Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot: Kerry Greenwood

1. You've got quite a following for your Phryne Fisher and Corinna Chapman novels, with some webloggers even writing critiques of the recipes you include in the Chapman books. Did you ever think it would come to this?

No, never in my wildest dreams. I was just trying to get published - for four years - and when I finally had a book with my name on I slept with it under my pillow for a week in case I had dreamed it. I was writing the sort of books I like to read, of course. That might have helped. And I always loved cooking, I used to work as a cook, it's lovely to be able to hand out something other than just narrative.

But the thing is, books go in and out of fashion. I have already gone out of fashion once and I expect I will again, which is why I also write historical novels and speculative fiction and kids books.

I just like writing, and now people are PAYING me to do it - amazing.

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

The next Phryne is already written and edited and with the publisher, Murder on a Midsummer Night, a Phryne, out in November, when I will have a book launch at the Sun Bookshop, Yarraville, all welcome. I have started a new Corinna, which has something to do with donkeys and Christmas, I have chapter one, which usually means the book is safe. And I have a lovely children's book called Princess of Cats up to chapter four, so it's a toss up which one gets my attention. I'll know more when I've met the donkeys. Probably.

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?

I don't read a lot of modern fiction at all, no insult intended to my sisters in crime. I really liked the latest Gary Disher, I admire Peter Temple, and I loved Lindy Cameron's thriller Redback, that woman has found her niche, she writes a wonderful thriller.

I think the scene is as healthy as it has ever been. More women writing crime, more areas being covered - it's pretty lively and interesting and has some great personalities in it.

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

Almost anything. More reviews would be good, crime fiction does not get reviewed as often as one would like. I have always wanted a train ad saying something like "Bored? Crushed? Wondering about the intentions of the man behind you? You could be reading a book! Here are some wonderful train books".

The websites are what sell books in the U.S., it appears, some of them like DorothyL have thousands and thousands of contributors and women, particularly, read on recommendation - as I do myself, there are, as someone said, so many books, so little time. Scripta Longa, vita brevis est, in fact. Americans and English alike find Australian books unbearably exotic, and I think that playing up the exotic, wild strange and kangaroo inhabited nature of Australia would sell a lot of books. It has also worked in France, Germany and in Russia with my books, where they are bemused but fascinated. In the long run a book has to sell itself, though a good cover (the Phryne covers are particularly spiffing, Beth Norling is a genius) helps. I have had books come out with covers so drab that they scream "No! No! Put me down, I'm boring!" to anyone who is unwise enough to pick them up. If we are a backwater with a small population compared to, say, America, then we should become a luxury niche market, like very fine Armagnac or camembert. I might also mention that the Australia Council still does not consider crime fiction literature, and they should. A few grants would get a lot of people the time they need to finish their first book. But if it isn't Frank Moorhouse, the establishment does not like it, which sort of tickles my rebellious streak, I admit... and they've never offered me a fellowship despite the fact that I have forty six books in publication and would love to loll around in the Marais. But I am doing well on my own, which makes me feel independent, I suppose.

Email ads would be the way to go, on all those websites. Wouldn't cost much and would bring a new book to the attention of the reading public. My US publishers, Poisoned Pen Press, already do this, and it seems to work.

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

I believe that Phryne would get on very badly with Sherlock Holmes and would probably seduce Lord Peter Whimsey. She is a woman very much of her time and I can't see her out of it, so we are looking at 1928-9. Perhaps she could go robbing museums with The Saint. Not Roger Moore, the real one in the books by Leslie Charteris. He was a very good character, clever, sensual and handsome. And he would find Phryne challenging. I might never get her back. What an interesting question, I'll have to think about it. Corinna would love to meet Sweeney Todd if he looks anything Johnny Depp. She could teach him a pie recipe which does not include human. She would not get on with any of the noire girls, I believe. Their private lives are too untidy for her. Anyone who gets up at four every morning has little patience with such people. I think she would like to have tea with that advanced young woman, Lady Whimsey. Or possibly Miss Marple.


Kerry Greenwood is the author of the Phryne Fisher and Corrina Chapman series of novels, including A Question of Death and Trick or Treat. Kerry Greenwood's website.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 5, 2008 9:36 AM.

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