Rural romance hooks international readers

She has penned two successful novels and now Otorohanga woman Danielle Hawkins has started work on a third book. Donna-Lee Biddle talks to the woman behind the chick lit books.

CHICKEN LIT: Danielle Hawkins displays her chick lit novels on her farm in Otorohanga.
Bruce Mercer/Fairfax NZ

CHICKEN LIT: Danielle Hawkins displays her chick lit novels on her farm in Otorohanga.

Danielle Hawkins is an author who romanticises about her childhood growing up on her grandparents' beef and sheep farm in Otorohanga.

She is also a mother-of-two and a farmer's wife and works two days as a week as a vet.

Hawkins loves to write about small town romances and has drawn on her own-life experiences.

Her first book, Dinner at Rose's, is about a girl who walks in on her boyfriend sleeping with her best friend. The girl leaves Melbourne for her rural home town in the King Country and finds love after her Aunty Rose plays cupid. The book did so well, it was translated into German and Italian.

Hawkins said she does not read the same genre of book she writes about so she doesn't compare her writing to other authors.

"Yeah it's funny really, but I've heard it's quite common among writers, to not read the genre of book you write about. I'm more into science-fantasy," she said.

Hawkins said she reads her book reviews on sites such as Amazon as a way to rate her success but said the most rewarding experience throughout the process is seeing the characters come to life.

"It's hard not to read the reviews and some people are really generous but you really aren't in this for the money," she said.

"It was quite interesting also to get feedback from my editor, she sent me two A4 pages of words that I over-use, like the word cheerful and no-one is allowed to say anything they have to announce it."

The second novel, Chocolate cake for Breakfast, is about the romantic life of a small-town rural vet who catches the eye of national sporting hero All Black Mark Tipene, after she fails to recognise who he is. A whirlwind romance follows.

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"In my head [the All Black] was half Dan Carter and half Richie McCaw, so I think that may have been an appealing aspect," said Hawkins.

The second book was harder for the author to write because it felt like more of a job.

"With the first book, it was my baby, my labour of love and the second, well I had deadlines so it was less enjoyable to write."

The second novel was also translated into German and Hawkins is now half-way through her third novel.

"It's about a slightly over-worked girl who runs a cafe in Northland, it's a bit relationshipy," she said.

There is usually about a six-month lag between finishing a book and publishing it and Hawkins hopes to have it ready for Christmas.

Hawkins has spent hundreds of hours working on her novels and estimates for the first two books, she would have spent at least 3-4 hours a day, every day, for a few years, with pen to paper.

"I don't read as much as I would like to anymore because I'm busy with children and writing.

Hawkins said she's always "stealing people's funny lines" and is inspired by real-life situations.

"Yes there are a few characteristics in the book that mimic my own but it's not all about me," she said.

"The book would be really dull if it was all about my life."

Hawkins said publishers loved the story and initially wanted it to be set somewhere hopelessly romantic like in an office block in London or in the south of France or New York.

"I'm very lucky that I can write about small towns; they finally said 'well OK you can write about New Zealand just no references to jandals'," she said.

 - Waikato Times

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