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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Interview: Caz Bartholomew talks about The Tramp to the Blue Range Hut

Caz Bartholomew has a degree in Physical Education at Otago University. She met her match while tramping in the Tararua Ranges and now lives in Kapiti with her family including two teenagers and dogs boosting around the house. Caz loves travelling and going on missions in the great outdoors. Caz talks to NZ Booklovers about her newly released book.

Tell us a little about The Tramp to the Blue Range Hut.

The Tramp to the Blue Range Hut is a pick-a-path book set in the NZ bush. Two friends go on an overnight tramp on a beautiful day. James, seeing the fine weather, decides to leave his rain jacket behind. From there, the reader gets to choose the decisions and read what happens as a result…


Blue Range Hut itself is a real beauty of a hut in the Tararua Ranges. It only sleeps four, so it’s super small compared to other tramping huts in NZ. But it has special character; for a start, it’s completely blue. It sports some repurposed signs from the old Masterton hospital, for example, on the front of the hut there’s a “Tow away area after 2pm” sign, and on the front door, trampers are instructed not to enter “while surgery is in progress”. I set the book at this hut because it really is a cute wee place. 

What inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always been interested in outdoors accidents: what goes wrong and why. Often it’s not just one thing in isolation; it’s a whole series of decisions and conditions that align in the classic swiss cheese analogy. I wrote this book as an educational book so that young people can learn basic bushcraft lessons; it all relates to the land safety code as seen on the NZ Mountain Safety Council website. I love the outdoors - I really do believe in the huge benefits of spending time in nature when it’s experienced in a safe way. So, I sat down over one long weekend with an old 1B5 book and a pencil, numbered the pages and began to write. By the end of the weekend, I realised that what was taking shape was an educational pick-a-path. Thankfully, I came across this amazing editor Kate Lattey at Precise Print, and she made it come to life. 


What research was involved?

We engaged with Land Search and Rescue to help us with the authenticity of the search scenes. In the first few drafts, the characters were female. After speaking with Matt Wheble from NZ Land Search and Rescue, we decided to change the trampers into young men to reflect the demographic of people who more often need rescuing. There was much discussion at Precise Print about what they had in their packs that they didn’t need. I loved these conversations! At first James was carrying beer, but then we felt maybe that the inclusion of alcohol was not appropriate for young readers, so it became ginger beer - but not until we’d exhausted other heavy and impractical items. The point was that he was carrying stuff he didn’t need, and it was slowing him down. 


What was your routine or process when writing this book?

When it was first written in a 1B5, I just numbered the pages and hooked up the story threads. But when it came time to typing it up, all the page numbers went completely out of whack. And once I’d sorted that, if I edited anything, I had to retrace all the different paths, to make sure they matched up. It was really tricky; it was like unraveling a ball of string. Thankfully Kate did the mental gymnastics and got it all sorted out. I have no idea how she did that.


If a soundtrack were made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include…

When the characters were female, they set off in their car to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” - but when we changed the characters to Mark and James, they drove off to “Good Times” by INXS and Jimmy Barnes. I’m glad we changed the characters, cause Cyndi Lauper did bring a wee bit of cheese…I love the 80s, but let’s admit; it is cringey. 


What did you enjoy the most about writing this The Tramp to the Blue Range Hut?

Whenever you write something, there’s a feeling of freedom. You can write whatever you like; that feeling you get during the creative process is almost like being out there in nature. The scene where the car goes flying over the cliff was especially fun to write. 

I loved seeing the illustrator Garry Fox come up with some stunning work - it was pretty thrilling to get some great graphics in there.


What did I do to celebrate writing this book?

I took my family glamping. Oops; now the kids have a taste for not having to pack up sleeping bags. It was so luxurious compared to what we’re used to. I could totally live in a glamping tent… we all stood around the multi-box and laughed: it looked wrong to have a power supply inside a tent. There was a fridge, a jug, an ambient lamp, a heater and ELECTRIC BLANKETS. This tramper had clearly died and gone to heaven.


What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty - I’m still buzzing over that book. Health and well-being is a passion of mine, and this was set at a retreat called Tranquillity House. It was so clever and entertaining; there were laugh-out-loud moments and I literally couldn’t stop turning the pages. I wasn’t much of a reader as a kid, but I think it’s just a case of finding the right book and getting hooked. I love exploring the world of books now as an adult, and this was the perfect one for me to come across.


What’s next on the agenda for you?

Looking after my own well-being is right up there - full time teaching tends to stifle that a wee bit, so I’m trying to make that a priority. In terms of writing, if inspiration hits I’ll definitely run with it. I’m more into songwriting, so that’s what I’ll be doing creatively in the near future.


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