Author Q&A

Good Reading Magazine Blog


Ten Questions with Lisa Heidke


The author of It Started with a Kiss tells us about her character Friday Jones, the treachery of online dating, and a marriage gone sour. 


Can you tell us about Friday Jones? What would she be like if someone were to run into her on the street?

On the surface, Friday would appear very together and organised and greet friends with a hug and a huge smile. Underneath, she would be a mess of insecurities, constantly worrying that she was about to say something inappropriate.

What happens to Friday in It Started with a Kiss?

Friday’s husband leaves her and she’s suddenly faced with raising two teenage daughters alone. Devastated, she wonders if she’s destined to remain alone and unloved forever.

In your novel, Friday delves into the infamously treacherous world of online dating – what’s your take on the ever-expanding world of web romance?

Inevitable. In the modern world, many people work alone or in a small business. They don’t belong to community groups because they’re busy working and raising children. People are time poor. With the advent of online dating, they can sit in the comfort of their home and read through a potential mate’s profile at a time that suits them – whether that’s five pm or five am.

Are you familiar with the term ‘catfishing’, and can you tell us of any online dating horror stories?

Ah, not until I looked up the term a couple of minutes ago! (The phenomenon of internet predators that fabricate online identities to trick people into emotional/romantic relationships.)

But I have seen it. Yes, some people I interviewed definitely lied about their age, their height, occupation, relationship status... I was amazed at the lengths men and women will go to reinvent themselves. Surely they know that at some stage they’ll be caught out?

It Started with a Kiss begins with the sentence ‘I’ve been unhappy for a long time.’ spoken by Friday’s husband. Why are Friday and her glum spouse so miserable?

I don’t think Friday realised she and her husband were unhappy – well, unhappy to the point of Friday’s husband, Liam, wanting out. It’s only in hindsight that Friday realises that she and Liam had only been communicating superficially for many months, maybe even years.

Liam envies his younger brother, has a Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO), and is under the impression that the grass is greener on the other side. He wants to get out of suburbia and experience single life again.

How does living with three teenagers affect your writing?

Ha! Well, they like to eat. A lot! In many ways, it’s easier writing now because my kids are largely independent and can get out and about without supervision. In other ways, it’s more challenging than when they were toddlers and I knew exactly where they were at all times. Nowadays, I can’t sit them down in front of Hi5 for hours on end.

You’ve spoken in the past about your trepidation towards having images of women on your book covers that don’t necessarily look like the character you had in mind – is this still a concern you have to overcome?

Sometimes. But I like to think the woman on my covers is an ‘everyday’ person, someone whom readers can relate to. I think that once people start reading my books, they form a picture of the characters in their own mind regardless of who appears on the front cover. Having said that, I love the cover of It Started with a Kiss. It’s fresh and upbeat.

Did any particular books or authors directly influence the writing of It Started with a Kiss?

No. The inspiration for It Started with a Kiss came from real people and their stories, as well as my imagined idea of what Friday’s character would be going through.

Which of the novels on your bookshelf are the most tear-stained?

Tear stained? Hmm, the most recent one I can think of was John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and then straight after that, John Green’s Will Grayson Will Grayson.

If your novel starts with a kiss … what does it end with?

Ah, to find out, you’ll have to read my book. You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?

It Started with a Kiss is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99.


10 Questions with Crime Writer Sandi Wallace


Award-winning crime writer Sandi Wallace tells us about her life and the first instalment in her Rural Crime Files series, Tell Me Why


What intrigues you most about rural Victoria? Why do you use it as a setting for your novels?

Although born and bred in a suburb of Melbourne, I’ve always felt that I belong in the country. My hubby and I live in a beautiful village in the Dandenong Ranges outside of Melbourne and we escape to other parts of country Victoria whenever we can, with Daylesford being one of our favourite getaways. I get a kick out of showing off the places I love through my stories, so various locations in rural Victoria will feature throughout my Rural Crime Files series, although each book will link back to Daylesford and the characters from the spa region in some fashion.

Local readers of Tell Me Why are enjoying the authentic representation of places they know, albeit through a fictional story. And those who haven’t been there before, tell me that they have a great sense of people and place from the book, which is what I wanted to do. Not to write a travel guide, but to share some of the unique features about our landscape, wildlife and people – particularly rural towns and folk – within a compelling, believable crime story.


As well as your novels, you’ve written award-winning short stories – what are the main differences you find between these two forms of writing?

The main difference is that short stories are really hard to write! I take my hat off to those who specialise in short fiction, as condensing a story that people will care about and be satisfied with into say 5,000 words is challenging. Depending on the author and book, that’s say the equivalent of one chapter out of a novel for a complete story.

For me, writing full-length books isn’t exactly easier – each one definitely takes a lot more time and re-drafts than a short story – but novel writing is my main passion. I think that’s because I like to build relationships with my characters and stories, so I thrive when able to fully develop them and (sometimes) stay with them. That’s why I’m writing a series, but it doesn’t diminish the wonderful confidence boost and enjoyment I’ve received from my recent short story achievements.

I’d taken a break from short stories for several years to focus on writing books. But after I submitted my manuscript to a publisher in late 2011 and was waiting on a response, I realised it definitely couldn’t hurt, and could actually greatly benefit my goal, by going back to short stories and giving them my best shot. In 2012, I made finalist in an international short story competition in my niche of rural crime fiction, featuring police characters. Then in 2013, I was long-listed in the Ned Kelly Sandra Harvey Short Story Award and won the Best Investigative Prize in the Scarlet Stiletto Awards. The latter win coincided with the great news that Clan Destine Press wanted to publish my Rural Crime Files series, starting with Tell Me Why. This year, I was ecstatic when two of my stories won prizes in the 2014 Scarlet Stiletto Awards and I came home with the Great Film Idea Prize and a Special Commendation. So, I guess it comes down to practice, determination and perseverance, like everything that matter to us.


If you hadn’t turned to writing, you would have wanted to be a police detective – why?

Helping people and making a difference to their lives, whether in small or major ways, is a driving force for me, and I’ve always been on the side of law and order, rooting for justice or at least resolution for victims of crime and the prevention of crime. As a lifelong addict to armchair crime detection via books and film, and being great with people, I figured I’d make a good police detective, preferably in specialised units like Homicide or Sexual Offences. I came very close to joining the police force several times, but ended up taking other career paths. As a crime writer, I’ve found a safer way of fighting and solving crime! But all of this means the stories I most enjoy as reader and writer are ones where the main characters are fully formed, three-dimensional, the settings realistic, the crimes equally so, and the outcomes satisfying if not always happy endings.


Can you tell us about the main characters in Tell Me Why?

Georgie Harvey is twenty-eight in Tell Me Why and lives in Richmond, an inner suburb of Melbourne. She tells strangers she’s a writer and lets them draw their own conclusions. But in reality, she’s struggling to establish her career. She’s gutsy, empathetic, unpredictable and one-track-minded, which are all strengths and weaknesses, and all account for her determination to find the woman who is missing from Hepburn. Georgie drives a classic convertible, a 1984 Black Alfa Spider which she calls ‘the Spider’. She drinks, smokes, swears and speeds, is far from perfect and never boring, which is what readers love about her.

John Franklin is thirty-six in this first book and a cop based at Daylesford for over sixteen years. These days he’s less idealistic than when he first pulled on the blue monkey suit and unapologetically a cop; he supposes that mixes curiosity and helpfulness with arrogance. Franklin is also a single dad, in a struggle with fear of change and the need for it, while somehow surviving his daughter’s teens. That’s why his current case is both chilling and exciting and brings out his maverick cop side. Outside of work, he rides a very cool blue-over-white Kawasaki Ninja, when not behind the wheel of his older model SS Commodore. Several readers have admitted to having crushes on Franklin and have even asked for his home address.


What happens to them?

In Tell Me Why Melbourne writer Georgie Harvey is searching for Susan Pentecoste, a farmer missing from Hepburn, while country cop John Franklin is working a case that’s a step up from Daylesford’s usual soft crime; a poison-pen writer whose targets are single mothers. Harvey and Franklin collide on the woman’s disappearance and an earlier unsolved case surrounding her husband.


What drove you to write this novel?

I wanted to write a crime series that would feature country Victoria. Daylesford seemed the perfect chief setting, as it’s one of my favourite places, a pretty country town, popular with tourists, arty types and same-sex couples and that romantic perception contrasts well with a moody crime story. The inbuilt conflict of a town balancing permanent residents with regular influxes of tourists adds another element to the tension. Then I decided I wanted it to be contemporary, reflecting our times, our world, even though it’s fiction. After I had setting worked out, I gradually developed the main story, subplot and characters, angling this book as mainly a Why-Dunnit because many crime readers – including me – are intrigued by why crimes happen, the repercussions and outcomes. This book centres on the complexities of human relationships, how far we’d go, and what we’d risk, to find the truth. It just seemed the right place to start my series.


Did any particular authors or books influence the writing of Tell Me Why?

I guess all of the books and authors I’ve enjoyed, and even those that I haven’t so much liked, have combined to show me the type of books I want to write: contemporary, believable, gritty and unapologetically Australian, but I can’t credit any one in particular to directly influencing Tell Me Why.


Who’s your favourite fictional detective?

I have many! I particularly love serving or retired police detectives and series characters, such as Michael Robotham’s Vincent Ruiz, Ian Rankin’s John Rebus, Lisa Gardner’s D.D. Warren, Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch and going back a bit, R.D. Wingfield’s DI Frost. But I also enjoy amateur or accidental sleuths or characters in standalone books. Robotham’s clinical psychologist Joe O'Loughlin, Zoe Sharp’s Charlie Fox and Jaye Ford’s journalist Miranda Jack (Jax) in Already Dead are good examples of investigators without a police ID.


Why is crime such a popular genre?

Crime fiction lets us live vicariously through exciting and dangerous situations, to play detective, or hero, to solve cases, discover how and why, and bring about or witness a sense of justice or resolution, all from the safety of our chairs or beds or beach towels…

There is also an enormous range of sub-genres of crime, which means there is something for every taste and mood. These include: cosy, traditional mystery, romantic suspense or romantic thriller, legal drama, police procedural, action blockbuster, comedy crime, medical or forensic thriller, historical crime, psychological thriller, political intrigue, crime with supernatural elements and more!


What’s next in the ‘Rural Crime Files’ series?


Black Saturday (Rural Crime Files: 02) is already in-house with my publisher and due for release in spring 2015. I have written the third book, Into the Fog, and started working on the fourth while on my summer break from my other job of personal training. January is my favourite time to crack open a new book! Thanks so much for having me in for a chat.

Check out Sandi's website for more info on her fantastic series!