At the relatively tender age of 18, Taupō writer Andrew Lacey drafted his first novel - and now it has become reality.
Bridge of Honour, a historical fiction novel set in Wales in 1282, during the last major conflict between the English and the Welsh, tells the story of two men, one Welsh and one English, and the unlikely bond that arises between them.
Andrew, 22, followed home-schooling in Taupō with a history and English degree at Waikato University and after that trained as a teacher of English as a second language. But with the bottom having dropped out of the international student market since March, he has returned to Taupō and used his time productively to finish his book.
Andrew drafted the book during a gap year after finishing high school. He was working and saving money for university.
"I love making up stories and coming up with ideas and I got this idea for a story. I was telling Mum about it and mapping it out in my head, and she said 'it sounds lovely, come back when you've finished it'.
"I worked on it for a couple of hours each day and I managed to whip out a draft over the next couple of months. Refining it for the next couple of years and the cover design was the hard bit."
With publishing in New Zealand almost impossible to break into for new authors, most are turning to self-publishing and by teaching himself how to self-publish, format and using expert contacts for the editing, Andrew has done a lot of work and research to get his book to the point where he has only had to pay for the photographs used as his cover images.
He says he chose to set his book in Wales in the 13th century because he has always been a big fan of history.
"Mum used to read to us a lot growing up and I think UK history became - and still is, to be honest - my favourite area of history; and I found that the Celtic lands and their histories really appealed to me.
"The story is based around the final conquest or absorption of Wales by England and that really fascinated me. I thought it would be a cool idea to have a story set around that time."
For his research Andrew studied maps and read many books about England and English characters.
"I tried to figure out different prominent characters [from the time] and where their movements were because I tried to match historical characters and events and then try to weave my characters around those events.
"There's a lot in the story that's real. Quite a few of the characters were living at the time, quite a few of the English knights and lords and Welsh princes Dafydd and Llywelyn, and the Mortimers, but the three main characters are all made up."
The book explores the strong sense of Welsh cultural identity as well as the idea of honour. Andrew says to some extent there is an ethical message in the book.
"When authors write books, to some extent it's an expression of their own views and definitely I like stories to be entertaining but have some sort of grounding in ethical or moral values, otherwise it's like eating junk food."
Andrew enjoys writing and was involved with creative writing while at university. He says he finds descriptive writing easy, and has to keep in mind that readers do not like too much description - and when it comes to dialogue, which can be tricky to do, he tries to match it to the situations and the characters. He says in Bridge of Honour he used some archaisms to reflect the time the book is set, but kept it accessible to the audience.
The book is on Amazon and can be downloaded as an e-book for $4 or in hard copy, which is printed on demand and sent to the buyer. Now the book is finished and he has a hard copy, Andrew says the hardest part is the marketing.
Andrew says though family have strongly suggested he should write a sequel, he's already drafted up his next work, a historical fiction novel set in Renaissance Italy.
You can find out more about the book at Andrew's website barrowsandbooks.blogspot.com.
I've been given quite a few self-published books by locals, or people with a link to the Taupō district to read over the years, with a view to writing an article promoting them and their tome. I'm happy to say that apart from a couple of real stinkers, most of what I've been given to review has been eminently readable, and a few - including
Bridge of Honour
- have been deserving of a much wider audience. Andrew Lacey has come up with a yarn that deftly weaves together the narrative of the two main characters and places them in a real-life historical setting amidst a chain of events that actually occurred. It helps that he writes evocative descriptions and has a good ear for dialogue as well.
Bridge of Honour
opened a chapter on to a period of history (the final conquest of the Welsh by the English in 1282) and brought it to life. At 300-odd pages it's short enough to knock out over a weekend and long enough to satisfactorily develop the plot. If you're a fan of history, have a bit of Welsh ancestry or just like your novels with a few swords and arrows, give Bridge of Honour a go and support local talent. It's on Amazon as an e-book or hard copy, or via barrowsandbooks.blogspot.com.