1. Given you have a large audience in YA and children's books how do you craft a mystery for a YA audience / what do you think you need to consider in doing that?
Often it’s the setting like Antarctica (Antarctica’s Frozen Chosen) or the outback (Outback Ferals) which attracts, and plotting a mystery or a crime, enables me to have variety in my participant-observation research, so the subject is fresh for me as well as the reader. I like to visit locations, so I can absorb the local language, conflicts and potential for something going wrong, but my major interest is the dilemma for my protagonist.
Writing for YA means considering the sleuth’s age, so, despite my readership of 13-18, my young eco-scientist Kyle had to be 21 because of Antarctic requirements for expeditioners. Generally I’ll have a sleuth about a year older than the readership, as in ‘Fake ID” which actually revolves around cyber family history sleuthing, Zoe is 14 and on the day of her Gran’s funeral she discovers her grandmother had fake ID for years. I researched with the genealogists from the State Trustees who track beneficiaries in intestate cases where no wills are left. They are magnificent sleuths and loved helping me because all their other clients are dead.I have had thousands of hits on my web site for Fake ID, but unfortunately not all were looking for my book!
Usually I have a strong male and a strong female as my sleuths, but with complementary skills. I’m really fond of my entrepreneurial Rogue Vogue Coco character who sells bush lingerie at night markets and challenges Aboriginal stereotypes. Feisty females and sensitive, active but thoughtful males make good combinations for story dynamics in a mystery.
2. Your comment about the fine line between mystery and crime, and your preference for motivation rather than violence is very interesting - what do you see as that fine line and how does that affect your writing?
I don’t know much about guns, post-mortems, forensics or police procedures, but I‘m fascinated by deviant or original thinkers and questions of amorality.
Consistent viewpoint without betraying the ‘twist’ is a challenge, such as in ‘Stalker’ where I wrote alternately from the viewpoint of the stalkee( Lily, the 17 year old radio presenter) and the stalker, who is actually female, not male as most assume until the end.
I’ve experimented with male viewpoint via Kyle in ‘Antarctica’s Frozen Chosen’ and in the ‘Outback Ferals’ sequel. Since I’m not a 21 year old bloke, that required listening and some trialling with ‘blokey’ readers. I always run my story past ‘experts’ in the field ( e.g. chopper pilot) for technical checks and my son who works in Darwin helped with the ‘pandemic’ scientific research for ‘Outback Ferals’
Often I prefer to give my ‘sleuth’ an ethical dilemma, such as in ‘Duty Free’ where the mother may be asking the daughter to smuggle ‘ideas’ via a formula, but for altruistic pacifist reasons. My ‘Kyle’ has to say no to his mates during a possible mutiny, and also resolve ‘spying’ on housemates in his Darwin sharehouse.
Media manipulation interests me and I’ve utilised my atypical , Nordic eco-terrorist Nick in the Antarctic and whether the end justifies the means, becomes an issue.
I also enjoy creating eccentric secondary characters like A.N.Zac who enable me to satirise events such as Reality TV or government bureaucracy.
Recently I’ve started writing short adult crime, and my ‘Making a Killing at the Pokies’ is also a satirical look at addiction via the irritant philosopher Ghost of Monies Lost who morphs from the Info pokies button.
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?
Increasingly I’m attracted to short crime collections. Enjoy Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne character and her period settings. Goldie Alexander’s culinary murders (Unkind Cut, Unjust Desserts) explore the poison/food link in a realistic bayside setting.
4. What do you think could be done to better promote Australian authors either at home or abroad (or both)?
Authors are intellectual property which can be even more valuable, long term, than land. Often their use of local settings making the inhabitants view their surroundings with more pride. Publicise the locales which writers have used. Instead of a pub crawl, encourage Tourist authorities to have a literary walk to author significant sites.
More mainstream reviewing. More podcasts.More radio interviews. More panels at low key festivals as well as the big literary ones, but get double value by broadcasting later.
More anthologies of short crime, which are also available in the latest audio formats as many ‘read’ only in their cars or when travelling.
Often writers are categorised by genre. I’m known as the children’s author of ‘There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake’ and some people find it unacceptable that I might also write crime. So maybe there could be more promoting of cross-genre writers, as the skills are the same.
The Genre Flash has been a brilliant way to pr crime titles and I;m reading my way through some of them now.
5. If your fictional character could meet any fictional character who would you like it to be and why?
Mid-book, I actually interviewed my Kyle expeditioner to see how he’d like the story to finish. Maybe he could meet my as yet undeveloped, next, adult female sleuth who will be a funeral/wedding celebrant. They could both complain about their author-parent.
Hazel is a well known local author with a large list of excellent books for a range of readers, for more please visit her website (particularly if you're looking for Young Adult literature).