Tuesday
Aug182015

Awards and Snow

 

Another mad month... I seem to spend my life hurtling these days.  The second half of the year is always particularly busy for me.  I usually have a book coming out and the months before are filled with all those precedent things like copy edits and cover finalisation.  

It's also award season.  Now, awards are a funny thing... a book honoured with an award is still the same collection of words and ideas that it was before the award was made.  You haven't actually achieved anything more than when you first wrote the novel... and yet there is something undeniably heartening about having your work recognised. 

I know myself that I often feel like a pretender in the writing community... like I accidentally walked into a gathering of the extraordinarily talented and erudite without the requisite security pass.  And so being included on a shortlist is for me a kind of relief... it says, they know I'm here and they want me to stay (or they're not goign to kick me out, at least).  It's silly, I know.

Anyway, the last couple of weeks have found A Murder Unmentioned on two shortlists.  The first to be announced, was the Davitt Award in which it was shortlisted for Best Adult Novel by a woman.  The award is presented annually by the Sisters in Crime Australia.  I'm joined on that shortlist by two of my very talented writing friends, Honey Brown and Malla Nunn.

A Murder Unmentioned was also shortlisted for a Ned Kelly Award in the Best Book category. It's the first time any of my books have been recognised by the Neddies, and Malla Nunn joins me on that shortlist too.

It's very cool.  And particularly lovely to know that despite being the sixth book of the series, the Rowland Sinclair Mysteries is not losing momentum.  Let the tail wag!

My other brilliant news is that I've been offered (and have accepted) the Eminent Writer in Residence Fellowship at the Museum of Australian Democracy.  For those of you who don't know, the Museum of Australian Democracy is at Old Parliament House in Canberra. Six years ago (in September in fact) when Pantera first offered me a publishing contract, they proposed driving to Batlow to meet me and sign the necessary documents. Afraid it would mean I'd have to clean the house, I suggested we gather in Canberra instead. I chose Old Parliament House as the venue because the building seemed to embody a lot of the themes about which I wanted to write... I thought it would be somehow symbolic to meet my publishers for the first time and sign a contract there (Yes I know...debut authors are ridiculously romantic about such things!) So now, I'm returning to research and begin writing what will be my thirteenth novel. There's a rather wonderful circularity about it, and despite having become a hardened veteran, I can't step into Old Parliament House without recalling the excitement and happiness of that time. I am very grateful for the selection panel's broad interpretation of the word "eminent" and to the ACT Writers' Centre and the Museum of Australian Democracy for this opportunity.  I am also in awe of the generosity of my husband, Michael, who is once again picking up the slack as I wander off to write

National Bookshop Day was spent in Jindabyne with Snowprint Bookshop who invited not only me but Michael and the boys for a wonderful booksy weekend in the mountains which included a specially created Rowland Sinclair themed game of Murder!

  

 

We returned home to more snow!  It's been a gloriously cold winter.

 

And of course, Give the Devil His Due was copy-edited and the cover finalised... ta da!

Tuesday
Jul142015

Go Set a Watchman

Today Harper Lee’s first novel, Go Set a Watchman, is released in Australia.

The publication has been the subject of some controversy:  initially over whether 89 year old Harper Lee was being unduly pressured to publish the book at all, and more recently, over revelations that, in this book, Atticus Finch has a darker side.  According to reviews, Atticus, who has long embodied the best of mankind, attends a meeting of the Klan and expresses racist views.

To Kill a Mockingbird  has been my favourite book since I read it as a twelve year old, and Atticus Finch my literary hero.  I became a lawyer because of Atticus Finch, I became a writer because of what To Kill a Mockingbird meant to me and I named my son Atticus because I wanted him to have a name that represented integrity, courage and compassion.

And so when the early reviews revealed that Go Set a Watchman had altered the character upon whom I’d based the best intentions of my life, I was, like many, horrified. 

I want to read Go Set a Watchman not just because Harper Lee is a truly magnificent writer, but because I want to support the second book of an author who has given me so much with her first.   But now, it seems reading that book might break my heart.  I have for the past days, since the New York Times review first came out, vacillated between desperately wanting more of Lee’s writing and instinctively needing to protect the Atticus Finch I’d grown up with.  For some time my need to keep To Kill a Mockingbird and its characters unsullied looked like it might prevail.  But then I remembered what it was to be a writer.

To Kill a Mockingbird was reportedly written at Harper Lee’s publishers’ request when Go Set a Watchman was rejected.  Essentially To Kill a Mockingbird was a rewrite of Lee’s original story, a refocusing to make adult Jean Louise’s childhood memories central to a new novel.  But Go Set a Watchman was what Lee originally wrote, what she originally wanted to say.

Like many wordsmiths, I too have manuscripts in the drawer that have never found a home for a variety reasons.  Indeed, I suspect my best work lives in that drawer.  The bizarre thing about such manuscripts is that they call to you from the dark place to which you’ve consigned them, they demand their chance the sun.  But of course that is not always in an author’s ability to grant.  Those decisions are made by publishers, marketing, readerships, bottom-lines and the zeitgeist of the moment.

I wonder if Go Set a Watchman called to Lee all these years.  I think I understand then, why at 89 she would risk the legacy, the worldwide adoration of Atticus Finch, to give her first born a chance to make is own friends in the world.

I was a child when I read To Kill a Mockingbird and perhaps then I needed a hero, needed to believe that there were men like Atticus Finch as I read him to be.  I’m older now.  Perhaps I can bear to be disillusioned.

PS:  For the record, and in case anyone is worried, none of the manuscripts in my drawer include a story in which Rowland Sinclair joins the Klan.

Thursday
Jun042015

Catching up again....

Argghh.... this planet is rotating too fast, and once again I'm running screaming "wait for me!"

So rather a lot has happened since my last post....

In January, I blogged for the Southerly and I wrote.

In February I wrote. And attended the launch the wonderful Gateway Bookshop's (in Wagga Wagga) program in celebration of fifty years in business!  It was a lovely evening with passionate booksellers and story enthusiasts.  And then I took a deep breath for March.

The month began with the inaugral Jugiong Writers' Festival.  It was a glorious country writer's festival - relaxed, warm and quirky.  I was previleged to join a stella cast of authors including Freda Marnie, Paul Daley, Peter Rees, Rochelle Llewellyn, Biff Ward, Jenny Glazebrook and Tim Fischer.  Since my husband, Michael, was called in to moderate a panel, my 9-year-old son, Atticus, became my chief photographer.  These are his photos.

       

                                                                                                                            

The following weekend I was in Melbourne for History with Mystery at the Sisters in Crime, where I appeared with Malla Nunn (whose work and person I adore) under the scrutiny of the lovely Maggie Baron.

 

    The weekend after that I was off to the Historical Novel Society Association Conference, where I had the honour of speaking on a panel with Peter Corris who is a particular favourite of my husband's and was in fact the reason Michael advised me to try crime-wring in the first place.  Elisabeth Storrs and her team pulled off what was an extraordinary event.  The conference dinner saw me seated beside two very charming friends of Rowland Sinclair.

   

From the HNSA Conference I went directly to Lakes Grammar where I spoke to students about Greek Mythology and story creation.

 

 

Then back home for the Batlow Show which is a big deal in the Batlow calendar and requires all hands on deck.

 

 And so that me caught up to the end of March.  April passed in a "Good grief, I have a novel due at the end of this month blur and then the craziness began again in May.... but aware that this is already a ridiculously long post, I shall include May in my next instalment (which I am determined will be soon). 

Thursday
Jan222015

So....2015...

2015 is underway as is a new Rowland Sinclair Mystery.  I wrote the old year out and the new year in, as is my own peculiar tradition/superstition.  My head will be in 1934 for the next several weeks.  I am, however, writing a few articles for the Southerly this month, the first of which you may find here, and the second here if the inclination takes you.  There will be four articles in total on the theme of discovery through story.  Happy New Year!

Thursday
Jan222015

What happened to 2014?

It is with some sense of bewilderment that I note the date in the bottom right hand corner of my computer. I must confess that 2014 sped by so fast that I had barely come to realise it was no longer 2013!  The final months of the year in particular left me spinning.

A Murder Unmentioned was released on 1 November.  Michael (my husband) and I were in Sydney.  He was recovering from a cornea transplant and I was leading him about.  I did manage to lead him to dinner with the divinely talented but wonderfully human Malla Nunn and P.M. Newton.  We ate cornbread and okra in this literally brilliant company... see what I did there?... ;) 

I made it back home in time to drive up to Thredbo for the Snowy Readers and Writers' Festival which I have been a part of since its inaugral event.  My boys came with me.   One of the best things about this crazy profession of mine is that Edmund and Atticus have the opportunity to meet some extraordinary people.  Poets like Omar Musa and Victoria McGrath, writers like Anna George, Karen Viggers, Biff Ward, David Leser, Chris Uhlmann and Steve Lewis.  I think (hope) it compensates for all the time their own mother is distracted by imaginary people.

 

I returned to the peaks again at the end of that month for the official launch of A Murder Unmentioned at a magnificent event at Crackenback Lake Resort hosted by the Snowprint Bookshop.  Despite having nine books to my name, I am at a loss to describe how special that night was.  The band was brilliant, the singers superb, the venue perfect, the company delightful and to top the night off with superlatives, the drama students of Snow Mountains Grammar School performed a chapter from A Murder Unmentioned so well that I swear they had been inside my head!  It was an evening so extraordinary that I wish I could bottle it somehow to share with the world, because something that wonderful shouldn't belong to just me.  But of course I haven't quite worked out how to contain the essence of a experience so photos will have to suffice!

 

  

But that's not all!  I also managed to squeeze in a trip to Melbourne for the Crime and Justice Festival hosted by Reader's Feast Bookstore.  This is a truly unique event which discusses not only crime in literature but also addresses questions of social justice and reform.  I appeared on two panels... the first with my dear friends and admired colleagues, Angela Savage and Robert Gott, and later with my Pantera stablemates Melanie Casey and Josh Donellan.  We discussed all manner of things, shared experiences, ideas and  laughter with wonderful audiences of readers. 

 

And then there was Christmas... which I spent away from home this year with my Dad and sister.  Dad had surgery just before Christmas and Devini and I headed up to Brisbane to keep an eye on him and do what we could.  In the flurry I neglected to update this site and wish you all the very best of the Season and a happy and healthy New Year, but the wish is now given and no less sincere for being so late!