What’s your writing background? When did you begin writing and what inspired you?
Inspiration is everywhere, Ruth, and yet it is elusive. I started writing so long ago – 1985 – that I rarely look back to those days except during interviews! My works found acceptance almost right away, so I had poems, articles, stories, and reviews published everywhere. I started writing longer fiction when I arrived in Perth in 1988 and landed a job as a feature writer with an interior design magazine. Short stories and novellas were a kind of respite from the walls, fridges, bathrooms and carpets I had to write about. I also reviewed books for the state paper in those days. And I lectured in creative writing at one of our universities here, so I did quite a lot. I’m not any less busy now, but I still write without stopping to think about inspiration. I write literary fiction – so art history, literature, music … they provide a lot of material for me to build stories around.
How often do you write? And how do you manage to fit in writing among other commitments?
There is no structure or schedule to anything I do – my family’s commitments mean I drive around a lot, and I fit in my activities around what everyone else is doing. It works best, and I slot in the paid editing work I do in between all that. Any time left is devoted to writing, but it’s not much on most days. When I am in full composing mode, however, almost everything else is thrown aside and I write, write, write until I get what’s urgent down, always stopping at a crucial spot, so I know exactly what to put down the next time I have the opportunity. I write best when under stress or when interruptions are most intense, so I have no idea what it might be like when everything simmers down and the children leave home. I remember writing my first novel thinking I’d never have enough time to write with a family – I was wrong. I’ve never written more than now, with everything else demanding my attention. It’s how I work best.
In which genre do you most enjoy writing?
Literary thrillers are bliss – mostly because they require a lot of research, which I like doing, sometimes more than writing. I use locations I know, and art and literature I love, so I’m always involved with something that is exquisite, or rare, or unusual. Giving the reader a bit of a mystery, a bit of a thrill, while using antique props, or references to works they can discover, is such an interesting way to create fiction.
What draws you to write in that genre?
My background and personal interests, and my education, have always involved the arts. So it seemed like a no-brainer when I started to write my second novel. I am now in full swing with my fourth, and since 2010, I have planned to write a full-length novel a year. It’s almost possible! Although I do not like the adage “Write what you know” because it feels too safe and too predictable, I do dig up things I do not know, and take them on as a research project before I become really excited about a subject or theme, and try to build a story around something fascinating. Then, knitting in a plot or two is of course the hard part – while maintaining a solid philosophical or psychological premise all the while.
Can you tell me about your current project(s)?
My current work-in-progress is a kind of art history mystery set over a combination of periods – from 1883 down to the present day. It involves antique jewellery, music history, and does use a lot of fact. I always make sure readers have intriguing aspects they might like to look up as they go. I sometimes put in notes at the end of the book so people can read further about some art, music, or literature aspect I have knitted into the story.
What are your writing plans for the future?
I can hardly tell you what I’m doing tonight! My activities are still too family-centric to allow for too much forward-planning. Everything is random and rather insane and hectic. I know for sure that I shall be in this state of disarray for a good three years longer, so the future looks pretty full right now. The long-term intention is to spend some time in Europe in retirement (if you can call it that – I mean freedom from paid work) to research locations I want to use in fiction.
Where can people find out more about you?
I am everywhere! Googling my name will reveal my online activity, which is considerable. My website needs a good overhaul, but it’s where readers can find out a bit about me – a list of my literary awards, samples of my writing, my reviews, covers of all my books, and so forth.
I also have a blog where I occasionally put down my views and opinions about the writing and reading life.
Thank you, Ruth – it’s a thrill to be in your booth. This was fun. I’ll leave you with a list of my available books, so your interested readers can go on from here.
Death in Malta
According to Luke
Counting Churches – The Malta Stories
The Bookbinder’s Brother
The Day of the Bird
The Astronomer’s Pig
The Red Volkswagen and other stories
Making a Name
All the Wrong Places (poetry)