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Writer's File

Kirsten McDougall

In brief

Kirsten McDougall is an award-winning novelist, poet, short-story writer and screenwriter based in Wellington. Kirsten has published three books with Te Herenga Waka University Press: She’s a Killer (2021); Tess (2017); and The Invisible Rider (2012), and since 2006 has had numerous short stories, poems and essays published in a variety of publications. Kirsten was the winner of the 2021 Sunday Star Times Short Story competition and currently works as a contract writer and communications specialist.

  • Primary publisher
    Te Herenga Waka University Press (formerly Victoria University Press)
  • Rights enquiries
  • Publicity enquiries

McDougall, Kirsten (1974 - ) is an award-winning novelist, poet, short-story writer and screenwriter with a Masters in Creative Writing from Victoria University. She worked as the Publicity Manager at Te Herenga Waka University Press (formerly Victoria University Press) from 2013-2022, and currently teaches Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters, Te Herenga Waka. Kirsten grew up in Masterton in the Wairarapa and currently resides in Wellington.

Kirsten’s first published book, The Invisible Rider (2012), is a collection of linked short stories about a character named Philip Fetch. Reviewer C P Howe from The Booksellers New Zealand blog, described the book as having ‘plenty of character and style,’ and said he ‘turned the pages of this book with great admiration for the way McDougall has observed so much that is true about people like Philip.’

In 2017, Kirsten published the novella Tess to further critical acclaim. Tess follows the story of the title character, a young woman who is on the run when she meets middle-aged father Lewis Rose and becomes involved in his complicated family dynamics. NZ Booklovers reviewer Petra Stavelli wrote that ‘Through her brilliantly descriptive language Kirsten McDougall deftly weaves a compelling tale of love and loss which effortlessly moves between the past and present’, while Elizabeth Knox’s review stated: ‘A novel of tender observation and deftly judged suspense, Tess imagines what it might mean for someone to really know what goes on inside others.’ Tess was longlisted for the 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards and shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award.

Kirsten’s latest novel, She’s a Killer, was published in 2021. Set in a New Zealand that has become a refuge for wealthy foreigners pushed out of their own countries by the effect of climate change, She’s a Killer follows near-genius Alice as she find herself caught up in the complicated world of eco-terrorism. ‘A claustrophobic eco-thriller with a gloriously unreliable narrator, She’s a Killer is tense and sharp, and feels unnervingly prescient’, wrote Brannavan Gnanalingam, while Greg Fleming from the NZ Listener called it 'Brilliant.'

Kirsten has had poems, essays and short stories published in Headlands, Landfall Magazine and Sport Magazine, had work featured in a number of anthologies, and has had her short story Clean Hands Save Lives made into a short film.

In 2021 Kirsten was the winner of the prestigious Sunday Star Times Short Story competition with her story Walking Day. Other awards include the Michael King Writers Residency (2019), the Louis Johnson Creative NZ Bursary (2013) and the top prize for short fiction at the Long and Short of It competition (2011).


Interview about She's a Killer on RNZ Nine to Noon

Stuff article regarding Kirsten's Sunday Star Times Short Story competition win

Pantograph Punch feature on Kirsten and her novel Tess

Kirsten reads an extract from She's a Killer