Michelle Kelly did not think she would be turning staunch men into teary-eyed readers when she wrote her first historical novel set in New Zealand's early gold rush era.
Kelly, of New Zealand, said she was surprised when she heard her novel, Riverstones, set in Queenstown's Skippers Canyon in the 1860s, has had men shedding tears.
"That surprised me. I think it's because it was set in the goldfields, and because it's about family, they can identify with some of the characters, because they're all [the characters] going through something ," Kelly said.
Riverstones, released last October, follows the life of widower Mary Healey, who found herself alone in a new country with six children. After she gave up finding her missing husband Jim, Healey bought the Welcome Home Hotel, and ran the business with the help of daughters Annie, Meg, and Kitty, but soon found herself having to confront a painful past.
Kelly said she "dreamt the whole story" as she was waking up from general anaesthesia after an ear surgery in 2008.
"It was a gift," she said.
"I thought 'hmm, that's cool. From start to finish, I knew who the characters were, where the story was set, in Skippers Canyon, Long Gully, which I'd never been to at the time. It is a pretty hairy drive, there's no car insurance if you take your car on the Skippers road, it's like a one lane gravel road with a 200 foot drop that way, a rock face that way, and sometimes there's a bus coming straight towards you."
It took Kelly six years to finish the novel, with endless hours poured into researching Skippers Canyon, and the lives of the early pioneering settlers, and she also visited Skippers to get a better feel for the place.
Another reason it had taken her so long to complete her novel was because halfway through, she decided to work on another novel, but a sermon by the late Dr Myles Munroe challenged her to continue chipping away "at the gift", Kelly said.
"His sermon was about dying empty, and that God has given us all these gifts and talents, and we're to use them, and not to keep them for ourselves. So I really felt challenged to start working again on Riverstones."
Kelly said she wanted Riverstones to be a novel with a secular feel to it but with a Christian message weaved into its plot line.
"The reader is not meant to realise until they're hooked in the story that there's actually a message, it's a restoration and redemption message, but the story is not over yet. Riverstones finishes quite abruptly, and people know there is unfinished business," she said.
Work on the sequel in underway, and Kelly's goal is to see the Riverstones trilogy made into a movie. She hopes to have her second book published before Christmas next year.
Email Michelle Kelly at email@example.com for more information on Riverstones, which is also available on Amazon in paperback and ebook