My guest today is author Sandi Wallace whose novel, Tell Me Why, makes its debut at the Book Expo Australia in Sydney on Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st August courtesy of Clan Destine Press and Sisters in Crime Australia.
Sandi, congratulations on your first book being published. Is this the first one you have written and how did you get picked up by Clan Destine Press?
Thanks, Sandy! It is a real thrill. And yes, this is the first book I’ve written, although it doesn’t much resemble its early drafts. I worked on the same book for a number of years, developing my style, honing my skills, while practicing with shorter works and building confidence. I don’t undervalue or begrudge this time at all. It was my writer’s apprenticeship and particularly important as Tell Me Why is the first book in a series, so my style and characters needed to be well developed before the first book went to press. When it came time to send my manuscript out into the marketplace, I approached Clan Destine Press, a small genre publisher who I was aware of through my membership with Sisters in Crime Australia. It took me a couple of revised submissions but to my great delight, Clan Destine Press offered me a publishing deal last November and the first book in my Rural Crime Files series Tell Me Why has now been released!
What made you decide to write this book?
I knew I wanted to write a crime series and Daylesford seemed the perfect setting. It’s one of my favourite places, perhaps second only to the Dandenong Ranges where I live with my hubby. Daylesford’s a pretty country town, popular with tourists, arty types and same-sex couples. I liked the way that romantic perception juxtaposed with a moody crime story. The inbuilt conflict of a town balancing permanent residents with regular influxes of tourists also appealed. Then I decided I wanted it to be contemporary, reflecting our times, our world, even though it’s fiction.
So I had setting worked out. Then Georgie Harvey, the independent Melbourne writer and her search for missing farmer, Susan Pentecoste, came to me as the main character and story line for Tell Me Why. In my second draft, John Franklin emerged. He is a slightly old-school cop stationed at Daylesford and also a single dad. It fascinated me to position city-girl Georgie in his territory (which is way outside her comfort zone), but with her in the driver’s seat in the search for Susan. Meanwhile, Franklin is working another case – poison-pen letters targeting single mothers – which is a step-up from Daylesford’s usual soft crime.
I angled the book as mainly a Why-Dunnit because many crime readers – including me – are enthralled by why crimes happen, the repercussions and outcomes. Through this book, I had fun exploring human relationships, how far we’d go, and what we’d risk, to find the truth.
Have you always wanted to write crime?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been addicted to crime fiction in film and print. And it seems that, for equally as long, I’ve wanted to be a crime writer. Since I was a little girl, I dreamed of a row of books with my name on the spine – a crime fiction series written by me, with some standalone books, too. I hope this is the start of that dream coming true!
Do you see your writing branching out into different genres or sub-genres?
Tell Me Why combines thriller, suspense, police procedural, adventure, mystery and a touch of romance, so I have already branched into different sub-genres. My vision for the series is a revolving cast of characters and locations, although Daylesford and the characters from there will continue to be integral. This rotating platform allows each book to be unique, giving me artistic licence with sub-genres. I wouldn’t rule out writing a standalone book in a different genre but think my roots will always be entrenched in crime.
Who is your favourite author, and why?
Tricky question! I can’t limit it to one because there are so many wonderful authors whose works or work ethics have resonated with me for different reasons and at different times. These are across a variety of genres, literary fiction, classics, contemporary and historical stories. But nowadays, I tend to devour contemporary crime – albeit across its many sub-genres. Some of the recent reads I’ve thoroughly enjoyed include books by Michael Robotham, Jaye Ford, Katherine Howell, Honey Brown, Ian Rankin, Camilla Läckberg, Alex Hammond, Karen M Davis, B Michael Radburn, Bronwyn Parry…the list goes on! And I can’t wait to read your new release, Grievous Harm, Sandy, when it comes out in October.
Any advice for aspiring authors that might help them on the road to publication?
One of my characters in Tell Me Why says: ‘If it means that much to you, do it.’ And that’s what it all boils down to. Write because you want to write; you can’t imagine your life without creating. Know that the process will sometimes be slow and torturous, there will be speed humps (which may seem like mountains) and you will doubt yourself – numerous times. Successes in short story contests, other writing wins or exposure may boost the chances for your novel, so give them a go. Practice, persevere, seek constructive feedback and work with other writers or a mentor. Enjoy every step of the journey, every small win and keep believing. Good luck!
Thanks, Sandi, and best wishes for Tell Me Why.
Tell Me Why will be available for sale and signing at the Clan Destine Press/Sisters in Crime stand at Book Expo Australia. Sandi will also be sitting on two crime panels over the weekend: the Thriller vs Crime Smackdown on Saturday at 11.30am and Crime Panel Did the Butler Really Do It? on Sunday at 3.45pm.