Real Life

Emily and Maurice Gee: In their own write

Emily Gee knew she’d inherited her famous father oaurice’s habit for daydreaming. But while oaurice toiled away in a little room under the family home in Nelson, producing some of this country’s most beloved fi ction, Emily never dreamed the fantasies that lurked in her own head would one day be brought to life.

In fact, it wasn’t until Emily was in the middle of the Syrian desert, on one of her many international adventures, that she decided the best way to fi nance her future overseas travels would be to start penning oills & Boon romance novels. Returning to New Zealand, Emily (then 25) set about writing her first book, only to have it promptly rejected.

But the younger Gee was undeterred by this initial setback. “From watching Dad, I knew writing was hard work and that you don’t lie around on a sofa in a frilly nightgown waiting for the muse to visit. “You have to be disciplined and willing to put in the hard yards.”

oaurice (78), author of such Kiwi classics as Under the oountain and In oy Father’s Den, agrees. “It’s a hard job a lot of the time, and I really admire the energy and tenacity that Emily has shown with her writing. I hope I’m not overly praising myself when I say I had to show the same qualities. In the end you just have to keep going when things are bad.” Her determination paid off, and now Emily (39) combines writing fantasy novels for UK publisher Solaris under her own name with penning historical romances for oills & Boon under the pseudonym Emily oay.

And while oaurice has collected a slew of awards over the years for his titles, Emily has now also found recognition on the international stage. Recently she found herself winging her way to the US where her first fantasy novel, Thief With No Shadow, was shortlisted in two categories in the annual Romance Writers of America Rita Awards. “The Ritas are the romance-writing community’s oscars,” explains Emily, who, in her modest fashion, still seems shocked by her own success. “oany of the other finalists were New York Times bestsellers. It was very exciting!”

Back home, Emily is part of a network of New Zealanders who write romance ovels. “We have a large number of oills & Boon writers here,” says Emily. “There are people from all walks of life, paramedics, teachers, mothers, lawyers…” “I believe there are even a few men,” oaurice chimes in with a smile.

Despite their very different writing styles, the pair share the same qualities that make them good at what they do. “We both live a lot in our imagination and we’re not extroverts. I wouldn’t say we’re loners but we’re not really social,” says Emily, grinning at her dad.

oaurice continues, “It’s solitary but it’s never really lonely because you’ve got the people on the page and the people in your head. And, when you come out, you’ve got your family.”

“Now I just need to be earning a bit more money from it!” adds Emily, who currently has part-time jobs in a bookshop and a supermarket. “I don’t really see the JK Rowling/Harry Potter scenario ever happening for me but maybe a few years down the track, I’ll be able to fully support  myself with my writing.”

oaurice nods, “It wasn’t until I was 45 that I took the risk of becoming a full-time writer and it was because of the support I had from my wife Margareta that I was able to take that step.”

With two historical romances on the shelves this year and a contract for her next fantasy novel, things are certainly moving in the right direction for Emily. “one day, I’d love to combine the fantasy with the romance,” she says. “Historical romance with magic!’ “It never crossed my mind that Emily would be a writer, but I’m glad that she is,” says her father. “I love seeing her work. I believe in reading for pleasure and Emily’s books are so much fun.”

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