Today is New Zealand’s national day – a day for family get-togethers. Kiwi author Michelle Holman shares her thoughts about the quirky families from her novels…

Picture by Paul Abbitt

February 6 is New Zealand’s National Day. This year it will be 172 years since the signing of The Treaty of Waitangi. It’s a very special day in our history.

Wherever they are in the world, Kiwis will be celebrating Waitangi Day. Kids on their big OE will be wandering through London draped in the NZ flag, cooking sausages on the barbie in frozen back gardens and pretending they’re at the beach. At home, it’s a time to get together with family members who you last saw at Christmas and New Year, and possibly the previous weekend if you live in the top half of the North Island because January 30th is Auckland/Northland’s anniversary day which means we get two three-day weekends back-to-back.

If you’re thinking that I don’t have much time for families, you’d be wrong. I love families. I love creating them and writing about them. The families I’ve created in my books are some of my favourite and most popular characters.

To date there’s been The Jacksons (Bonkers, Barefoot), the American/Irish/Italian Fabellos (Knotted), and most recently, the Gutsells from my latest book, Hand Me Down.

White trash, stuck-in-the-seventies Nola Gutsell, her crass husband, Barry, and their offspring – Latoya, Lateesha, Christobel, Farrah, Shontell and Jayson –  seem to have struck a chord. People like them and want to know if I have books planned for the rest of the Gutsell girls. Sorry, I don’t.

A similar thing happened when Knotted was released in 2010. Ross’s Irish mammy, Breda, and his pushy, scathing sisters were a big hit, but when I asked people if they’d want to spend Christmas with the Fabellos, the answer was: Probably not.

The Jackson family are slightly different to the Fabellos and Gutsells because they’re (reasonably) sane. Also, I knew when I finished Bonkers that there was a story for Sherry, Lisa Jackson’s older and tougher cop sister (Barefoot); and I have a book planned for Lisa and Sherry’s “little” brother, Ben Jackson and Starr, the motorbike-riding midwife. I then got asked if I had stories planned for the Jackson babies (so far there are two). They’ve only just been born, let them grow up first!

I’ve always enjoyed reading books where characters from previous stories pay a visit, and I get to see how they’re doing. Judging by the response I’m getting, I’ll do that too as long as I can come up with a plot I like. At the moment I’m writing a couple of stories and both of them are about secondary characters. I’m also toying with an idea for a story about Dillon Taylor, Sherry’s police buddy in Bonkers, and one for Perry Westgaard, the pro-golfer mentioned in Barefoot.

I think the Jacksons, Fabellos and Gutsells have stuck in people’s minds because they remind them of somebody in their own family, and the beauty of a book is being able to close it whenever you feel like it – and have the last word.


Michelle Holman writes contemporary women’s fiction. She is published in New Zealand and Australia by HarperCollins, and in Germany, Austria and Switzerland by Droemer. Her first book, Bonkers (2007), was followed by Divine (2008), Knotted (2009) and Barefoot (2010). All of Michelle’s books have made the NZ Bestseller List. Her latest, Hand Me Down (2011) has been on the bestseller list for 12 weeks and is her second number one. Hand Me Down will be on sale in Kmart in Australia in March, 2012. Her books and ebooks can be purchased online from Mighty Ape, Fishpond and Amazon. You can find out more about Michelle at her Facebook page and read about her and her books and where to purchase them on http://www.michelleholman.com.

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