Her glitzy gig on Real Housewives of Auckland might have you painting her as a glamorous socialite and reality TV star, but Gilda Kirkpatrick is a highly successful entrepreneur.
As well as being the Creative Director at a digital hot-shop, Gilda is also a successful children’s book author. Having published two astronomy-focused educational books in her series Astarons since giving birth to her boys, Gilda has made it clear that she only signed up for Real Housewives in order to promote her literary line, a highly-successful strategic move by a creative and industrious businesswoman.
We caught up with Gilda, to get the scoop on her books, her business and what she loves to read.
Most Kiwis will know you through your role in RHOAKL, but can you tell us a bit about yourself for our readers who may not have watched the programme?
I was born in Tehran in 1973 (Iran). I was the youngest of two children. My father was in development business and my mother taught mathematics. I had a relatively happy childhood until the start of revolution. It turned my world upside down along with many others. Islamic revolution destabilized the very foundation of our country followed by Iraq’s invasion which led to eight years of a very bloody war.
Looking back I guess it didn’t help that my parents separated at the start of that war which reinforced the idea of broken life. Having dealt with very real impacts out of my own control from an early age encouraged me to be resilient and take control of my own actions. I always wanted to break away from the limitations set by our government and start a life in a country away from religious ideology or a strong political atmosphere.
New Zealand was the ideal haven on the other side of the world. It was beautiful, quiet and safe. I’d always had a passion for the creative industry so studied architecture and completed a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Unitec. For the past eight years I’ve worked in the advertising/marketing industry, and own my own creative/digital agency. I love the fast-paced nature of the business, problem solving and the freedom of constant creativity. I’m a mother of two young boys and recently appeared in the Real Housewives of Auckland.
I firmly believe what children are introduced to at a young age has the potential to change their lives completely. Growing up I’d always had a natural fascination with astrophysics and our solar system. I constantly found myself frustrated with the lack of inspiring educational material to teach our younger generation about outer space, and set myself the challenge to create something that would give them accurate information while entertaining them.
So I set a mission to bridge the gap between education and entertainment in New Zealand. From a young age I read a lot of comic-style books, so felt they would be the right medium to communicate my action/adventure concept Astarons. The visual nature of the illustrations is a great way to reinforce the physical characteristics of our universe and everything in it as well as capturing a young child's imagination.
I started by introducing eight characters - each an avatar of the eight planets in our solar system, each a guardian for their own planet and our solar system. Through the adventures of these characters young readers get to learn all the basic facts/information about our solar system, our galaxy, neighbouring galaxies - all the way to the edge of our universe.
How did being on RHOAKL helped you launch the books?
The series gave me a brilliant platform to connect with a much larger audience, and helped raise my profile as an author/creator. It gave me a platform to grow my social media following, which in turn allowed me connect with parents all over the country to hear their frustrations about the lack of inspirational material out there, and how Astarons has helped their children. I now spend a lot of my time in lower decile schools working with teachers to share the concept to their younger students which is very rewarding.
Are you planning to publish more books for children?
There are currently two books under the Astarons franchise, and I’m currently working on the third book now with my team of writers, illustrators and designers. The first is called Astarons: Cosmic Guardians and the second is called Astarons: Mutiny in the Solar System. Both are available online at www.astarons.com, at all Paper Plus stores throughout the country and selected comic book stores.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I have two young boys so find myself up at first light spending precious time with the kids. I’m currently a creative director at a leading creative/digital agency so office life takes over from there, and we’re working round the clock to grow the business. Keeping the perfect balance between home/office life is important to me. Any spare time I have goes to attending a few social/publicity events.
What do you like to read with your kids?
I read a range of different books with the kids to open their minds. I enjoy more creative or educational books, and a balance of local/international writers.
What sort of books do you like to read for fun?
As above, I’ve always had a love for comics and find myself drawn to them naturally. I also read a lot of biographical material and books about political opinions.
What’s been a stand-out book by a Kiwi author you’ve read lately? What did you love about it?
I loved reading Mansfield and Me by Sarah Laing. It was truly magical and took me through what it would’ve been like growing up in New Zealand from a young age. She’s my age, so I felt a very strong connection to her as an author.
Why do you think it’s important for people to read for pleasure?
I think it’s important for people to switch off in an increasingly digital age. It’s good for people to use their imagination and escape to other worlds.
Do you have any advice for people out there who want to become authors?
Simply follow your dreams. If you believe you have a compelling story to tell, then it’s important to share it with a wider audience. I think it’s also important to do a lot of research as you can never learn enough. Never give up and don’t let others tell you, you can’t do it.