Dunedin-born Paula Boock began writing when she was seven. After graduating from Otago University, she started working as a book editor and publisher, and in 1994 became a founding editor of Dunedin-based Longacre Press. Boock's novels are often found on the young adults shelves, and when writing for film and television, she finds teenage characters "still tend to sneak into my work and take over".
Boock's first novel was 1991's Out Walked Mel, about a teenager who walks out of school to try and escape her life. It won the AIM Best First Book Award, while follow-up Sasscat to Win won the Esther Glen Medal. 1998's Dare Truth or Promise took away the NZ Post Children's Book of the Year Award, and was published in a number of countries. The book chronicles the chalk and cheese romance that develops between two female high school students. The one-time Otago cricketing rep has also written about sport, in novel Home Run.
Boock began writing for the screen in 1995 with an episode (the 11th) of Cover Story, the Gibson Group series set behind the scenes of a current affairs programme.
In 2000 — the same year as her novel Power and Chaos was published, based on television hit The Tribe — Boock began devoting more energy to scriptwriting. That year she was one of four writers working on Gibson series The Strip. The show follows a workaholic lawyer (Luanne Gordon) who reinvents herself as a strip club owner after her husband leaves her. "The Strip is a series about a woman entering a man's domain," said Boock. "... she's in a state of flux, opening herself up to change, and starting to take risks. That's quite a common thing for women in their 30s, so we've certainly been able to draw on some personal experiences."
The Strip would win Boock an NZ best drama script award, for an episode co-written with Kathryn Burnett.
Boock followed The Strip by joining the creative team behind the highly-acclaimed Insiders Guide to Happiness. Created by Victoria University student Peter Cox, the show mixes matters earthly and metaphysical, as eight 20-something's lives are united by an accident. In 2005 Boock was nominated for the best script gong at the New Zealand Screen Awards. She was beaten out by fellow Happiness writer David Brechin-Smith. Smith's award was one of seven for the series, including best drama. The following year Boock was nominated for two more Kiwi scriptwriting awards for prequel show The Insiders Guide to Love.
Boock's other TV work includes writing duties on five episodes of interactive series The Simon Eliot show, a stint as script consultant on bro'Town, and script editing duties on comedy-drama Burying Brian.
In 2007 Boock formed production company Lippy Pictures, with ex-Gibson Group head of development Donna Malane. The following year saw the debut of their children's time-travel drama, Time Trackers, which was nominated for best children's drama at the 2009 Australian Film Institute Awards. Time Trackers centres around three teenagers — one from the future, one from the present day, and one from prehistoric times — who travel through time battling a malicious hacker who wants to change history.
Boock and Malane went on to script and produce tele-movie Until Proven Innocent, based on the true story of David Dougherty, who was imprisoned for the rape of an 11 year old girl, then later found not guilty of the crime. Nominated for best script, Until Proven went on to win five awards at the 2009 Qantas Film and Television Awards, including best drama, and best actor (for Cohen Holloway, who played Dougherty).
They followed it by writing Bloodlines, this time based on the case of a South African psychiatrist convicted of murdering his wife in 2001. The tele-movie won the first New Zealand Scriptwriters Award for best TV drama script, and has been nominated for multiple Aotearoa Film and Television Awards, including best drama/comedy script and director (Peter Burger).
August 2011 saw the debut of Tangiwai - A Love Story, a dramatisation of the 1953 Tangawai train disaster. Boock co-produced, again writing the script with Malane. Dominion Post reviewer Linda Burgess praised the tele-movie for its handling of 50s social mores, plus the "excellent" performances of Rose McIver and Ryan O'Kane (playing Nerissa Love and her real-life partner, cricket player Bob Blair).
Boock and Malane have since completed further telemovie projects, and all have been nominated for Best Television Feature in the NZ Film Awards. Field Punishment No. 1 dramatises the experiences of 14 conscientious objectors during World War I. Pirates of the Airwaves mixes drama and documentary material to look back at the birth of pirate station Radio Hauraki in the mid 60s. Both projects were nominated for best one-off drama in 2014's Writers Guild Scriptwriter Awards.
In 2017 telefilm Jean — with Kate Elliott playing pioneering pilot Jean Batten — scored Best 'Feature' Drama and Script, as part of an impressive haul of awards at the New Zealand Television Awards. Robert Sarkies also won for his direction. Jean was nominated for Best TV Movie at the Moa Film Awards, and the New York Festival.
Lippy Pictures website. Accessed 17 April 2017
Linda Burgess, 'Powerful retelling of a tragedy' (Review of Tangiwai - A Love Story) - The Dominion Post, 16 August 2011
'Boock, Paula' (Profile). New Zealand Book Council website. Accessed 30 October 2014
‘Writing for (and about) women characters’ (Interview - broken link) The Strip website. Accessed 3 October 2011