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Dawe, Ted
Writer's File

Ted Dawe

Auckland - Tāmaki Makaurau
Dawe, Ted
In brief
Ted Dawe writes fiction for young adults. He has worked over the years as an insurance clerk, store man, builder's labourer and fitter's mate, and flown hot air balloons over Hyde Park. He's also been a university student, world traveller, high school teacher, and English language teacher. His first novel Thunder Road won both the Young Adult Fiction section and the Best First Book award at the 2004 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children & Young Adults. His award-winning prequel novel, Into the River was subject to an interim restriction order in New Zealand by the Film and Literature Board between September and October 2015, but was eventually reclassified as 'unrestricted'.


Dawe, Ted (1950 -) writes fiction for young adults.

As the child of school teachers, Ted Dawe moved around frequently and lived in places that ranged from Mangakino to Invercargill. In his early years at Ruatoria, he learned Māori from an elderly couple who looked after him while his parents taught.

He has worked over the years as an insurance clerk, storeman, builder's labourer and fitter's mate, and flown hot air balloons over Hyde Park; he's been a university student, world traveller and high school teacher. Currently he is the Director of Studies at Taylors College, a foundation college for overseas students hoping to gain entry into New Zealand's university system. 'It's a neat job,' Dawe says. With his wife and teenage son - he also has two adult children - Ted Dawe is renovating their Auckland home. 'I'm more a carpenter than a cabinet-maker - I do the big stuff.'

Ted Dawe enjoys travel, surfing, and tennis. He loves cars, car people, and motorcycles, although he confesses to currently riding a motor-scooter to work. In later years, Dawe's early immersion in Māori culture reasserted itself, and he felt compelled to go back to the marae and to relearn the language. With friend and mentor Niko Tangaroa, Dawe has made two trips down the Whanganui River in waka, and taken part in the controversial occupation of the Moutoa Gardens.

Dawe's young adult novel Thunder Road (2003) won the young adult fiction category at the 2004 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children & Young Adults. He also won the 'Best First Book' Award. Of Thunder Road, Dawe says it took him 40 days one summer to write, and although it came out in a rush, the story had been mulling for some time in his head. David Larsen, in the New Zealand Herald, writes that ‘a combination of fast-paced plotting and terse, punchy prose should guarantee this [novel] a substantial adult readership, but its real appeal will be to teenagers.’ Larsen also writes that the novel is ‘a strikingly impressive debut.’ Dawe describes his own book as ‘plot-driven stories that aim to give the young adult reader all the rewards that adult readers get from a well-written book, with a concerted effort to avoid moralising and finger-wagging.’ The work was also listed as a 2004 Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Book.

Dawe’s earlier publications include contributions to the Education Department Publications and as an editor of Telling it True: A Collection of Student Writing. 2005 saw the launch of the Urban imprint with his gritty and moving cross-over novel for young adults, K Road (Longacre Press, 2005). And Did Those Feet..., a junior fiction novel was published in November 2006 and was a finalist at the 2007 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. The work was also included in the 2007 Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Book list.

Captain Sailor Bird and Other Stories was published in 2007 by Pearsons. In this book of short stories, Dawe has created distinct narrators for each story, each one telling the story in their own characteristic voice. In showing how a story is influenced by a character's voice, students are able to understand something about the writing process.

Dawe's novel for young adult readers Into the River was published by Mangakino University Press in 2012. It is a prequel to the award-winning Thunder Road. Into the River won the inaugural NZ Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year award in the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards, as well as the Young Adult Fiction category of the awards.

In 2014 he was a recipient of NZSA’s Waitangi Day Fellowship Awards, given for outstanding achievement in literary endeavour.

In September 2015, Into the River was subject to an interim restriction ban in New Zealand from the Film and Literature Board of Review, making it a crime to supply, display or distribute the award-winning book in Aotearoa. The ban was the first to be implemented since the current law was passed 22 years ago.

On Wednesday 14 October 2015, the Board of Review reclassified the book as 'unrestricted', enabling free access to the text in New Zealand.

Into the World was published 15 March 2016. This is the second book in the proposed ‘Devon Santos trilogy.’ This book was published by Mangakino University Press and picks up the narrative directly at the end Into the River, taking it through to the events depicted in Thunder Road.

Answering to the Caul, published in September 2020, was a crossover novel. Based on the lore surrounding babies born in a caul, it explores how tradition and folklore shape a character’s destiny. It examines how the disruptive power of coincidence plays a major role in determining a person’s belief system.


Penguin Books profile page
Interview with Michele Hewitson, NZ Herald
Stuff article on the lifting of the interim restriction order for Into the River
Interview with Read NZ: Answering the Caul