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Interview with SUSPENSE MAGAZINE April 2010

As a new author, what is the most awesome part of the publishing process? What is the most difficult part?

Without a doubt, seeing the end result is the most awesome part. It’s amazing to think that what starts life as a few disjointed thoughts can evolve into a fully formed story, which you’ve given life to. Publishing is sending it out into the world to stand on its own two feet. Or rather covers.

The most difficult part is the self-doubt. But I also think it’s that which makes me strive to always improve, make the next book better than the last.

Has writing always been a large part of your life?

As a young schoolchild, I loved words and writing and always did well in English. Unfortunately, the older I got the busier life seemed to become and writing took a back seat. Secondary and tertiary schooling became my prime focus. After that, all my energies went into pursuing a business career.

Though I didn’t write much during those years, I read and read and read.

I started writing in earnest after I quit a high-pressure management job. With a wealth of life experiences behind me, I feel I am a much better writer now than I could have ever been in my twenties or even thirties.

Your novels, Brittle Shadows, Sleight Malice and Thin Blood each begin with an incredibly suspenseful prologue. They start the stories perfectly, making the reader want to dig in immediately. Is this your signature?

Good question. For me the opening is the most important part of the book. It’s no good having a brilliant ending if the beginning is so ho-hum that the reader isn’t going to want to read past page one.

So, yes, a suspenseful prologue is part of my signature. But I like to think my signature is multiple-faceted – a twist here, a turn there.

Your characters and stories are vivid and fascinating, where do you get your ideas?

Most of my story ideas come from the news. Usually it’s just a germ of an idea, which I then apply a series of what-ifs to. By the time I’ve finished with it, the news item is so bent out of shape, it’s unlikely anyone would recognize the true crime that sparked it. More often than not, it’s multiple news items weaved together.

Again, my characters are not based on specific people, but rather grow from my observations of people over the years. Empathy is a good trait for a writer to possess. It makes getting inside your characters’ heads much easier. I’m glad no one can see me writing, because I often act out the scene. Not a good look.

Other than writing, what fills your days? Hobbies? Career?

Writing is my primary focus, but I’m also a freelance web/graphic designer. I enjoy both the creativity of design and the technical IT aspects of the discipline.

My hobby is photography. I’m learning new skills all the time. It’s also an excellent excuse to explore the countryside on the weekend. For the last year, I’ve maintained a daily photo blog featuring photos of life in rural Australia.

What encouragement can you give a writer trying to breakthrough?

Be a sponge. Read writing, editing and publishing blogs. (Not so many that you spend all day online.) Read the how-to books and take out of them what you need. Write a book you would enjoy reading. But more importantly, read! I can't stress that enough. You can't expect to be a writer if you're not a reader.

But the biggest thing is perseverance. You’re going to need it by the bucket load. That and a bit of luck.

A cautionary note: Be discerning whom you take your advice from. Some of the “advice” I’ve seen meted out online to unsuspecting new writers is downright scary. Look to those who’ve proven themselves.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Tough question. Where’s that crystal ball when you need it?

In ten years, I plan to have written and published another ten novels and writing my eleventh. I would like to think that these books would be available in every format—in both paper and digital—“wherever good books are sold.”

Of course, I hope that by then writing will also provide me with a living.

What book has changed your life?

I wouldn’t say any one book has changed my life. Books as a collective have. Even with six children under the age of ten, my parents always read us a bedtime story. I grew up loving books and, as the family’s bookworm, spent many happy hours in the school library.

What are you currently working on?

Bitter Nothings is the title of my current work-in-progress. A mother and her two young children are murdered in their beds. The missing father is considered the main suspect, though Dervla—the man’s daughter from his first marriage—is far from convinced of his guilt. Not until he turns up dead in his car on an isolated bushtrack, the weapon by his side. Mix in a dysfunctional family and a friend with an abusive husband and the lines start to blur.