It's fair to say Gareth Ward has done enough in life to fuel a vivid imagination.
Gareth has been a commando, a hypnotist and a magician.
A book shop owner from Hawke's Bay, he's now a steampunk author.
Gareth was at The Treasury in Thames on Friday delivering a workshop to about a dozen people on how to build your steampunk character.
The event was part of the Paint The Town Red Steampunk the Thames festival on the Coromandel.
His first novel, The Traitor and the Thief, won the 2016 Storylines Tessa Duder Award, the 2018 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Youth Novel, a 2018 Storylines Notable Book Award and was a finalist in two categories at the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
He says he discovered by accident that steampunk was a great genre to work in.
"I quite liked the feel and ambience of steampunk but my story was Victorian, and I wanted to add weird and wonderful stuff into it, and by default it became steampunk.
"I found it was a great genre to write in because you've got the rich backdrop of Victorian times and you can just make something up and let your imagination go."
He thinks of steampunk as a Victorian setting but with more advanced technology than they would have had.
"You can make up professions and make up brain bots and whatever you want."
Born in the town of Banbury in the UK, he attended the University of York where he gained a joint honours degree in biology and computer science and says: If you want your cat reprogrammed, he's your man.
Having had such a varied life experience, he says it creates a lot of interest as a writer.
"I was in the British Royal Marine commandos for a short and glorious career then went to the police."
But he says you don't have to have had an interesting life to build a steampunk character or love steampunk.
Oamaru is the capital of Steampunk in New Zealand, promoting the movement as a quirky and fun genre of science fiction that features steam-powered technology.
Thames has embraced the steampunk movement and hosts its festival annually, drawing crowds to a steampunk parade and 'punk my ride' among other events in town on the weekend.
"You get people from all walks of life. You get people who are really crafty and people who spend weeks creating these fantastic costumes.
"I just wear what's in my wardrobe, as I'd rather spend a month writing than a month creating a costume."
He says some might feel "a bit of a berk" in costume but because he's been a magician - and because it's a festival - steampunk is a chance to be a bit different and have fun in a supportive community.
- Gareth Wards' books are available at Carsons Bookshop in Thames.