Having a taste for adventure and magic is serving Rowena May O’Sullivan well, as she makes a big splash in the genre of paranormal fiction.
The second novel of Rowena’s Greenwood Witches Trilogy, The Jade Dragon, has just been released online via website Crimson, while the first book, The Silver Rose, is about to be published in paperback.
While the Twilight franchise has undoubtedly put fantasy books on the worldwide map in recent years, Rowena’s writing travels a slightly different path.
“Books such as Harry Potter and Twilight have helped with popularity,” says Rowena. “But I’ve read better books that have been around for a long time.”
Central to her trilogy are the Greenwood witches living in Raven Creek – which is actually based on Warkworth, Auckland – with Rowena’s heroines being protected by Maori blessings. And with a father who was a hypnotist and science fiction fan, it’s no surprise Rowena was fascinated by magic and mystery from an early age.
“My parents were always open about everything,” she says. “My father believed flying saucers were going to land in our backyard, so I was always looking out of the window, waiting for one to arrive.
“He practised hypnotism, so I guess I got my sense of adventure from him. He was wacky and so was my mother. She was highly artistic.”
Rowena’s passion developed from her childhood heroes – Samantha from the TV series Bewitched, the fairy godmother from Cinderella and Mary Poppins. She also used to dream of being Anne from The Famous Five.
“I remember reading my first book when I was about eight – it was a magical experience. The book was Heidi. Of course, I wanted to be her and have a grandfather who lived in the Swiss Alps. Reading opened my mind and transported me away from the world.”
Now the 56-year-old is transporting her readers to another place – although she is keen to stress she isn’t New Zealand’s answer to Twilight series author Stephenie Meyer, nor does she want to be. One of her biggest inspirations is actually a fellow New Zealand-raised writer, Nalini Singh – the most successful paranormal romance author in the country. Singh regularly appears on the USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists.
But Rowena is beginning to taste her own success. It was just two weeks after she submitted The Silver Rose to the online publishers that Barnes & Noble picked it up and released the paperback version last month.
However, the North Shore-based grandmother won’t know how her book has sold until she gets her first cheque in six months.
Writing at home, while also working full time for a bank – and spending time with her first grandson – has been demanding.
“I started getting up early and going to bed late because the desire to succeed and the passion to finish this book on time for the deadline was so important to me,” she says.
But she’s hoping it will pay off in the future, so she can become a full-time writer.
There are three books in Rowena’s Greenwood Witches series – and each heroine suffers the same fate. When their magic becomes too powerful, they either have to sacrifice it or bind their magic with a warlock, or they will be hunted down.
“I love the idea of being able to build a world that’s totally your own,” she says. “I also believe in reincarnation and believe that if you think it,
then it’s possible. Growing up, I wished things were magical. Why give up those beliefs? There is magic in everything. Lying on a beach in the summer, eating an enormous ice cream and drinking that first coffee in the morning. Life has many ups and downs. And it’s always good to remember those magical moments.”
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