Fan girl squee – meet one of my fave authors!

As part of NZ Book Month celebrations here in Christchurch, we have very cleverly managed to organise a couple of visits by Karen Healey, one of my most favouritest authors ever.

I came across Karen’s first book Guardian of the Dead purely by accident. Sifting through a pile of new books some years ago, I found a cover that I really liked, and put it on my desk. It was only when I took the book home and started to read, that I found that it was a local book, by a local author, and set in and around my very own Christchurch. Jam-packed full of excitement, mystery, magic and Maori myth, it kept me riveted till the very end. I loved the way Karen had blended European and Maori history, literature and legend, and had set the book in a Christchurch that was absolutely recognisable.  Her second book, The Shattering, followed a year later, and was just as good a read.

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of Karen’s third book When We Wake. I took it home and devoured it in one sitting. It’s the story of Tegan, 16 years old and living in Melbourne in 2027. She goes to a political rally, is caught in an assassination attempt and shot, and wakes to find that she’s become the first person to be cryogenically frozen and revived. It’s 100 years in the future, Tegan has lost everyone and everything from her former life, and things in the future aren’t as rosy as they should be. In fact, they seem to be worse than they were when Tegan was alive the first time round.

Karen HealeyYou can come and meet Karen Healey and hear her talk about her books and writing as part of New Zealand Book Month celebrations.  She’ll be at Upper Riccarton Library on Tuesday 12 March at 5pm (with pizza for tea!), and at Central Library Tuam on Thursday 28 March, also at 5pm.  Bring a copy of her book/s with you, and she may even sign them for you!

If you want to read more about Karen, try her website. Read our 2010 interview.

Karen Healey – Mistress of Supernatural New Zealand

I confess to not having read a lot of supernatural themed novels, I’m more of a sci-fi nut, but I may have been turned. Maybe not to the ‘dark side’, but definitely to the side of myths and supernatural beings.

Karen Healey’s debut work, Guardian of the Dead,  is a powerful Young Adult novel set in a Christchurch that is decidedly modern and familiar but surprising twists and turns in the story transform the Garden City into a place not quite as we know it.

As main character Ellie says in the book:

In less than a day I had been harrassed, enchanted, shouted at, cried on, and clawed. I’d been cold, scared, dirty, exhausted, hungry and miserable. And up until now, I’d been mildly impressed with my ability to cope.”

Karen has deftly woven Maori mythology, creation stories and creatures definitely more out to be your ‘beastie’ than your ‘bestie’ together with a story of teenage love and friendship, triumph of self doubt and in-your-face terror.

I’m not sure I’ll ever look at Riccarton Bush the same way again and will definitely not venture there after dark!

Karen now lives and works in Melbourne, but spent time in Christchurch and at Canterbury University, where some of story is set.

I read it in anticipation of hearing Karen speak at the The  Press Christchurch Writers Festival, but when this was sadly cancelled due to the earthquake, we decided to ask for an interview. She was very obliging, despite suffering the writer’s curse – RSI.

She is working on a new novel, due out next year called The Shattering. Her blog says that ‘the shattering’ happens to the peace of the little fictional West Coast town of Summerton, mental stability, families and bones. “You know, my usual,” she says.

I look forward to its arrival, and in the meantime, check out her interview, and her fun website and blog, that are filled with great insights and wry humour for readers and inspiring writers of all ages. I especially liked her week in food, where she photographed her dinners every day for week and put them on her site – to show what fuels the writer’s brain.