Josh Pomare set to be the literary world's next big thing? With his psychological mind-bender Call Me Evie barely off the press there's no speculation about it, he already is its next big thing.
Set in Maketū and Melbourne Evie's manuscript ignited a bidding tug-of-war between seven international publishing houses, Hachette won. Evie will be on UK and US booksellers' shelves mid-year. They're already swept up in the "downunder" rave reviews it's generating.
Has so much sudden acclaim turned his head, allowed this 30-year-old to outgrow his roots?
No way, there was never any contest his home town would be his debut novel's launch pad. He was richly rewarded, a supporters squad four-deep spilled out of McLeods Booksellers to cheer him on and queue for autographed copies.
"It was so much more emotional than I thought it'd be, I was more nervous about launching here than any of my major media obligations. I got into bed that night and experienced this kaleidoscope of emotions, seeing people I hadn't seen for 12, 15, 18 years, people who'd put faith in me then saw it had been answered, not misplaced."
The name Pomare's well known hereabouts. His dad Bill (Our People, May 26, 2013) is one of those colourful characters who've graduated from borstal boy (he lays claim to naming the Mongrel Mob) to respected businessman and horse trainer.
Josh's growing up years were on the family stud farm, he was 11 when cancer claimed his mother's life. As a teenager he tended to kick over the traces.
In his first Boys' High year he was "arsed out" of the accelerant class "because I thought it would be a bit of fun to be the class clown".
Nor did he make it through his Victoria University's first semester, drinking and partying he swatted studying aside.
"If you decide at 18 what you're going to do for the next 50 years it's likely you're going to have a miserable life, brains change, mature."
A back-track here to the master author's more successful school days. Western Heights took him on after his ignominious Boys' High exit.
"I was still a bit of a trouble maker but only got kicked out of class a couple of times. My English teachers, Jane Bowman and Jane Collins, were passionate about literature, the arts, they realised there was something worth nurturing in me."
He piggy-backed his misplaced decision to go to university on winning a Heights' English prize.
Out of Victoria he craved a scene change.
Brother Kent was in Melbourne, Josh joined him, "working as furniture removalist".
"Melbourne changed my perspective in a day. In Rotorua you're expected to be a certain shape, that can stifle a creative person. There I was engaging in the arts, the foodie culture, poetry readings, music, discovering wonderful bookshops. There was only one in Rotorua [McLeods] and my mate's dad owned it."
Winning the Kingi McKinnon scholarship for emerging creative writers brought him home to Waiariki Polytech (now Toi Ohomai).
Covering a lot of the course by correspondence Josh hitchhiked around the country.
His diploma secured, he made tracks for Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia.
"When I couldn't afford a hostel, I'd sleep on the ground. I think the thing about travel is the gift it gives writers, you gain perspective, it's really good for the imagination."
When his cash dried up Josh returned to Melbourne, within two years he was off again, his then-girlfriend was from Vancouver.
He arrived without a visa believing he'd be issued with one at the border, real life ain't that easy. He had the "small matter" of a conviction to overcome.
"It dated back to an arrest in Dunedin for a liquor ban breach, there were riots, it was being enforced."
It wasn't his only run-in with the law. He's also been arrested for obstructing police at a Whangamata New Year's Eve shindig.
The charge was later dropped but that was small comfort at the Canadian border, he and his girlfriend were grilled separately "just like you see on TV, eventually a visa was granted, phew".
He kept body and soul together "selling whiteware like Dad, I'd worked for him for a while".
Canada was the genesis of his writing career.
"I'd written blog posts in Melbourne and New Zealand, there I wrote some really terrible short stories, paying my dues to develop my craft. I was submitting them but not getting any validation, you become quite numb to rejection."
Dispirited he and the girlfriend spent a month in Koh Samui (Thailand).
"I re-wrote [Japanese author] Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle on the beach there. I learnt a lot about characters, structure, asking a question on every page, surprising readers on every page, creatively I was in a good place."
Financial necessity meant a Melbourne return.
"I broke up with that girlfriend, probably the best thing that's ever happened to me, I met my wife Paige a month later.
"It was really corny. My brother Ben's a lothario, he told me to go up to these two girls, tell them they looked lonely and offer to sit at their table. Paige said 'are you f***ing kidding me?' but gave me a chance. We've been together six years, married more than two.
"She's pragmatic, creatives require people like that in their lives for direction, balance. When I'm in an episode of writing mania she lets me go."
Call Me Evie
's first words were written in 2015.
"I became obsessed with Evie's character, there were certain conversations from a female perspective I wanted to start like revenge porn, with social media that's a really contemporary issue for women. I'm reluctant to say I'm a feminist but there are certain things like sexual freedom where blokes can do anything, women can't ... I'd worry if I had a daughter."
Has that bidding war made him rich?
"I have two mortgages so no, we're comfortable at the moment but I'm conscious I could suffer writer's block for years, not earn another cent as an author."
Born: Rotorua, 1988.
Education: Kaharoa Primary, Boys' High, Western Heights' High, Victoria University (briefly), Waiariki Polytechnic.
Family: Father Bill Pomare, mother Pauline (deceased), sister, two brothers, "half-siblings north of 10 and counting", wife Paige Pomare.
Iwi affiliations: Ngapuhi, "My mother was Pakeha."
Interests: Podcasts, reading, writing, sport at school. "I played soccer in Melbourne, rugby in Canada."
Favourite author: "[Australian] Jock Serong, he's my literary older brother."
On Rotorua: "It'll always be home, I have a great emotional attachment to it."
His life in a sentence?: "I'm absolutely stumped by that."
Personal philosophy: "Whatever you do, do it for yourself first, I used to worry what people would think of me, now I know other people's opinions don't make you happy."