Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot: Wendy James

1. You won a Ned Kelly Award for Best First Novel in 2006 for OUT OF THE SILENCE. Did you write the novel thinking it was going to fit within the crime genre?

Out of the Silence IS at heart a crime novel - if not a who-dunnit, certainly a why-dunnit - but I don't think I consciously approached the work with any particular genre in mind. I was more concerned that the work felt historically 'true' (& yes I know it's an impossibility!); that I came as close as I could to representing the nineteenth century characters with nineteenth century sensibilities & so on. But looking back: at the short stories I've written - in particular a discontinuous narrative that deals with the relationship between an armed robber & his girlfriend; at an unpublished novel - which is an 'imposter' novel along the lines of Martin Guerre and Josephine Tey's marvellous Brat Farrar; and at my reading habits - I'm a huge reader of crime fiction & any sort of thriller, really - well, I guess I really shouldn't have been at all surprised. I suspect, though I'm possibly not the best judge of this, that crime fiction has had a huge influence on my writing - particularly in terms of structure, momentum & plot - even if unconsciously. Oh - and my husband was a copper for 15 years - at Kings Cross & then here in Armidale - so issues of crime & punishment aren't completely abstract, but quite close to home.

2. What do you have planned for your next publication?

My next novel, The Steele Diaries, is due out in May. The only crimes in this novel are emotional: lies, betrayal, abandonment .... Still, I'd say that crime fiction influence is still there - in the structure, the momentum, the plot twists & revelations. The novel I'm working on now, however, does revolve around a crime. Though, like Out of the
, the emphasis is more on the what, why & how of the crime than the who.

3. Do you read much Australian crime fiction? Can you give us a few standouts that you've read recently? What do you think of the current state of the Australian crime fiction scene?

Not as much as I'd like! I've just got number 4 child off to school, so am hoping that my reading time is going to increase. In the last year or so I've discovered Barry Maitland and Peter Temple. Gabrielle Lord and Peter Corris are old favourites. Heather Rose's The Butterfly Man is fantastic; as is Malcolm Knox's A Private Man. If the ever-expanding list of Australian crime novels that have been recommended to me of late is anything to go by, the Australian Crime fiction scene is looking remarkably healthy.

4. What do you think could be done to better promote Australian authors either at home or abroad (or both)?

Oh, this is a hard one. For promoting us overseas, I would have said perhaps more government/publisher sponsored & co-ordinated readings and tours and so forth would help - but have heard that the government recently cancelled the grant formerly reserved for just this purpose - so, hell, I don't know. As to promoting Australian writers at home: I've noticed that in New Zealand there's been a huge television campaign encouraging people to read and use public libraries and so on - maybe we could do something similar here, with an emphasis on local writers. And a greater emphasis on us lit at school and at university level - though not at the expense of other literature. Easy to suggest, I know; much harder to implement. An English teacher friend recently onfessed that she's lucky to get the kids to read & study one novel a year.

5. If your fictional character could meet any fictional character who would you like it to be and why?

These characters have met, but I think I'd like Annie, the fictional mother in The Steele Diaries, to read her daughter Zelda's diary. I really wonder what her response would be - whether she'd feel she'd been completely misunderstood, misrepresented.

Notes: Wendy James is the author of Out of the Silence which won the Ned Kelly Award for Best First novel in 2006
Wendy James's website

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 7, 2008 10:05 AM.

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