Entries in P.M. Newton (5)


What happened to 2014?

It is with some sense of bewilderment that I note the date in the bottom right hand corner of my computer. I must confess that 2014 sped by so fast that I had barely come to realise it was no longer 2013!  The final months of the year in particular left me spinning.

A Murder Unmentioned was released on 1 November.  Michael (my husband) and I were in Sydney.  He was recovering from a cornea transplant and I was leading him about.  I did manage to lead him to dinner with the divinely talented but wonderfully human Malla Nunn and P.M. Newton.  We ate cornbread and okra in this literally brilliant company... see what I did there?... ;) 

I made it back home in time to drive up to Thredbo for the Snowy Readers and Writers' Festival which I have been a part of since its inaugral event.  My boys came with me.   One of the best things about this crazy profession of mine is that Edmund and Atticus have the opportunity to meet some extraordinary people.  Poets like Omar Musa and Victoria McGrath, writers like Anna George, Karen Viggers, Biff Ward, David Leser, Chris Uhlmann and Steve Lewis.  I think (hope) it compensates for all the time their own mother is distracted by imaginary people.


I returned to the peaks again at the end of that month for the official launch of A Murder Unmentioned at a magnificent event at Crackenback Lake Resort hosted by the Snowprint Bookshop.  Despite having nine books to my name, I am at a loss to describe how special that night was.  The band was brilliant, the singers superb, the venue perfect, the company delightful and to top the night off with superlatives, the drama students of Snow Mountains Grammar School performed a chapter from A Murder Unmentioned so well that I swear they had been inside my head!  It was an evening so extraordinary that I wish I could bottle it somehow to share with the world, because something that wonderful shouldn't belong to just me.  But of course I haven't quite worked out how to contain the essence of a experience so photos will have to suffice!



But that's not all!  I also managed to squeeze in a trip to Melbourne for the Crime and Justice Festival hosted by Reader's Feast Bookstore.  This is a truly unique event which discusses not only crime in literature but also addresses questions of social justice and reform.  I appeared on two panels... the first with my dear friends and admired colleagues, Angela Savage and Robert Gott, and later with my Pantera stablemates Melanie Casey and Josh Donellan.  We discussed all manner of things, shared experiences, ideas and  laughter with wonderful audiences of readers. 


And then there was Christmas... which I spent away from home this year with my Dad and sister.  Dad had surgery just before Christmas and Devini and I headed up to Brisbane to keep an eye on him and do what we could.  In the flurry I neglected to update this site and wish you all the very best of the Season and a happy and healthy New Year, but the wish is now given and no less sincere for being so late!





A month....

The last month has been eclectic to say the least - filled with festivals and edits, covers and the obssessive mania of a new novel.

I spent my birthday back in Melbourne filming a segment for the Melbourne Writers' Festival.  Then it was back to Sydney to deliver a workshop on writing historical fiction for the Sydney Writers' Festival. 

Finally I headed to Bellingen for the Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival where I spoke on panels about crime and historical fiction. 

        With Claire Scobie, Irin Dunn, Omar Musso and Melanie Casey at BRWF.   

When I wasn't gadding about, I was finishing the final edit on A Murder Unmentioned (Rowland Sinclair #6). 

Early in May, Pantera Press did release an unproofed-unedited version for booksellers, before the text was edited at all.  I have a copy but I haven't opened it.  Now that the book has been edited, I'm a little afraid of what I'll find leafing through what was essentially a printed manuscript.  Much less anxiety-making was the bottle of wine Pantera released in honour of the book!

Whilst in Sydney, the charming Scott Whitmont of the Lindfield Bookshop presented me with a magnificent montage of the real people who have inhabited Rowland Sinclair's world from time to time.  It was a delightful, thoughtful gift... but then Scott is a delightful and thoughtful person.


I also attended my very first Sydney Writers' Festival launch party with Pantera Press and caught up with Ashley Hay (fresh from Premier's Literary Award People's Choice glory) P.M. Newton (whose latest book Beams Falling is being acclaimed in every corner) and Kate Forsyth, (who I panelled with last year).  My very favourite thing about writers' festivals is the opportunity to catch with old friends and like minds.

The new novels I'm working on are absorbing every other moment one way or another.   Neither is a Rowland Sinclair novel.  I don't need to start working on next year's Rowland Sinclair release till about December really.  So I'm taking a chance by stepping out of my usual genres.  When I first started writing, I didn't ever think of myself as either a crime writer or a historical fiction writer... I just wrote what I wanted to write, told the stories I wanted to tell.  It just so happened that at the time they were crime and historical novels.  I'm going back to that "write anything potential" in the few months I have up my sleeve, and just seeing what comes out of it.  It may work, it may not but it'll be interesting finding out!


The Next Big Thing


I have been tagged by Angela Savage (Winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript 2004, Winner of the Scarlett Stilletto 2011 and shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Award in 2007 and 2011)  and P.M. Newton (Winner of the Davitt People’s Choice 2011 and the Asher Literary Award) for The Next Big Thing Meme.  Aside from the fact that being tagged by writers of the calibre of Angela and Pam is pretty wonderful in itself, the tagging has prompted me to finally update this website which has been sorely neglected in the past couple of months whilst I’ve been gadding about at Writers Festivals and such. 

So here goes.....


 1)     What is the working title of your current/next book?


I’m in the fairly early stages of my latest novel and an appropriately witty title has not yet jumped out at me, so the manuscript is still filed as Rowly V.

2) Where did the idea come from?


For this book, I’m not really sure.  The location of the setting and the beginning the novel is simply a natural progression from where I left Rowland and his entourage at the end of Paving the New Road.  I never really have an idea for a book as such… I have an idea for an opening paragraph, and then various ideas and stories seem to wander in of their own accord as I’m writing. Each small idea generates others and somehow they all combine to make a coherent whole by the end of the novel.  I still find the process a bit mysterious really.

3) What genre does your book fall under?


I like to think of my work as crime fiction (mainly because I love belonging to the Sisters in Crime who in my opinion simply rock!), but my books also been called historical fiction, Australian fiction and political thrillers.  I was even short-listed for a literary fiction prize once.  Go figure!  At heart I’m just a story-teller.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?


Rowland and his friends are so clear in my mind it’s really difficult to imagine them as anyone else, anyone real… but that’s a very boring answer and so I’ve tried.  I’ve managed to find reasonable facsimiles for four of the main characters… it’s all too hard!


Milton the Communist Poet : Noah Taylor (about 10 years too old)

   There’s something very bohemian and rakish about Noah Taylor which fits with my image of Milton.



Wilfred, Rowland’s eldest brother and head of the Sinclair family : Shaun Micallef/Hugo Weaving (Nb – both are also a little bit too old for the part but they seem reasonably well preserved, so maybe.) 


Both Mr Weaving and Mr Micallef (when he’s not making jokes) exude a certain quiet power which works with the way I see Wilfred.


Rowland, gentleman artist with a penchant for sleuthing : Ernest Hemmingway (dead… and not an actor)… the Rowland in my head looks something like this.





Edna, sculptress and the great love of Rowland’s life : Anna Buckley who appeared in the Ziegfield Follies in 1920s (Probably dead or about 110)


This is Edna as I imagine her.  I’ve painted from this photograph (by Alfred Cheney) a couple of times… I never tire of it.

 So I’ve cast people who are either too old or too dead to play the part… which leads me to promise that if my books are ever optioned…I’ll try to keep my nose out of the casting… unless they’re making a zombie version, in which case I’ll be able to tell them exactly who to dig up!

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?


What happened to Rowland Sinclair next….


I’m afraid that’s the best I can do at this stage… I have no idea what happens beyond the first 10 chapters which is all I have currently written.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?


The novel will be published by Pantera Press with a release date of September 2013.  I don’t have an agent.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft?


I haven’t finished the first draft yet.  I started about 6 weeks ago and will deliver the manuscript by the end of February…. so, if all goes well, around 5 months.  For me, this is usually heaps of time, but my day job is a little intense at the moment and I have Christmas and the school holidays plonked in the middle of this period.  Increasingly I’m forced to stop writing and deal with life!

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

 Many people tell me that my sons look alike… I can’t see it. (I promise there is a point to this digression)  To me they are as different as night a day.  I can see all sorts of differences that others seem to miss but perhaps that is because they are mine and I know every expression and contour on their faces.  The same is true of my books. (…and here’s the point)  I find it very hard to see overall similarity because the detail in my work is so known to me. 

Others (very nice others) have compared my work to Agatha Christie, Evelyn Waugh and Boris Akunin.  One extraordinarily kind reviewer even drew parallels between my books and Dickens!  I am of course flattered by these comparisons, but I find it impossible to judge myself. 


That being said, I think anyone who likes my books would also like Robert Gott’s Will Power Series.  Though his work and mine are different in a lot of ways, there is a keen sense of the absurd in the Will Power books which I think exists—though perhaps less overtly—in mine as well.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?


This is (or will be) the fifth book in the Rowland Sinclair series.  At this stage I’m inspired mainly by Rowland and the other characters whose stories I tell.  They seem now to have an existence independent of me… they beckon and I simply follow and watch and write.  I’m not so much inspired as enticed, sometimes compelled.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?


London in 1933, political intrigue, English aristocrats, hedonists, fascists, spies, drag balls, cocktails, cross-dressing, murder and art… so far.  I’m not sure what’ll turn up in the next 30 odd chapters.


So that’s me….


Now I get to tag!  By Boxing Day this year the following writers should have responded to the above questions as well.

 Karen Viggers, author of The Light Keeper’s Wife, who I met at a bus stop in Byron Bay.  You meet the most wonderful people at bus stops.  The Light Keeper’s Wife is haunting work woven around love and loss, belonging and regret.  Karen brings to her writing a sensitivity that is rare and moving.

L.A. Larkin is the author of Thirst which I see on bookshelves wherever I go.  I see L.A. herself less often but I am always delighted to do so.  As intrepid as her heroes, Louisa travels to the ends of the earth and sews up pigs in order to give her books an amazing level of authenticity.

John M. Green’s most recent book, Born to Run, is a political thriller of immense proportions… the race for the White House no less.  It’s a brilliantly crafted novel with a surprise at every turn.  The pace is relentless and the story compelling.  What’s more, John is a gorgeous human being and so modest that he doesn’t have a website, and so I will be posting his response here on the 26th.


Now I’m not actually supposed to upload this post until the 19th but I’ll be in Canberra doing a “tardis” interview with Michael Cathcart for Books and Arts Daily... so this is going up early.  Unfortunately it means that some of the writers I’ve tagged haven’t had time to get back to me (you know who you are)… so I’ll be adding to this post (hopefully) as and if they come in.


Other than that MERRY CHRISTMAS!



Sydney Writers' Festival

In May, I once again had the honour of being a guest of the Sydney Writers' Festival.  It was a writerly indulgence from the minute I landed in Sydney... a series of wonderful conversations with readers, writers and old friends.  It was exciting, inspiring and incredibly warming.  Connecting with readers is the wonderful end product of all those predawn hours when it's just you and the words. I so appreciate it.  And the experience of talking to other writers is for me glorious... the feeling is more than collegiate, it's closer to kinship. 



Chatting with James Valentine on the ABC.




Candida Baker and me.




  With the wonderful and talented Jesse Blackadder.  Toasting life with P.M. Newton


 My very own signing line!



SheKilda...yes she did!


Last weekend I attended SheKilda, a conference of crime-writers from, let’s face it, the deadlier half of the species.  A gathering of truly dangerous women.  Between us we have murdered, tortured, and generally brutalised in every way imaginable.  Violence is our stock in trade. We do with style and no apology.

SheKilda, organised by the Victorian Sisters in Crime is the only conference of its type in the world.  It could be that other jurisdictions are too afraid to allow such a gathering… perhaps it is asking for trouble.

I was met at the Melbourne airport by the effervescent writer and publisher, Lindy Cameron, in a bus.  Now I have met Lindy and her bus before.  Consequently I was savvy enough to jump out at Domestic Arrivals (ostensibly to herd up arriving writers) while she circled the block.  Thus I was not in the bus when Lindy drove blithely onto the tarmac and was nearly taken out by Airport Security. I was oblivious to any interrogation or death threats that may have followed.  And fortunately Lindy found someone to bog up the bullet holes before returning the vehicle to Budget.  And so the conference began as it should, with a narrow escape from peril with Lindy Cameron behind the wheel.  

We travelled without further incident (though I suspect we were being followed by the authorities) to the Rydges in Carlton where lethal women from all over Australia and the world were checking in.

What followed was a series of cocktail parties, panels and awards ceremonies in which known criminal masterminds associated.  Several of my Sisters in Crime have already written about the programmed events and they were indeed revealing, insightful and wickedly fun.  For me however the highlights of this conference were in the background moments, doing things like:

  • Seeing and hugging my dear friend, Angela Savage, again.  Now hugs are not new… in fact there’s quite a lot of hugging and kissing going on in the literary world but I did notice that at SheKilda there was nothing restrained or affected about this form of greeting.  The hugs were warm and genuine, the excited salutations of kindred writers, old friends and new. 


  • Discussing lame ducks and new born foals with Karen Chisholm and getting to know Louisa Larkin while stuffing conference bags.  Louisa and I did come up with the bright idea of making video clips of the conference attendees answering the following questions.

Who would you most like to murder?  How would you do it?  And how would you cover it up?

We did embark on the project with enthusiasm but it soon became clear that a certain politician was overrepresented in the victim selection.  The lawyer in me kicked in.  Would having an entire conference profess that you were at the top of their hit list constitute a threat in the eyes of the law?  Certainly having so many women who were familiar with the mechanics of murder identify you as the person they would most dearly like to depart, could at the very least make you moisten your infamous swimming trunks.  And so, ironically, those clips were deleted in the interests of keeping SheKilda on the right side of the law.


  • Catching up with my delightful publishers John and Jenny Green who came to Melbourne to support me and SheKilda.  Before he left, I gave John (a crime writer himself) a gun-shaped USB, because he, like me, takes joy in such in things.  Unfortunately John’s consequent experience trying to get the said USB out through Melbourne airport was not so joyful.  See here.


  • Awaking early every morning despite the previous evening’s late revelry, because how could one sleep in when there were so many amazing people to talk to?  Over toast and tea, I chatted with Malla Nunn about the complexities of racial discrimination, and creative methods of imparting table manners. I talked to Carmel Shute about Robert Goddard, though at the time I had no idea who he was (Sorry Carmel – I have looked him up since and am very flattered by the comparison).  Over eggs, Sue Turnball and I had a conversation that I shouldn’t repeat or even admit to. And Shamini Flint shared the direction of her next work while drinking coffee and making wisecracks… as Shamini does. 


  • Discussing dedication pages with Malla Nunn, Lindy Cameron and a bunch of others in a very full elevator. It seems we all write acknowledgements sincerely and with much anguish.  Of course while there are often many people to whom a writer is grateful, it’s important to avoid sounding like one is making a drunken Oscars speech… or even a sober one.  


  • Comparing torture methods with Kathryn Fox and Margie Orford over hot chocolate… all right, the hot chocolate was just for me – they had cocktails like grown-ups.  Along the same lines swapping stories with Wendy James, (who was receiving “Come home Mummy, I love you” texts from her daughter) on how quickly and effectively children learn to torture you.


  • Meeting so many truly amazing, witty and generous colleagues, and a plethora of warm, insightful and enthusiastic readers.


  • Sharing a final coffee with Malla Nunn and Pam Newton (who won the Davitt for Readers’ Choice) at the airport and in doing so dragging out the warmth and feeling of community and inspiration that was SheKilda for just another hour.

And so it was.  SheKilda 2011.