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Source: NorthTec

NorthTec graduate and Tutukaka-based author Lauren Roche is publishing her newest book ‘Mila and the Bone Man’, a coming-of-age story based in Waipoua that is aimed at an adult audience.

“It’s a hard story to place in a specific genre,” admits Lauren Roche, Northland author. “It’s almost a coming-of-age novel, but it’s not a young adult (YA) book. It is aimed at an older, mature audience. Although young people could read it, it does have some more confronting themes than is generally explored in YA novels.”

The story follows Mila, a young woman of Croatian and Pākeha ancestry, who was born and raised in Waipoua on the edge of the forest. Mila is descended from Croatian healers and the story follows her coming of age and growth into her healer’s birth right. She is supported by her childhood friend, and next-door neighbor, Tommy.

“The idea came to me one day when I was running up Parihaka,” recalls Lauren. “There was an area of the track set up for people to stop and wash their shoes, which is designed to help stop the spread of Kauri Dieback.”

“There were all these people in lycra who were looking at their heart rate monitors and smartwatches, and they would just jump over the shoe cleaning station. Their personal best was more important to them than protecting the giant trees of the forest.”

“I thought, how would somebody who knew the forest as a friend feel about that? And the character of Mila came to me.”

The book itself was originally written for the Diploma in Advanced Applied Writing (Level 7), which Lauren undertook through NorthTec. The course set her up with a mentor, Pip Adam, who helped her work through the original manuscript, gave her feedback and advice, and encouraged her through the obligatory bouts of writer’s block that is the bane of every author.

Lauren sought further feedback, both from local people of Māori descent and from people of Croatian ancestry. A full re-write was completed to better reflect the feedback of both cultures.

“You don’t always get it right,” Lauren freely admits. “Especially when working with a culture not your own. It was always my biggest concern, making sure I represented the cultures correctly. I was extremely grateful for all the feedback I received.”

Among other things, the book explores the healing properties of natural medicine in both Māori and Croatian cultures and its interaction with modern medicine. Lauren’s career as a GP (General Practitioner) proved invaluable in this regard as she has seen firsthand the interaction of both schools of medicine.

In fact, Lauren’s own experiences and profession were a huge part of the drive behind the novel.

“I had a lot of patients who were struggling with addiction to methamphetamine and its fallout, Lauren recalls. “People who were coming off drugs. People who had relapsed. Grandmas’ who were caring for grandchildren because parents got stuck in prison or a cycle of drug use. The forest has Kauri dieback, and the people have what I call mauri dieback People were losing their spirit and their soul and that is another part of the story.”

‘Mila and the Bone Man’ is not Lauren’s first book. Her debut novel ‘Bent Not Broken,’ is an autobiography which was followed quickly by ‘Life on the Line’, continuing her personal story. Her first book climbed to the number 4 spot on New Zealand’s Bestseller List after its release and is available in 6 countries and 5 languages.

Since finishing her studies at NorthTec, Lauren has gone on to gain a Master’s in Creative Writing with AUT. She had plans to continue study and do her Ph.D., but with her new book, a new puppy, and more books to come she says simply doesn’t have the time.

Lauren has plenty of advice for those wanting to get into the writing industry. Studying Creative Writing at NorthTec helped develop her skills, especially in terms of punctuation and grammar. Furthermore, it helped her understand the industry and how to operate in it.

“They taught me the business of writing,” Lauren says. “And that is very important, there are lots of scams out there, you must learn what is a good deal and what is not. I had a fantastic mentor, and the tutors were fabulous.”
Lauren also recommends signing up for the New Zealand Society of Authors.

“They do online courses and competitions. I enter a lot of competitions.  It’s great fun and it’s good for your writing. It’s the best way to motivate yourself to get better.”

‘Mila and the Bone Man’ will be released on September 15th and will be available at all the best bookstores around New Zealand.