Russell Blackstock

Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Kiwi author hits big time

Ex-Aucklander's novel attracts $1m-plus advance and BBC film deal.

Ex-Aucklander's novel attracts $1m-plus advance and BBC film deal.
Ex-Aucklander's novel attracts $1m-plus advance and BBC film deal.

A little-known Kiwi author is pinching herself after landing a seven-figure advance and a lucrative film deal for her new book.

Solo parent Deborah McKinlay is receiving rave reviews in the United States and Britain for her just-released novel That Part Was True.

The mother of one - who will admit only to being in her early-50s - had been making a living as a jobbing non-fiction writer since shifting to England 20 years ago from Mairangi Bay on Auckland's North Shore.

Her days of scraping by are over, however, after she received an advance of more than a million dollars from American publishing giant Grand Central for her latest novel.

Last week, McKinlay also inked a deal with BBC Films for a big-screen drama. "The publishing deal was big enough to be quite shocking, surreal even," she told the Herald on Sunday. "It is the sort of thing most authors only dream about and it took me completely by surprise."

That Part Was True charts the relationship between a UK divorcee and an American novelist through their shared love of food and cooking. BBC Films chief Christine Langan described McKinlay's work as "stunning".

"The best thing is, I don't have to worry about money and can just concentrate solely on writing," said McKinlay, who lives in Devon with her young son.

Before becoming an author, McKinlay was a dancer and model in New Zealand. "I worked for TVNZ and was on programmes like the Billy T James Show. It was a lot of fun, but in my 20s, I moved overseas."

McKinlay - a former student at Westlake Girls High in Takapuna - has a master's degree in psychology from Cambridge University. She returns to New Zealand every 18 months to visit her mother and family.

Her biggest concern now is living up to the hype. "Life is very exciting but I am aware of a lot of expectations and that creates its own pressures," she said.

"You can be the next big thing one week and it disappears just as quickly. I am already working on my next novel because in this business you are only as good as your last story."

That Part Was True is available in New Zealand with Hachette Publishing.

- Herald on Sunday

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