The author wins gold with the publication of his first novel

A passion and a dream come together in the form of a book.

For Alexandra author Sophie Rogers, seeing her first novel Nightshades and Paperwhites on the shelves of the local Paper Plus is “pretty surreal”.

A labor of love, the book took eight years to put together, inspired by a New Zealand high school history project about the experiences of Chinese gold miners in Otago.

“Some of the things I found, I was really stunned and thought, ‘I have to do something with this,'” she said.

She then studied history at the University of Otago and quickly realized that she wanted to dig deeper into stories.

“I wanted to tell a story that ordinary people could understand. I really hate it when people say the story is boring because it’s not.

“One of my big goals in life is to help people love history.”

She started writing and finished her first draft in two months.

What followed were years of learning-as-you-go – publishing and a graduate degree in creative writing.

“The writing was fun – the editing was not,” Ms. Rogers said.

“I had local mentors – poet Michael Harlow who won the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement for poetry, and Jillian Sullivan, a local writer from Oturehua.

“I never would have finished the book if it wasn’t for them.”

Publishing the book was a dream, she says. “It was a huge relief – it was really exciting and really surreal at the same time.”

Located in Alexandra after the gold rush years, Nightshades and Paperwhites is inspired by Ms. Rogers’ passion for history. It tells the story of a forbidden love when Chinese miners arrive to rework old concessions.

His advice to budding writers?

“Write something you want to read because you’re going to read it a lot.”

Nightshades and Paperwhites is available from Paper Plus in Alexandra and Cromwell, and online.


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