Kiwi author Rose Carlyle should have been jetting off to New York this week to celebrate the American release of her debut novel The Girl in the Mirror. Instead, she will hop in her electric
car for a self-drive book tour of New Zealand. But as she tells Kirsty Wynn she wouldn't have it any other way.
Two months ago few people knew of Rose Carlyle and her page-turning thriller The Girl in the Mirror.
The previously unpublished writer is now easily considered a bestselling author and her book touted as one of the must-reads for 2020.
The Girl in the Mirror hit shelves in August, just before Auckland went into level 3 lockdown. It's a story of lust, jealousy, deception and lies between beautiful and wealthy twins Iris and Summer Carmichael and was just the escape working-from-home Kiwi readers needed.
"I thought I'd be in New York this month glitzing my way around Manhattan being fabulous, but because of Covid, I'm driving myself around my own backyard - but I feel good about it," Carlyle says.
"There are no flights so it's very eco-friendly. It's just me driving in my electric vehicle.
"I love that I'm connecting with my home-island readers who went out and bought my book in droves."
And New Zealanders did go out to buy The Girl in the Mirror in droves.
Publisher Allen & Unwin knew the debut novel was good and thought they would sell 6000 copies by Christmas.
A good debut author would typically sell between 1000 and 3000 copies.
So far, The Girl in the Mirror has sold 16,000 copies in New Zealand and 18,000 in Australia. The target of 6000 by Christmas has been met three times over.
The twists and turns in the book make for an exciting read and Carlyle's own sailing experience gives the book, part of which is set on a yacht, believability, earning it rave reviews.
Allen & Unwin describe the book as written "with the chilling suspense of The Girl on the Train and Before I Go to Sleep" so it is no wonder it was snapped up by Hollywood producers.
Carlyle can't talk about the movie deal but it's understood it was signed for a life-changing six-figure sum before it was even published.
Add to this the fact The Girl in the Mirror spent six weeks at the top of the NZ bestsellers list (a record for a debut novel) and has just been selected for the prestigious American Book of the Month club.
In Auckland, the public library system has 100 copies and a wait list of more than 1050 people wanting to read them.
Carlyle, 47, is the first to point out that her sudden success is shared with her sister Maddie, who she brainstormed and formed the plot of The Girl in the Mirror with.
"We bounced ideas off each other and she is the editor and critic, she is the first to tell me if something isn't working or is boring.
"No one wants to read anything that is boring."
Melanie Laville-Moore, NZ director of Allen & Unwin said The Girl in the Mirror was anything but boring.
"It is very fast-paced and well constructed, we knew it was something special."
Laville-Moore said Carlyle's rise had been unprecedented.
"The sales have been phenomenal and we got there quite quickly, it really took off, it was magic," she says.
"For a debut author it is unheard of and then she is a New Zealand author, which just adds to it."
The publisher had 4000 copies on shelves on August 4 and they were gone the next day.
"It went crazy and we had to have an urgent reprint done and have them fly it across. The shelves got picked clean," Laville-Moore says.
"Rose is in new territory here, I can't think of another NZ novelist who has achieved so much so quickly."
The upcoming American launch combined with the book's selection for the Book of the Month club means Carlyle could be bigger in the United States than she has been in New Zealand.
"Rose is on the cusp of what has already happened here in the States and then we hope for the same in the UK when the book is released there next year," Laville-Moore says.
Carlyle says news that her book was chosen for the Book of the Month club was "huge" for her.
She admits it probably doesn't mean much Downunder but making the cut for Book of the Month is a massive driver for sales in the United States.
Book of the Month usually gives the book more than 20,000 sales straight away, followed by flow-on sales.
"It's really exciting because it's not just the people who subscribe but it has a massive effect on promotion because the 100,000 members are young and influential readers."
No other New Zealand author has been selected for Book of the Month, which was established in the 1920s and was credited with the sales behind great books such as Gone with the Wind and The Catcher in the Rye.
Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell once said being selected by the club "was quite the most exciting and unexpected thing that ever happened to me".
Carlyle is just as excited by her own unexpected success.
She is especially touched at the messages to her growing Instagram page from readers.
The main characters in The Girl in the Mirror, Summer and Iris Carmichael, are mirror twins - they are identical but Iris is a mirror image of first-born Summer.
Her heart is on the right-hand side of her body.
Carlyle has had messages from readers who connected to the book because they had the same rare condition.
"I have had two people get in touch and tell me their heart is on the right-hand side of their body like Iris," she says.
"It blew me away that they were both here in New Zealand. Imagine how they would connect with the character. I just loved hearing from them."
The most mind-blowing of all for the former lawyer was just days after the New Zealand release she was stopped in the street.
"I had someone come up to me and ask if I was 'that author', that is something I never thought would happen."
Carlyle is now waiting to hear back about her second novel - another thriller - which is currently with the publisher and due for release in December 2021.
She has left her job as a lawyer and is working full time on her third novel at the home she shares with two of her four teenagers.
Life is busier than ever with promotions for The Girl in the Mirror, her second novel with the publisher, and work under way on the third.
Her sister Maddie is helping out with the third novel and Carlyle is returning the favour as Maddie writes her own book.
Carlyle's third novel was another thriller but would be set somewhere cold.
And it was proving harder to find the time and quiet to write.
The final edit of The Girl in the Mirror was written during Carlyle's residence at the Michael King writers' retreat on the slopes of Mt Victoria on Auckland's North Shore.
She was the first writer to stay at the historic Signalman's House in 2020.
The novel was written on Carlyle's laptop, which rests on an old typewriter she was given as a child.
"It was the most idyllic time. There was no pandemic, it was the height of summer and I was in this lovely peaceful retreat on the side of Mt Victoria," Carlyle says.
"There were plum trees in the garden dropping plums and I was the only one there."
During her two-week stay, with only Oscar the resident cat for distraction, Carlyle completed the book that rewrote her own life.
"I would love to go back there but it's only fair to share a place like that around," Carlyle says.
Her second book was written at home with construction in the background and "commercial radio to drown out the hammering".
"It was fine though and I'm lucky I work just as well with some background noise."
The Girl in the Mirror October 2020 Book Tour Public Events
Monday October 5
11am SIGNING: Paper Plus Central City Hamilton
1pm SIGNING: Paper Plus Te Awamutu
2.30pm SIGNING: Paper Plus Ōtorohanga
Tuesday October 6
10am SIGNING: Paper Plus Stratford
1pm EVENT: Whanganui Library Author Talk
Format: Author Q&A with local chair
5pm SIGNING: Paper Plus Coastlands
Wednesday October 7 Wellington
12.30pm EVENT: Unity Wellington Lunchtime Event
Format: In conversation event (Q&A) and book signing.
Thursday October 8 Wellington
12pm SIGNING: Paper Plus North City
Sunday October 11 Wairarapa
11am EVENT: Yarns in Barns Festival
Address: Ata Rangi Vineyard, 14 Puruatanga Road, Martinborough
Format: In conversation event, with Q&A and book signing.
Monday October 12
10am SIGNING: Paper Plus Palmerston North
2.30pm SIGNING: Paper Plus Taupō
5pm EVENT: McLeods Booksellers Rotorua
Format: Author Q&A, in conversation with Zoe Rankin
Tuesday October 13
10am SIGNING: Paper Plus Bethlehem