Steph Matuku is a novelist, playwright, freelance writer and mother of two, born in Kaitaia and from Taranaki. Steph began her writing success with a children’s play called A Story of Rona, and since then has published two books, Flight of the Fantail and Whetū Toa and the Magician. Flight of the Fantail was the product of Steph’s time in the Te Papa Tupu writing program, and was published alongside Whetū Toa and the Magician through Huia Publishing. Steph is dedicated to putting Māori children on the page.
Matuku, Steph (1973 - ) is a novelist, playwright, freelance writer and mother of two, born in Kaitaia and from Taranaki. She worked in radio advertising for 15 years before moving on to write her own projects. In an interview with E-Tangata, Steph says that she was inspired to write her own play after seeing a Roger Hall piece in Wellington. This eventually led to her writing A Story of Rona, which won its category in a Playmarket competition. In 2016 she wrote the script for A Bro’s Life, a 48 hour film festival entry that won the Taranaki regional category.
After A Story of Rona won, Steph applied for Te Papa Tupu, a writing program by Māori Literature Trust and Huia Publishing. Te Papa Tupu allows Māori writers in Aotearoa spend 6 months working alongside a mentor, workshopping and visiting writing festivals to ultimately produce a publishable manuscript. Steph was mentored by Whiti Hereaka. During this time, she worked on her Young Adult novel, Flight of the Fantail, and at the end of the programme, she submitted it to Huia Publishing.
Steph now resides back in Taranaki and in October 2018 made her debut in novel writing by publishing not one, but two books with Huia Publishers. Through her writing she is making sure that Māori children are featured on the pages of New Zealand literature, something that wasn’t there for her as she grew up. When discussing the trend of Māori people being represented as warriors and gang members in fiction, Steph said, “I want to be really clear that I don’t want to take anything away from those stories. They are valid and are fabulous in themselves. I just think it’s important to remember that there are other stories as well, that perhaps aren’t getting the same kind of recognition because they’re not in that style. When was the last rom-com you read by a Māori writer about Māori girls? Like, when? Never.”
In 2018, Huia published Flight of the Fantail, along with Steph’s other project, Whetū Toa and the Magician, a shorter book aimed at younger readers.
Steph’s Huia Publishing page
Updated August 2019.