Felicity Young was born in Germany, educated in the UK and settled in WA. She trained as a nurse, married young and, with three young children, her arts degree took ten years to complete. In 1990 the family moved from the city and established a sheep farm in Gidgegannup WA. Here she studied music, reared orphan kangaroos and started writing.
What were some of your favourites books when you were growing up and why?
I can’t ever remember learning to read, it was about the only thing I never had difficulty with at primary school and I tended to read above my age. I started with the children’s classics, then onto C.S Lewis - The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe series still my favourite by far, and then graduating to more realistic adventure stories such as those by Willard Price: South Sea Adventure, Pacific Adventure, Lion Adventure etc By early teens I think I had read everything I could lay my hands on by Alistair Mclean and Hammond Innes. Then came a variety of ‘unsuitable books’ such as The Exorcist which I covered and took great joy in reading in front of the nuns at my boarding school, and a racy version of Calamity Jane that I found in the school’s compost heap. Funny, we were never allowed to read Enid Blighton – she was deemed unsuitable.
On plane trips home to Australia I used to thrive on Aeroplane disaster books such as Arthur Hailey’s Airport and then composing my own disaster books. I think that was probably my way of having some kind of control over the very dangerous flying conditions of the ‘70s.
In my mid teens my reading became suitable again: more classics, only the adult versions now, and Catholic angst by the likes of Graham Greene and Morris West.
Having trained as a nurse, what inspired you to become an author?
My father always enjoyed my letters home and wanted me to study journalism. I didn’t have the confidence and chose nursing because I saw it as ‘safe.’ I also thought it was a way to romance and adventure, and it was in a way. I met my husband when I was still a first year student. As soon as I had qualified as an RN I signed up for and arts degree at UWA. Each discipline provided something the other lacked. They were a great compliment to each other.
How do you feel that your time in Germany, the UK and Australia has influenced your writing?
I spent a lot of my childhood as a stranger in a strange country. Looking from the outside in is a handy tool for a writer to have. And of course, my mainly UK –based childhood has helped enormously with the Dody McCleland series.
What have been some of your most rewarding experiences as an author?
So many rewarding experiences; being an author has opened up another world in much the same way as the transition from nursing to university did. Most of all I love meeting and talking to other authors and readers. There’s nothing more satisfying than hearing how much someone has enjoyed your books. My aim has always been to entertain.
What can you tell us about your new novel, A Dissection of Murder?
It’s about Doctor Dody McCleland, Britain’s first female (fictitious) autopsy surgeon, her suffragette sister Florence and Chief Inspector Mathew Pike. Dody is called upon to perform an autopsy on a woman killed at a suffragette riot who turns out to be her sister’s best friend. It is about the different conflicts and moral dilemmas faced by the main characters and how they overcome them during the course of their investigations, set against a background of non fictitious historical events.
What led you to writing a historical crime fiction novel?
I’ve always loved history, especially this period. I actually started with a history major at uni before switching to English lit. I had always wanted to write historical, but thought it might be wise to cut my teeth on contemporary crime fiction first – and besides, historical wasn’t selling too well at the time!
Your protagonist, Dody McCleland, is England’s first female autopsy surgeon. How did you go about researching this profession at the turn of the twentieth century?
Mainly by trawling the internet, books and articles and visiting museums. The subject fascinates me and I love the research.
Can we expect to see more of Dody McCleland in the future?
Absolutely. I am in the process of editing book 2 as well as having written the first ten thousand words of book 3.
Do you have any quirky writing habits?
One, yes, and it almost lead to my downfall. I love writing in bed, but my back doesn’t. Forced to take my physio’s advice, I mainly write at a desk now, but every now and then during a particularly tricky scene, my bed lures me back.
Do you have any advice that you would like to offer to aspiring authors?
Be patient. Gain as much life experience as you can and don’t be in a hurry to get published. Enjoy the process.
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