Acclaimed writer Witi Ihimaera is "delighted" to be back in town for the Whanganui Literary Festival, which begins today.
And the Gisborne-born, Auckland-based author of books such as The Whale Rider, Tangiand Pounamu, Pounamu wanted to be here this year because the festival name included the H in Whanganui.
Ihimaera will give two talks - one today, immediately after the festival opens, and the other tomorrow. He wanted to come to the festival because "the festival organisers had taken the bold step of calling it the Whanganui Literary Festival".
"From a Maori perspective, I'm glad the literary festival has adopted this controversial spelling. Identities and nationalities are constantly forming, and I think two different identifies can live side-by-side in Wanganui."
This evening he'll discuss a wide range of topics, including his current projects, Maori literature, and history. Attendees may even get a preview of Between, the first book in a young adult fantasy trilogy he's writing, based on Maori legends.
Tomorrow Ihimaera will be joined by Christine Leunens to discuss the process of having their books made into films.
His most famous movie was Whale Rider, directed by Nicky Caro and released in 2002.
"Whale Rider was a very Maori story, but it was also a story that transcends race and origin and nationality."
He said he has become far more recognised internationally since Whale Rider.
These days, Ihimaera is a busy man. As well as working on his trilogy, he's also "had my arm twisted" to write a memoir.
"I'm thinking about calling it True Lies but that might not be appropriate."
He's also excited about the production of the fourth movie adaptation of one of his books. The Patriarch, it will be directed by Once Were Warriors director Lee Tamahori.
He teaches writing at the Manukau Institute of Technology, and recently returned from a teaching stint in Canada.
Of his own books, Ihimaera said his favourite was "always the last one".
"But I have always had a fondness for Pounamu Pounamu. It was my first book, and I wrote it when I was 26, living in London. That book is the source from which all my DNA, all my strength as a writer has been drawn."
Arguably the most recognisable name in Maori literature, Ihimaera said his identity as a Maori writer was something he embraced with pride.
"To be a Maori writer has always been my destiny. I'm also a New Zealand writer, but there are not many of us writing the Maori story."
He will continue writing Maori themes in his work. "There will always be a story of a Maori family in my work, taking its place alongside a story of a Pakeha family in Katherine Mansfield's work."
The Whanganui Literary Festival opens today, 5.30pm, at the Sarjeant Gallery. Ihimaera's first talk will follow the opening at 7.30pm, at the War Memorial Hall. For details visit: www.writersfest.co.nz.