Nicky Pellegrino and Stacy Gregg present their new podcast series Book Bubble, in which they interview 10 New Zealand authors. Today: Brandy Scott.

Taranaki-born Brandy Scott might never have turned her hand to writing fiction, had it not been for a broken relationship and ruined summer holiday plans.

With her debut novel, Not Bad People, she managed that rare thing, producing a plotline that grabbed the attention of publishers who rushed to sign her up when she was still only a few thousand words into her first draft. The book also appealed to TV producer John Barnett who snapped up rights to turn it into a series.

Not Bad People is a “moral dilemma” story about three women who hold a letting-go ceremony, setting fire to lanterns and releasing them into the night sky. The next day, amid reports of a small plane crash, they suspect one of the lanterns may have been responsible.

A sharp, suspenseful tale of friendship under pressure, Brandy juggled writing her first novel with her day job as a morning radio host in Dubai.


An extract from Not Bad People by Brandy Scott (HarperCollins, $35)

There was a flare of light in the distance, a tiny yellow dot that grew steadily brighter.

“One of the lanterns must have caught fire,” said Aimee.

Melinda shrugged. “Don’t worry, it’s just paper. It’ll burn out in a minute.”

But it didn’t. Instead, the small circle grew brighter as it rose steadily upwards, then popped – that was the only word for it – into a cartoon ball of fire, yellow and orange and white.

“Oh bugger.” Aimee reached for Melinda’s phone. “Here.”

Lou squinted to try and bring her pinot vision into focus. The glowing ball didn’t look like a lantern on fire, but to be fair she was a bottle and a half down.

“No,” said Melinda, holding the phone out of reach.

Aimee stared at her. “But we have to call it in.”

“No,” Melinda said again. “You’ll just cause a world of hassle.”

“But what if it sets fire to something?”

“Aimee, it won’t.” Melinda’s voice was firm. “There’s nothing up there for it to set fire to.”

Lou cupped her hands around her eyes; the little flame was floating high above the ranges, like an angry star.

“The bushfire warning’s green, for the first time since I’ve bloody been alive,” Melinda continued. “People are literally barbecuing in the streets. You don’t need to worry.”

The fireball was breaking up now, falling towards the earth in a shower of sparks. It was too far away to see where, exactly; too far and too dark. Lou tried to figure out the right thing to do.

A third round of fireworks exploded, then a fourth. “Look, everyone’s staring at the sky; someone else will spot it,” said Melinda. A fifth explosion, and a flurry of Catherine wheels danced above the river. Then in the distance, the familiar tinny clang of an emergency vehicle, followed by the whoop of a police siren. “See? Sorted. And it’s gone out anyway.”

Lou gazed over to where the glowing ball had been. There was some wispy smoke hanging in the dark, but the small blaze itself had disappeared. It was like a magic trick: there one moment, gone the next. Thank God for that. Lou didn’t like trouble; she’d seen enough for one lifetime. “Let’s go inside,” she said.

*Funded by Creative NZ*

Stacy Gregg is HarperCollins NZ' third best-selling children' writer of all time (after David Walliams and Dr Seuss) as the author of over 30 pony novels. She is currently working on TV series Poni Poni...

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