Author shares secrets of her craft


I grew up reading Tessa Duder's books.

As the youngest of three girls it was a favourite in our household - Alex Archer was a role model.

So when I told my sisters I was going to sit down for a coffee with the woman behind the books it's no wonder they were jealous.

And meeting Tessa was everything I hoped it would be.

What I didn't realise was like one of her fictional character Alex, she too was a swimmer.

In 1958 Tessa went to the Empire Games, now known as the Commonwealth Games, where she claimed a silver medal.

Tessa began her career as a cadet reporter for the Auckland Star where she worked for six years before heading to London as a newly married woman to take up a job at the Daily Express.

After her fourth daughter went off to school Tessa began to write novels and to this day has no idea why.

"I didn't decide to be a writer, that wasn't the way for me. The story chose me to write it."

Her first novel Night Race to Kawau was published in 1982.

When Tessa began writing, the novels that were around had no strong leading ladies - something that as a mother of four girls was concerning, she says.

But Tessa changed that and created female characters full of strength, bravery and grace.

She says her quartet of Alex novels are undoubtedly her most successful.

"Before I am no longer capable of writing I would like to change that though."

Now in her 70s, Tessa says she still believes she is in her writing prime.

The Castor Bay resident was approached and asked to lead one of the Auckland Council writers' workshops.

"I hope to send people away with an increased confidence and knowledge."

She says getting published is one of the major hurdles writers face in this day and age.

That and maintaining a sense of self while spending so much time working alone.

"Writing requires a lot of mental and physical stamina - much more than people would ever believe. When you write you disappear into another world."

Tessa says one of the best pieces of advice she was ever given was to take acting lessons.

"Writing and acting are much the same, they both require you to get inside a character's head and to be convincing that takes a lot of energy."

When asked how she finds inspiration for her stories, Tessa says it's not something she needs to look for because it is all around.

"Inspiration is in your brain and once you get in the groove it isn't something you have to look for, it's just something you have to learn how to access."

She says she loves the teaching side but doesn't do it that often.

"I probably learn as much from them as they do from me. Everyone brings a different perspective, outlook and wisdom.

Tessa's free writing workshop will take place on June 30 at the Birkenhead Library and is funded by the Kaipatiki Local Board.

Writers of all abilities are welcome.

To book contact Lynn Dawson by emailing or phoning 446 1269.

Visit to learn more about Tessa and her stories.

North Shore Times