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Author of book behind Jojo Rabbit shares tale of how Taika Waititi's film came to life

The woman who wrote the book behind Jojo Rabbit says she never could've imagined her writing would lead to an Oscar win.

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Christine Leunens published Caging Skies back in 2004. Source: Seven Sharp

Belgian-Italian-Kiwi Christine Leunens published Caging Skies back in 2004 and yesterday Taika Waititi won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay for his film adaptation.

"You could have knocked me down with a feather," she told Seven Sharp in an exclusive interview of the six Oscar nominations for the film.

It's taken like around 15 years to get here, from Normandy, France, to Nelson, New Zealand, and from obscurity to the Oscars.

The book is now published in 16 languages with more on the way.

"It's crazy to think there's some guy or girl in Istanbul right now with a little Turkish coffee and maybe a cigarette, reading that," Ms Leunens says.

One day, out of the blue, she got an email from Taika Waititi, interested in getting it on the big screen.

"I'll never forget when Taika came in. He looked at the beautiful view around then put his feet up on the desk and put his hands back, he had me laughing very soon.

"His mother kept chasing him and telling him to read the book and he was very busy so he said, 'Mum, I don't have time'. But I have to be very thankful to her because she persisted."

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The Jojo Rabbit director today became the first Māori to win an Oscar. Source: 1 NEWS

Once a fashion model in Europe to support her writing addiction, Ms Leunens doesn't have to worry about that anymore.

"Because I write just at home, I'm just in my T-shirt and sneakers all the time. So when it came time to go to all these events in Los Angeles I realised I don't have any clothes, no dress and no shoes," she says.

"I went to downtown Nelson and bought a handbag and two pairs of shoes and I had ANZ ring me and say, 'Did someone steal your credit card? These purchases seem very uncharacteristic of you.'"

Now she fits writing in between dropping off and picking up the kids from school.

For budding authors, Ms Leunens has a few tricks to winning at writing.

"Be true to yourself, pick something that really matters to them and is dear to them," she says.

"Write something and leave it aside so you've practically forgotten it as much as possible, a month or so, then come back and read it as if you're reading it for the first time.

"It was William Faulkner who said, 'At 7am in the morning I make sure inspiration is at any flat surface you can find,' which means you can't wait to be in the mood - otherwise a project will never come to an end."