Roxborogh, Tania

Roxborogh, Tania



In Brief

Tania Roxborogh is a children's writer whose works range from teaching resources to gritty young adult novels. Roxborogh has worked as a high school English and drama teacher since 1989, and her first published work was a drama handbook. Her stories for young adults deal with the anxieties and problems of teenagers in an engaging, realistic manner. In 2006, she was a Writer in Residence at the Dunedin College of Education. She reviews young adult books for the Otago Daily Times. Most recently, she won the Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction at the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults for her book My New Zealand Story: Bastion Point (Scholastic, 2017).

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Bloodlines cover


Roxborogh, Tania (1965 - ) is a children's writer whose works range from gritty young adult novels to Fifteen Minute Shakespeare. Roxborogh teaches English full-time at Columba College and reviews Young Adults books for the Otago Daily Times.

Born in Christchurch, Roxborogh moved town many times as a child, attending the first of seven schools in Te Puke. 'I have a very clear picture of the two teachers there,' she writes. 'One who was lovely and taught us all sorts of wonderful things and an old bag who strapped me for taking a pencil. I decided then that I was going to be a teacher and be like the nice one and definitely not like the old bag.'

Educated at Massey University and the Auckland College of Education, Roxborogh has worked as a high school English and drama teacher since 1989. Her first published book was a drama handbook, Performing With Purpose (1996).

Roxborogh's other teaching resources are Fifteen Minute Shakespeare (1997); Three Funny Plays (1997); Twenty Minute Shakespeare (1998); Three Spooky Plays (1999); English Basics (1999); and More English Basics (2000).

The inspiration for her first novel for young readers, If I Could Tell You (1997) came when Roxborogh was pregnant with her first child. 'I wondered what she would think of me if I should die and she read my journals.'

Roxborogh's stories deal with the anxieties and problems of teenagers in an engaging, realistic manner. Her characters are far from squeaky clean, but she doesn't glamorise their high-risk behaviour.

Runaway (1998) follows a thirteen year old boy who escapes from his latest foster home to look for his distantly remembered father. Grit (1998) tells the dramatic story of Sophie who must go for help after a car she is riding in crashes on a remote Northland road.

The protagonist of Compulsion (1999) turns to alcohol and drugs when he faces the troubled realities of his sixteen-year-old existence.

Tania Roxborogh is available for school visits as part of the Book Councils Writers in Schools programme.

Roxborogh had three titles published in 2002; Whispers, Limelight and The Ring. Third Degree was published by Longacre Press in 2005. Fat Like Me, an autobiography of her 10 year battle with obesity, was published by Penguin in 2005.

In 2006, Roxborogh was a Writer in Residence at the Dunedin College of Education.

No, it’s Not Okay (Penguin, 2007) tackles the issue of bullying – offering strategies for parents and caregivers in tackling bullying – whether it’s your child being bullied or your child is a bully. Kids Behaving Bravely (Penguin, 2008) is about building a resilient child and hopes to offer parents ways through life’s tricky moments. . .

Space Gum (Longacre Press, 2008) is a children’s novel. Carl just doesn't get it - he's always in Mum's bad books. If only she could lighten up and see the humour in the practical jokes he and Dad play on one another. From eggs to toilet seats, nothing's sacred when they're dreaming up pranks. But Carl's world is turned upside down when his father introduces him to an elusive ex-NASA scientist, who gives Carl a peculiar gift - one that contains a secret. What does Carl have that could possibly be so valuable? Who is responsible for the break-ins? Where have the two strangers taken Dad in the black van, and is he safe? Carl summons all his intelligence and inventiveness to unravel the mystery. A page-turning novel about science and subterfuge and one boys problem-solving skills put to the test.

Young Adult novel Banquo's Son (Penguin NZ) was published in 2010. The first in a trilogy, Banquo's Son tells the story of Fleance, the boy who escaped murder by Shakespeare's Macbeth. Though set in the 11th century, the love affairs and intrigue of Roxborogh's novel appeals to all ages. Banquo's Son was listed as a 2010 Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Book. The work was also a finalist in the young adult fiction category of the 2010 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and won the inaugural YA award at the 2010 LIANZA Book Awards.

The second book in the series is Bloodlines (Penguin NZ, 2010), the narrative of which further develops Fleance's struggle between duty and love. Bloodlines was shortlisted for the 2011 LIANZA Book Awards. Ending the trilogy is Birthright (Penguin NZ, 2013), which explores the unrest that lingers even after Fleance has married and ascended to the throne of Scotland. Will the rebellion simmer, or will it culminate in the greatest battle the nation has ever seen? Birthright, along with the other two titles in the series, was awarded a 2014 Storylines Notable Book Award.

The trilogy has since been republished by UK publisher Thomas & Mercer under the name A Crown of Blood and Honour.

Roxborogh won the Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction with her most recent novel My New Zealand Story: Bastion Point (Scholastic, 2017). The judges praised the book for its deft and sensitive touch. “Race relations in the 1970s are revealed to the reader through the eyes and heart of a young Māori girl wondering what is wrong with the grown-up world around her. Here the true craft of Tania Roxborogh’s writing is revealed. We can wonder with her.”


Tania Roxborogh is available to talk to students from Year 5 upwards, discussing anything. She is prepared to run workshops. She will speak to large groups for sessions of 45-50 minutes. She is prepared to travel out of town for Writers in Schools visits.

KAPAI: Kids’ Authors Pictures and Information


Where do you live?

I used to live on Auckland’s North Shore, New Zealand. We were close to the beach with our house is nestled in a quiet cul de sac with lots of bush (especially good for hunting lions and tigers and bears!) or playing spotlight. Now, after half a year living in Dunedin we loved it so much we bought a house and 2007 sees the whole family living in Otago.

What sorts of books do you like to read?

Mostly children’s books eg. Fleur Beale, David Hill, Tessa Duder, etc. I read what my daughters read so I can keep up with them. Fantasy is hard for me cos intelligent people read Fantasy and I don’t think I’m that clever.

Do you have a favourite author?

I don’t have a favourite, but I will always grab a new book by any of the above and any New Zealand author.

How do you think up your ideas?

Something usually happens around me and I go ‘Oh, I wonder what happen if’

What is the best thing about being an author?

People saying – I’ve read your/that book! I loved it.

Some questions from Primary School students:

Do you have any pets?

Two cats – one tabby and one fluffy. Two border collies – boy and girl.

Do you have a favourite colour?


Do you have a favourite food?


Do you have a favourite movie?

Hmmmm? I love movies, but I forget them. I know I liked The Shawshank Redemption and Cinderella.

What is the most fun thing about being an author?

Getting letters from people and writing funny bits.

How do you make books?

I type them into my computer and send them to my publisher who prints them and sends them to a printer.

Where do you like to go on your holidays?

Somewhere different every year. We’ve been to Wellington, Napier/Hastings, Kai Iwi Lakes, Queenstown, Rotorua – anywhere New Zealand.

What was the naughtiest thing you ever did at school?

I was very naughty at school and used to get into a lot of trouble. I wrote a mean letter to a teacher once who growled at my best friend. It made the teacher really sad and I felt terrible.

Some questions from Secondary School students:

How did you get started?

My first books were drama books.

Who inspired you when you were getting started?

A group of friends who also wanted to be writers, we read our work to each other and discussed our storylines – it was very helpful.

What advice would you give an aspiring young writer?

I got given this advice and I hated it, but it’s true: read; write a lot; and give your work time to settle and then go back and edit out the unnecessary stuff.

Is it difficult to make a living writing in New Zealand?

Yes. I don’t make a living from my writing. I teach as well.

What were you like as a teenager?

Very, very naughty, too naughty to describe here. Read some of my novels to get an idea of my behaviour.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself?

People often ask me why I write swear words into my stories. It’s not my fault, I say. These characters have minds of their own and sometimes they get into situations where they can’t help themselves. After all, when you’re in a spot of bother, these words can just pop out can’t they.

I also get asked if my stories are autobiographical. To some extent they are in that a lot of what I write has happened to me or to people I know. For example going through the wind screen of a car (see Runaway), using the wrong ingredients in cooking which made everyone fart (see Whispers) or sneaking onto the Inter-islander Ferry.


  • Tania has a great website and if you email her directly she also has teacher resources available for her books

Updated October 2017.