Author combining remote Scottish highlands and "too small" Rotorua to produce prize-winning psychological thriller plots.
The first time Zoe Beesley clapped eyes on Rotorua she burst into tears.
"I can't possibly live here, it's far too big," the Scottish village-raised Zoe sobbed to Irish partner Robert Rankin, her now husband.
He'd just acquired a Rotorua-based job.
But times and circumstances change, they now own a Rotorua home, easing their way into the "too big" city by way of Taupō and Tarawera. En route, Zoe's become an author of increasing international recognition.
Her "this could only happen in Rotorua" short story, Unknown, took top spot at the national Noir crime writers' festival in her new home town last January.
With geothermal activity and Kuirau Park at its explosive core, it's "creepy as".
All this in the space of six New Zealand years.
Unlike her writing, Zoe's initial "it's too big for me" reaction to Rotorua is no mystery.
She grew up in Lumphanan, a village deep in McBeth territory, its population 500.
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"There were eight in my primary school class."
Isolated as the village may have been, Zoe's no country bumpkin, she's very much a woman of the world.
There can't be many others around these parts who can lay claim to attending St Andrews and Glasgow Universities with the University of Damascus as an add on.
Compound that with pre-university time teaching in Uganda and, during her university days, promoting tourism in Tanzania.
She's mountain biked through the Himalayas, spent time in India and Thailand where she and her Irishman hatched plans to work in New Zealand – not specifically Rotorua.
As a story writer Zoe Rankin has a pretty darn fine story of her own, its plot features as many twists and turns as the full-length books she's now penning.
Should anyone need a memory prompt, St Andrews is where Prince William and the then Kate Middleton met, they graduated the year before Zoe enrolled.
Her subjects were international relations and Arabic.
"I originally wanted to be a diplomat or work in the UN, in Uganda, I was volunteering for the UN at a very grassroots level."
While still at St Andrews her Arabic studies took her to Syria's University of Damascus.
"That was before war really kicked off, you could feel the tension building, became aware you weren't free to say what you wanted to say."
By the time she graduated diplomacy had fallen off Zoe's wish list.
"Being in Syria changed my ideas about that, I didn't want to live in a big city [like that again]. I didn't think I had the ability to push other people aside to get to the top."
She switched to education, it wasn't an area foreign to her, both her parents teach. Her post-graduate study in primary teaching was at Glasgow University, her first post took her to Aviemore.
"It's near the Cairngorms, I call it the Wanaka of Scotland."
Zoe had developed a passion for mountain biking and was on a ride when she met her now husband, whose hydroelectricity company job had transferred him to Scotland.
Each as intrepid as the other, they headed for six months' mountain biking in the Himalayas.
"Obviously we didn't do 8000 metre peaks but we did manage a couple of 6500 metre ones. It's not like mountain biking here, the trails aren't built for bikes, there are places where you certainly wouldn't want to fall off."
They took on, and completed, the five-day trans-Nepal race.
"That was amazing, Nepal's one of the friendliest countries in the world."
There was a side trip to India, back to Nepal then Thailand.
"We were dirty and skinny, spent three weeks away from the touristy areas eating green curry and applying for jobs in New Zealand."
They arrived in December 2013. "At the Auckland Airbnb we'd booked we were swept up by this incredible family, they said we needed proper food, helped us buy a car.
"We headed south saying 'if we don't have jobs in three months we'll go home'. We made it as far as Taupō where Rob got a job with Mercury, project managing a geothermal plant."
It was the discovery that Rob was to be Rotorua-based that generated Zoe's tears.
Taupō was their compromise, Zoe taught at Marotiri farm school, worked in a book shop and at Rotorua's youth justice facility.
"They [residents] were just what you expect teenage boys to be."
The writing she'd returned to in Taupō followed on from a blog begun in the Himalayas, One Girl and her Mountain Bike. "It's still around." (Check out protect-au.mimecast.com/s/OVbOCZYMqOhoYMxvUz94xN?domain=zbrankin.home.blog)
Some years earlier she'd been drawn to crime writing while visiting the Isle of Skye with her parents and their friends.
"One stormy day we were completely snowed in [now, there's the perfect first line for a thriller if ever we've read one] the friends told us how their daughter and son-in-law had found a body in the Scottish mountains, they were first on the scene, the case was never solved, was it murder or suicide?
"I thought it would make a fantastic story, I started it in the Himalayas while writing my blog. I wrote 130,000 words on a first-generation iPad without a keyboard." It's title's A Sinner's Gift.
Zoe experimented with an overseas publisher. "It taught me that how you react to problems is how you determine success." The upshot; it's only available online.
Since her Noir success, she's won first prize in Mindfood magazine's competition with her work Love Me Tinder.
Spring Enchanted followed and was shortlisted in Eyeland's International Flash Fiction Contest, it was published in book form last month.
Zoe hasn't rested on these early successes.
"I'm with two different London creative writing schools and have finished my next manuscript; it's more domestic fiction than having the mystery psychological element to it."
She's no stranger to rejection slips estimating she's collected about 10. "They inspire you to do more, write better."
Since leaving Rotokawa School's teaching staff at the end of last term, she's writing at least six hours a day and has just started part-time at McLeods Booksellers.
"Rotorua inspires my short stories, I get excited when I'm writing, if I don't make money as an author I'll do something else, probably work with a not-for-profit organisation, but my dream's to be a career author."
ZOE RANKIN (NEE BEESLEY):
Born: Inverness, Scotland, 1988.
Education: Lumphanan Primary, Aboyne Academy, St Andrews, Glasgow Universities. While at St Andrews she studied at University of Damascus, Syria.
Family: Husband: Rob Rankin (they married at Tarawera last December). "He's Irish, my father's Welsh, my mother's Scottish. We've acquired a big family of friends in Rotorua."
Interests: Family, friends, writing, mountain biking. "Being in the mountains." Travel, tramping, drawing, food. "We both cook and have made a considerable donation to the local cuisine economy." Reading, a member of two book clubs.
Favourite books: Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, A Little Life by Hanya Yanfihara.
On her life: "I've always had itchy feet, they've taken me to incredible places, introducing me to incredible people."
On Rotorua: "One of the world's best playgrounds is on our doorstep."
Personal philosophy: "The secret in life is to fall down six times and get up seven."