When Taupō author and illustrator Donovan Bixley received an email from Queen's representatives - he thought it was spam.
"I immediately thought yeah right, sounds like a spam email to me."
To his surprise, the email was very real and said Bixley was being made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to children's fiction and as an illustrator in this New Year's honours list.
It was not the first time the humble 49-year-old had been sceptical about an email.
In the past, he had received messages from the New Zealand Arts Foundation and even people in Hollywood which he had brushed off as "total rubbish" before realising they were for real.
Bixley said he was really excited when he found out the news but had to keep a "lid on it" until now.
However, as an author, he said he would sometimes find out his books were being published 18 months before it was announced and so had perfected the art of keeping quiet.
The honour was an acknowledgement of his life goal - to be a successful international author and illustrator from his home town of Taupō.
Bixley has written a number of popular series, as well as illustrating more than 120 children's books.
He created best-selling international series like the "Flying Furballs" junior fiction series and worked alongside some of the country's top authors like the late Margaret Mahy.
His books have been published in 31 countries and as many as 18 languages and had won numerous national and international awards.
He has also helped promote te reo Māori through his bilingual Māui picture books and others.
As long as Bixley can remember, he has been writing and drawing. He crafted comics, short picture stories and even wrote a sequel to the Lord of the Rings books at age 7.
He went to Art School in his late teens and after dabbling in jobs in advertising and design, realised his true passion was writing and illustrating books.
In his spare time, he would always write and draw his own books but at first failed to realise he could make a career out of it.
"It was right in front of me the whole time."
His ability to draw gave him a leg up in the publishing industry as he could impress people with his visuals off the bat.
He says he is "very privileged" as he has been given opportunities to illustrate for top New Zealand authors, which was the perfect "training ground".
His first big read was called Faithfully Mozart and was an adult picture book biography, written and illustrated by him over six years.
Bixley says it was a "ridiculously stupid and ambitious idea" for a newbie and he had consistently been told it was "never going to happen".
But the book, which went on to be sold all around the world, set the expectation for the rest of his work.
Bixley's passion lay in children's fiction and says the book that taught him the most was his 2014 hit Monkey Boy.
It taught him persistence as he was told time and time again that his characters were weak and the story was bad - but the book became one of the most successful of his career.
It won him the New Zealand Arts Foundation's Mallinson Rendel Laureate Award for lifetime achievement in illustration and made him a recipient of the International Youth Library's White Raven Award, which lists the top 200 children's books in the world.
Bixley says there was a point he almost gave up on his dreams as he was not sure he could make a living out of it.
It was 2010 and his publisher called him into his office and pitched to him the idea of doing a Kiwi take on the classic Wheels on the Bus tale.
Bixley said he immediately thought "how boring" but then realised it was so boring he could do something fun with it.
To this day, the book remains his number one best seller and still "pays the bills" that allow him to work for years on the books he is most passionate about.
Bixley is most proud of his Māui picture books, which "opened his eyes" to how important it was to tell stories of Māori culture here in New Zealand.
He worked closely with kaumatua throughout the process and enjoyed it thoroughly.
He said it was brilliant to be able to "celebrate Māori culture in the community" and he "felt privileged to be allowed to be a part of that and given the trust to write about it".
"I saw a whole different side of New Zealand that I hadn't seen as a Pakeha."
Looking to the future, Bixley says there are "exciting things to come" as he had "interest from Hollywood" in one of his books and hoped to finish a picture biography on Leonardo da Vinci to go with his Mozart and Shakespeare books.