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West, Ella (Karen Trebilcock)
Writer's File

Ella (Karen Trebilcock) West

Otago - Ōtākou
West, Ella (Karen Trebilcock)
In brief

Ella West is the pseudonym of Karen Trebilcock, a writer of young adult fiction. Her first book, Thieves (2006) it is a thriller that revolves around Nicky, a girl who is taken by a sinister group called The Project. Anywhere but Here (2008) and Real Life (2009) are sequels to Thieves. West was awarded the Louis Johnson New Writers’ Bursary in 2006. Her latest Young Adult novel, Night Vision (2014) won the Young Adult section of the LIANZA Awards and was the Young Adult Children’s Choice winner in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. She participates in the Writers in Schools programme and is available to lead Professional Development sessions for teachers.



West, Ella (1967- ) writes novels for young adults under the pseudonym Karen Trebilcock.

Her first book, Thieves (Longacre Press, 2006), is a thriller that revolves around Nicky, a girl who is taken by a sinister group called The Project. Thieves was a finalist in the 2007 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and was listed as a 2007 Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Book. Reviewing Thieves for Magpies, Trevor Agnew called it ‘the best teenage science fiction novel I have read this century', while in the Otago Daily Times, award-winning young adult writer Tania Roxborough declared it an ‘action-packed adventure' which she ‘couldn't put down'.

West was awarded the Louis Johnson New Writers’ Bursary in 2006.

Anywhere but Here (2008) is the sequel to Thieves. The novel was a finalist in the SFFANZ (Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand) Sir Julius Vogel Awards 2009. The third book in the series, Real Life (2009), was intended to be the final book in the trilogy, however, following requests from readers, West is writing a fourth book called Finder Seeker. Chapters of the book can be found on her blog.

In 2014, West's novel Night Vision (Allen and Unwin) was released. The book, which follows the dark story of a girl who witnesses a murder on a Canterbury sheep farm, won the Young Adult Fiction Award at the 2015 LIANZA Children's Book Awards, and also won the YA Children's Choice Award at the 2015 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

Ella West participates in the Writers in Schools programme.

Last updated April 2016.


Ella participates in NZ Book Council's Writers in Schools programme, and is prepared to speak to school children of any age. She will speak to classes of any size regarding topics like writing and the creative process, and is happy to run workshops by prior arrangement, as well as lead Professional Development sessions for teachers.

KAPAI: Kids' Authors Pictures and Information


Where do you live?
Near Mosgiel, the area is called Janefield. It was named by one of the first settlers here in the 1850s – his wife was called Jane and it is also my middle name.

What books do you read?
Lots of children’s books, adult thrillers, everything and anything

Who is your favourite writer?
Writers? In no particular order – Peter Hawes, John Marsden, John le Carre, Janet Frame, Jane Mander, Virginia Woolf, Roald Dahl, Sylvia Plath, E. Annie Proulx.

How do you think up your ideas?
Can I say I don’t know? With Thieves I started with a girl hiding in her closet and then had to explain why she hid there.

What is the best thing about being a writer?
The fun of telling a story and seeing where it takes you.

Primary School students

What sort of pets do you have?

We have a very elderly, deaf cat and chickens which keep getting out into the garden.

What is your favourite colour?

What is your favourite food?
Pizza with olives and salami.

What is your favourite movie?
The James Bond movies, Mission Impossible, Harry Potter movies and Shrek.

What is your favourite game?
My family is rugby mad.

What is the most fun thing about being an author?
I don’t know yet! So far it is all fun.

How do you make books?
It is lots of hard work but also lots of fun. And you don’t have to think it all up at once. You can take ages and ages and then go back and change stuff as well (especially the spelling!).

Where do you go for your holidays?
We try and go somewhere hot every winter (last year it was Samoa – this year it is the Sunshine Coast in Australia) and every summer we plan to explore Central Otago but never get there because it is so nice where we live. Although this summer we have been promised a trip mustering sheep in the Otago high country on horseback – can’t wait.

What was the naughtiest thing you ever did at school?
I once had to stand in the corridor for an English lesson because I had a book of Sam Hunt poetry on my desk.

Secondary School students

How did you get started?
I never really started; I’ve always been writing, in one form or another. I love the craft of writing, how words can be used in so many ways.

Who inspired you when you were getting started?
My characters – I wanted to tell their story.

What advice would you give an aspiring young writer?
People don’t become writers, they just are writers. If you enjoy it enough you will keep writing and one day you have something ready to send to a publisher.

Is it difficult to make a living writing in New Zealand?
Hopefully not! Ask me in five years. But whatever happens, I enjoy my job as a journalist too much to give it up.

What were you like as a teenager?
I tried to give everything a go, was in a rush to do everything and anything I could.

July 2023
July 2023