With a passion for all things creative, ZR Southcombe shares her experience of the world through word and image. Boundless imagination combined with a deep desire to understand the world and our place in it make for innovative, intriguing and inspiring creations.
ZR Southcombe loves inspiring young (and young-at-heart) with her optimism, energy, and example. All of her work is rooted in a deep desire to serve others, while satisfying her own creative soul.
In 2017, Zee will be returning to study in counselling, with the intention to specialise in working with children. A true creative, she always has several projects on the go!
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ZR Southcombe Ltd.,
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This is the long & rambling version of my bio! (Feb 2016)
I was born in Kanpur, India in January 1989, and moved to New Zealand in July of the same year. We have a mixed heritage of Eastern and Western ethnicities, but ultimately New Zealand is my home. My name, Zenobia, means ‘daughter of Zeus’ from the Greek tradition, and may be one reason why I have such a fascination with the old mythologies.
We lived in Auckland and I grew up with my parents, my younger brother and sister, my granddad (whom we called Pa, and is very dear to my heart) and a number of pets over the years. As a child – and like many authors – I devoured books, and it would often frustrate me that there was a limit on the number of books I was allowed to check out at our local library.
The books that left the biggest impressions on me as a child were C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh and all of Roald Dahl’s books. Later on, influences included J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit and Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series. I remember reading a line from Matilda expressing how grown-ups seemed to forget what it’s like to be a child, and I made a promise to myself to never be one of those grown-ups. I like to think I’ve kept that promise.
Most of my years growing up were spent not really knowing what I was doing, and so doing bits of everything, learning many things – and making many mistakes. Having said that, I don’t regret them, because they’ve made me the person I am today. I found maths easy, and writing hard, but was most interested in spirituality, psychology and philosophy. It was these interests that led me to creative hobbies, including music and painting.
I ended up deciding on a career in Visual Art, but dropped out of my Visual Arts degree before the end of the first semester because I realised that I just wanted to paint what I wanted to paint – I didn’t really want to study it. I went on to a Bachelor of Education, which I graduated from, and taught full time for just under two years.
Earlier, I said that most of my years growing up were spent not really knowing what I was doing. They were also spent trying to deal with chronically low self-esteem, which contributed to ongoing depression and anxiety. After the death of my granddad, a significant relationship break-up and general work stress, I fell deeper into those feelings and found them harder to manage. My partner in particular encouraged me to get help, and I started seeing a counsellor.
I talked to my friends and family about what I was going through, though many found it hard to believe that someone who came across as confident and sensible (apparently) could somehow be depressed or anxious. I met many wonderful people who held my hand through the process – and I know they are always there to help. I am grateful to have them in my life.
It was in this time that I decided to be a writer. Again, my partner encouraged me, telling me that I didn’t need to worry about how it would work, but that I should just start writing and everything else would fall into place. I was dubious at the time, but I gave it a go. Well, it turned out he was right! Even though I’m an avid planner, and always think ahead, I’ve learned that the only real way to figure something out is to have a go at it – I didn’t want to look back on my life and wonder, ‘What if?’
I made many mistakes – again – in that year, but I learned a lot (are you seeing a pattern?) and made some wonderful writer friends who brighten every day and keep my spirits up. I often think back to when I was younger, reading those amazing books and thinking that I could never be good enough to be an author! If the little girl devouring books could have seen who she’d grow up to be, I know she would be proud.
My debut story What Stars Are Made Of was published in December 2014, and I received some beautiful comments from readers that have made me feel touched, humbled, and proud all at once. I live now with my partner and my cat in Auckland, where I work as a fiction writer, an editor, an artist, an illustrator, a tutor and a bookshop assistant!
In 2015, I published The Caretaker of Imagination and its sequel, Lucy’s Story: The End of the World. I also created two companion colouring books, started publishing zines. As my first year being a ‘published author’, I learnt lots about events, publicity and stress – which caused me to dip back into anxiety and depression later in the year.
In 2016, as I work towards my ‘full time creative’ dream, I am also being more mindful of my health and wellbeing. Life is a journey and I am here to enjoy it, to soak it up, and to contribute to the world in my unique way.
These are questions I get asked by readers, friends and fellow writers. If you have a question you want answered, scroll to the bottom of this page and submit it there, or contact me using this form.
How long did it take you to write The Caretaker of Imagination?
This is a two-part question. Once I’d planned the story (which was in April 2013) it took me just over two months to write the first draft. Then the editing began! The first major edit took the manuscript from about 22,000 words down to about 10,000 words. After that, each revision brought new changes and it ended up at 11,500 words. I stopped doing revisions in January 2015, got it proofread and called it a finished project. All in all, that’s a year and nine months.
Did you always want to be a writer?
Yes and no. I secretly wanted to be a children’s author, but I only ever told a couple of people this. I never thought I’d ever be good enough – I wasn’t particularly good at English in school, although I did love reading. My partner convinced me I should have a go anyway, and look – I did it!
Who is your publisher?
How did you know what to do?
Well, quite frankly, I didn’t. I don’t think anyone really knows what they’re doing – we all just do our best and hopefully learn from our mistakes!
In terms of the actual writing, I have to say my most powerful teachers are the books I love. The more I read, the better I get at writing. Second to this are my editor, Jeni, and friends of mine who read my book and gave me feedback. Finally, I read a lot of articles online – though I don’t do this much anymore.
As for publishing and formatting and all that stuff, my friend Joy Findlay is my first port of call, then all my friends who also publish their stories independently. I also learn a lot from watching what people who I think are successful do. I’m fortunate to have lots of people who are willing to share their experience and knowledge with me.
Can I buy your book at a book shop?
Yes, several retailers are stocking my books. You can see the full list here. Of course, you can always purchase directly from me, too.