Macquarie Dictionary

Author Q&A

Good Reading Magazine Blog


10 questions with C M Lance

C M Lance is author of The Turning Tide - a novel of secrets, mateship & betrayal in wartime Australia.

You have a background in physics and astronomy. Where does writing fit into this?

As a scientist I enjoyed clarifying complex ideas, and in technology always tried to write well even if it was just email, so my background was good training for writing.

Where does your passion for maritime history come from?

The story of Redbill – a Broome lugger that survived for nearly a century, joined the navy during the Pacific War, and later worked for Greenpeace – came my way in 2000, and demanded to be written. I found I loved researching and writing all the odd connections that actually happened in real life, too bizarre for fiction. Bringing together the scattered clues from old newspapers, shipping records and wartime archives was endlessly absorbing.

The Turning Tide is based in wartime Australia. Where did the inspiration for this novel come from?

I live in South Gippsland near beautiful Wilsons Promontory. I was intrigued by a memorial to the commandos who trained at the Prom in 1941-42, as I was familiar with their missions to Timor from researching Redbill. I wanted to write a love story from a man’s perspective and was interested in the wartime relationships between Australians and Japanese who had grown up together in ‘melting-pot’ Broome. 

This all came together in the story of Broome-born commando Mike Whalen, who fought in Timor in 1942. Later, as an academic in his sixties and more damaged than he realises, he meets Lena, the granddaughter of his old friends Helen and Johnny. After Johnny died in the war Mike was left with a painful burden of secrets, and as Lena draws him back into the life of her family he has to cope with the guilt and memories that threaten to overwhelm him.

You focus your writing about people’s reactions to extreme events. Why does this area of human psychology interest you?

How could it not! People under pressure – emotional, intellectual, physical – provide the essence for almost all novels. They give us clues for how to survive our own difficult times.

What did you enjoy most about writing The Turning Tide?

Reading old books for research. Working out plot complications. Revising and reorganising what I’d written.

What does C.M. stand for?

Catherine Margaret, although I’m usually known as Kate.

Can you tell us what you do in other areas of your life?

I consult on Internet technology in the specialist area of IPv6. I also create and manage websites.

Are you a full-time writer? What are your writing habits like?

No, still part-time. Words come most easily in the morning, so if I can get into something then it usually flows, but more often because of work I end up writing late at night and weekends. My habit is simply to edit whatever I’ve written over the last few days then push ahead a few more paragraphs. Or, even while only partly through a book, start editing again from the beginning. I revise my words many dozens of times.

What are some of your favourite books? Are there any in particular that influenced the writing of The Turning Tide?

I read and enjoy almost all genres of fiction and non-fiction, from historical to contemporary to SF and fantasy. My favourite author is Dorothy Dunnett, a historical novelist of intricate subtlety and brilliant settings. I also like Helen Garner, Hilary Mantell, Kate Atkinson, Patrick O’Brian, Alex Miller and Tim Winton, and for a change of pace, Iain M Banks and George RR Martin. Certainly, in terms of subject matter at least, none influenced this book!

Do you have more novels planned for the future and if so, will they also have a focus on maritime history?

I have two novels in progress, one a historical novel set in Broome in the first two decades of the twentieth century, exploring the Great War and the influenza epidemic, and the other a contemporary techno-thriller. Both have strong maritime components, even though they are set in very different eras.

The Turning Tide is published by Allen & Unwin and is now available.


Ten questions with Karen M Davis

Karen Davis is an ex-police officer from New South Wales who has used her experiences as inspiration to write crime-fiction novels.

Has writing books ever been a dream of yours?

Not really. I only thought about writing after I left the police force seven years ago. I had been a cop for twenty years and thought I would always be a cop but circumstances change. All those years of dealing with violence and traumatic incidents caught up with me and I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. My mother, being an author, the late Lynne Wilding, suggested I write about my police experiences as a form of therapy and that's how it started. I was surprised to find that I loved writing.  

Was it hard to transition from a life of solving action to a life of writing it?

Yes, very hard. Being a cop can be challenging but writing a book, especially when you have no idea what you are doing and have no background in writing, is incredibly hard and at times very frustrating. I also struggled with the concept of keeping it realistic but interesting at the same time. I really wanted it to be authentic. My aim was to have the reader come along for the ride with Lexie and her workmates to feel what it is really like to be a cop. Yet, not all police work is interesting and some of the things I’ve seen are stranger than fiction. That’s why I use lots of personal experiences, I know that they really happened which makes my books believable.

Who are your biggest inspirations in the literary world?

I would have to say the biggest inspiration was my mother, Lynne Wilding. She wrote many manuscripts the hard way, before computers on an old type writer, at a time when getting published in Australia was very rare. I watched her send manuscripts back and forth from America – the old way, by post, and I witnessed her numerous disappointments when they were rejected. But she never gave up. Finally, after ten years of trying her dream came true and she was offered a publishing deal. Then, after that book was published, her American publishers decided it was too hard dealing with an Australian author and dumped her. However, fate worked in her favour this time as she met her agent-to-be Selwa Anthony through the Romance Writers of Australia, the organisation my mother was president of. Exceptionally, 12 bestselling books followed. So, on the days when I felt like giving up I thought of mum’s determination and it kept me going.

What is your advice for any new authors?

I’ll repeat the advice my agent gave me when I had my first manuscript rejected. Don’t give up. It doesn’t happen overnight. It is a learning process. Only write because you love to do so. Write what you know and love and what you like to read. Don’t write to get published as that, of course, is a bonus. You have to love what you do to do it well.

Will you write more novels starring Lexie Rodgers?

Yes, I am well into the third Lexie Rogers book. I love writing about Lexie for many reasons. There is a lot of me in Lexie; we share many experiences. My own experiences are thrown at Lexie and her colleagues. I really enjoy watching the characters of the fictional Bondi Junction detective office grow and interact. I also love writing about some of the more unlikable characters, like the local bikies and crooks, that are frequently coming under police notice. I feel like I still have many scenarios to throw at Lexie and her co-characters yet. At this stage I’m hoping for four Lexie books but we will have to see what happens.

Writing came to you as an opportunity for catharsis. Do you recommend writing for other suffers of post-traumatic stress disorder?

Writing is not for everyone but I can certainly say it helped me. Not that it's easy to write about some of the more traumatic experiences I'd tried hard to forget; i.e. attending cot deaths, fatal car accidents, suicides, drug overdoses etc. But what I found was although it was hard to relive those events, once I had made myself do that and put my memories on paper, I felt better. I'm not sure why. I had been suppressing emotions for a long time so maybe by documenting the traumatic events, it helped me deal with them and enabled me to leave them behind. I'll never forget some of the things I've witnessed but they are now a memory, not a constant slide show of gruesome images in my head.

Has the genre of crime-fiction always been an interest or is that passion purely from working as a police officer?

After my first failed manuscript - which was a romantic historical my mother had started before she died - my agent suggested I start again. She told me to write what I know and love. I didn't know how to write a book but I figured I knew about crime so that was a start. As it turns out, I love writing about the profession I was once a part of. I find it interesting and in a strange way it keeps me connected to the police force. I might not be a cop anymore but I can now live vicariously through my characters.

Do you ever brainstorm ideas for your writing with your husband (a detective inspector) and daughters?

Not so much with my daughters but I certainly run ideas by my husband. I'll sometimes give him a scenario and ask if he thinks whether it is believable or probable. He also keeps me up to date with procedural advice as things change all the time; computer systems evolve, techniques improve, police powers change. He will sometimes come home from work and tell me about an event that has happened that day and I'll think; now that's a great idea, I could use something like that in the book. I find that the best idea's come from true life events.

What are your plans for future novels?

For now I’ll finish the third Lexie Rogers book, which is going to be a bit different from the first two as Lexie will be sharing the spotlight with some of the other characters. Then hopefully a fourth Lexie book will come. Maybe after that I’ll try my luck at writing a mystery.

What is your biggest challenge as an author?

Writing an exciting, interesting and suspenseful book where the characters are charismatic and engaging. I also want to keep it authentic, an easy read whilst keeping the reader in suspense. I want people to put my book down and want to read the next one. If someone says; that was a good read, I’m very happy with that.


8 Questions with TW Lawless

TW Lawless is an Australian author living in Melbourne. The main character in his two books is Peter Clancy; a hard-drinking, hard-living journalist for the ‘Melbourne Truth’ newspaper.


Why do you write crime/thrillers and not in another genre?

I’m a big history buff but I can’t get excited about writing historical fiction and I don’t think I’m a natural for romantic fiction or chick lit. My first book, Homecountry, was originally a screenplay, but I thought it worked better as a book. After that, I was hooked on writing thrillers.

TW Lawless is a pseudonym, why do you use a penname and is there a well-chosen pun in your alias?

It certainly sounds as if there should be, doesn’t it? The truth is that Lawless is one of my family’s ancestral surnames and also happens to be one of my middle names. I just dropped the Bell at the end. I thought Lawless sounded more thrilling. 

Can you tell us a bit about your non-writing world?

Most of the time I am in the writing world but when I come out of it, my wife and I like to spend time with friends and family. We’re homebodies, I guess. Music is a passion and I play guitar—rock, R&B, a bit of jazz— I love it. However, I write every day.

Why did you decide to independently publish your books?

I admit I’m a control freak. I want to be involved in everything. I obviously write the books but I’m also involved in the book cover design, the trailer and website design, social media management, publicity and the business part. As an independent publisher, I have complete creative control.

Did you try the traditional publishing route?

Refer to above.  Art and authenticity drive me, however, I am pitching the books to three agents and publishers in August just to see what happens. I’ll let you know if I change my mind.

Did you ever want to be a journalist like your character Peter Clancy?

I studied journalism briefly but then veered off into the health field. Investigative or music journalism would have suited me best. Though I think the lifestyle may have taken a toll on me.

Thornydevils is a good, strong, sexy read. It’s a prime fit for a TV series or a movie. Have you approached anyone about this?

Not yet. Do you know anyone? I have an idea who I would like to play Peter Clancy though!

What’s going to happen next to Peter Clancy? And to TW Lawless?

If I told you, I’d have to gag you. Let’s just say, I envisage at least ten more Peter Clancy books and me writing until my fingers are full of arthritis.  


10 questions for Adelaide Poet Jackie Barreau

Through a Mother's Eyes: Poems of Love, Loss and Moving Forward by Jackie Barreau. 

Through a Mother’s Eyes was inspired by the death of Jackie’s two sons.

The book would have brought back many memories, but when you finished it, did it bring about much needed release?

It was cathartic, and was much needed therapy and the sense that I think it has allowed me to ‘let go’, if that’s possible.

How long have you been writing poetry and what poets excite you the most?

I started to write poetry straight after the deaths of Luke and Cody in 1998. It wasn’t until my eldest daughter Tayla, was diagnosed in 2012 with a rare tumour and genetic condition that I decided to write a book. I enjoy reading free verse poetry and adore Nan Whitcomb; I think we have a similar style.

The book is filled with many wonderful photos and images; did you choose them and how did you connect them to the poems?

The images were hand-picked by me and I wanted the connection between the poems and the images to be meaningful. I could have gone down the path of iStockphoto or the like, but I wanted to showcase the beautiful local landscapes around S.A. I was fortunate to have a very capable and talented S.A. photographer whose work I was familiar with. The other images of my son Luke’s belongings were also photographed by the same person. Again I wanted this collection of poetry to be personal and that also meant photographing images of Luke’s things.

In one of your poems you say ‘Sometimes we need to experience death before we can truly live.’ Can you explain this for us?

I feel that sometimes after the death of a child, or even a loved one, that you become stagnant and perhaps feel like you are in a holding pattern. Death is something we all will face in our lifetimes (some more than others) but by experiencing death we can learn to live a more fulfilled life, incorporating compassion and other virtues which we may not have had the opportunity to otherwise, in a spiritual or more deeper sense. I firmly believe in life after death and in karma.

How have you found the self-publishing process?

I have loved every bit of it, from the writing, to researching publishers/editors to putting together the cover art and images. It was incredibly time consuming but well worth it as I feel the end result is a well-presented book, that I hope many will identify with and appreciate. I feel a strong sense of achievement and am also incredibly proud of this book.

Not a lot of self-published books are as well presented as this book. How did you come up with the design and the format for this book? It is 215x215 mm.

My aim was to produce the best book I could whilst keeping within budget. Having a basic knowledge of design helped, plus I am also a perfectionist. I wanted an image that portrayed what the book was all about, and once I found the image for the front cover I knew that it was the right choice. A friend who is a graphic designer put it together and I looked at other book covers to find the look I was after. I was fairly set in what I wanted. As far as the book size went, again I looked at others and I liked a book by Adelaide poet Valerie Volk her book was a similar size.

Can you tell us about the other writing you do?

I have a blog where I share my experiences as a bereaved mother, and write about other inspiring individuals. I also write for an online community for infant/child loss and infertility. I enjoy sharing my experience with others that have, or are facing similar ordeals. A few of my poems have also featured in an anthology titled ‘Wings of Love: Poetry and Prose for the Heart’. My first foray into writing was over a decade ago when my short story featured in a collection of stories based around miscarriage, stillbirth, and neo natal death titled ‘A Silent Love’ by author Adrienne Ryan.

A percentage from the purchase price of this book goes to the WCH Foundation, can you tell us a bit about them and how they helped?

My aim was to give back to the incredible staff, nurses and doctors of the Women’s and Children’s Hospital (WCH) here in Adelaide, via their foundation. WCH Hospital and the WCH Foundation have helped support us through our journey. It was fitting that a percentage be donated back to the Paediatric Palliative Care Service (PPCS) as they nursed Luke through those final weeks and supported us for some years afterwards. Then when our daughter Tayla, was diagnosed in 2012, with a rare disease similar to our son’s, the nurses again were extremely supportive. The WCH Foundation has supported me by being able to help channel funds we have raised so far from book sales and other fundraising activities into a project for the PPCS. They have helped with book reviews and promoted my book on their website and social media channels.

If there was a formula for overcoming grief, can you give pointers to help people?

Is there a formula for overcoming grief, I am not sure. It is a process and it takes time, every individual is different. Don’t rush it, learn to accept how voracious and consuming it can be. But above all accept help. Don’t feel as though you have failed if you need a professional to confide in. Sometimes you need someone outside looking in to give you valuable advice. Talking about it will help the healing process.

I’m sure you hope to never go through anything like what inspired this book, but are you working on another book of poetry? 

I don’t have immediate plans at this stage to write more poetry, but this may also depend on my daughter and her health. I would love to write about other people’s experiences with similar types of health challenges, and also write about my daughter’s journey with a rare disease/genetic condition, possibly in the form of a memoir. Above all I hope to educate and create much needed awareness about rare diseases.