I have just returned from GenreCon in Brisbane.  A gathering of writers of genre, it provided the opportunity to talk to other wordsmiths and to share this addiction we all have to story, to compare technique and partake of inspiration.  For many of us it was a chance to spend time with  dear friends in an atmosphere that was collegiate and supportive.   The wisdom of GenreCon is too extensive to include in a post so allow me to refer you to #GCoz by which our individual and collective knowledge was tagged.

  Brilliant sketch of final panel by the talented David Witteveen.  


The Body in the Library

I did duck out of my residency in September for a weekend to be a part of the Body in the Library Murder Game put on by Gold Coast Libraries. I played myself, invited to present the Agatha Awards at which a fellow judge was brutally slain.  Words cannot convey what an awesome event this was so I'm just going to post pictures.



On Eminence

I spent September as the Eminent Writer in Residence at the Museum of Australian Democracy – Old Parliament House.  I suspect I’m more imminent than eminent but this Residency seemed tailored for me.  My writing, at its heart, is about democracy and Australian democracy in particular.

I lived that month in the Artsit at Gorman House.  A compact space that had everything a writer needs as well as doors to die for. 

 Located on the second floor one could argue it was a “garret” of sorts.  There were violin makers (The Avenue) across the hallway, and beneath me galleries and the ACT Writers’ Centre.  Let’s just say there was no shortage of creative ambiance.  In this space I spent many happy hours writing and editing – lingering in writerly pursuits in a way that my crazy busy life would not normally allow.

During the days I caught the bus across Commonwealth Bridge to Old Parliament House, where I was given an office, the assistance of the wonderful researchers, librarians and volunteer staff of the Museum of Australian Democracy, as well as access to the collections and resources of the museum.


A photograph of Prime Minister Chifley, reading Dangerous Lady by Cohen told me that crime writers were welcome in the House. 

And I did feel welcome.  The walls of Old Parliament House were anxious to whisper stories, to hint at rumour and possibilities.  I wandered the corridors, wrote in the Senate and explored the gardens and out of way places.  I listened for echoes of the past – they were many and loud.   I came away from my residency with material and inspiration for many books.


I am deeply grateful to the Arts ACT, the ACT Writers Centre and the Museum of Australian Democracy – Old Parliament House for this amazing opportunity to immerse in history for a while.


Awards and Snow


Another mad month... I seem to spend my life hurtling these days.  The second half of the year is always particularly busy for me.  I usually have a book coming out and the months before are filled with all those precedent things like copy edits and cover finalisation.  

It's also award season.  Now, awards are a funny thing... a book honoured with an award is still the same collection of words and ideas that it was before the award was made.  You haven't actually achieved anything more than when you first wrote the novel... and yet there is something undeniably heartening about having your work recognised. 

I know myself that I often feel like a pretender in the writing community... like I accidentally walked into a gathering of the extraordinarily talented and erudite without the requisite security pass.  And so being included on a shortlist is for me a kind of relief... it says, they know I'm here and they want me to stay (or they're not goign to kick me out, at least).  It's silly, I know.

Anyway, the last couple of weeks have found A Murder Unmentioned on two shortlists.  The first to be announced, was the Davitt Award in which it was shortlisted for Best Adult Novel by a woman.  The award is presented annually by the Sisters in Crime Australia.  I'm joined on that shortlist by two of my very talented writing friends, Honey Brown and Malla Nunn.

A Murder Unmentioned was also shortlisted for a Ned Kelly Award in the Best Book category. It's the first time any of my books have been recognised by the Neddies, and Malla Nunn joins me on that shortlist too.

It's very cool.  And particularly lovely to know that despite being the sixth book of the series, the Rowland Sinclair Mysteries is not losing momentum.  Let the tail wag!

My other brilliant news is that I've been offered (and have accepted) the Eminent Writer in Residence Fellowship at the Museum of Australian Democracy.  For those of you who don't know, the Museum of Australian Democracy is at Old Parliament House in Canberra. Six years ago (in September in fact) when Pantera first offered me a publishing contract, they proposed driving to Batlow to meet me and sign the necessary documents. Afraid it would mean I'd have to clean the house, I suggested we gather in Canberra instead. I chose Old Parliament House as the venue because the building seemed to embody a lot of the themes about which I wanted to write... I thought it would be somehow symbolic to meet my publishers for the first time and sign a contract there (Yes I know...debut authors are ridiculously romantic about such things!) So now, I'm returning to research and begin writing what will be my thirteenth novel. There's a rather wonderful circularity about it, and despite having become a hardened veteran, I can't step into Old Parliament House without recalling the excitement and happiness of that time. I am very grateful for the selection panel's broad interpretation of the word "eminent" and to the ACT Writers' Centre and the Museum of Australian Democracy for this opportunity.  I am also in awe of the generosity of my husband, Michael, who is once again picking up the slack as I wander off to write

National Bookshop Day was spent in Jindabyne with Snowprint Bookshop who invited not only me but Michael and the boys for a wonderful booksy weekend in the mountains which included a specially created Rowland Sinclair themed game of Murder!



We returned home to more snow!  It's been a gloriously cold winter.


And of course, Give the Devil His Due was copy-edited and the cover finalised... ta da!


Go Set a Watchman

Today Harper Lee’s first novel, Go Set a Watchman, is released in Australia.

The publication has been the subject of some controversy:  initially over whether 89 year old Harper Lee was being unduly pressured to publish the book at all, and more recently, over revelations that, in this book, Atticus Finch has a darker side.  According to reviews, Atticus, who has long embodied the best of mankind, attends a meeting of the Klan and expresses racist views.

To Kill a Mockingbird  has been my favourite book since I read it as a twelve year old, and Atticus Finch my literary hero.  I became a lawyer because of Atticus Finch, I became a writer because of what To Kill a Mockingbird meant to me and I named my son Atticus because I wanted him to have a name that represented integrity, courage and compassion.

And so when the early reviews revealed that Go Set a Watchman had altered the character upon whom I’d based the best intentions of my life, I was, like many, horrified. 

I want to read Go Set a Watchman not just because Harper Lee is a truly magnificent writer, but because I want to support the second book of an author who has given me so much with her first.   But now, it seems reading that book might break my heart.  I have for the past days, since the New York Times review first came out, vacillated between desperately wanting more of Lee’s writing and instinctively needing to protect the Atticus Finch I’d grown up with.  For some time my need to keep To Kill a Mockingbird and its characters unsullied looked like it might prevail.  But then I remembered what it was to be a writer.

To Kill a Mockingbird was reportedly written at Harper Lee’s publishers’ request when Go Set a Watchman was rejected.  Essentially To Kill a Mockingbird was a rewrite of Lee’s original story, a refocusing to make adult Jean Louise’s childhood memories central to a new novel.  But Go Set a Watchman was what Lee originally wrote, what she originally wanted to say.

Like many wordsmiths, I too have manuscripts in the drawer that have never found a home for a variety reasons.  Indeed, I suspect my best work lives in that drawer.  The bizarre thing about such manuscripts is that they call to you from the dark place to which you’ve consigned them, they demand their chance the sun.  But of course that is not always in an author’s ability to grant.  Those decisions are made by publishers, marketing, readerships, bottom-lines and the zeitgeist of the moment.

I wonder if Go Set a Watchman called to Lee all these years.  I think I understand then, why at 89 she would risk the legacy, the worldwide adoration of Atticus Finch, to give her first born a chance to make is own friends in the world.

I was a child when I read To Kill a Mockingbird and perhaps then I needed a hero, needed to believe that there were men like Atticus Finch as I read him to be.  I’m older now.  Perhaps I can bear to be disillusioned.

PS:  For the record, and in case anyone is worried, none of the manuscripts in my drawer include a story in which Rowland Sinclair joins the Klan.