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Monday, March 10, 2008

Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot - Sandy Curtis

1. Your crime thrillers have been strongly relationship based. Do you see this as an important part of establishing a character's personality?

For me, characters are as important as plot, and having my main characters become involved with each other, emotionally and/or physically, exposes aspects of their personality that otherwise might not be revealed. Raise the stakes by placing them in great danger and giving them impossible choices and you soon reach the core of their psyche, and that’s what readers want to see – the strengths, the weaknesses, the flaws that make these characters come to life. Above all else, a writer has to make the reader care about their characters so they want to know what happens to them – then they keep reading.

2. Reading your website I see that you have a finished novel that is without a publisher at the moment. Could you tell us a little about the book and are we any closer to seeing it in bookstores? And are we likely to see any more of Rogan McKay?

In my sixth book, Fatal Flaw, I further explore the character of Mark Talbert, who readers met in Dangerous Deception. Mark is a government agent having doubts about what he wants to do with his life after his narrow escape from death. When his father is murdered, Mark is reunited with his childhood friend, Julie Evans, and finds what has been missing from his life. But Julie’s father, Ray Galloway, is involved with men for whom terrorism is a means to bring about a shocking revenge.

When Mark is ordered to use Julie to get close to Ray in order to find the terrorists, he has to choose between his work and the woman he has come to love.

As Ray’s closest friends are murdered, Mark and Julie realise there is another killer out there. Someone seeking retribution for a past wrong. Someone who will destroy Mark’s belief in the father he respected. Someone who is willing to kill Julie’s son to reach her father.

Fatal Flaw has two main villains, and the most complex of these is Ruth Bellamy. When it comes to Ruth will you ask yourself how do we define good and evil? Or sanity and madness? Will you feel sympathy or condemnation? Especially when the final truth is revealed. And will you wonder if perhaps there’s a little bit of Ruth in each of us?

The wheels are in motion for Fatal Flaw and I hope to see it published soon.

With regard to Rogan McKay, he will probably only appear as a minor character in future novels, though you’ve just given me an idea …

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’d love to say I’ve read all the latest Aussie crime fiction, but chaos has been the ruling planet in my star sign over the past few months (no, make that a year) and I’m waaay behind in my reading. But I’m definitely a Gabrielle Lord and Kerry Greenwood fan so can recommend their books.

To me it looks as though the Australian crime fiction scene is becoming more diverse as more of the genres cross. Once crime fiction had to fit within the confines of the main characters being cops, PIs, forensic specialists etc but now even chefs and strippers are dealing with the dead and searching for justice.

It’s great to see more groups such as yours putting in so much effort to promote Australian crime fiction, and it’s very much appreciated by authors.

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

There was an “Age” article printed years ago that said that Australian authors had to compete with famous overseas authors whose Australian publishers gave them far more promotional opportunities than they did the home-grown folks. Frankly, I think this situation hasn’t changed a great deal.

Perhaps crime writers have to take a leaf or two from the speculative fiction and the romance writers organisations and start having two-to-three day conferences that alternate between capital cities. These generate a lot of publicity and also act as training grounds and networking opportunities for aspiring writers.

Sisters-in-Crime and similar organisations do a great job, but they are very much based in their city of origin and it’s often not financially viable to attend their events unless you live in that particular city. When you unite authors with a common desire, they are more likely to work together to promote their genre and each other, and Lindy Cameron’s new venture is a good example of this.

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

Well, I think if Rogan McKay met Hannibal Lecter out at sea, Hannibal would be so out of his element that Rogan would have no problem turning him into “Catch of the Day”.

Sandy Curtis is the author of 5 strong thrillers with the latest, Dangerous Deception, having been published in 2005. You can find out more about Sandy Curtis by visiting her website.

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