“It’s comforting to know that no matter how creepy I am as a person, there are thousands upon thousands of crime readers out there who dig what I do because they have a secret little part of themselves that’s exactly the same. ” – Candice Fox
At the tender age of 31, Candice already has two Ned Kelly awards under her belt (best debut for Hades, and in 2015 best crime novel for the sequel Eden) and she’s been on the New York Times bestseller list with her novel, Never Never, written in collaboration with the one and only James Patterson. She is the middle child of a large, eccentric family from Sydney’s western suburbs composed of half-, adopted and pseudo siblings. Her most recent book Crimson Lake has already received soaring praise and is set to establish Candice as one of the most ferocious voices in the Australian crime scene, and across the globe. Here she reveals just how strange it can sometimes be to live the life of a crime writer and what her friends think about it…
Words || Candice Fox
What is it like to write crime for a living? To spend so many hours in the day wallowing in the depths of human depravity, checking out crime scene phones, listening to real 911 calls, kicking back with a podcast about sickos and serial killers? Frankly, it’s awesome. But I’ve always been a weirdo.
I started reading true crime at age seven. I know I was seven because I went to school and blurted out a bunch of grisly details about some vicious child murders I’d been reading about at home, and sent all my friends into panicked wailing. My mother was alerted to the fact that I’d gotten stuck into some pretty inappropriate reading material, but her response was to put all her true crime books on the top shelf, out of reach. She left all her James Pattersons where they were, so I went to those. She didn’t do anything about the police magazines she used to collect lying about everywhere full of autopsy and crime scene photos. She didn’t stop telling us kids all her favourite true crime facts, or driving us into the Belangalo State Forest at night to look for the ghosts of murdered backpackers.
Am I desensitised to violence? Absolutely. It takes a lot for a crime to really touch me in any way, because I think about crime all day long and it’s easy to get detached. To notice the body count, and not the real devastation that surrounds murder. But when I really become curious about a case I read in the paper or an unsolved mystery I discover online, I know it’s because the writer had done a good job bringing out the emotions connected with the case. I strive to do the same thing – readers have to care about the victim, to want to see the case solved – so keeping an eye on my own feelings toward crimes, when there are any feelings at all, is key to what I do.
Being an author is like having a license to be the weirdo I have always been. Recently, my husband and I were on our way to a wedding, and someone in the car of strangers we were travelling in struck up a conversation about proposals. We all shared our proposal stories, but in the back of my mind, I was wondering whether or not I should share what I thought was a fascinating fact – that serial killer Ted Bundy had proposed to his girlfriend at his trial, and because she’d said yes, the unique situation of the courtroom had made the marriage legal. There’d been no need to officiate it and no way to stop it – before anyone knew what was happening, Ted had married his girlfriend right there in the courtroom, in front of everyone; the judge, the families of his victims, the public. Crazy, right? So I piped up and told the car full of strangers the story. Then someone asked who Ted Bundy was, what he had done. So I began to explain his crimes. Maybe in too much detail. Who knows.
The mood in the car darkened considerably. ‘She’s a crime writer,’ my husband explained. Everybody laughed.
While writing crime works in my favour sometimes, accounting for the dark things I love talking about, it worries people sometimes. I’m very clucky at the moment (I’m 31, and my husband and I have been married a year, so it’s that time in my life). My cluckiness has reached absurd levels, causing me to at times squeeze into groups uninvited and simply take people’s babies off them for snuggles without much of a show of seeking permission. ‘Oh, she’s beautiful!’ I tend to cry. ‘I’m going to steal her away and make her my own baby!’ The people who know what I do for a living give each other odd looks.
It’s comforting to know that no matter how creepy I am as a person, there are thousands upon thousands of crime readers out there who dig what I do because they have a secret little part of themselves that’s exactly the same. On tour recently I’ve met a lot of them, and watched them wide-eyed and hungry for details as I talk about my favourite cases. I ran a competition recently in which one lucky winner scored a place in one of my novels, and I hazarded to ask online who people might like to be if they won. Would they like to be a detective? A witness? I had a spot for a medical examiner. Nope. A surprising amount of people wanted to be grisly murder victims. One lady asked me; if she won, could she give her place in the novel to her eight-year-old son? She hoped I’d murder him violently. Yes, you read that right.
People ask me a lot if I’m ‘living the dream’, and of course, my answer is yes. It might be more of a nightmare by ordinary standards, but I’m loving every second of it.