Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot: Brian Kavanagh

1. You are now the author of 3 series novels.  What do you see as the likely reader's for your books.

As the books are classed as “cozy” I imagine that the reader base would largely be female, and to tell the truth that was the market I was aiming at. And from what reaction I’ve received, that policy seems to have paid off. Sorting through various online book groups etc., the readers of mystery novels of that genre seem almost predominately female. I don’t believe that this limits the reader to that sex: so long as a “cozy” is well written and the plot and characters are engaging, I don’t see why readers of either sex couldn’t enjoy it. I’m not entirely sure that I like the idea of the books being classed exclusively as “cozy”: I prefer to think of them as an “entertainment”. Cozy suggests tea parties and knitting, and my books are far from that scenario.

2.  How did you originally develop Belinda- your central character?

Having decided that the market for my books was most likely female, it seemed sensible to create a female character that women could relate to. Setting her age at mid-twenties it allowed for character development as the series proceeded. Although, I didn’t set out to write a series: Capable of Murder was just conceived as a one off mystery. Also by making Belinda, the central character, an Australian who was working in England and on the point of returning to Australia, I felt that there would be some point of recognition for Australian women who have had the European experience. It also allowed for her to experience locations and events that were foreign to her, and to the reader, and as the settings for the books always have some historical background or point of reference, it allowed her character to explore the historical reality in a natural manner, and the reader would discover this also but through the eyes of Belinda, rather than having to wade through tediously presented facts, which is often the case in some books. Belinda herself is probably modelled on a combination of some of my friends over the years. Australian women who have been spirited and outgoing. Belinda’s character was aided by the discovery that one of the minor characters in the first book, Hazel Whitby an older, worldly wise and gregarious personality, demanded to be listened to and so she became Belinda’s partner in crime, so to speak.

3.  How does the process of writing a series work for you.  Are you plotting the next book, as you work on the current, or do you have a draw full of possible scenarios for your central character Belinda?

I don’t plot the next book, although I have few vague ideas for possible development. I do have a new book planned in which Belinda returns to Melbourne and is involved in a new mystery. While writing, my concentration is on that particular story so I don’t really think beyond that. At the moment I’m “hunting & gathering” for plot and character developments in the new book, tentatively titled, Small Vices Do Appear. There is a political background to the story.

4.  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 have to admit, sadly, that I don’t read much Australian crime fiction. I have and do read, Peter Corris and Kerry Greenwood. My preference in mysteries is English writers and English settings. Agatha Christie has a lot to answer for!

Also, from what I can establish, most Australian crime fiction is of the ‘hard core’ variety, (I may be wrong about this) which personally I don’t find attractive these days. Put it down to my age: I find that these genres, hard core, police procedural, etc., have got into a rut. The writers spend more time telling us about the loves and hates of the investigating team than on the murder or mystery at hand. There is a welter of police procedural programming on television, so I don’t feel the need to read about it as well. And I don’t feel the need to know in detail how an autopsy is carried out: that also is bleeding from the TV screens.

My preference is having a crime committed and the resulting unravelling of the clues. Also, part of my not reading Australian crime fiction, relates to the next question.

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

These days it seems that newspaper reviews of books, when they do bother to review them, is limited to PR handouts from the major publishers for their established writers. Journalists have little time to bother exploring the changing face of publishing. With the said publishers taking on fewer new writers and the growth of small on-line publishers taking risks on new authors there is a need for an outlet to bring local works to the reading public. On-line book groups do a certain amount in resolving this problem, but are limited to their members. Magazines, by and large, tend to review literary works, so there is a niche for commercial popular writing to be reviewed and promoted.

Libraries could also help: I’m aware of financial restrictions but it would be helpful if they were more active in purchasing and promoting Australian works: essentially they have a captive audience. Readers could also help: if they discover a new writer they can ask their library to purchase the book, thus making it and the author known to other readers.

So, to sum up: the media to be more open to local books, literary or otherwise. Maybe programmes or articles that are exclusively Australian orientated. Australian films are endorsed in the media (cinema attendances is another matter) as is the local music scene. Writing lacks that promotional back-up, yet the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008 Year Book claims Australians spent $1.5 billion on books in recent years. How much of that money went on Australian works?

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

I‘m not sure how to answer that question. Possibly Belinda to meet with Becky Sharp, if only because they are two young women from different period of time, but both faced adventures and stood on their own two feet, although Becky of course had a much more robust persona.

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