Opening heartfelt letters from soldiers that served in Vietnam is all the reward a Levin author needs.
Although Carole Brungar's books are receiving widespread acclaim with a growing list of medals and awards, her chosen genre was not the most commercial because of a stigma around the Vietnam War.
"People don't want to know about the Vietnam War," she said.
But the response from soldiers meant the most and motivated her to keep writing.
One soldier wrote:
"You captured our war stories in such a way that I saw them as 'my' stories. For the first time, someone understood what it was like. You described our conditions of living and patrolling in the jungle in Vietnam as though you had been there yourself.
"You captured our fears and excitements, our highs and lows, our skills and our strengths. At last. Someone has told the world what it was like to be a Kiwi infantry soldier in a dangerous but exciting, and unpopular war.
"Through your 'real' characters, you have made us, and our life-changing experiences, real, worthwhile and, I feel, appreciated. Our contribution to military history and the defence of New Zealand, is now more visible and accessible, not only to our own families, but the public in general.
"To courageously and openly talk about the huge taboo topic of our war — Agent Orange — was refreshing and healing for me. You have done each and every NZ Vietnam Veteran a huge service. We walk a little taller in public, thanks to your stories."
Soldiers from America and New Zealand have written to tell her that her stories could be about any veteran who had served. Her stories brought some of them to tears.
"That's my story," one said. "Write more, write more," said another.
So how did a 60-year-old woman from Levin come to write so accurately about a country she had never been to, and so vividly about a war she had never seen herself?
It is incredible that Brungar, with no family or friends who had served in Vietnam either, was able to so accurately portray stories that resonated with soldiers who were there.
After her first book was written and published in 2017, she visited Vietnam, which only helped reaffirm to herself some of the things she had previously only imagined.
"I wanted to go over and smell the street smells. Get caught in a monsoon downpour and then find I was dry again 10 minutes later. Eat street food. Meet locals. See the landscapes. Listen to the language. Walk the back streets and alleys. Visit the places the Kiwis had been."
She also fired M16 and AK47 machine guns used by soldiers in the war.
There were now three published books on shelves: The Nam Legacy, The Nam Shadow and Going Home, and two in the wings, Loving Summer and Return to Nam.
Brungar has produced a series of books with inter-woven story lines that feature completely made-up characters, set against a war that actually happened.
What sets her stories apart from most books about war is love. And she makes no apology for it. It only helps to breath life and reality into each story.
"It was my secret mission to get men to read love stories," she said, smiling.
But her true motivation was to highlight what those in Vietnam endured. The more she studied, the more sympathetic she was to the sacrifices made by soldiers in Vietnam and the treatment they received post-war.
"The treatment of those who served in Vietnam was, in my opinion, shocking. My books were written to highlight the hardships the veterans and their families have had to face," she said.
It compelled her to start writing. Deep within her subconscious were characters who quickly came to life as she began to tell their stories.
"The more I researched the more I realised it didn't matter which country they came from, they were all suffering from the same problems," she said.
Her research took a toll on her own mental health as she suffered from a secondary form of PTSD herself, waking up and shouting in her sleep.
"I was a cot case. It was tough going," she said.
"From my point of view I have been stuck in the Vietnam war for quite a few years now. It's pretty full on."
As a self-published author, each book release came at a significant personal financial cost, too. She was warned from the start by publishers that the books would not be commercial.
"I was told that if I wanted to get rich quick I was going about it the wrong way," she said.
But her aim was always to keep alive the memory of New Zealand soldiers - all soldiers - who fought in Vietnam, and make readers aware of what they had to endure.
She hoped the books might give family or loved ones an insight and understanding of what they went through, and might encourage more veterans to talk about what happened over there, and what they experienced on their return.
"It is important these stories are told. Anything to do with the Vietnam war has been a taboo subject in New Zealand, which is a real shame," she said.
"My goal was to have someone read it and think 'did they go through this? Is this representative of what they went through?' Yes, it is."
Brungar said it saddens her that sacrifice Vietnam veterans made was initially not recognised in the same way as those that served in either World War I or II.
Meanwhile, just last month Going Home, already a medal winner, was announced as a finalist in the Military Writers Society of America Awards.
The Nam Legacy won the California Dreamin' Award in America for best opening chapter in a novel, and was in the NZ Booksellers Top Ten for NZ fiction for seven consecutive weeks in 2017.
The Nam Shadow won a gold medal in the Independent Publishers Awards for excellence, and a gold medal in the Beverly Hills Book Awards in the military fiction category. It was also a finalist in last year's American Fiction Awards.