I am thrilled to be selected as Author of the Month on UK Talk Radio. It's an honour to work with such an inspiring team.
Check out this feature, and my on-air interview will be available shortly.
Author of the Month David Whittet
I have struggled to find the right title for Blood Cousins since I completed the manuscript. Recently, it’s become something of an obsession. When I started the novel, Blood Cousins seemed an appropriate title, but it became less so as the story progressed.
Gang Girl is a memorable and eye-catching title. Blood Cousins needs an equally attention-grabbing title. The use of another iteration could work. I considered Gazza and the Gang. Aaron could be nicknamed Gazza as a child when he starred in his school football team. Or maybe Gekko and the Gang. Aaron could have acquired the nickname Gekko from his meteoric rise to the top of the power industry.
Today, I have finally cracked it. I have settled on Goliath and the Gang. This title is attention-grabbing and reflects the heart of the story. And it affords an exciting tagline: ‘Aaron has two sworn enemies … Goliath and the Gang’.
I completed the second book in the Gang Girl series on a recent visit to Thailand. With the working title Blood Cousins, the novel continues Alicia's struggle to escape her gang upbringing and build a better life for her son.
On my return home, I sent the manuscript to my faithful beta readers, who provided invaluable feedback on Gang Girl. While I am delighted with their constructive advice and enthusiasm for the project, I wanted to know how those who had not read Gang Girl would respond to the story. Would they understand it? Had I provided sufficient backstory for the book to work as a stand-alone novel?
To answer this question, I also gave the manuscript to several reviewers who had yet to read the first novel. Comparing their response to that of my regular readers has proved fascinating. While those familiar with the first book were primarily concerned with justice for Alicia, my new reviewers got even more from the story. With a fresh perspective, they concentrated on Aaron's story, a young man destined to reach the top and determined the gang would not destroy his life like they had his mother's. This is especially heartening, as I intended to write a companion novel rather than a sequel.
I am delighted with the feedback from all my reviewers. This will enable me to fine-tune the manuscript as I work with my editorial team.
Watch this short teaser trailer and get the Gang Girl experience in twenty-six glorious seconds!
Check out this cool trailer for the Gang Girl audiobook, available now on all major audiobook platforms worldwide.
For my lovely local readers, there’s a fresh stock of Gang Girl at Paper Plus in Oamaru.
And what an honour to be on the same shelf as my guru, Fiona McIntosh!
Indie Reader describes Gang Girl as 'an extraordinary read':
GANG GIRL is a well written and memorable tale filled with enough drama, conflict, and intrigue to keep readers fully engaged. Intense pacing and clever plot twists and turns work collectively to unravel a complex story that is woven together in a coherent manner with just the right balance of action, description, dialogue and exposition to make this book an extraordinary read.
Read the full review here:
To celebrate the launch of the Gang Girl audiobook, I talked to Romy Hooper—the voice of Alicia in the audiobook—about the inspiration behind the book and chatted about my other projects.
Read Romy's show notes below and listen to the podcast:
First episode of the year - woohoo!
I was chuffed to finally speak with David Whittet - the author of recently released Gang Girl, who also happens to be a filmmaker and a family doctor to boot. When David came to Audiobooks NZ to have Gang Girl produced, I was lucky enough to be the narrator for his protagonist Alicia’s side of the story. It’s as good a listen as it is a read! Check it out on davidwhittet.com or AudiobooksNZ.co.nz
Storytelling has been prevalent in David’s family since childhood, with fond memories of TV serials, and a particularly impactful trip to the local cinema to see Lawrence of Arabia. Recognising that stories like Oliver Twist had the power to change the poor law in the UK, or The Citadel inspiring the National Health Service, he was convinced he wanted to be part of creating equally moving and powerful stories.
Having worked in rural communities here and in India, David has a rich tapestry of experience to draw from when creating his characters, and choosing which of their stories to tell.
Meeting patients and their families in these environments has generated somewhat of an artistic activist, with one of his earlier films ‘Hikoi’ being made in response to a Hone Harawera interview about the importance of awareness around child poverty. David wanted to comment on this and the lack of support for social workers within the context of the hikoi to parliament in 2015.
Set in NZ’s West Coast, Gang Girl has been a number of years in the making and centres around an immigrant family who have commandeered the charming wee town of Roaring Creek Falls. The main big guy brothers don’t get along, there’s a trillion layers and family secrets riddled throughout, and the kids (as we meet them at the beginning of the book) just want to get the hell away from it all. Named after the Crane twins from London, the rivalry wreaks violent havoc on most of their lives - and those of the neighbouring civilians. Inspired by a story told to David by a notorious local gang leader, and the attempts of his daughter to get away, Alicia’s world was born, and is extended in 2 sequels ‘Blood Cousins’ and ‘Gang Blood’...watch this space.
Other titles in the pipeline are ‘The Road to Madhapur’ about a Kiwi doctor disillusioned with life and his travels to Madhapur, inspired by David’s time spent doing rescue work in India, and ‘Threepence on the Carpet’ about an unsuccessful musician in the 60s returning from London to a bizarre inheritance. Needless to say, with these all on the go and his work as a general practitioner, David is one busy Oamaruvian. He actively supports local projects and content, so if you’re in the South get in touch with him via the contact form on his website.
I'm beyond excited to see Gang Girl come to life in this fantastic new audiobook. Romy Hooper owns the voice of Alicia, and I have already asked her to reprise her role in Blood Cousins, the next book in the series. Romy described the book as a 'gut-punch story about a kick-arse woman'. Both Romy and co-narrator Paul Harrop add a definite 'punch' to their performances—so much so that I rediscovered my story with this recording.
Sincere thanks to both Romy and Paul for their brilliant performances. I am also eternally grateful to Theo Gibson and the team at Audiobooks NZ for their expertise and sharing this journey with me.
Listen to the first chapter here.
The Gang Girl audiobook is available on all major audio platforms.
Dee Collins reviews Gang Girl in Focus Magazine's Latest Books to Read - New releases in different genres you'll enjoy.
I will be talking about Gang Girl and the newly released audiobook on the AM Show on TV3 tomorrow morning.
I have discovered my book anew while listening to the pre-masters for the Gang Girl audiobook. Romy Hooper brings even more gut punch to Alicia’s story as she captures the heart and soul of this ‘kick-arse woman’. While Romy possesses Alicia, Paul Harrop gets under the skin of her childhood friend turned nemesis, Mickey.
Romy and Paul are consummate artists, and their engagement with my story is legendary. I can’t wait to bring you this gripping audiobook.
'When Dr David Whittet is not writing prescriptions, he is writing scripts and making films.' That's what Ruby Heyward wrote in today's Oamaru Mail.
This interview with Rachel Doré for the Words from the Bubble radio show was a marathon and a full mental workout!
My interview on the KickArts show went out tonight on Planet FM 104.6. Listen to the journey that inspired me to write Gang Girl.
‘A gut punch tale about a kick arse woman.’ That’s how Romy Hooper, the narrator of my audiobook, described Gang Girl. Every writer dreams of finding a voice talent as deeply engaged in their story as Romy.
Romy totally owns the voice of Alicia, the kick-arse hero of my book! Equally, Paul Harrop inhabits the voice of Mickey, the damaged and conflicted boy groomed to be the next gang leader.
With two further novels in the Gang Girl series in development, I hope Romy and Paul will reprise their roles for future audiobooks. I promise even more gut-punching tales as Alicia and Mickey’s story continues.
My sincere thanks to Theo Gibson at AudiobooksNZ for his expertise in producing the audiobook. Theo and the team are now hard at work mixing and proofing the recordings. Keep watching for the release date.
If you can’t wait for the audiobook, you can grab the print version here!
Read Romy Hooper’s post here: https://www.facebook.com/574296966/posts/10160188239861967/?d=n
NZBooklovers describe Gang Girl as a 'visceral read' and 'thought-provoking'.
Read their full review here: https://www.nzbooklovers.co.nz/post/gang-girl-by-david-whittet
I've just finished a Q&A with NZBooklovers. The interview reminded me of some colourful anecdotes while researching the novel. You can read the full article here: NZBooklovers Q&A with David Whittet
I am delighted to announce that Gang Girl finally launches on 30 November 2021. This project has proved an extraordinary journey over the past decade, and I am eternally grateful to my loyal supporters for their patience.
A book launch amid a pandemic is a challenge. Nevertheless, we are planning several events to celebrate publication, including a local function in Oamaru. We hope to have more media exposure in the New Year. Keep watching this blog for more news!
In the meantime, you can order an advance copy of the book today at David's Bookshop, personally signed for you by the author!
Sharpen the pencils! The rewrite of Gang Girl proved an enormous challenge and brought me face to face with a new cast of characters and a new setting. With Alicia and Mickey, Ronnie and Reggie all so firmly in my mind, I couldn’t resist the urge to start working on the second book in the series.
While Blood Cousins continues Alicia and Mickey’s story, the story begins with Aaron, Alicia’s son, now a successful CEO in the power industry.
I’m beyond excited to see the story take shape and share these iconic characters’ journey in another explosive adventure.
Times change, and of necessity, so too has my story. When Gang Girl finally launches next month, the book will be different from its previous iteration, with an immigrant gang on the West Coast of the South Island.
What remains is the spirit and resilience of New Zealand’s rural people. And despite the new setting, the heart of the story is unchanged. Alicia is a strong woman, determined to break free from the gang and take charge of her own destiny.
I regret to announce that the launch of Gang Girl has been postponed. The book will relaunch in a few months time with a new setting on the West Coast of the South Island and a new cast of characters. And a new book cover.
Unfortunately, this means losing the stunning artwork I commissioned from the extraordinarily talented Renata Curtis. So in the meantime, let's celebrate Renata's brilliant artwork. The original will always hold a place in my heart as well as a place on my wall.
During the fifteen years I worked as a rural doctor at Te Karaka in the Gisborne Region of New Zealand, I spent many happy weekends with my family picnicking at the nearby Rere Falls. My children loved to venture behind the cascading curtain of water and glide down the giant rockslide on a boogie board.
As I watched my children play, my mind began to wander. What if someone wanted to exploit the unique, magical properties of the water at Rere? Turn the iconic waterfalls into a water bottling factory? What if the Gang got involved?
Gang Girl was born.
It’s hard to believe ten years have passed since the cameras first rolled on Amiri & Aroha. A decade on and rebranded as Gang Girl, this iconic New Zealand story refuses to go away.
Back in 2010, the project didn’t have the most auspicious start. We’d assembled an ensemble cast of up and coming talent from various casting agencies, all of whom agreed to work for the experience instead of payment. We were about to start shooting when an industrial dispute regarding actors’ working conditions on The Hobbit hit the headlines. Under pressure from their agents, one by one the lead members of our cast dropped out.
Local radio station Turanga FM saved the day running on casting calls, and we discovered the extraordinary depth of acting talent in Gisborne. Walter ‘The Wiz’ Walsh became our casting director and the rest, as they say, is history.
To celebrate ten years of this remarkable journey, here are a collection of production stills. For our loyal fans, watch out for a book trailer made up of footage from the film trilogy and the release of a special director’s cut of the films to coincide with the launch of Gang Girl.
Researching Gang Girl proved an adventure in itself. I shall never forget the day I fronted up to a notorious gangster’s house hoping for an interview during my fifteen years as a rural doctor in the Gisborne region.
My heartbeat was even louder than my banging on the door. Eventually, a nine-year-old boy gingerly put his head around the doorframe.
‘Is your father at home?’ I asked.
‘I’ll go and ask him,’ the boy answered.
A loud voice boomed in the background. ‘Is it the cops?’
‘No,’ the boy replied. ‘It’s the doctor.’
‘The doctor? We didn’t call the doctor. Nobody’s sick. Are you sure it’s not the cops?’
‘Positive. It’s the same dude that stitched my hand.’ He shot me an evil look. ‘And it bloody hurt.’
The gangster eventually emerged, his bold, full facial tattoo radiating an immediate presence. He told me how he was forced to have the tā moko at a ceremony as a teenager. The tattoo was his gang patch. He described the pain then the bone chisel pierced his flesh. I had my opening scene.
I am overwhelmed at the fantastic response to my post on rebranding Amiri & Aroha as Gang Girl. Aroha’s struggle to escape from the Gang certainly resonates with so many of you.
Gang Girl is a work of fiction, but the story is solidly grounded in real life. Like Beth in Once Were Warriors, Aroha faces brutality and repression day in and day out. But Aroha is a strong woman who refuses to let the Gang crush her spirit.
While Gang Girl is in its final draft, Aroha’s struggle is far from over. I am working on two companion novels, Gang Blood and Young Blood. The birth of her son Arapeta throws Aroha into further conflict with the Gang. But a new breed of gangster is emerging. Sickened by the tyranny of the old guard, the young generation is determined to incite change. Can they take on the leaders and create a more just Gang?
For fans of the film trilogy, I can promise you the novel is heading in a new and thrilling direction. The ending will be radically different. I’m as excited as you are for the next chapter of Aroha’s story.
Back in September 2018, I attended a masterclass in commercial fiction with bestselling Australian author Fiona McIntosh. Since then, I’ve spent every available moment working on a complete rewrite of Amiri & Aroha, which I have now retitled Gang Girl.
I learnt so much at the masterclass. Fiona was quick to point out the immense potential of my dramatic opening scene. On reaching adolescence, Gang kids are given a full facial tattoo in a barbaric ceremony to pledge their allegiance to the mob. Workshopping the first chapter with Fiona proved a revelation. Fiona showed me how to tighten the scene and ramp up the tension. ‘Don’t be afraid to be brutal,’ she told me. ‘Make your readers feel the pain the kids endure when they’re chiselled.’ The result—a gripping opening chapter that Fiona told me was one of the most compelling she’d seen for some time.
The masterclass taught me to be bold. In reworking the story, I have contrasted Aroha’s innocence with the harsh reality of Once Were Warriors. At the heart of Gang Girl, we have a strong woman determined to take charge of her own destiny. The Gang stole her childhood. She won’t let them claim the rest of her life.
At Fiona McIntosh’s inaugural masterclass convention last October, I had the opportunity to pitch to two leading publishers. Both were enthusiastic about the project and I have used their feedback to further refine the manuscript.
I believe Aroha’s story will resonate with a wide readership. I hope to bring you more exciting news soon!