I'll start this article with two questions to readers. Do you believe in reincarnation and if so what or who would you choose to come back as?
I asked myself this question while reading Fleur Beale's latest book The Boy in the Olive Grove.
Aimed at readers 12 years and over, it is an inspiring story with a twist about a teenage girl called Bess who is trying to cope with all kinds of changes in her life. She faces her challenges head on, not always getting what she wants, but never giving up.
The story starts with Bess being expelled from school.
The head teacher is reluctant to punish this top achieving student for her disastrous behaviour, which is completely out of character for Bess.
However, the school must do something and Bess is sent home in disgrace. She can't explain her actions and is frightened people will think she is insane if she tells them about how her dreams influence her behaviour.
Bess' parents have split up and she must live with her mother who Bess is sure doesn't love her. Bess feels she just likes bossing her about and criticising her every move.
Bess loves her father and brother very much but doesn't get on well with her stepmother. Particularly after her "experience", every time Bess looks at her stepmother her nightmare returns.
However, the woman seems to know exactly what Bess is thinking. When they finally talk, it turns out that Bess and her stepmother knew each other in a previous life.
Meanwhile, Bess finds herself in charge of the family business after her father is rushed to hospital.
Award-winning New Zealand author Beale says there is some "interesting literacy out there about past lives".
"I don't hold hard and fast about it but thought it would be a good idea to explore," she says.
When writing a novel Beale builds her characters slowly. "I start with an idea, then look at books and on the web for names that suit my characters. Once they have a name I begin to believe in the person and get to know their heart.
"I'm always a bit careful about what I read while I'm writing a novel. You don't want somebody else's character to start morphing into your writing," she says.
She says sometimes the beginning of books can be hard. "But it's my job to write.
"If I sat about waiting for inspiration I'd never get anywhere. Sometimes it's hard and other times I'm really rocking. I could write all day."
Once the manuscript is sent off to her publisher Beale waits nervously for feedback. "The editor will suggest we look at this and that, we collaborate over it until we are both satisfied. Then it's another waiting game until an advance copy arrives ... that's really exciting."
Beale believes good reading habits need to begin at an early age. "If children are read to and bought up with books about the house they form good habits," she says. "They might go away from it for a while but they usually always come back."
Beale is working on her next book which is about go-karting and is due to be released in September.
Finally, when asked what she would like to be reincarnated as, Beale answers: "A spoiled cat which has a good tree to climb".
And me? Can't decide between a lion or a wealthy spoiled brat (a gorgeous one of course who would help people less privileged than I).
The Boy In the Olive Grove
by Fleur Beale, Random House, $19.99