Saturday, August 28, 2010


Why is it that publishers and booksellers insist on putting books in boxes? Right now, I am reading Mandy Hager's 2nd book in her Blood of the Lamb trilogy (and I'm 45) and my daughter is reading The Blind Assassin (she's 18).

If the publishers and booksellers are to believed, it should be the other way around.

The book I'm most looking forward to reading? Mockingjay by Susan Collins!

So, Banquo's Son has been read and enjoyed by tens of 1000's of people ranging in age from 12 to 80. When I wrote it, I had my senior students in mind (and, I'm a teen at heart) so that's why it 'reads like YA' as some editors have commented.

My response? So what? I read adult books when I was YA (though that term hadn't been invented when I was a teen) and I read YA now (as an adult).

Readers read good books with great stories. Banquo's Son is a great story. Bloodlines is even better.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Banquo's son - judges' report

Below is the full text of the LIANZA judges' report:

At a times when Shakespeare is in danger of disappearing from our school curriculum, Banquo's Son can be credited with doing more to keep his books alive than many other efforts to do so.

Tania Roxborogh takes us through historic Scotland and her story picks up where Macbeth left off. The judges were pleasantly surprised at how readable this historic work proved to be. While it introduced new characters, there were some recognisable ones - it was like coming across an old friend when characters from Macbeth appeared. Tania can be commended on her attention to historic detail and adventurous writing.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Story, story, story

This week, someone whom I admire greatly suggested that perhaps writers who blog would be better advised to refrain and pen the next block buster.

This person is probably right but.... wahhh. Blogging is so much fun!

You see, being a writer (as opposed to being a teacher - which I am as well) means long hours of solitude. Days. Weeks. Months. For me, usually spent staring at my computer screen interspersed with tidying my office, feeding the cat, rearranging the pot plants... (Ok. The last one was an exaggeration. I only have two pot plants and they are both by the kitchen sink so that they are never starved of water!)

But, blogging. Well, blogging is a great place to go after you've just discovered something amazing (in your story, about life, news, non-news, belly-button-type reflection).

*Cough* so, that's my justification because in the past eight days, while I have been 'author' and not 'teacher', I have been overwhelmed with story.

The joys and sorrows of situations which involve close family and friends; stranger kids who have delivered me their lives on a scrap of paper; the (possible) reason why a young woman stands in the light of the entrance to an Auckland city car park, dressed all in black, her legs, arms and torso visible as she waves at passing traffic. The possible pain or joy of the repercussions of a NZ Post truck tipped over on Wellington's southern motorway....

And, the stories from others who have been brave enough to share or hint at their struggles: partners, off-spring, health, employment.

Sigh. Man, things suck sometimes!

Yet, it is not all doom and gloom. Knocking about with storytellers means I've also been awash with tales which have uplifted my soul.

So I will continue to blog about that which impacts on me as writer and not feel guilty that I'm not writing.

Oh, cos I am. Writing. The third book. Don't give me that look. I am! *Tania scuttles back to her study* See. It's all here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Touring and a special arrival

Every time I've been on the Storylines Tour, it's rained. Rain and Auckland and Auckland traffic do not for a good combination mix.

Still, I couldn't have been more pleased to be squashed in an eight-setter van with the dry-witted and tall John Parker, the ageless and generous Gavin Bishop, the erudite and talented James Norcliffe. I also had the privilege of meeting for the first time Melanie Drewery and Sarona Aiono-Iosefa ...... Two picture book writers/illustrators whose work I have admired because of the way they use our stories in such a manner that reflect the lives of so many Samoan/Maori/Pakeha children in New Zealand.
We were paired differently each time (but I didn’t get to hear Melanie *sad face* and I have presented with John before so I didn’t feel so bad.) I loved listening to the others, however, talk to the students about their lives and their work. I loved hearing the others read out their stories. And, I was fully impressed by the manner in which they treated the children: total respect and attention.

However, in the car, the tone sometimes became a bit less respectable. Rosemary Tisdall, the hard working member of Storylines commitee, was our driver and Belynda Smith, children's librarian at Takapuna Library, the navigator.

Despite the six of us being labelled authors, both Rosemary and Belynda contributed their fair share of tales which had us all erupting with raucous laughter.

The schools we visited were amazing and we were treated like royalty. Shout out to Cosgrove Primary, whose teachers and librarian were so enthusiastic and engaged and dedicated to their students; Rosehill Intermediate: attentive and focussed and who asked excellent questions and dear Pukekohe Hill School who had prepped their wee ones so well. What a delightful time we had with you in the last part of the day on a wet Friday.

I wish I had the details of the other schools visited by the other authors (and the Pretty Cool School which gave us a delicious morning tea). Everyone had such a wonderful time.

Getting back to central Auckland from Pukekohe in the rain was a bit of a trial made easier by the storytelling. I even reverted to a haiku or two.

Oh, and by the way, the advance copy of Bloodlines made its way into my hands tonight: OMG SQUEEEEEEEEE

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

No rest for the wicked

Back to school today - what a relief - but am about to climb onto a plane tomorrow night (Thursday night) to go to Auckland for three days of whirling around the district for Storylines.

Friday sees me and a couple of other writers/illustrators in south Auckland schools for the day and Saturday doing a workshop out west Auckland.

Sunday is the BIG DAY. Just thinking about it makes me want to go and have a nice lie down but those who have been organising this have no such luxury.

I expect some of the committee will be up into the wee small hours ensuring that there are enough paper plates for the pigs noses (Piggerty Wiggerty) and face paint (decorate in your favourite character) to last the distance.

My job on the day? At 10.00am I will be talking about how I came to be what I am - a writer who also teachers English and also tries to be a parent and how the whole Banquo's Son trilogy came into being.

Later in the day, I will be involved in the pronouncement of the Puffin short story awards.

In between, I'll be signing at the wonderful Jabberwocky children's book store stand and reading at Borders Bookstore. I hope I don't have happen what happened to an author last Sunday, in Wellington, during the Storylines festival:

Sales assistant: Yes, can I help you?
Author: I'm here to sign books.
Assistant: And you are...?
Author: [insert name]
Assistant (who frowns): Um, I don't think we have any of yours books
*OK, you need to know that THIS bookseller was given a list of the authors who would be 'signing' WEEKS before the event!*
Assistant: We don't have any of your books.[pause] Actually, we never have any of your books.'
Cue: author walking off with her minder.

I just want to give a little plug to the bookshops I've personally enjoyed shopping in over the years: the wonderful Children's Book shop in Wellington and Christchurch; to the Unity and University Bookshops; to the educational bookshops like Abacus on the North Shore in Auckland and Storytime Books in Whangarei. The Womens' Book shop as well. Shops where the sellers get to choose the books they want to have in their store and have sales assistants who actually understand (and read) books and can help their customers. There are also a few chain stores I've appreciated too who are so supportive of local writers: stores in Takapuna and here in Dunedin

New Zealand has a stable of the most amazingly talented writers and illustrators in the world. We have Joy Cowley and Margaret Mahy and Lynley Dodd. Fleur Beale and David Hill and Jack Lasenby. Relatively new-commers in comparison like Vince Ford, Brian Falkner, Mandy Hager and Anna Mackenzie. New Zealanders authors and illustators don’t waste time with mediocre stuff. I could add heaps more names (even my own) but I suggest you go to The New Zealand Book Council website to see the rest.
New Zealand authors and illustrators would love to see more of their books being sold in the bigger stores but I guess that's the dream of every writer/artist because books on shelves increases the chance of books selling which increases the royalty amount.
Just saying.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Post awards....

[apologies for the original post being full of typos – exhausted and distracted writer wrote it. Hopefully, the following is error free.]

Wow, what a day and night. My email in box has been flooded with congratulations from friends, students, past students and colleagues from around New Zealand and around the world. And, the posts on the blog, facebook and the txt messages have poured in. Not to mention the welcome home committee: my dear friend Jo (her presence a surprise) with a beautiful posy of flowers and coming home to a excellent 'basket' of goodies from my publisher (Penguin New Zealand). Heh Heh. Someone knows me: cheese, chocolate, crackers, cheese, chocolate, crackers - all varying kinds - and a sweet bucket of flowers.

Anyway, let me just rewind a bit and paint the picture of my four days in Wellington and the prelude to the LIANZA awards evening:

I arrived Saturday morning and was picked up by the ever talented and ageless beauty who is Fifi Colston. She scooped me into her wee car and off we went to run errands and do things critical for the following day’s Storylines Festival.

I met her god of a husband (hi Adrian!) and then we went to a baby shower for the hard working and wonderful Sarah from The New Zealand Book Council before heading off to Dr Sketchies - a place artists go to, well, draw life models. I drew and drew and despaired. Even though there was one I did which I loved, this is not the place to show you my illustration. Fifi won an award that night.

Sunday: Storylines, Wellington. What can be the only result when you've got kids, a rainy day, crayons and paints and glue and scissors and cardboard and authors and illustrators? A bloody brilliant experience.

Later, many of us met up at a cafe and chattered. I am delighted that I got to spend time getting to know an author I admired hugely: Des Hunt. And, I loved catching up Ruth Paul and David Elliot.

Well done Wellington team!

Monday: I meet up with the intelligent and wonderful Linda Burgess. A couple of decades ago, when I had to 'go be a teacher for a day' before I applied for teachers' college, I had the privilege of spending time with Linda. She told me then and told me later that she saw the amazing potential in me as an educator. We’ve kept in sporadic touch over the years and came together again in the mid 2000s because of a shared experience and I have enjoyed our intermittent correspondence (often via txt).

Then, I met my friend and much admired author, Fleur Beale and we had lunch at the gardens. We discussed the awards evening happening in a few hours and I told her that I wasn't even considering the possibility of a win. If I was a judge, I wouldn't select me, I said. (but then I can never see my work like others can!)

Kyle Mewburn and his wife arrived (what a writery filled house it was going to be!)

So it was that Fifi and hubby (hey Adrian), Kyle and wifey (hey Marion) made our way to the venue. The only blimp was trucking up to the entrance to discover they could not find my name on the list. 'I'm one of the finalist,' I said, embarrassed that my tone was a bit hard. Nup. Wasn't there. In the end, I took a pen and wrote my name on a sticky on label.

In my heart I thought: this is the story of my life - I am billy no mates even when I'm supposed to be someone special. Still, others had the same problem and it seemed that the combination of the pour light over the table which housed the list and the tiny font meant there were a few 'moments'.

Today I received an email from one of those at the door explaining what happened and I am ashamed at my own haughty attitude at that time. I guess I didn't follow my own advice to my children which is: at all times, whenever and wherever it is possible, behave with 'grace and good discipline' (Columba College motto). ‘A harsh word stirs up anger but a kind word evaporates wrath’ (The Bible).
The event held at the cool Caffe L'Affare in Wellington. Just an aside: OMG the finger food was divine. We (as in authors and illustrators) have all commented on how scrumptious was the finger food.

It was a fantastic night. I was so impressed how the judges told the gathered audience how wonderful they thought each entry was and were specific. Warm fuzzies for everyone.

Then it was the YA award and, yeah, I won. Actually I was so not expecting it and I was busy filming for the other others that dear Maureen Crisp had to hit me and take over the filming.

How did I feel?

Hot and cold washed over my entire body. Fleur tells me that I looked shocked (cos I was) and then I burst into tears. I was NOT prepared for what I needed to do which was to trot up, accept my gift with a quaint (but short) speech and move off. Me, I got up there still feckin blubbering and made some note about being lost for words and I think I thanked someone and then declared that at least one of my daughters should now read my book.

Thank you, LIANZA. These awards validate us. These awards make it worthwhile (even to be shortlisted). Thank you and thankyou for your time and effort because it makes us want to try harder next year.

Loved last night.

I’m still smiling (especially as the Air New Zealand pilot told all on the plane of my success!) whoop

*here. Come close. Hrummp. Never, ever doubt a librarian - they know stuff. We think they have magic powers - but don't tell!

K. Tomorrow I'm back to tending my lambs.

See you soon

Banquo's Son wins award!

Press release: LIANZA presented its inaugural Young Adult Award to Tania Roxborogh, a Dunedin based writer, for Banquo’s Son (Penguin Group NZ). All the entries in this category were of a very high caliber and endorsed the introduction for this new award.

The judges were delighted with this historic and adventurous novel set in Scotland in the years after MacBeth’s rule, making Shakespeare accessible to readers who might not always be so intrigued. “While the novel introduced new characters, there were some recognisable ones – it was like coming across an old friend when characters from MacBeth appeared.”

So what did I do? I cried. I was speechless (soooo not like me). I was overwhelmed and delighted and honoured and stunned.

When I've come down to earth, I'll write up a brief account of the evening.

Being shorlisted for both this and the NZ Post awards has been a huge honour especially considering the amazing quality of work from the finalists AND the potential finalists. To win an award was beyond my expectations but has been a lovely acknowledgment of all the hard work I have put in over the years as a writer - not to mention my crew at Penguin who have supported me so much with this project.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Banquo's Son: a reader responds

So, how many authors out there actually face, day to day, their audience? How many authors walk into their place of work (mine, my classroom) to be accosted by comments like I've received from young 15 year old Charlotte?

‘Mrs Roxborogh, am I going to hate you?’

Me: why?

‘Someone's told me that someone really important dies. It better not be [name].’

I say: I'm not saying a thing.

Charlotte shakes her finger at me. 'Don't make me angry with you!'

The next day, I show them the promo to Bloodlines. Charlotte, who is reading Banquo's Son, huffs and puffs during the screening and then turns to me. 'I can't believe you! How could you? I hate you!'

I suppose, normally, a teacher would be alarmed by such sentiments but it seems the strength of my story has moved her to declare passionately her position.

And then, the next day, she's read more and trucks on in, chirpy as, telling me she's delighted to learn the William is Macduff. Something must have registered on my face because she turns on me: 'don't tell me you've.../ Oh My God. Stop getting rid of the best characters!

All I say is: I love Macduff.

She says, eyeing me suspiciously. 'He's cool.' And then sits at her desk to continue with her NCEA internal.

Looks are passed around the class and to me. About a quarter have read Banquo's Son and know what happens.

Me? I'm onto the third book.
Charlotte? She's annoyed at Rosie. She's in love with Duncan. She's now suspicious of me as a story teller.

Thank goodness she still trusts me as her English teacher, what with me killing off some characters she's come to love!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sudden death

I have to think very carefully about the choice to kill off a character. It has to be essential to plot or character development.

But, just yesterday, we recieved a phone call from a dear friend whose husband died suddenly.

No plot device there. No rhyme nor reason.

I cannot imagine the pain my friend is going through right now and if my tears are an inkling then hers are manifold.

Not a sword nr a bomb. But a quiet silent killer. The common cold.

From today, I take the shock and pain of this event and put it in my tool box as I navigate through the novel where people die. I will not be so glib as I may have been on Friday. I will tred carefully and I will think about Denis and his irreveant and quirky Virginian self.

R.I.P Dennis Skeens.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The weather is crap

It's feekin cold. It's raining and sleeting and probably snowing somewhere in central. The fire's been on (Yes, Jo! ON!!) since 10am. The dogs are bored. The husband is trying to write an essay.

Me. I'm smokin! Heh. First chapter of Birthright. I can see it, feel it, smell it. I can sense the tension and the agendas and the anxiety.

I'm in love with my book at this time. Maybe in a week I'll hate it but this time, like the first time, I know EXACTLY where I'm going and what is going to happen.

I just love my characters: Flea, Rachel, Rosie, Blair, Henri, dear sweet Charissa, frail Firth, Ross and Lennox and silent Caithness. The bishop and his issues.

For today (to quote the neverending dancing toys) I am content.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

T.K. Roxborogh website

If you are interested in the process of how my website was created, go here to read about Jessica Napper's account of her experiences creating my fabulous website.

Monday, August 2, 2010


The second in the trilogy will be launched in Dunedin 22nd of September and the book available from the 1st of October.

Apparently, it's a very good read. Apparently, it's acutally better than Banquo's Son. I say: it better be cos it's caused blood, sweat and tears, for the author, the agent and the publisher!

Tis a funny thing the whole writing and publishing expectations. Bloodlines is to be published in a few weeks and I'm focussed on the final in the trilogy, Birthright.

This third book is kick ass, light my fire, OMG, kind of story. We are so excited: we being publisher, agent, author and babes.

Seriously, last night I drafted out the chapter summaries and oh oh oh squee, it is going to be knock yer socks off kinda stuff. Yeee HAAAA.

though,sadly no one will care because there is such a time lag.

Good friends: enjoy Bloodlines in a few weeks and look forward to the final installment of the trilogy, knowing that, one day, it will be a film with international appeal and you saw it here first!