THE term unconventional
does not come close to de-
scribing New Zealand writ-
er Glynne Maclean, who has just
released her new book for chil-
dren-of-all-ages, Roivan, Book One of the A'nzarian Chronicle.
This is not just any old book. It is backed by one of New Zea-
land's leading literary agents, Mi-
chael Gifkins, and published by Penguin Books.
MacLean - who declined to be photographed for this story -
grew up surrounded by storytell-
ing in a big family that was con-
stantly on the move.
"I went to 12 different schools. There were five children [in the family] so we were often told to go outside and play. It was one of those households where we al-
ways had people round. We were taught very early if people came around you put the kettle on, and
if they stayed you invited them
Her father started off as a clerk for Firestone, ended up as a university professor and now has an organic coffee plantation in New South Wales.
Her mother spends half the
year working on the Milford Track, and the other half travel-
ling to, for example, archeological digs in Mongolia.
Her siblings include a sister who lives in the United States where she works as a business
analyst and a brother - "he's so laidback he's horizontal" - who teaches music and writes scores for films such as Elizabeth, Slid-
ing Doors and Broken Hearted.
MacLean started writing in 1996 when she took a creative writing course tutored by Fiona Kidman.
In preparation for the course she outlined the story of Roivan, who, she says, has been around
in her head for a long time.
She first made Roivan an
adult aged "about 32 because I was about 32 as well", and be-
cause she was uncertain about writing from a child's point of view.
Even the process of submitting the novel to publishers was a use-
ful learning experience.
While she found the setbacks hard to stomach, MacLean never received a flat rejection, more a list of reader's comments and constructive editorial criticism.
The A'nzarian Chronicle re-
ceived a commendation in the 2000 Tom Fitzgibbon Award for unpublished children's fiction.
After receiving the commend-
ation she was introduced to Mi-
chael Gifkins, the agent New Zea-
land publishers stand up and take notice of.
When he submitted her manu-
script to Penguin Books, it was well on its way to being published.
Roivan's story begins in the cramped maintenance alcove of a
ship called Balliage in an un-
charted area of space.
There are no other ships near-
by, Roivan has no idea where she is. Her instructions: to find hu-
man space by hopping from ship to ship without being caught.
And she knows she is about to be discovered.
As the book unfolds Roivan comes to understand the dark, confused mystery of where she comes from, and realises that
with her incredible telekinetic ability comes responsibility.
"She's been sent off with a set of intructions but no peer pres-
sure so she can actually meet people without prejudice. She's had to rely entirely on herself -
she makes her own decisions but they're not always the right ones."
Despite being set in deep space, New Zealand is not left out of the picture.
Two of the major characters are very much blokes from down under - who else would say "Crikey!" - and the ship's Prime grew up with his grandfather on the Wairarapa coast.
MacLean says the book is a good stepping stone for people reading Harry Potter, and certain-
ly anyone reading the story of Roivan will be just as eager for her next instalment as that of the child wizard.