Welcome to the first in a series of pieces we’re running as part of ReadNZ, which is a campaign to get more of us reading books written by New Zealanders.
Think of any type of storytelling, and there’ll be a New Zealander who is good at it.
We produce a huge range of fantastic books here in Aotearoa, and we want to help readers find something new to them!
Aucklander Nalini Singh is a paranormal romance writer. Her books have been translated into more than 20 languages and have consistently appeared on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists since 2009.
Her first romance, 'Desert Warrior,' was published in 2003 and since then, she has had over two dozen novels published, including those in the internationally-popular Psy/Changeling and Guild Hunter series.
The latest novel in the Psy/Changeling Trinity series, 'Ocean Light', will be released in June this year.
The Book Council talked to Nalini to find out more about the genre of romance writing in Aotearoa. What sets New Zealand romance apart? And which New Zealand writers does she admire?
Kia ora Nalini! In your opinion, is there anything that sets NZ romance writing apart?
Romance as a genre is very broad and diverse, and so are New Zealand romance writers. We write everything from romantic suspense, historicals, paranormal romances, contemporary stories and more. So rather than bringing it down to one thing that sets us apart, I'd say we're each unique in our own way, with our own writing voices. If one New Zealand romance author doesn't work for you, another very well might.
What makes a really good romance novel?
Often, romance is criticised for having a happy ending, but that's simple a genre convention - like solving the mystery at the end of a mystery novel, or completing the quest at the end of an adventure novel, or coming to a realisation about the self in a book that explores an individual's place in the world. The actual reason we read romances is for the emotional journey - how the characters get to their happy ever after (HEA). Because every romance is different. Look around your own circle of family and friends; there are no identical romances and no identical happy ever afters.
The very best romances capture your heart and make that emotional journey a delight - in some books, the journey is a sad and heartbreaking one, while in other books, it's sweet and bright. But whatever tone the author chooses, its their job to make you want to go along with these characters and their fall into love.
Can you tell us about some New Zealand romance writers (or books) you admire, and why?
Daphne Clair, Susan Napier, and Robyn Donald are three writers who've had a profound impact on my own career. These ladies were published long before I wrote my first book - I remember reading their books as a younger teenager. Together, Daphne, Susan, and Robyn have undoubtedly sold tens of millions of copies around the world in a gazillion languages. They have fans who've traveled to New Zealand solely because of reading about the country in their books.
Yet when I met them as an aspiring romance writer, they were incredibly kind and giving - and they continue to be so. Not only that, but their mere presence was so affirming. It told me that it was possible to be published worldwide while based in New Zealand. Last but never least: they're all fantastic writers who tell brilliant stories, and who have broken all kinds of boundaries over the decades of their careers. Daphne, for example, wrote one of the first category romances that dealt with the topic of infidelity in a marriage.
Karina Bliss is a friend and a writer of gorgeous tales that feature characters that feel so very real. I want to shake some of them because they're so aggravating (especially one particular fallen-from-grace rock star hero), but I can't stop reading anyway!
Yvonne Lindsay is another friend and one who always comes up with the most genius ways of (emotionally) torturing her poor characters! Happy ever afters have to be earned, after all, and she makes her characters work very hard for theirs. But oh, it's worth it.
Lucy Parker is a young writer whose romances set in the London theatre world have me laughing, crying, and just addicted. I can't wait to see what she'll come up with next.
And gosh, there are so many more. We have a huge wealth of romance writing talent in New Zealand. I could keep going on and on!
What is like to be a writer in NZ?
I think it depends on what kind of a writer you are. Speaking only of the romance writing community, the first thing I'll say is that we're incredibly tight. There are something like 300 members of Romance Writers of NZ, and while we don't all know each other, we sure do try! We have our own community and it's a vibrant one. Plus it's a switched-on one that's very aware of worldwide changes in publishing - most of us are connected with colleagues around the world.
I'll also say that we're a very welcoming group. We have writers within the group who are hugely successful self-publishers. We have folk published with various publishers in paperback, ebook, hardcover, and audio. And we have people doing a little of both. All of whom are cheered on and all of whom are supported. I love this about Kiwi romance writers - and if there's a writer out there in the wild who'd like to join us, please know you'll be welcomed into a thriving and strong writing tribe. I walked into my first ever RWNZ Conference alone and ended up meeting some of my best friends.
On an individual basis, I love living and writing in New Zealand. We have a beautiful country that feeds my heart, and the internet has opened up the publishing world. No more hauling a manuscript to the post office! And it's wonderful how the internet also allows me to reach my readers, no matter where they might be based. It's a great time to be a writer in New Zealand.
Find out more about Nalini on her wbsite.