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Chris Stuart – A crime writer with a social conscience

Authors photo

Chris is an adventurer at heart and had she been born a hundred years ago, she would have liked to have been an explorer, happy to wander off the beaten track and experience whatever was thrown at her. She has led a very restless and uncertain but exciting life, mostly in the Middle East, Indonesia and the Pacific.

Chris was born and raised in Christchurch and is the oldest of nine children. To this day she ranks this city in the early 1960s as the most boring place in the world to grow up in. That may sound contentious to some, and despite a myriad of playmates, as a four-year-old, she ran away from home to go to school, as a six-year-old, she locked her mother inside her house and headed out into the wide world on her trike and at seven she barricaded her mother, her new baby sister and a very upset Plunket nurse in a clinic and ran off to buy fish and chips. 

She says she was always looking to escape and always wanted to know what was around the corner or where that path was leading. To this day boredom and ennui are her two greatest fears and the thing she struggled with the most when in level four lockdown during the Coronavirus.

As a consequence of her restless nature, it’s not surprising that Chris wanted to travel.  She trained as a Nurse, and then later completed a post-grad degree in Art History, followed by a Masters in International and Community Development. As soon as it was possible she headed overseas. For nearly twenty years she lived in different countries and had different roles within the health sector as a Humanitarian worker, a nurse and a Consultant, working with such organisations as Red Cross, Oxfam, the UN and AusAID.

She has worked in outback Australia with Aboriginal communities, war zones, disasters, disease outbreaks and famine and had witnessed the best and worst of humanity and she has a head full of stories that need to be written. It was often her art history degree that came in the most useful when working in remote places because this was often a safe subject to discuss and her knowledge specific to a particular country, impressed people and created trust and often allowed her access to people and places that were denied to others.

The desire to be a writer began many years ago when she was working in Sudan. Chris, along with a group of humanitarian workers, was caught in a bombing attack on a town in Northern Sudan. One of her colleagues gave her a book to read while waiting for the all-clear. The book, “A Widow for a Year” by John Irving was so absorbing and instrumental in distracting her from the danger outside. She realised how wonderful it was to be an author and have the power to transport the reader to another time and place. “For Reasons of her Own,” is her debut novel.

After another contract in the Middle East, she returned to Australia in 2014 determined to complete an autobiographical novel about her time working with volunteer health workers in a refugee camp, but when it was nearly finished, she didn’t think it was good enough and disappointed in herself, put it aside. It wasn’t until she decided it was time to return to NZ that she was ready to try again, but this time, wanted to attempt a different approach.   

Since then, she is a former winner of the Elyne Mitchell Short Story Australian Writing Award and is currently a judge for writing competitions in Australia and New Zealand. Her writing is influenced by Charles Dickens because the setting of his books in contemporary England had a strong social message, Elizabeth George because of her masterful plotting and PD James because of the way she portrays the psychology of a killer. Chris likens her lead character in this debut novel to the flawed Rebus of Ian Rankin or the Jane Tennyson of Prime Suspect.

Enjoy some photos from Chris's international humanitarian work
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