Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot: Kirsty Brooks

1. Your books have been described as "Romantic comedy meets noir crime". Does living in Adelaide - sometimes described as the weird crime capital of Australia - have anything to do with your choice of genres? Or is it just the quality of the wine that makes the difference?

Ah, yes. The crime weirdness. I think it's just distilled (check excellent relevant wine reference...) by population and our hysterical tabloid newspaper. I am a keen reader of interstate papers to get some perspective, but yes, if you only read The Advertiser you'd think we were the kinky crime capital of the world (very exciting in theory but not so in real life). In fact, one of the reason the publishers at Hachette (Livre - Hodder headline) were so quick to sign my first three books was because they thought I did a good job of making Adelaide "seem exciting", which is a glimpse at the other side of the opinion coin, that Adelaide is all church spires and hedges. Being a private school girl with a doctor, lawyer and school teacher in the family, I get to explore a lot of the seedy underbelly of our fine city without losing the boring beige posh sensibilities I've been brought up with... It's an interesting parallel to why I think crime fiction makes for such interesting reading - it's danger at a safe distance. So, reading about danger is exhilarating, but I get to do all the dodgy things late at night, but still (hopefully) duck home and drink good red wine until my heart stops leaping about in my chest. As someone who runs like toddler on acid and is prone to a good thumping faint, I am the very model of a crap sleuth, so I base a lot of Cassidy's misadventures on (sadly) real life.

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

I'm writing the next in the series, The Tequila Bikini, but publication dates are up in the air at the moment. I get a lot of emails from fans asking where it is, which is very encouraging. I'm glad they have so much faith in me (and my characters). I'm a "seat of the pants" kind of writer, so I tend to paint my characters into a corner and then get hot and cold and have to go lie down when I realise I have to now try to get them out again (and without a deux ex machina or magic wand I have to do it with characters who have very little experience, or skills of any kind. It stretches my imagination at times... I'm also sketching out a YA series, and writing bits of that when I get a chance (I've just bought my first home after decades of share housing, flats, apartments and co-ops - all of which have delivered in terms of storylines - a wonderfully kitsch seventies house with room dividers and excellent drop lamps in classy gold and brown so I'm finally able to build built-in bookshelves and I can finally get a dog (or three) and chickens, to go with the eleven birds I already live with (all but two are "rescue animals" and it's only after they get home that I realise why it's possible no one wanted them... But I love them so much for being, well really badly behaved. Six are reasonably benign handicapped finches who are remarkably brilliant and resourceful, as well as five Machiavellian parrots who all think they are my sidekick and protector and spend much of the days warning me about various Holden Blimps and stray balloons in the sky, and marching about checking down drains and under doors for intruders). My time is pretty limited but I find if I don't write every day I go nuts (the stories just play out in my head until I get them down). I have what my doctor refers to as "an unquiet mind..." I'm totally sure it's a compliment.

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?

Australian crime fiction is fit right now. Totally spunky and looking great. I'm always jealous of Melbourne based writers who get to attend the excellent Sisters in Crime meetings at Leo's spaghetti bar on a regular basis. I've been invited there a few times and been refreshed and happy for months afterwards, enjoying the company of other writers and readers (although one night when I spoke with the glorious Tara Moss, I had a woman fast asleep in the seats about two feet in front of me, which was off putting until I realised if anyone can sleep in the presence of Ms. Moss, she must be really exhausted and deserve the nap - or be mashed on drugs). I love reading local crime fiction, but I must confess my faves are American - Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton mostly. I even wrote Ms. Grafton a fan letter, and got a reply. It's still in my purse, I was so excited (getting older just can't stop someone being a nerd). I am also a fan of Shane Maloney (who I travelled around Victoria with for a libraries tour, we had a great time, persuading our very patient libraries PR dude to stop at oppshops and various crap historic sites). And Peter Corris, Leigh Redhead and Tara Moss. I find I'm a fan of their work as well as the writers themselves. We are very fortunate to have such great, supportive communities like this. It's the same in SF, I've found. Genre writers are lucky to be able to have little cliques, but also be well received in the general community. (Hmm, that sounds a little like we're on the "special bus"). I probably meant to say that commercial/popular fiction embraces our genres very kindly and we're lucky for it, while still have a little niche of support too.

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

We've had some great news stories of late, so we're lucky to have a lot of interest, both locally and abroad. I think it's always a good news story if writers are doing something different, or unusual, so I got a fair bit of publicity writing about Adelaide, although so many people said I should focus on Sydney (or Paris, London or New York) or I wouldn't get published in this genre. I figured, with all the research I was doing (i.e. Drinking in dodgy bars and strip joints, meeting strippers and trying my hand at pole dancing - I still have a scar on my leg from that. Well, from having to wear stilettos while practising anyway. It's true what they say about stiletto heels...), I would keep one thing true, which was the setting, but then I got all wish-fulfilment and put all the things I WANTED Adelaide to have in there as well, so there are bars where I think they should be (close to where I used to live in the city) and the style I liked, with familiar spots like universities and shops, and my sort of long slow bars tucked in there (a small bit of Melbourne moved to the Adelaide side streets). Oddly, much of those ideas are actually real now, so either I have the ear of the local Licensing and Alcohol Authority or I am just blessed with the many gifts of the psychic (as deeply opposed to psychiatric). Still, we have to compete on an international level, so we have to be as good, if not better than what's already out there. Publicity won't change anything other than maybe bringing some things to a publisher or reader's attention. A keen reader becomes a fan and then becomes someone who relates to you, and I've found writing is a wonderful way to learn that you're 1) not alone in your odd thoughts and 2) able to connect with other like minded people in a useful way.

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

Oh, I think Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone could teach Cassidy Blair a thing or ten. At first glance I imagined them together at a shooting range, but actually, Cassidy would just get a lot more out of learning to be as neat and organised and responsible as Kinsey. And patience. Definitely our Cassidy could learn a little of that...

Kirsty Brooks is the author of the Cassidy Blair series of novels, which include The Happiness Punch, The Vodka Dialogue and The Millionaire Float. Her website can be found here.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 4, 2008 1:52 PM.

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