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Rotorua – the Setting of Aster’s Coda: Exposure

People underestimate the power and importance of a setting within a novel, film or any story. Most people think it is just a backdrop for a story to be set upon, a stage to perform on. I digress.

You won’t be able to tell a story the same when it is set elsewhere. The backdrop may be quiet, but it speaks volumes when you ask about it.

And the main setting of my novel coming out in 3 weeks, Aster’s Coda: Exposure, I found to be subtly crucial in the way I told my tale.

I wanted my novel to be set close to home, partly because literally every contemporary and urban fantasy takes place in America and I didn’t want that. But I wasn’t going to use my hometown in spite of my ties to South Auckland. I found a location I liked much more and made much more significant to the story of Abby Tacker.

Rotorua. Located in the middle of New Zealand’s North Island, it is a total tourist hotspot. I’ve visited there three times and always want to go back. If only my bank account would give me a break…

There were three key things that made me chose Rotorua over some other place in New Zealand or even the world; culture, nature and adventure. Funny enough, they are three roots to the Aster’s Coda series. Let’s explore that, shall we?


As I said in last week’s post, culture and diversity is one of the many things I always consider writing and building my worlds around. I love books that take place in new societies, unexplored or underrepresented cultures as inspiration for fantasy settings. I grew up surrounded by many cultures, so it is only fair I represent them in my works.

And I don’t think anywhere in New Zealand features its culture better than Rotorua. Two of the three times I went there I visited sites showcasing the rich culture of our natives, the Maori people. These sites were villages of days past and ones that still exist today, like Whakarewarewa. It gives an insight and educational experience into the culture of the local iwi (tribes) and significances of their many customs. My personal favourite has always been going inside their local Marae via karakia, that moment alone always gives me chills.

So how does this translate to Exposure? Not in a very explicit way, but some of these cultural aspects are evident. Beauclark High, the fictional school my main character goes to, features a diverse and culturally rich makeup of students. Additionally, themes present in Maori culture are evident in my novel, including genealogy, power and prestige.


Nature speaks volumes about how a world may look to me. Much can be said about a location simply describing how the trees look. Weather is a particularly underrated aspect of storytelling here.

Rotorua’s nature is almost otherworldly in of itself, most defined by the smell the moment you enter the region – the smell of mud and sulphur. Rotorua is the geothermal hotspot of New Zealand, with a big tourist attraction being the hot mud pools and geysers. I wouldn’t recommend getting close to any of them, some people have died by falling into the mud pools. Spas have made use of this location with the mineral streams too. Another place equally out of a fantasy world is their Redwood forest. I remember first stepping into there and instantly feeling like I had stepped into a high fantasy world.

Nature is key to the surroundings of the world and the casting that people in the Three Worlds do – being beautiful, natural and yet volatile.


Adventure and action is a frequently used trope or subgenre in fantasy books, like in mine. High octane fights and bloodshed await!

Well, not quite in Rotorua. I’m not even a thrill seeker myself, but I know that Rotorua is one place you can get some action. Bush walks, a luge track, zorb balls… and this is just to name the more common! There’s plenty to do indoors and out to get your blood pumping!

And with all the highly regarded fights present in my novel, need I say more?

So maybe once this lockdown is over, this can be one place you can visit! See if you can spot locations mentioned in my novel!

Yours in writing


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