How and when did you discover your passion for writing?
I always loved writing. It’s a typical story: as a child I’d write poems and stories for my grandparents and parents. I used to write terrible poems for my grandmother in Melbourne about living in Patchewollock and she’d write back with encouragement and praise, so naturally I kept it up. Creative writing was my favourite subject at school. It was always my favourite part of the week. I hated maths with a passion, but writing stories was a joy. I drifted away from it in my 20s, but returned in my 30s with renewed interest and an appetite for rejection.
Where did the idea for Cutters End come from?
I was thinking about writing a story based on my old hitchhiking days and was talking to my cousin about when we used to hitchhike all over Australia in between Uni years: from Adelaide up to Darwin and then fly to Kupang, from Adelaide to Perth and Kalgoorlie, then up to Broome and across to Darwin and down the Stuart highway again. We had some amazing experiences, but some really creepy ones too. Those memories were the basis for Cutters End – although I do have to stress that is most definitely a fiction!
What did your research and writing process involve?
I was so naïve about police procedures, ranks and jurisdictions. I just wrote whatever I liked until my wonderful editors pulled me up and gently asked, ‘are you sure this is how it works?’ Fortunately, I have a good friend who is a policeman and he was able to fill me in on the necessary details. I also rang some stations in South Australia and had some interesting chats.
What do you love about reading and writing crime fiction?
One of my favourite things about reading – and this applies to all genres – is the setting. This element is enhanced in the rural crime genre, it’s a crucial part of the storytelling process (how long was the body there? How could it be hidden? Why didn’t anyone see? What was the weather doing and how does it affect how the characters respond? Floods and droughts amplify different moods and actions) My PhD was on depictions of landscape in Australian literature and it’s something that has always fascinated me.
What was it about isolated rural communities that appealed to you as the perfect setting for the book?
For many white Australians, the outback and rural Australia is a beautiful, mysterious place. It’s that notion of not quite belonging/not quite knowing where we stand in the landscape. It’s brutal too – whether that be the freezing Alps, the desolate salt lakes of South Australia and the mind sapping heat of the Kimberley. Our country is so beautiful and rich and wonderous – but it gives no thought to us or our plight. We’re at it’s mercy and we have no power over it. That thought, it’s a gift for Australian rural crime writers.