute Book was published in 2019 in New Zealand to widespread acclaim and is due to be published internationally in 2021.

Elizabeth is both one of contributors and editors of Monsters in the Garden.

This unmissable event will have conversations and readings from Elizabeth Knox and fellow contributors Tina Makereti, Dylan Horrocks and Craig Gamble the event is Free and all are very welcome.

______________________________

9th December 2020

Te Awe Library – 29 Brandon Street

12.30pm to 1.30 pm

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The absolute book / Knox, Elizabeth
“Taryn Cornick believes that the past is behind her – her sister’s death by violence, and her own ill-concieved revenge. She has chosen to live a life more professional than personal. She has written a book about the things that threaten libraries – insects, damp, light, fire, carelessness and uncaring. The book is a success, but not all of the attention it brings her is good. There are questions about a fire in the library at Princes Gate, her grandparents’ house, and about an ancient scroll box known as the Firestarter. The Absolute Book is a triumph of fantasy grounded in the reality and challenges of the moment we live in.’ -Pip Adam” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The vintner’s luck / Knox, Elizabeth
“One summer night in 1808, Sobran Jodeau sets out to drown his love sorrows in his family’s vineyard when he stumbles on an angel. Once he gets over his shock, Sobran decides that Xas, the male angel, is his guardian sent to counsel him on everything from marriage to wine production. But Xas turns out to be a far more mysterious character. Compelling and erotic, The Vintner’s Luck explores a decidedly unorthodox love story as Sobran eventually comes to love and be loved by both Xas and the young Countess de Valday, his friend and employer at the neighboring chateau.” (Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Wake / Knox, Elizabeth
“One sunny spring morning the Tasman Bay settlement of Kahukura is overwhelmed by a mysterious mass insanity. A handful of survivors find themselves cut off from the world, and surrounded by the dead. As they try to take care of one another, and survive in ever more difficult circumstances, it becomes apparent that this isn’t the first time that this has happened, and that they aren’t all survivors and victims–two of them are something quite other. And, it seems, they are trapped with something. Something unseen is picking at the loose threads of their characters, corrupting, provoking, and haunting them. .” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Dreamquake / Knox, Elizabeth
“Following on from the mesmerising Dreamhunter, the story continues dramatically as Grace, ‘overdreamt’ by Laura, introduces a nightmare, instead of the happy holiday dream programmed, to a packed Opera House audience, with chaotic results. Laura has collected and dreamt the nightmare in response to a letter she thinks is from her dead father. Laura takes Nown, the sandman she created, with her on a journey to discover what purpose the Depot in the Place is being used for, and finds a far greater secret behind the existence of the Place Itself.  ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Mortal fire / Knox, Elizabeth
” Sixteen-year-old Canny Mochrie’s parents go away on a vacation, so they send her off on a trip of her own with her stepbrother, Sholto, and his opinionated girlfriend, Susan, who are interviewing the survivors of a strange coal mine disaster and researching local folklore in 1959 Southland, New Zealand. Canny is left to herself to wander in a mysterious and enchanting nearby valley, occupied almost entirely by children who all have the last name, Zarene, and can perform a special type of magic that tells things how to be stronger and better than they already are.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The imaginary lives of James Pōneke / Makereti, Tina
‘The hour is late. The candle is low. Tomorrow I will see whether it is my friends or a ship homewards I meet. But first I must finish my story for you. My future, my descendant, my mokopuna. Listen.’  All the world’s a stage, especially when you’re a living exhibit. But anything can happen to a young New Zealander on the savage streets of Victorian London. When James meets the man with laughing dark eyes and the woman who dresses as a man, he begins to discover who people really are beneath their many guises.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook. 

Incomplete works / Horrocks, Dylan
“Daydreams, fantasy, true love, and procrastination feature strongly in this selection of Dylan Horrocks’s shorter comics running from 1986 to 2012. It is both the chronicle of an age and a portrait of one man’s heroic struggle to get some work done.” (Catalogue) Also available as an eBook. 

 

New, New Zealand. Our latest Aotearoa fiction titles

Fiordland, ladies and gentlemen. What a spectacle. Earth Destination Number One… — Stephen Fry

The vibrancy of New Zealand fiction and the rich diversity of author voices out there is amply demonstrated in our latest Aotearoa fiction acquisitions. From grizzly crime escapades to post punks on tour in America, from headlining grabbing debut thrillers to the first crime novel outing of a New Zealand writing legend its all in our latest offerings. So check them out and delve into our latest New Zealand fiction titles. Enjoy!

Crimechurch / Botur, Michael
“Life in the suburbs isn’t dangerous enough for Marty. He needs punk, protest, politics and pipes. Soon he finds teen runaway Mona. Underground, the two live for drugs while dealing with a pair of psychopath standover siblings. Meanwhile war has broken out among the bikers. Fuelling the fight is ‘King Kong’ Chong, a thug determined to be Number One in the 03 – unless Marty’s baby brother does something even deadlier”–Back cover.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The girl in the mirror / Carlyle, Rose
“An edge-of-your-seat debut thriller with identical twins, a crazy inheritance and a boat full of secrets. Who can you trust? Absolutely nobody! An edge-of-your-seat debut thriller with identical twins, a crazy inheritance and a boat full of secrets. Who can you trust? Absolutely nobody!” (Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The jacaranda house / Challinor, Deborah
“Polly Manaia is living in Sydney’s notorious Kings Cross, working as an exotic dancer. She’s desperate to bring her young daughter to live with her, but beneath her brash confidence lie dark secrets which threaten to drag her under. Gina is excited to live with her mum again. She’s mature for an eleven-year-old, but can this young girl cope with Polly’s demons? Rhoda and Star, transgender performers and Polly’s flatmates, bring stability to Polly and Gina’s lives. Yet this unlikely little family will find themselves threatened in more ways than one. ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Dance prone / Coventry, David
“During their 1985 tour, two events of hatred and stupidity forever change the lives of a band’s four members. . The band staggers forth into the American landscape, traversing time and investigating each of their relationships with history, memory, authenticity, violence and revelling in transcendence through the act of art. With decades passed and compelled by his wife’s failing health to track down Tone, Conrad flies to North Africa where her brother is rumoured to be hiding with a renowned artist from their past. Amongst the sprawl and shout of Morocco, the men attempt to recall what happened to them during their lost years of mental disintegration and emotional poverty.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Sprigs / Gnanalingam, Brannavan
“It is Saturday afternoon and two boys’ schools are locked in battle for college rugby supremacy. Priya – a fifteen year old who barely belongs – watches from the sidelines. Then it is Saturday night and the team is partying. Priya’s friends have evaporated and she isn’t sure what to do. In the weeks after ‘the incident’ life seems to go on. But when whispers turn to confrontation, the institutions of wealth and privilege circle the wagons.”–cover.” (Catalogue)

Dark empire / Horrocks, John
“Katherine Mansfield created some of literature’s most chilling characters, not least Harry Kember and his wife. Some of the women thought that one day Harry would commit a murder. Twenty years later, Harry controls Wellington’s criminal underworld. It is wartime, but business is brisk at his complex of sly grog shops and brothels. His financial dealings have also begun to ensnare more upright citizens such as Stanley Burnell. When Detective Sergeant Tom Guthrie is asked to investigate the drowning of a prisoner from Somes Island, he learns that the man is Burnell’s brother-in-law.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The undertaker’s apprentice / Oliver, Geraldine
” Dartel was going to be an AB*, a living legend, until the accident that killed his best mate Peejay. Peejay’s death changed everything. Dartel found himself working for the undertaker who took charge of Peejay’s funeral. This wasn’t the future he’d dreamed of Instead he was trapped in the wrong life, with his used-to-be-famous, now drunk mother, Mita, his wannabe Mobster brother Buddy and his sister, Ena, who disapproved of his ‘dirty’ pakeha job. How could he break through the ugly present to his real future? What would the future ? Kindred spirits on different paths, would they ever be happy again? (Adapted from Catalogue)

The wild card / Renée
“Ruby Palmer has been dealt a rough hand. Now in her thirties, Ruby suspects her friend was murdered her only lead is a notebook that uses the symbols on playing cards to tell a story she can’t understand, but there are other clues too: the man in the balaclava who attacks her when she starts to investigate, and break-ins at the local theatre where Ruby is playing Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest. As Ruby goes deeper into the mystery of Betty’s death, she starts to find answers to questions about herself that she hadn’t dared ask before. To discover the truth, she needs to find the wild card, and fast.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Our Haunting Selection of Halloween Reads

Here then at long last is my darkness. No cry of light, no glimmer, not even the faintest shard of hope to break free across the hold — Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves

Many of the core elements of Halloween are thought to have originated from ancient Celtic harvest festivals. On All Hallows’ Eve the boundary between the physical and spiritual world was thought to be at it’s thinnest.

The festival has also long been associated with the consumption of food, a few examples being potato pancakes, apples and soul cakes. It was traditional to abstain from eating meat, a tradition reflected in the eating of certain vegetarian foods to this day.  It was in America in the 20th century that it was turned into the candy-coloured, sugar rush holiday that it is today. Indeed Halloween is now one of the major North American holidays.

Much of the modern imagery for Halloween has its roots in fiction, especially Gothic and horror fiction, with iconic characters such as Frankenstein, the Mummy and Dracula. So to put you in a Halloween mood we have selected some strange and macabre tales to shiver the spine and chill the soul for Halloween. And a few have a distinctly Kiwi twist on the supernatural world–enjoy!


Frankenstein, or, The modern Prometheus / Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft
“No-one in the grip of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, with its mythic-minded hero and its highly sympathetic monster who reads Goethe and longs to be at peace with himself, can fail to notice how much more excellent the original is than all the adaptations and imitations which have followed. In her first novel, Mary Shelley produced English Romanticism’s finest prose fiction.” (Adapted from Catalogue). For availability of the 1931 classic film, click here.

Dracula / Stoker, Bram
“When newly qualified solicitor Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help a new client purchase a residence in London, he is unaware that he will be lucky to escape with his life. Harker’s fateful visit to Count Dracula’s castle begins a series of disturbing events, as the malevolence he discovers there reaches across continents and oceans to twist and abuse his loved ones at home in England.” (Adapted from Catalogue) For availability of Christopher Lee’s first Dracula Film click here.

The scarecrow / Morrieson, Ronald Hugh
“Ronald Hugh Morrieson combines Boys’ Own adventure, psychological thriller, small-town saga and family farce to produce a unique masterpiece. 14-year-old Neddy Poindexter and his mate Les proceed to take swift revenge on the chook-rustling Lynch Gang, but things turn sinister when the vulture-like Hubert Salter stalks into the small community of Klynham. There is a  killer on the loose – and Neddy is in terrible fear for the safety of his sister.” (Catalogue) For availability of the 1981 film click here.

Into the mist / Murray, Lee
“When NZDF Sergeant Taine McKenna and his squad are tasked with escorting a bunch of civilian contractors into Te Urewera National Park, it seems a strange job for the army. Militant Tahoe separatists are active in the area, and with its cloying mist and steep ravines, the forest is a treacherous place. Yet nothing has prepared Taine for the true danger that awaits them.  Taine draws on ancient tribal wisdom as he becomes desperate to bring his charges out alive. Will it be enough to stop the nightmare?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Wake / Knox, Elizabeth
“One sunny spring morning the Tasman Bay settlement of Kahukura is overwhelmed by a mysterious mass insanity. A handful of survivors find themselves cut off from the world, and surrounded by the dead. As they try to take care of one another, and survive in ever more difficult circumstances, it becomes apparent that this isn’t the first time that this has happened. And, it seems, they are trapped with something. Something unseen is picking at the loose threads of their characters, corrupting, provoking, and haunting them.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of leaves / Danielewski, Mark Z
“A blind old man, a young apprentice working in a tattoo shop, and a mad woman haunting an Ohio institute narrate this story of a family that encounters an endlessly shifting series of hallways in their new home, eventually coming face to face with the awful darkness lying at its heart. Focusing on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The shining / King, Stephen
“Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote . . . and sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.” (Adapted from Catalogue) For availability of the legendary Stanley Kubrick film click here.

Teatro grottesco / Ligotti, Thomas
“This collection features tormented individuals who play out their doom in various odd little towns, as well as in dark sectors frequented by sinister and often blackly comical eccentrics. The cycle of narratives that includes the title work of this collection, for instance, introduces readers to a freakish community of artists who encounter demonic perils that ultimately engulf their lives. These are selected examples of the forbidding array of persons and places that compose the mesmerizing fiction of Thomas Ligotti.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The hunger / Katsu, Alma
“After having travelled west for weeks, the party of pioneers comes to a crossroads. It is time for their leader, George Donner, to make a choice. They face two diverging paths which lead to the same destination. One is well-documented – the other untested, but rumoured to be shorter. Then the children begin to disappear. As the survivors turn against each other, a few begin to realise that the threat they face reaches beyond the fury of the natural elements.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an Audiobook.

Into the Void: Our Interview with Ngaio Marsh Finalist Christina O’Reilly

Continuing our series on this year’s Ngaio Marsh Awards shortlist we are delighted to present a video piece from Christina O’Reilly author of Into the Void.

As her accent still shows Christina grew up in England and emigrated to NZ at the age of twelve.  As well as a writer, Christina is a freelance copy editor and proof reader and has had her short stories published in several anthologies.

Christina had written several previous novels   before being longlisted for the 2019 Michael Gifkins memorial prize which gave her the confidence to publish this novel.

Into the void introduces us to DSS John (Archie) Baldrick and DC Ben Travers. The plot revolves round the disappearance of rural banker Richard Harper his disappearance possess many questions is he really dead? or has he been abducted and tortured?   Eventually it all becomes a race against time as the case descends into a mire of murder, violence and obsession.

One review described the book in the following way    “O’Reilly’s characters are all strong, believable people with equally believable domestic lives and troubles. It’s nicely flavoured with New Zealandness without feeing contrived and carries a story which would work in any international setting”.

We want to extend our biggest thank you to Christina for her time and insightful video. And we wish her and her fellow shortlisted author’s good luck in the final awards ceremony.

The finalists will be celebrated, and the winners announced, as part of a special event at this year’s WORD Christchurch Festival, held from 29 October to 1 November… Enjoy.

Below are some of the books that influenced Christina and were mentioned in her interview.


The babes in the wood : a Chief Inspector Wexford mystery / Rendell, Ruth
“With floods threatening both the town of Kingsmarkham and his own home and no end to the rain in sight, Chief Inspector Wexford already has his hands full when he learns that two local teenagers have gone missing along with their sitter, Joanna Troy. Their hysterical mother is convinced that all three have drowned, and as the hours stretch into days Wexford suspects a case of kidnapping, perhaps connected with an unusual sect called the Church of the Good Gospel. But when the sitter’s smashed-up car is found at the bottom of a local quarry-occupied by a battered corpse-the investigation takes on a very different hue. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Overdrive cover End in Tears, Ruth Rendell (Audiobook)
“A lump of concrete dropped deliberately from a little stone bridge over a relatively unfrequented road kills the wrong person. The driver behind is spared. But only for a while… It is impossible for Chief Inspector Wexford not to wonder how terrible it would be to discover that one of his daughters had been murdered. Sylvia has always been a cause for concern. Living alone with her two children, she is pregnant again.  The relationship between father and daughter has always been uneasy. But the current situation also provokes an emotional division between Wexford and his wife, Dora.  (Adapted from Overdrive description)

The secret garden / Burnett, Frances Hodgson
“Born in India, the unattractive and willful Mary Lennox has remained in the care of servants for as long as she can remember. But the girl’s life changes when her mother and father die and she travels to Yorkshire to live with her uncle. Dark, dreary Misselthwaite Manor seems full of mysteries, including a very special garden, locked tight for 10 years. With the help of Dickon, a local boy, Mary intends to uncover its secrets.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Also available as an Audiobook.

Into the void / O’Reilly, Christina
“How easy is it for a man to simply disappear? When rural banker Richard Harper is reported missing, DSS John (Archie) Baldrick and DC Ben Travers are drawn into the tangled details of the man’s life. Would Harper really have chosen to leave his seriously ill wife, and abandon his pregnant girlfriend? Or is there a real threat behind the abusive emails he’d been receiving from desperate clients in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis? Has he really been abducted, tortured or killed? Or is Richard Harper himself behind everything that has happened? Archie and Travers ultimately face a race against time. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Find out more about the Ngaio Marsh Awards by clicking here.

Southern Writers at Te Awe Brandon Library – Tuesday 20 Oct 2020


We are very excited to announce our first ever author event at our fabulous new Te Awe library.

______________________________
20 October 2020
Te Awe Library – 29 Brandon Street
12.30pm to 2pm
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And what a fitting event it is to inaugurate the Te Awe event space, with six fine poets and prose writers giving a very special lunch time reading. All hail from Dunedin or Southland.

They are:

Kay McKenzie Cooke, Richard Langston, Tim Jones, Nick Ascroft, Madison Hamill and Jenny Powell, with Mary McCallum reading some of the late Elizabeth Brooke-Carr’s work.

So why not take this rare opportunity, grab your lunchtime sandwiches or buy one from the Te Awe café, and enliven your lunch listening to some of New Zealand’s finest poets reading from their works. Enjoy.



Kay McKenzie Cooke, her first poetry book, Feeding the Dogs received the Jessie MacKay Best First Book Award for Poetry. Kay is visiting Wellington and will be reading from her new collection Upturned / Cooke, Kay McKenzie

Richard Langston, poet and Country Calendar director, will be reading from his latest collection Five O’Clock Shadows / Langston, Richard


New Sea Land / Jones, Tim
Tim Jones is the winner of the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Collected Work and the NZSA Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature. He will read from his poetry collection New Sea Land and his novella Where We Land.


Moral sloth / Ascroft, Nick
Nick Ascroft.  Born in Oamaru and awarded the Robert Burns Fellowship in 2003, Nick describes himself as an editor by trade, a linguist by training and a competitive Scrabble player by choice. He will be reading from Moral Sloth.

Specimen : personal essays / Hamill, Madison
Debut author Madison Hamill’s writing has appeared in The Spinoff, Sweet Mammalian, The Pantograph Punch, and Turbine Kapohau.  She will be reading from her essay collection, Specimen.


South d poet lorikeet / Powell, Jenny
Jenny Powell is the current RAK Mason Fellow in the Wairarapa and has been a finalist for a number of poetry prizes including the Janet Frame Memorial Award. She will be  reading from her collection South D Poet Lorikeet.


Jenny Powell and Mary McCallum will read poems by the late Elizabeth Brooke-Carr‘s collection Wanting to tell you everything. An award-winning Dunedin poet, Elizabeth died last year and her writing group (that included Jenny Powell and Mary as a consultant) got together to edit her first collection of poems.

This event has been organised by The Cuba Press, Wellington.

Girl from the Tree House : Our Interview with Ngaio Marsh Finalist Gudrun Frerichs

Continuing our series on this year’s Ngaio Marsh Awards shortlist we are delighted to have a video piece from Gudrun Frerichs author of Girl from the Tree House.

Gudrun has a fascinating personal backstory born on a small island near Hamburg she emigrated to New Zealand thirty years ago and worked until her retirement as a psychotherapist she is now a full time writer and describes herself as closet gypsy.

She says that her must have writing aids are a cup of Earl Grey a box of chocolates and the occasional glass of Merlot.

Gudrun’s previous novels include The Golden Girls Romantic Series of Contemporary Women’s novels. About four highly successful friends approaching their golden sixties who live in Auckland.  And the books  join  them as they navigate life’s obstacles.

Girl from the Tree House is a departure from her previous works and revolves around Elizabeth a woman with dissociative identity disorder, who is accused of murder. The novel is set in New Zealand’s West Coast is a fast paced psychological thriller that one reader described as a “superbly written story”.

We want to extend our biggest thank you to Gudrun for her time and insightful video. And we wish her and her fellow shortlisted author’s good luck in the final awards ceremony.

The finalists will be celebrated, and the winners announced, as part of a special event at this year’s WORD Christchurch Festival, held from 29 October to 1 November… Enjoy.

Below are some of the books that influenced Gudrun and were mentioned in her interview.


Pippi Longstocking / Lindgren, Astrid
“Pippi is the only girl in the world who can do exactly what she likes. She is nine years old and lives in a cottage with a horse and a monkey. Her friends Tommy and Annika have to go to school and go to bed when they’re told, but they still have time to join Pippi on all her great adventures.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The world’s best Karlson / Lindgren, Astrid
“Smidge is used to Karlson, the funny little man with a propeller on his back, living on the roof. They are firm friends. Now, anytime Karlson pops in, Smidge knows that there’s fun and adventure in store.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The ABC murders / Christie, Agatha
” There’s a serial killer on the loose. His  macabre calling card he leaves beside each victim’s corpse the ABC Railway Guide open at the name of the town where the murder has taken place. But if A is for Alice Ascher, and B for Betty Bernard, then who will victim C be? Having begun with Andover, Bexhill and then Churston, there seems little chance of the murderer being caught – until he makes the crucial and vain mistake of challenging Hercule Poirot to frustrate his plans… Poirot is the man to find out.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an Audiobook.

Penhallow / Heyer, Georgette
“Hated for his cruel and vicious nature, ruling his family with an iron hand from his sickbed, tyrannical patriarch Adam Penhallow is found murdered the day before his birthday. His entire family had assembled for his birthday celebration, and every one of them had the ways and means to commit the crime. As accusation and suspicion turn in one direction, then another, the claws and backstabbing come out, and no one is exempt from the coming implosion. The death of menacing old man Adam Penhallow, on the eve of his birthday, seems at first to be by natural causes. When it emerges that he was poisoned, there are more than a dozen prime suspects.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.


Find out more about the Ngaio Marsh Awards by clicking here. You can visit Gudrun’s website by clicking here.

Stories Below Sea Level: Climate Authors in Aotearoa

men say that one day
that lagoon will devour you”

dear matafele peinam, by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

Up until surprisingly recently, climate change was a neglected topic in the world of fiction. Environmentalist Bill McKibben addressed this in his 2006 essay What the Warming World Needs Now is Art, Sweet Art, pointing out the lack of impact climate change had had on fiction and art compared to previous societal challenges.

However over the last few years things have changed: books focussing on the climate emergency are being published faster than ever, including in New Zealand. Authors have taken up McKibben’s challenge to use fiction to examine the changing world around us, to spur us into action. This undertaking has extended to organisations such as Track Zero and Verb Wellington, both of which have promoted the transformational power of literature.

Yet despite climate change’s more prominent role in local fiction, another question stands out: exactly whose climate stories are being published–and whose aren’t? As Lani Wendt Young recently pointed out, in 2015 only one percent of fiction published in New Zealand was written by Pasifika writers, and only four percent by Māori. And yet Māori and Pasifika communities are disproportionately affected by climate change.

Over the next few weeks Wellington City Libraries will be releasing a series of interviews with publishers, editors and authors whose work has addressed the climate emergency in Aotearoa and the Pacific. Their work spans different genres, languages and formats, but all of them tackle climate change and its complexities. To get things started we’ve got a booklist of local climate fiction and non-fiction for you to browse–and if there’s an author or work you’d like to see included, please let us know!


Where we land / Jones, Tim
“A New Zealand Navy frigate torpedoes a boat full of refugees fleeing a drowning country and Nasimul Rahman is one of the few survivors. First he has to reach the shore alive and then he has to avoid the trigger-happy Shore Patrol, on alert to stop climate change refugees entering the country. Donna is new to the Patrol. When word comes through that the Navy has sunk a ship full of infiltrators and survivors might be making their way ashore, it sounds like she might be put to the test.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Melt / Murray, Jeff
“This novel is an urgent, crushing observation of adaptation and exclusion amidst preparation to settle Antarctica as climate destruction starts to bite. New Zealand in 2048, gateway to the melting continent, is thrust into the centre of the climate crises. Vai Shuster, the Advocate of a tiny, broken island, must find a place for her community in a world that’s not sure it needs the poor.” (Catalogue)

So many islands : stories from the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Indian and Pacific Oceans
“Giving voice to challenges and triumphs, these writers paint a vibrant portrait of what it is like to live, love and lose the things most precious to them on the small islands they call home. Voicing global issues such as climate change and nuclear testing in the Pacific – a fight close to the heart of these precariously poised islands – to petty politics and the gaps between generations, readers will find universal connections with these worlds and words.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

High water
“Eleven of New Zealand’s best cartoonists take a speculative stab at the looming threat of climate change in this thoughtful, provoking and sometimes hilarious collection. With tales ranging from washed-up celebrity polar bears, to giant post-apocalyptic crabs, High Water takes the reader on a thrilling romp through one of the most important issues of our time. Contributors include Dylan Horrocks, Sarah Laing, Chris Slane and many others.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Sea change : climate politics and New Zealand / Hayward, Bronwyn
“The scientific consensus is clear: our climate is changing and action is needed urgently. Yet at the same time, it can seem that the solutions needed are too large and the problem too insurmountable. Bronwyn Hayward is an international expert on sustainability, youth politics and democracy. In Sea Change: Climate Politics and New Zealand she lays out what New Zealand and New Zealanders could do to keep the average global temperature rise under 1.5 degrees.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Ruby and the blue sky / Dewar, Katherine
“Grammy night: Ruby wins ‘Best Song’ and makes an impulsive acceptance speech that excites nature lovers across the world. While Ruby and her band celebrate, an extreme evangelical sect, funded by covert paymasters, dispatches a disciple on a ruthless mission to England. As the band plays its sold-out tour, Ruby is pursued by eco-groupies insisting she use her new fame to fight climate change. Back home, Ruby must confront a challenge not even tea, beer or her mum’s veggie lasagne will make go away…” (Catalogue)

Star sailors / McNaughton, James
“In the not too distant future, the effects of climate change devastate the world and New Zealand becomes a haven for elites. When a young couple from the wrong side of the tracks gain entry into Wellington’s most exclusive gated community, it appears their troubles are over. But they find themselves divided over the identity of Sam Starsailor, an alien prophet who has washed up on a beach near New Hokitika and is said to bring warnings from another planet.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Towards a warmer world : what climate change will mean for New Zealand’s future / Meduna, Veronika
“The year 2014 was the hottest on record since we’ve begun collecting global temperature measurements in 1880. As new thresholds are breached, acclaimed RNZ science writer Veronika Meduna explores our future in a warmer world. Beginning with lessons from our ancient geological past, this BWB Text draws on current observations and increasingly sophisticated climate models to describe possible end-of-century scenarios for New Zealand.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Mistory : a novel / Temple, Philip
“Following Annie’s strange death, her partner is forced to think about what he has allowed to happen to his life, his community and his country. His diary, kept during the year of The Change, reveals how the example Annie left him, and the mission of his young sister Sophie, drive him to escape the life of a bureaucratic cipher and work with the Movement in its fight to bring back a free and fair way of life.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Spores, Don’t Even Breathe: our interview with Douglas Parker – Part Two

We recently had the pleasure of a surprise visit from Wellington-born writer Douglas Parker. His book Spores, Don’t Even Breathe has been gathering some fabulous reviews from readers: as one said, “A cracking good read–easy yet gripping”. It’s always good to see a new author emerge, and when we heard that NaNoWriMo had been a key part of his creative journey to publication we just couldn’t resist an interview. So here for your delight, edification and enjoyment is part two of our interview with Douglas Parker (for part one, please click here).

Could you tell us a little about the publishing process and how you went about getting Spores out into the public domain once you’d finished writing it?

My wife very kindly took on the job of getting the book published. She found an agent with ties to both New Zealand and the United States. He took us through the editing process and presented the book to publishers in New York.

It was accepted by the editors at two publishers, but rejected by the marketing department at both of them. Apparently it didn’t neatly fit into any of their categories. This was a few years back and the ‘science thriller’ genre was new.

After this we decided to self-publish. This is very easy to do these days, but not necessarily easy to do well. We used a professional service to do the layout for Kindle and published only a purely electronic version at first.

After we did this, a lot of readers told us they’d prefer a physical book, so we released a print version using Amazon’s print on demand service.

How did you go about setting up publicity and events for Spores, Don’t Even Breathe?

We’ve only done two events. The first was a launch party which was held at Ekor Bookshop on College Street. We chose it as a location because it’s a nicely designed space, and about the right size for the number of people we were expecting.

Ekor were very supportive, advertising the event to their client base and putting Spores on their shelves. I gave a talk and signed books, which seems to be the standard for a book launch. It was a lot of fun and certainly helped me to feel like a ‘real’ author.

The second event was attending the New Zealand Book Festival in Auckland. This is an annual event where New Zealand authors can sell directly to the public. It was a great to be able talk to readers directly, tell them about my story and get their immediate feedback. Nothing teaches faster than the look of enthusiasm or disappointment on someone’s face when you tell them about your story.

Beyond that we’ve mostly stuck to social media for marketing, mostly because the book is available online in both electronic and physical formats. More on that below . . .

You describe Spores, Don’t Even Breathe as a science thriller. Could you describe the attributes that make a book a science thriller as opposed to a thriller or science fiction?

I think of science fiction as being speculative. It explores alternative worlds where the science and technology are radically different to those we have today, or have had in the past.

A science thriller is based in the present and has a strong science element. However the science is contemporary, which allows the story to explore its impact on the world the reader inhabits.

Of course, one of the problems with contemporary science and technology is that they change rapidly. If I was writing Spores today, I’d need to include references to CRISPR technology, which didn’t exist when I was working on the first draft.

What was it about the genre of science thriller that drew you to it?

I fell into this genre by accident more than anything. I have a science background, and so with ‘spores’ as the topic it was natural for me to write about it from a scientific perspective. It was only after the novel was finished that I started to think about what genre it might fit into.

How do you use social media to promote yourself, your work and Spores, Don’t Even Breathe?

I have a website hosted through WordPress and a Facebook page. My wife manages these and is constantly prompting me for interesting items to post. Well, constantly prompting me for any items to post, I’m afraid I’m not the best at coming up with new material for the feed.

The difficulty with social media is that there is a lot to learn if its going to be used well, and it changes very rapidly. So we seem to always be in catch-up mode. Still, we know a lot more than we did at the start, and when the next book comes along we’ll be much better at getting the message out there.

Are you planning something new?

Still in the planning stages. I’ve decided to set the next novel in Wellington. I’ve always loved the landscape and it is going to feature heavily in the story, along with the weather. To me this is an important part of the city’s unique character – beautiful at times, unruly and threatening at others. A nice dramatic backdrop to the unfolding story.

There will again be a strong science element, along with a dark family history. Beyond that, you’ll have to wait . . .

Would you use the same NaMoWriMo 30 day approach?

I will definitely use the NaNoWriMo approach again, although I will probably commit to more than the 30 days. I wasn’t able to finish in 30 days last time, despite exceeding the fifty-thousand word limit. So next time I plan on giving myself three months to complete a full first draft.

I find the idea of finishing very motivating, but it will be interesting to see if I can sustain the required intensity for that long.

Who are your favourite authors and why?

I really like the early short stories of William Gibson. They present a plausible near future, where science and technology has advanced, but not so far that it isn’t believable. These stories are nearly 40 years old now, but the world comes closer to their future every day. Russia’s use of social media to interfere in U.S. elections being an example.

For me, the power of this writing is that it presents this technological future without any particular moral judgement. The characters use advanced technology to meet their typically human needs – love, greed, revenge, etc. It isn’t presented as a good or a bad outcome, just an inevitable one.

Spores, Don’t Even Breathe: our interview with Douglas Parker – Part One

We recently had the pleasure of a surprise visit from Wellington-born writer Douglas Parker. His book Spores, Don’t Even Breathe has been gathering some fabulous reviews from readers: as one said, “A cracking good read–easy yet gripping”. It’s always good to see a new author emerge, and when we heard that NaNoWriMo had been a key part of his creative journey to publication we just couldn’t resist an interview. So here for your delight, edification and enjoyment is part one of our interview with Douglas Parker. Enjoy!

You finished your first draft of the novel in 30 days based on the “No plot, no worries” approach and were involved with NaMoWriMo (which Wellington City Libraries is also involved in). Could you elaborate on the process and advantages of writing so quickly?

I had always wanted to write a novel, but I assumed I would have to dedicate myself to it exclusively, and for a long time. A mortgage, full time job, and family commitments prevented that.

Then I happened across the NaNoWriMo book, No Plot, No Problem. With its promise of completing a first draft in 30 days it was too good to ignore. In the book I found a no-nonsense, practical approach that was clearly based on years of experience. Thousands of people had done this already, so why not me?

The thing that attracted me most to the NaNoWriMo approach was its determinedly anti-perfectionist stance. The book has many practical tips about writing, and writing fast. But for me the best piece of advice was “don’t get it right, get it written!” Accepting at the start that whatever I wrote, I knew it needed to be worked on after the 30 days were up.

This had the wonderful effect of freeing me from worrying that my writing might not be ‘good enough’. Whenever my mind wandered in that direction, I could remind myself that all I had to do was be creative and write something. I could decide later if it was any good or not.

The NaNoWriMo challenge was to complete a 50,000 word first draft in 30 days. At the end of the 30 days I had 65,000 words, but I was nowhere near the end of the story. So I’d succeeded on one measure, but failed on the other.

Family and friends were very supportive, but when the 30 days were up, they deserved some attention. So I continued to work at a slower pace and after three months I reached the end of my first draft.

My wife was the first person to read it. She disappeared for a whole day and on returning announced “It’s just like a real book!” I took that as a compliment, I’d been trying to write a real book, and perhaps I’d succeeded.

Could you perhaps go way back and tell us about the creative origins of Spores, Don’t Even Breathe?

My wife grew up in California, a hot and dry climate. She loves New Zealand, but to her it seems cold and damp. She often comments on the mildew, and I will often reply with comments like “watch out for the spores!” So when I was looking for a topic, spores were one of the first things that came to mind.

We had also recently been through the bird flu ‘epidemic’. This was accompanied by a lot of misinformation in the news media and a good dose of outright fear-mongering from them, politicians and businesses with products to sell.

If you want to manipulate people, fear is a powerful tool. What could be scarier than invisible spores, floating in the air. To catch them, all you have to do is breathe.

As for my characters, I adopted the NaNoWriMo approach and largely left them up to chance. I only made broad decisions about them before I started to write them in. My main goal was to make the story interesting. A novel is entertainment more than anything else.

I decided on small town U.S.A. for a setting and the Chief of Police for my main character. When folks start dyin’ of them spores, well the Chief of Police has got to be involved. I made the chief a woman, simply because I thought that would be more interesting than yet another story about men running around and saving the world.

The other characters came about the same way, always just trying to keep the mix interesting.

Did you have internal conversations with your characters when you were in the writing phase? If not, what process do you use to generate dialogue?

I found the writing process to be surprisingly visual so I found myself watching my characters rather than talking to them. I usually knew where I wanted the story to go, so I’d just sit and imagine them heading off in that direction, then I’d do my best to write down what they’d done.

Sometimes this was easy. Sometimes it was very difficult to find the right words to describe what I’d imagined and lots of frustrating re-writing would result.

Author Interview: Award-Winning Lee Murray – Part 3/3!

Please note: this is part three of our interview with Lee Murray. Please click here for part one and here for part two.

Lee Murray is an award-winning New Zealand author of science-fiction, fantasy and horror. She recently won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novel with Into the Mist, book two of the Taine McKenna series, as well as Best Collected Work as one of three editors on Te Korero Ahi Kā. However Murray’s work isn’t limited to the page: she has also helped establish key writing communities in New Zealand and organise events such as GeyserCon, New Zealand’s 40th National Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention.

To learn more about Murray’s work, check out her website here — or part three of our interview below. Enjoy!

You’ve also done a lot of other great work helping to develop the sci-fi, fantasy and horror writing community in New Zealand. What would you like to do next in terms of this?

Thank you. One of things I’m especially proud of is being co-founder and co-convenor of Young New Zealand Writers, a not-for-profit volunteer group established almost ten years ago to develop writing and publication opportunities for our youngest writers through a shared love of science fiction and fantasy. Young New Zealand Writers runs programmes for school students such as free-to-enter writing competitions, anthologies, mentorship, and our annual day Youth Day Out, which is occasionally held in conjunction with our national science fiction and fantasy convention. It’s a huge task, but every year the quality of the work and the talent of our students convinces me that forming new readers and writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror are some of the most important things we can do to keep the community vibrant.

There are a lot of other great ways to raise awareness. For example, Speculative Fiction Writers of New Zealand (SpecFicNZ) has just established a regular podcast, called none other than The SpecFicNZ Podcast, to focus on trends in science fiction, fantasy, and horror. With lively discussion and interviews by the group’s members, the podcast is still in its infancy, but definitely worth tuning in to for a listen. I notice some of the mainstream literary festivals, such as Featherston Booktown, the National Writers’ Forum, and the South Auckland Writers’ Festival, are introducing genre panels and presentations as part of their regular programming line-up, a trend which can only be promising for the genre. Of course, by far the best way to ensure the health and longevity of our local science fiction, fantasy, and horror community is for New Zealanders to read and recommend our work. That’s it. The more people read and rave about us, the better our chances of attracting the notice of local publishers and producers, and that in turn creates more opportunities for writers, which will improve the number and range of titles on offer for readers to enjoy, and so on and so forth. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of demand creating supply. You heard it here, folks!

What are your thoughts about CoNZealand next year? Will you be very involved?

I’m not at all involved in CoNZealand planning, although, if I can get together a few colleagues, I might propose a couple of panel presentations. Mostly, I’m looking forward to enjoying the convention as an attendee and welcoming a number of friends from overseas. I hope they’re as inspired as I am by our landscape, and our people, and that no one goes home without trying our wonderful hokey pokey ice cream.

As someone with an impressively busy schedule, what advice would you give to authors trying to fit their writing around other commitments?

I’m the worst person to ask this question because I am hopeless at saying no to those other commitments. Over and above my actual writing, I undertake a lot of mostly unpaid writing-related activities. I’ve already mentioned the national convention, and the Young New Zealand Writers group. In addition to those, I typically have several mentees on the go, a book or two I’ve been asked to blurb, a half dozen blogs I’ve promised to write, panel presentations to plan, reviews to write, and more than one commissioned work to edit. Last summer, I had to turn down a prestigious international judging opportunity as I had already committed to judging two other national competitions over the same time period. With my to-be-read stack teetering at 90 novels and 30 novellas, I couldn’t possibly squeeze in any more. As it was, I spent almost the entire summer in my hammock reading! The thing is, while many of those extra commitments take me away from my writing, they also contribute to my work by immersing me in all aspects of genre fiction. Plus, I get a sneak peak at some wonderful new work, while also having a hand in developing (and celebrating) the new talent coming through the ranks.

Ah. I think you are asking for suggestions on how to schedule your writing around paid work commitments as well as the demands of family and community. I am fortunate to write full-time, but many of my colleagues who work other jobs write in the early morning or late evenings when their children are in bed. Or perhaps they scribble furiously in a notebook on the train into work. I have a friend who does writing sprints in the car while her children are at their music lessons. One friend gets all their best ideas in the shower. Another finds their inspiration while out running. All trying to carve out writing time where they can. With the latest CNZ survey revealing that New Zealand writers average around $12,000 in annual earnings from their writing, the reality is most writers cannot make a living from their creative work. This means we are in danger of losing those middle voices, where writing becomes something people do only as students, or when they have retired from full-time work. On the other hand, it’s also true that writing seems to take the time available, so if you have an hour to spare, then the poem or drabble will take you an hour to write, whereas if you can afford to invest a week, the same piece will invariably require the full week. So, perhaps there is some merit in having at least some pressure on us to make our time profitable. I should add here that, even at my fastest, I’m an incredibly slow writer, producing only 500-1000 words daily. Still, I console myself that Hemingway wrote just 500 words a day and yet his body of work comprises an impressive 10 novels, 17 collections of short fiction, two books of poetry, and nine works of non-fiction (albeit some published posthumously).

Author Interview: Award-Winning Lee Murray – Part 2/3!

Please note: this is part two of our interview with Lee Murray. Please click here for part one.

Lee Murray is an award-winning New Zealand author of science-fiction, fantasy and horror. She recently won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novel with Into the Mist, book two of the Taine McKenna series, as well as Best Collected Work as one of three editors on Te Korero Ahi Kā. However Murray’s work isn’t limited to the page: she has also helped establish key writing communities in New Zealand and organise events such as GeyserCon, New Zealand’s 40th National Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention.

To learn more about Murray’s work, check out her website here — or part two of our interview below. Enjoy!

The Path of Ra series is also a distinctly New Zealand work. Have you received much feedback from both local and international readers in regards to the story’s setting or language?

The Path of Ra is a collaborative series which I co-author with my friend and colleague, Dan Rabarts. Having already worked together with some success on a couple of anthology projects, Dan and I decided to join forces, taking a he-said / she-said approach to a futuristic supernatural thriller. When we started working on the novella — yes, it was going to be a novella and it accidentally turned into a three-book series — with both of us being Kiwi, there was no doubt that we would set our story in New Zealand. We selected a near-future Auckland as the setting, partly for its geography, its sprawling urban spread, and especially for its recognisable landmarks such as One Tree Hill, the Auckland Harbour Bridge, the downtown waterfront, and the iconic Sky Tower. As far as feedback from our readers about the setting and language goes, here’s what some of them had to say:

“The descriptions of the scenes, including a dark version of Auckland and the surrounding countryside, really worked for me.”

“…a fast-moving futuristic novel with a great New Zealand flavour and supernatural thrills on the side.”

“Setting the novel in near future New Zealand is so brilliant! I’ve never read another novel with that setting, so it feels fresh in a genre that frequently feels overused and stale.”

“The unusual setting in a bleak near-future New Zealand added to the dark atmosphere. Also, it was interesting to learn several New Zealand and Māori phrases, thanks to the glossary thoughtfully added at the end of the book.”

“Set in the Auckland of the future, an energy-starved darker version of itself, the story manages to seamlessly combine a nod to culturally insightful supernatural elements with the clarity that only science can provide.”

I think, when we read fiction, we like to be transported to somewhere fresh and exotic, as Roald Dahl writes in Matilda: “…books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives.” For our Path of Ra stories, Dan and I believed that Auckland in the 2040s could be that new world, a city sweltering though the effects of rapid climate change where fuel and food shortages have an impact on everyday lives, and where the underworld draws inexorably nearer. Our readers seem to like it.

In terms of language, our tendency to use Kiwi vernacular in our writing has proved to be very entertaining during the editing process. For example, when we submitted Hounds of the Underworld to the publisher, our editor mentioned a possible Freudian slip. Did we know that Penny had called for the laboratory fume hoods to be turned up full tit? Shouldn’t that be full tilt? New Zealand is the only country in the world to use that particular turn of phrase. We love providing that uniquely Kiwi context by adding words like chur, ropeable, and Weet-Bix to our stories. We also love that after working with us for three years, our American publisher immediately knows what we mean when we talk of whānau, whāngai, and wairua. Using these local terms allows New Zealand readers to recognise the backdrop as being distinctly Kiwi, while also offering a fresh landscape for our international readers.

However, when we use these terms, we’re careful to provide context, so the word is understood, making the reading experience an enjoyable one, without overly taxing the reader. It’s one thing to provide a strong Kiwi flavour, and another to clobber your reader over the head with it. Sometimes though, we’ll change a term to something simpler, just to avoid a reader stumbling over an unfamiliar expression in a crucial scene. For example, in an early draft of Teeth of the Wolf, my character, Penny, mentions that Cerberus was ‘full of beans’, and our editor questioned why the Labrador was fed just a page later. In the final text, we agreed that the dog should be full of energy, since no actual beans were consumed! Happily, our publisher, Raw Dog Screaming Press, is hugely supportive of diverse voices, and I suspect the company’s focus on authenticity is, in part, the reason the house was awarded this year’s international Horror Writers Association’s Specialty Press Award.

You were the programme director at GeyserCon this year – what did the role involve? (And were you able to enjoy the convention as a fan as well?)

Being programme director for one of our national science fiction and fantasy conventions means around two years of weekend volunteer work — and a willingness to relinquish your soul. I’m kidding, of course, although not when it comes to the amount of work. Mostly, the role involves being completely potty about science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and having the connections and the firepower to persuade, cajole, or press-gang your colleagues into sharing their talent and their expertise. After that, it’s simply a matter of ensuring your panellists and presenters offer topics and activities that you’d be excited to attend yourself. So, despite the fact that I was running around like a headless chicken checking on things most of the weekend, I got to experience a lot of the activities and discussions on offer. I can honestly say GeyserCon was a wonderful experience.

This year’s event included cosplay and gaming streams, as well as an industry stream for writers, screenwriters, and poets. The presentations included fight scenes, writing from found objects, designing fantasy maps, planning for a geothermal apocalypse, designing Victoriana costumes from op shop materials, cosplay make-up, gaming for kids, creating zines, and a hilarious horror-thriller debate. Fans of science fiction, fantasy, and horror were simply spoiled for choice. One of the best things about our national conventions is that with just 200-300 attendees, the numbers aren’t too overwhelming, which makes them a good opportunity for introverted geeky sorts like me to network with friends, catch up with new trends, and generally immerse themselves in all things genre. I almost always come home with more books than I have time to read, too.

For part three of our interview with Lee Murray, please click here.

Author Interview: Award-Winning Lee Murray – Part 1/3!

In the bio section of her website, author Lee Murray describes herself as a New Zealand-based writer of fantasy, science fiction and horror. While this description is correct, with Murray publishing a range of award-winning speculative fiction, it doesn’t really capture the scale or importance of her role in New Zealand’s writing community.

Looking through previous Sir Julius Vogel Awards lists, one of the first things you’ll notice is the regularity of Murray’s name among the finalists. This includes her Taine McKenna series, now on its third book with Into the Ashes, as well as the Path of Ra series co-written with author Dan Rabarts. The initial installment, Hounds of the Underworld, has been called “a wild and gruesome treat, packed with mystery, action and dark humour.”

Murray’s work hasn’t been limited to the page. She’s helped to establish key writing communities in New Zealand, as well as editing several local speculative fiction anthologies including the award-winning Te korero ahi kā. And when she’s not writing, editing or mentoring, Murray helps organise events such as GeyserCon, New Zealand’s 40th National Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention.

To discover more of Murray’s work, check out her website here–or part one of our interview below. Enjoy!

You recently released Into the Ashes, book three in the Taine McKenna series. What first inspired you to write a thriller series with a local setting, and why do you think it’s been an overlooked genre in New Zealand writing in the past?

New Zealand inspired me! What better setting for an adventure? New Zealand offers landscapes and geology and legends which make it the perfect setting for a thriller adventure. The Taine Mckenna series features the Urewera mountain ranges, the soaring cliffs and icy channels of the Fiordland sounds, and the raw energy and bleak isolation of the Central Plateau. The series concept was, quite literally, inspired by our landscape, the idea coming to me while I was out running in the bush. Before sustaining an injury, I used to run marathons — completing 25 marathons and a couple of ultramarathons — which meant a lot of time running on trails.

While our New Zealand terrain can be dangerous, especially if weather conditions change rapidly, the bush doesn’t offer up a lot of beasties. There are no mountain lions, no snakes and no grumpy bears. Probably, the worst thing a runner is likely to come across is a wētā or two, or maybe a swarm of wasps. Out on the road, you might meet a stray pig dog, or a herd of cows on the way to milking, but I’ve never encountered anything on a bush trail. I was discussing this with some friends while running on a bush trail, and it occurred to me ‘what if there was something?’ and ‘what might that be?’ and the idea for Into the Mist evolved from there. I went home and opened a file which I optimistically called “Global Blockbuster” and that was how the series came about.

By the time I came to write the third book, Into the Ashes, not only did I have a contract to fulfill, readers were hanging out to see what would happen between Taine and Jules and whether Temera would regain his gift for seeing. Again, my inspiration for the third story came entirely from the New Zealand landscape. I was on a road trip with my son and husband and we were passing through the Central Plateau on a spectacularly clear day, and I remember thinking the region would make the perfect backdrop for a story. There were the mountains, the supervolcano, the lakes, the army training grounds, and all the wonderful local legends and mythology associated with the area. Adding to that, one of our greatest fears here in ‘The Shaky Isles’ is a dread of ‘the big one’: a massive volcanic-earthquake event. My mind was racing. Then my son said, “Mum, you should call your book Into the Ashes.” And that was it. The idea was born, and the eventual book became my personal favourite in the series.

I agree that too few adventure-thrillers are set against our local landscape though, and I’m not entirely sure why that is. I suspect those manuscripts exist, but with our local publishing industry’s focus on literary titles, genre authors are having to travel further afield to find homes for their work. As Bilbo Baggins says in Tolkien’s The Hobbit: “We don’t want any adventures here, thank you! You might try over The Hill or across The Water.” Often, New Zealand’s genre writers are published by smaller or foreign presses with smaller publicity budgets, which means our work is less likely to appear in local bookstores and libraries or come to the attention of New Zealand’s reviewers.

Pleasingly, there are signs that the situation is changing. For example, Craig Sisterson’s New Zealand Crime and Mystery Writers’ group is gaining some notice, with its annual Ngaio Marsh Awards showcasing new mystery-thriller works and authors, although the focus remains on real-world procedurals in the vein of Paul Cleave and Vanda Symon. Alan Carter’s Malborough Man is a good example, the novel starring UK detective, Nick Chester, who is forced to relocate to New Zealand after botching an undercover case. Gaining ground in the speculative thriller-adventure arena is Waikato writer Adrian J. Smith, the author of fast-paced New Zealand-based monster adventures in Nicholas Sansbury Smith’s bestselling Extinction world. Smith tells me he is writing an original title which also uses a Kiwi backdrop, so that will be one to watch for. Happily for me, the McKenna military thriller with its strong local focus appears to have filled a neglected niche in the market and its novelty may account, in part, for the series’ success, with Into the Mist and Into the Sounds winning the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novel in 2017 and 2019 respectively.

For part two of our interview with Lee Murray, please click here.

A novel take on desire and longing

This month’s new romance novels have something for everyone, from the outstandingly popular online series After by Anna Todd to Jenny Colgan’s warmth and smiles in The Bookshop on the Shore. We’ve also got a charming new twist on Pride and Prejudice from Uzma Jalaluddin!

From the racy to the retiring, these recent additions to our romance collection are sure to enchant and beguile. Enjoy!

Tell me lies : a novel / Lovering, Carola
“Lucy Albright is far from her Long Island upbringing when she arrives on the campus of her small California college and happy to be hundreds of miles from her mother–whom she’s never forgiven for an act of betrayal in her early teen years. Quickly grasping at her fresh start, Lucy embraces college life and all it has to offer. And then she meets Stephen DeMarco . . .” (Adapted from the catalogue.)

The bookshop on the shore / Colgan, Jenny
“Zoe is a single mother, sinking beneath the waves trying to cope by herself in London. Hari, her gorgeous little boy is perfect in every way – except for the fact that he just doesn’t speak, at all. Then Hari’s aunt suggests Zoe could move to Scotland to help run a bookshop. Going from the lonely city to a small village in the Highlands could be the change Zoe and Hari desperately need.” (Adapted from the catalogue.)

Loving Sylvie / Smither, Elizabeth
“A sensual, witty novel that weaves together the stories of three women, beautifully written by one of our most clever wordsmiths. Elizabeth Smither takes us into the richly imagined worlds of three women, written with such beautifully deft skill as to make them vivid and alive.” (Catalogue.)

Ayesha at last / Jalaluddin, Uzma
“Ayesha  Shamsi has a lot going on. Though she’s lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. When a surprise engagement between Khalid and Ayesha’s cousin Hafsa is announced, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and his family; and the truth she realizes about herself.” (Adapted from the catalogue.)

A love story for bewildered girls / Morgan, Emma
“Grace has a ‘full and interesting life’ – which is code for not married. Her life is the envy of her friends, but all this time she has been waiting in secret for love to hit her so hard that she would run out of breath. When Grace meets a beautiful woman, she falls suddenly and desperately in love. At the same party, lawyer Annie meets the man of her dreams. And across the city, Violet, who is afraid of almost everything, is making another discovery of her own . . .” (Adapted from the catalogue.)

The girl he used to know / Garvis Graves, Tracey
“Annika Rose likes being alone. She feels lost in social situations, saying the wrong thing or acting the wrong way. She just can’t read people. She prefers the quiet solitude of books or playing chess to being around others. Apart from Jonathan. She liked being around him, but she hasn’t seen him for ten years. Until now that is. And she’s not sure he’ll want to see her again after what happened all those years ago. Annika Rose likes being alone. Except that, actually, she doesn’t like being alone at all.” (Catalogue.)

A summer to remember / Moorcroft, Sue
“WHERE? Nelson’s Bar is the perfect little village. Nestled away on the Norfolk coast we can offer you no signal, no Wi-Fi and – most importantly – no problems! WHO? The ideal candidate will be looking for an escape from their cheating scumbag ex-fiancé, a diversion from their entitled cousin, and a break from their traitorous friends. WHAT YOU’LL GET! Accommodation in a chocolate-box cottage, plus a summer filled with blue skies and beachside walks. Oh, and a reunion with the man of your dreams.” (Adapted from the catalogue.)

After / Todd, Anna
“Book One of the After series–the Internet sensation with millions of readers. Tessa didn’t plan on meeting H. during her freshman year of college. But now that she has, her life will never be the same.” (Catalogue.)

Star crossed / Darke, Minnie
“When Justine Carmichael (Sagittarius, aspiring journalist and sceptic) bumps into her old friend Nick Jordan (Aquarius, struggling actor and true believer) it could be by chance. Or it could be written in the stars. Justine works at the Alexandria Park Star – and Nick, she now learns, relies on the magazine’s astrology column to guide him in life. Looking for a way to get Nick’s attention, Justine has the idea of making a few small alterations to ‘Aquarius’ before it goes to print. What harm could it possibly do?” (Adapted from the catalogue.)

Author Interview: Vogel Award-Winning Kura Carpenter!

The Sir Julius Vogel Awards are New Zealand’s annual celebration of home-grown science fiction and fantasy, with awards covering books, dramatic presentations, fan publications and more. One of the most competitive categories is Best New Talent, and this year’s winner was Dunedin-based author Kura Carpenter!

Kura’s debut novel, The Kingfisher’s Debt, tells the story of Tamsin Fairchild, a translator who must team up with rookie cop Scott Gale to investigate the disappearance of a newborn baby. But this is no ordinary crime: beneath familiar New Zealand locations is a world rich in danger–and magic. Vogel Award judges described The Kingfisher’s Debt as “very cleverly set in an urban fantasy world overlaying (or underlying, depending on your perspective) Dunedin, New Zealand. The writing is crisp, the plot excellently designed and executed.”

We contacted Kura to discuss her writing process, the Vogel Awards and what it’s like to be a fantasy writer in New Zealand. For more on her writing check out her website, and for the full Sir Julius Vogel Awards list, click here. Enjoy!

You’ve described The Kingfisher’s Debt as urban fantasy–a genre combining both fantasy and mystery. How did elements of these two genres complement each other in the shaping of the story?

My story follows a typical mystery structure–crime discovered, investigation, clues revealed, case solved–but the world it’s set in is an alternative New Zealand where magic exists, but most regular people don’t encounter it, in much the same way that you don’t know anything about crime unless it directly touches your life.

The crime in my story is connected to the people who deal in magic, I guess maybe that’s what you mean by shape. The mystery and magic are interconnected. Without the magic, there would be no desire to try and steal it.

Reviews of The Kingfisher’s Debt have praised your descriptions of real-life locations–Dunedin’s midwinter darkness and the “80s kitsch of St Clair”. Were there many challenges in bringing this familiar world to the page?

None. Although I was going for a 90s vibe, so I guess I failed.

There has also been a lot of positive feedback about the characters in The Kingfisher’s Debt–their grittiness, unusualness and dialogue. How did the character of Tamsin–and her excellent first person perspective–come about?

She just popped into my head and I wrote down what she said.

I’m an introvert, I feel awkward meeting people, so I talk to myself all the time, practice conversations, that kind of thing. It’s probably the only benefit of anxiety, all the internal practice improves ones writing ability to capture ‘voice’.

Was it difficult to create a story with both past and present timelines? Was there much planning or re-drafting required with this?

No. I don’t plan, I’m a pantser, an intuitive writer, (which often surprises people who assume I must be a strict outliner). I’m just fortunate to have better than normal intuition for pattern and structure.

I’d come across the zipper-structure (alternating timelines) when reading a novel years ago, and after I’d written my first draft I realised that’s what I’d inadvertently created, it just needed some shuffling of scenes to get the timeline straight and make sure the subtext was as I wanted.

It’s always exciting to have a story that includes a library! You’ve previously worked in Dunedin City Library–what was it that drew you to the library as one of the locations in The Kingfisher’s Debt?

Yes. I’m lazy. It was the easiest thing to do, use locations I’m familiar with.

How do you feel about the fantasy writing scene in New Zealand at the moment? How do you think it might develop in the future, especially with WorldCon taking place in New Zealand next year?

That’s a hard one. On the one hand adult-reading level fantasy has been all but deserted by New Zealand’s traditional publishers, not for lack of talent, but because it’s simply not profitable. Talent wise I think the scene is stronger than it ever was. With the rise of self and indie publishing, has come a lot of opportunity.

While in many fields New Zealand punches above its weight internationally, for example film, sport, and even our P.M. is beloved globally, however when it comes to fantasy writing, we haven’t managed to carve out a spot beyond our borders.

Other New Zealand writers who write realist fiction consider what I write to be commercial and appealing to the masses, but because I’m not writing American or U.K. stories my story is actually non-commercial, it only has local appeal. WorldCon will shine a spotlight on us briefly, but the trouble ultimately remains that we’re a small market for telling our own stories, our own brand of fantasy. If we’re going to develop in the future then we must become leaders and not just followers.