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!
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!
Next week, or thereabouts my latest book will officially hit shelves. A Murder Unmentioned is the sixth book in the Rowland Sinclair Mysteries, my ninth published novel and the tenth book I’ve written. So, how does one launch such a book into the world?
Later in November, on the 29th to be precise, the wonderful Snowprint Bookshop will help me celebrate the sixth Rowly with A Night Worth Mentioning under the stars at the spectacular Lake Crackenback Resort. There will be canapés and champagne on the peaks, under a glorious night sky. There will be conversations about Rowly, the 1930s and books as well music and I’m told dramatic performances of scenes from the novel. I am looking forward to it beyond measure!
The 1st of November will, however, slip by quietly in terms of literary galas. The date of the release of my book happens to coincide with the date that my husband Michael will undergo surgery for a cornea transplant, so I will be hanging out in Sydney keeping him company. While I wish Michael didn’t have to undergo the surgery at all, I can’t help thinking that spending the time focussed (no pun intended) on him is somehow appropriate.
I’ve never made any secret about Michael’s involvement in my books – particularly the Rowland Sinclair Mysteries. He is my first editor, my historical advisor and the inspiration for Wilfred Sinclair. But it’s more than that. Writing is for most writers a tough profession to make work in the real world. If you don’t have a day job, it generally means sacrificing notions of income for at least a time, perhaps forever. If you do have a day job, it generally means working a night shift in addition to whatever it is you do in the day, in order to “get those books writ”! When you have a family, both are hard roads. For me, it’s only possible because Michael has compensated.
Society has always held those who support artistic endeavour in the highest esteem… galleries, philanthropic organisations, state institutions. They are all necessary and rightly valued. Sometimes overlooked however, are the partners of artists who in many cases, willingly or otherwise, find themselves patrons of the arts - unofficial sponsors of the artists with whom they have become entangled. This is so with us. Into every one of my novels have gone the characters and stories in my head, Pantera Press’s investment in my work, and Michael’s donation to the cause.
And so I will celebrate the release of A Murder Unmentioned by raising a quiet glass with my husband to what we have created together… some fairly disasterous meals, a high-maintenance garden, our extraordinary sons, and Rowland Sinclair.
The past month or so has more insane than most. It seemed as though the universe converged on August. It began with the Woodland Film Festival, in which I had the honour of being a judge. Now, my knowledge, such as it is, is about story and not the technical aspects of film , but fortunately, my fellow judges were experts and more than made up for that deficiency. It was quite wonderful to consider storytelling through another medium... what worked, what didn't, what made you laugh, what stayed with you. The only section from which I was recused was the Local Film category. My sons, Edmund (13) and Atticus (8) had entered and been shortlisted in that category and eventually won with a funny little film entitled Joe McLean and the Dame, of which they were producers, writers, cast and crew. As you can imagine, our home movies can be a little elaborate!
August also saw me off to the Melbourne Writers' Festival for the first time. I appeared in a wonderful panel entitled Writing Fashion with Danielle Whitfield (curator) and Brownyn Cosgrove (textile conservator), who were both behind the Fashion Detective Exhibition for which I wrote The Bequest. I was a guest author in the MWF/Dumbo Feather's conversation caravan, where I had coffee and nibbles and while talking to festival goers in the intimate setting of the an aluminium caravan parked in Federations Square.
The Melbourne Writers Festival was also an opportunity to catch up with writer friends. I had a particularly glorious day with my dear friend and fellow crime-writer, Angela Savage . We toasted her double short-listing (Ned Kelly Award, Davitt Award) for The Dying Beach, talked writing, people and plans. We shopped for clothes and knelt on the floor of chic bakery just so we could get the cake display into our selfie.
I also had dinner with gentleman and fellow writer, Steve Eather, (who I met through Rowland Sinclair) and some lovely ladies to whom he had introduced Rowland. A perfectly charming evening in every way.
While I was in Melbourne I began a program of releasing books into the wild... I don't who'll find them or where they'll end up but it was great fun finding places to leave them.
Of course I was assisted in this book releasing excercise by my sister and my Dad, who were both in Melbourne, and Angela as well. For some reason you feel a bit guilty leaving a book... like you're abandoning a child... or littering....
In amongst all this I was lecturing LIT221 at Charles Sturt University... my first academic appointment. Had a brilliant time! Conducted my last lecture just before I flew out for Melbourne and my dear students brought cake... because clearly if I have taught them anything, it is that literature is enhanced by cake! My job is done!
My dear friend and fellow writer, Angela Savage, has invited me to join the Meet the Main Character Blog Tour, which involves posting an interview with ones main character and inviting other writers to do the same. You can read an interview with Angela's vibrant and uncompromising private detective, Jayne Keeney here.
Interviewing Rowland Sinclair was admittedly something of a challenge... he's not always forthcoming with information. I was forced to resurrect my past as a lawyer and cross-examine him a little... so please forgive the extra questions - they were necessary.
What is your name?
Rowland Henry Ffrench Sinclair. How do you do?
- French with two “f”s?
My mother’s family name. My friends call me Rowly.
Are you a fictional or historical character?
Technically speaking, I’m a fabrication of Ms. Gentill’s rather restless imagination. Or I was initially.
When and where is your story set?
I first became acquainted with Ms. Gentill at the end of 1931, in Sydney. She simply arrived one day. Judging by the state of her attire, I assumed that she was a financially embarrassed painter or sculptor who’d come in with one of my other houseguests. As it turned out, Ms. Gentill is not an artist but a writer, and though she’s fairly unobtrusive, she won’t leave. She always seems to be watching. It was a somewhat unnerving at first, but I have, over the years, become accustomed to her peculiar presence. She seems to turn up wherever I go now… New York, Germany, London… she’s quite the dogged traveller.
What should we know about you?
I loathe whiskey. If you’d care to offer me a drink, please make it gin or sherry. I’m also not too fond of Fascists. I like dogs.
- Is that it? Surely there’s more to you than that.
[Shrugs] I’m a painter—portraits mainly.
[Impatiently] I’m an Oxford man, I speak several languages and I used to box. I play polo badly and as infrequently as possible.
What is the main conflict? What messes up your life?
My brother, Wilfred, will tell you that it is the unemployed Communist set with whom I move.
My friends will tell you that it’s my conservative background and my Fascist brother.
I suspect it’s the fact that everybody I meet seems to be insane.
What is your personal goal?
Goals? [laughs] I’ve been told I’m feckless. In fact I believe my brother would consider goals rather too common a concept, though he’s quite adamant that I should settle down and find a purpose. To be truthful, I just want to paint.
- What about Edna?
Miss Higgins does indeed have goals. She’s both talented and ambitious. I have no doubt that she will conquer the world.
- But is she one of your personal goals?
I’m not sure what you mean.
- Is it your goal to make her yours?
[Frowning] Miss Higgins is not a piece of property… I cannot acquire her.
- Arrgghh! Are you in love with her?
Well, yes. A man would have to be dead or insensible not to be in love with Miss Higgins.
Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
I believe Ms. Gentill has called it A Murder Unmentioned. Frankly, I'd prefer the whole episode remained unmentioned, but Ms. Gentill is not always discreet.
You can read the first chapter here.
When can we expect the book to be published?
A Murder Unmentioned will be in bookstores on 1 November 2014. I believe this is the cover.
Shall post writers to continue the tour as soon as I've checked with them.