The Library: Historic Florence Flood Inspires Auckland Author

kirsten mckenzie writer

Auckland-based author, armed-robbery survivor, antiques dealer, and professional speaker Kirsten McKenzie’s literary career continues to skyrocket even through a global pandemic.

On the 54th anniversary of the devastating Florence floods, McKenzie launched her sixth novel within five years, an admirable feat for a mother of two daughters aged 12 and 14 who also supports other New Zealand writers in their endeavours.

McKenzie fought international crime for fourteen years as a Customs Officer before leaving to work in the family antique store after the sudden death of her father. It was at this business where she was held up at gunpoint, however, it was also where the idea for writing a time travel novel was conceived. Her first book ‘Fifteen Postcards’ was soon followed by two sequels - ‘The Last Letter’ and ‘Telegram Home’, creating a time travel trilogy named ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’. Earlier in 2020, she inked a deal to convert the international best selling trilogy into audiobooks.

McKenzie released a paranormal thriller ‘Painted’ in 2017, and a medical thriller ‘Doctor Perry’ in 2018. Published by Squabbling Sparrows Press in the Hawkes Bay, ’Painted’ made it to #2 in the UK charts, nestled between Stephen King’s books ‘Sleeping Beauties’ and ‘Gerald’s Game’. It did one better in Australia, hitting #1 in the charts.

Her latest work is titled ‘The Forger and the Thief’ and launched on 4 November 2020 at Time Out Bookstore in Mt Eden, Auckland. This date was chosen as it will be the 54th anniversary of the Florence floods of 1966. An uncanny coincidence given the disaster in Napier this week, and a timely reminder that climate change affects us all.

‘After visiting Florence and stumbling on an exhibition commemorating the flood of the Arno River, I started to formulate a plot. My love of history and art seems to have a field day in my imagination, and before I know it, I’m down another rabbit hole with another manuscript.

‘The flood destroyed and damaged millions of masterpieces of art and rare books. Sadly, 101 people lost their lives. The water peaked at 6.7 metres and 600,000 tons of mud, rubble and sewage swept through the city. I couldn’t stop thinking about how easy it might have been for an opportunistic thief to steal priceless art under the guise of helping during a rescue operation.’

‘The Forger and the Thief’ tells the tale of a wife on the run, a student searching for stolen art, a cleaner who has lined more than his pockets, a policeman whose career is almost over, and a guest who should have never received a wedding invite. The five strangers become entangled in the forger’s wicked web as the ominous floodwaters begin to swallow the historic city.

McKenzie’s books have previously featured at the New Zealand Book Festival, Hamilton Book Month for an unparalleled two consecutive years, Rotorua Noir and at the Ngaio Marsh Award’s Mystery in the Library series. Her speaking calendar for 2021 is already starting to fill with appearances at Auckland’s Fringe Festival in February, followed by an appearance at Newcastle Noir in the United Kingdom in April already booked.

‘Five years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed that I’d be a full-time author during a global pandemic. However, one benefit of lockdown is that more people are reading, and this inspires me to keep writing. The best thing about being a full-time author is that I’m always here for my family. And now that my daughters are older, I’m working on something they can read, a new Young Adult time travel trilogy.’