When most people get hooked on a singing star, they might buy a magazine for the latest gossip or follow them on social media, but for sisters Nikki Perry and Kirsty Roby, their love of Harry Styles went beyond fun facts and Instagram – it led them to write their first book!
With their fan-fiction novel How To Marry Harry on shelves on Tuesday, the Tauranga-born pair say the One Direction singing sensation has inspired them in more ways than one.
"Harry's not just a great musician – he's all about spreading the message that you can do anything you set your mind to, no matter what your age," Kirsty, 48, tells Woman's Day. "It sounds clichéd, but he's changed our lives – and I love his tattoos!"
While Harry's lush locks were what first caught Nikki's eye, she says the hit-making heart-throb is known for his kindness. "He's a very humble person," says the mum-of-three, 54. "His values are about being inclusive and he's not afraid to make fun of himself."
It was during the first nationwide lockdown that the sisters got hooked on Harry's catchy hits. Battling boredom and in need of a new project, they decided to put their writing skills to use and their shared love of the singer was the perfect way to get started.
"They always say 'write what you know', so that's exactly what we did," says Auckland-based little sis Kirsty. "We were in different parts of the country, so we started writing in a Google Doc that we could both add bits into. We never really disagreed on things with the characters and, being sisters, we could be more blunt with each other about what we thought – writing sex scenes was interesting!"
How To Marry Harry ($25, Pink Van Publishing) is a funny, fictional read about family, finding romance and, of course, the singer himself. For Nikki, it was also about writing something light-hearted that Kiwi women can relate to.
"It feels like a lot of books are aimed at women in their twenties, but we wanted to write something that felt relevant for older women. Romance is different when you're older – it's not necessarily all flowers and perfection. We wanted something that looked at the chance of finding love later in life."
The author says spending countless hours reading Harry trivia as research was one of the best parts of the process, while sampling top-shelf spirits was another perk of the job.
"There's a section of the book that involves whisky," tells Nikki, "so we went to Cardrona Distillery in Central Otago to see how it's made. Writing can't all be hard work – you've got to have some fun!"
With a dedication at the front of the book to Harry's mum Anne "for giving us Harry", it's safe to say the bubbly sisters are true superfans. While neither of them were ever interested in One Direction, their fascination with Harry has raised some eyebrows in their families.
"My daughters just don't get it," laughs Nikki, whose favourite Harry song is From The Dining Table. Meanwhile, Kirsty's teenage son didn't share his mum's excitement when a giant cardboard cut-out of the star arrived in the mail. "He's horrified that I own one of those!" she grins.
Avid readers since childhood, the sisters had both completed courses through the New Zealand Writers College with the initial intention of writing for TV, says Kirsty, before turning their focus to novels.
"We went along to a romance writers' conference and at first we were like, 'What are we doing here?' But it turned out to be great – everyone was so encouraging. The world of publishing was completely foreign to us, but we learnt a lot about self-publishing, which means we can have full input over every stage of creating the book."
Now they've hit their stride, the cocktail-loving siblings have a second book nearly complete and a draft of a third, although Kirsty adds that putting a novel out into the world can be nerve-wracking.
"That first draft is particularly daunting," she explains. "You're always thinking, 'Who can I trust to read it and tell me in a nice way if it's terrible?' But we've had some great support."
Sadly, Harry has cancelled his planned tour Down Under due to "the continuing challenges for international touring", so the sisters are yet to see their favourite singer live in concert, but Spotify playlists and Harry trivia will do in the meantime.
"Maybe we'll send Harry a copy of the book," muses Kirsty. "And we'll have to send one to his mum – we love her too!"
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