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omance novelist Shirley Wine has won a Koru Award for her book. Photo: KELLEY TANTAU

Award for romance writer

You don’t have to be romantic to be a romance writer, says Waihī’s newest award-winning author, just construct a good plot and a happy ending.
Shirley Wine is an author of more than 20 novels specialising in rural and small town romances “with an edge”.
She wrote two books in 2021, one of them being Autumn Shadows, which this month clinched the national Koru Award for a novel of more than 65,000 words.
The Koru Award is run by Romance Writers of New Zealand and is a readers’ choice award aimed at recognising excellence in romance writing within the country.
The book’s blurb reads: “The last person Gemma Halliday expects to arrive on her doorstep in the middle of a family crisis is Ben McGlade, the SAS soldier with whom she shared one stolen night of passion.
“Honouring a promise he made to Gemma’s brother, a fellow SAS soldier, to watch out for his sister in his absence, Ben bears news of a threat against her and her child.
“Determined to protect the woman he can’t forget, Ben vows to keep her and her infant son safe despite the memories of their night together that simmer beneath the surface.”
The novel is Book Two in Shirley’s Deep South series, and winning the award has made her an “overnight success” after more than 30 years putting pen to paper, she says.
“I gave my mother my first book and she always said: ‘If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly’. So, I gave it to her and said: ‘It’s a bit sexy’, and she just looked me in the eye and said: ‘How do you think you got here?’”
When writing romance, Shirley draws upon her own life experiences. She was born on a farm, lived on a farm, and married a farmer. She met her husband Martin when she was just 16-years-old.
For “many years” she wrote the Country Comment column for NZ Herald.
“I’ve had a huge and varied life, and it’s not always been happy, but it’s definitely not always been sad,” she says.
“We’ve suffered a lot of grief in our life, and writing has literally saved my sanity.”
Shirley became a member of Romance Writers of New Zealand in 1996 and has sold books to Harper Collins and also “indie publishes” her works online. They can be read on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and Apple.
Still, Shirley says she deals with “imposter syndrome”.
“I still feel that I’m not a real writer,” she says. “But the thing with writing is, it’s like getting up and cleaning your teeth. You have to write every day.”
But Shirley, who “can’t stand stupid heroines”, says you don’t have to be a romantic person to be able to write romance novels. There is a raft of off-shoots within the genre, such as romantic suspense, sweet romance, and sci-fi romance.
Shirley specialises in contemporary romance, and says she doesn’t rely on sex to sell her books. It’s all about the good plot and happy ending.
Shirley writes her romance novels from her home in Waihī. Quite often, she’s sitting in the living room when she poses a question to Martin.
“I’ll say: ‘How does this sound, or, what do you think I should do here?’” she says. “He’s a sounding board… and my number one cheerleader.”
She and Martin will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in April next year, and the pair seem to know a thing or two about true love.
“I believe in romance,” Shirley says, “because I have my own hero at home.”
DETAILS: Shirley’s books can be found on her website: