Dr L.J.M. Owen has degrees in archaeology, forensic science and librarianship. She speaks five languages and has travelled extensively through Europe and Asia. L.J. was inspired to write the Dr Pimms series by the neglected women’s stories she discovered between the cracks of popular archaeology. Three books in this series have been published by Echo Publishing. L.J.’s new novel, The Great Divide, introduces a new story world and characters. L.J. is also the Festival Director of the Terror Australis Readers and Writers Festival, a celebration of literature and literacy in southern Tasmania, and divides her time between Canberra and southern Tasmania.
Buy a copy of The Great Divide here. // Read a review of The Great Divide here.
Your latest book, The Great Divide, is about a city detective hunting a killer through a fog of lies in small town Tasmania. Can you tell us a bit more about the book?
In The Great Divide, readers are introduced to Jake Hunter, an ex-Melbourne detective. Jake’s world is chilling and gritty, quintessential Australian rural crime fiction¾page-turning, atmospheric and compulsive. It comes with a twist, though, and I think readers will love the remote Tasmanian setting.
What inspired the idea behind this novel?
I recently moved to rural Tasmania. During my first winter there I was struck by the eerie, almost gothic experience of being enclosed by fog for days on end, never seeing the sky. The view out of the windows was an enveloping white mist that concealed everything and, as time went on, began to feel oppressive.
I realised it would make the perfect backdrop for my new novel, a cold, bleak landscape for Jake Hunter to walk into, a fictional fog-shrouded community filled with dark secrets.
What do you hope the reader will take away from this book?
First and foremost, a great reading experience. I’d love the reader to be gripped from the first page and pulled in the depths of a Tasmania winter to hunt a killer by Jake’s side.
It’s a layered, broadly appealing story so I expect a wide range of readers will enjoy it. The writing style is pared right down, so get set for a pacey ride.
Afterwards, the story may linger. Days later, the reader may find themselves wondering if they could have solved the case faster than Jake, or what they would do in a similar situation to Jake or the people he encounters.
What’s your daily writing routine like?
I thought I’d be one of those writers who wears an oversized white cable knit jumper and black leggings, sits pertly on a wooden chair in a bohemian café, working a regular four hours each afternoon, like an ad for the freelance writing industry.
It turns out I’m one of those writers who curls up on the couch with my cats, wearing a fluffy dressing gown, and types madly for up to sixteen hours a day. No-one wants an ad like that! Thank goodness I have an understanding partner who keeps the household running when the muse takes me.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on three manuscripts at the moment.
The first is a brand new project that I’m incredibly excited about. I’m branching out into a new form of writing. The story combines my love of exploring criminal history with my passion for old martial arts films… I can’t say more just yet!
I’m currently developing the fourth instalment in the Dr Pimms archaeological mystery series. This time, Elizabeth investigates remains uncovered in the ancient Library of Karakorum, the capital of the Mongolian Empire. The whole Dr Pimms cast is back, with more twists and family secrets yet to be revealed.
I’m also pottering along on the Dr Pimms cookbook, a tasty labour of love.
You are the Festival Director of the Terror Australis Readers and Writers Festival, a celebration of literature and literacy in southern Tasmania. Can you recommend one or two great Tassie authors?
It’s difficult to narrow down to just two, especially with so many award-winning authors hailing from the state.
As I love historical fiction and non-fiction, I’d recommend the collected works of Alison Alexander, the festival’s Matron.
And I tend to read the opposite of whatever I’m writing at the time. As I’ve been working on The Great Divide this year, with it’s desolate atmosphere, I’ve been enjoying reading the lighter, quirky books of Minnie Dark (an alter ego of Danielle Wood).
You speak five languages? Which ones?
Apart from English – which can be a struggle before my first coffee of the day – I’ve studied and spent time immersed in French, Chinese, Spanish and Welsh. I’ve managed to read some crime fiction set in France in the original French and I have to say, reading in other languages certainly enhances the experience!