Interview with Curling Up With A Good Book

What gave you the inspiration to write Striking Out?

I’ve always loved Australian vernacular and I was inspired to try and capture its charm. Australians are the masters of understatement and irony, and everyday Australian language has a unique and interesting flavour that’s tongue in cheek, funny, and used very cleverly, particularly by less scholarly types who tend to have a colourful way with words. An awful night out, for example, might be described as ‘a bit ordinary’, with a raise of the eyebrows and a pointed glance that tells the rest of the story in an amusing way. An Australian commenting on an argument that ended very badly would quite likely say, ‘that went well’, to make people laugh (or provoke the situation further) and restore a fragile sense of harmony. Curse words are used routinely to add colour and interest to otherwise mundane remarks – vulgarity is often used to express a certain cleverness and humour. I’ve been pleased to find, since my novel was released, that readers from all around the globe ‘get’ the way Australians use language and enjoy it too. That’s just wonderful.

Who is your favourite character in the book?

Readers may find this hard to believe, but my favourite character in the book is Des. He’s a creepy, misogynistic, ego-maniac with a soft side that almost redeems him by the end of the novel. And he’s my favourite because I have so much fun at his expense. Creating problems for Des is one of my greatest joys (I’ve made his life even more difficult in the sequel and, truly, it couldn’t happen to a nicer bloke).

Which came first, the novel or the title?

The novel came first and then I agonised and annoyed everyone around me for weeks trying to come up with the right title. I finally settled on ‘Striking Out’ (my daughter’s suggestion) because it so eloquently captured my heroine’s reinvention of herself and, also, because it was a nice play on words for her physical prowess and the fights she gets involved in.

What scene in the book are you most proud of and why?

The scenes in the book I’m most proud of are the sex scenes at the end, largely because it’s not the kind of writing that comes easily to me. My novel tackles a lot of difficult moments head-on, and I felt I had to be brave with the sex scenes too, to do the story justice, even though I wanted to run away from the challenge. It’s not easy to get the balance right when you’re writing sex scenes, but I’m really happy with how they turned out. They’re explicit but not smutty, and readers will hopefully see them as fitting vehicles for the emotions I was trying to express.

Thinking way back to the beginning, what's the most important thing you've learned as writer from then to now?

I’m less anxious as a writer, now that I’ve finished my first book. I no longer hope I can find my way through the difficult parts of the process, I know it, and that makes such a difference to my confidence. I’ve also learnt not to worry when I feel like I need to step away for a while. The breaks I took when I was writing Striking Out turned out to be helpful gestation periods. I see them as a normal, meaningful part of the process now. I guess, overall, the experience of having seen a book through to completion has bolstered my confidence in my ability to write the next one.

What do you like most about the cover of the book?

I really like the texture on the cover of the book. It looks good online, but great in print, where you can see every detail. It’s more complex than it looks at first glance, and I like the textural layers that reveal themselves over time. I really like the font too.

What new release book are you most looking forward to in 2015?

When the 2015 New Year rolled around, I was eagerly awaiting the release of David Baldacci’s Memory Man because the promo material about a lead character with synaesthesia really captured my interest – imagine a crime-fighting hero who starts seeing colours and numbers in highly charged moments as the result of a brain injury. The book didn’t disappoint. I loved it, and it really got me thinking about the creative possibilities arising from different sensory processing. I even wrote an article about it for my Psychology for Writers program.

What was your favourite book in 2014?

My favourite book in 2014 was J.K. Rowling’s (writing as Robert Galbraith) The Cuckoo’s Calling. I love crime fiction, but I’m not keen on graphic violence and I can only take so much suspense. The Cuckoo’s Calling had everything I love in a crime fiction book, without the bits I don’t like – a fabulous (flawed) lead character, a beautifully written story, great plot developments, and a really satisfying ending. I’ve read the whole series now and I can’t wait for the next book to come out.

What's up next for you?

I’m more than half way through the sequel to Striking Out, and I’m within a few months of finishing the first draft of a crime fiction novel with a heroine who’s a forensic psychologist. It’s the first book in a series and it’s much bleaker than the Sharon Jackson (Striking Out) series. I’m really enjoying writing it, and I love being able to jump between the two, very different books.