Friday 30 August 2013

YA Crime Report: GUEST POST - Kim Kane

Here’s another exciting addition to our YA Crime guest posts, and I’m thrilled to be hosting today’s guest - ladies and gentlemen, it’s the fabulous Kim Kane!!! *wild applause, whistles, cheering*

All the hullabaloo is well-deserved, folks.  Kim Kane has been writing children’s fiction for some time, starting out with The Family Forest.  Recently she collaborated with writing buddy Marion Roberts on the novel Cry Blue Murder – it’s an eerie tale about a serial killer who stalks a Melbourne community, told in a unique way, through a series of police and court documents.

Woven together with the other strands of Cry Blue Murder are the emails of two girls, Celia and Alice, who are living in the middle of the nightmare.  As the killer becomes more brazen, the exchanges between Celia and Alice become more tense and heartfelt – and you won’t believe what’s coming…

I met Kim recently during the Emerging Writers Festival, and she’s lovely – not a serial killer at all! – and I was really happy to hear that Cry Blue Murder has just made the shortlist for this year’s Inky Awards!!  Congratulations, Kim, it’s so well-deserved!  So without further ado…

Kim – hi!  It’s lovely to have you visit with us!

Thanks Ellie. Thrilled to be invited. Congratulations on your book!

Gosh, thanks :)  Now first, a question I always want to ask other writers (so excuse me if I diverge): what chair do you use?  Or do you stand to write, like Hemingway?  (In other words, how do you combat lower back pain from all the sitting??)

Hmm, I don’t have a study or even a desk so I work in a cafĂ© when I feel a bit lonely or have to be out of the house (when the kids are driving me nuts) or on my bed or at the kitchen table. My favourite spot is definitely bed – all propped up with pillows, especially in the evening when it’s cold – but if I have research to do, the sunny kitchen table is best.   All I really care about is sunshine and warmth (having written half ‘Pip: the Story of Olive’ in a charming but completely unrenovated and uninsulated former belt factory). When I’m getting to the end of a book and am mainly copy editing, I need to sit at a table and I also tend to listen to musicals – one per book – over and over again until I can recite the lyrics verbatim. I’m not sure why. I am sure Hemingway never did that.

Cry Blue Murder is a dark mystery with a criminal twist, and the story is developed within all these fragments – emails, police witness statements, investigative documents.  Did you and Marion find that it was a bit like putting a jigsaw puzzle together?  How did you know what to include and what to discard?

Cry Blue Murder started as a very different novel for younger readers, but once Marion and I knew what we were doing and had a story and a proposed form for that story, we plotted extremely carefully. We had to, really, as we each wrote a character and we needed to make sure we were dripping information to the reader punctiliously; we had to be in complete agreement about the role each document served.

It was actually a fantastic discipline as we were forced to do some of the harder thinking I tend to put off until later drafts when I’m writing alone (as it’s dull and difficult – although putting it off only makes it duller and more difficult). After we’d done the plotting, the rest of the novel was colouring in. I should note, however, that the few changes we did make to the documents were a nightmare as there were so many consequential changes – in the emails and in our police and legal reports. Sometimes the whole thing felt like a house of cards.  We changed the colour of a car, for example, and watched our structure teeter!

The book seems to be designed to encourage the reader to be the detective – I often found myself flicking back to previous pages, to check clues I’d found and see if they matched up with my theory about the killer.  Did you plan it this way?  And did you have the final twist already in mind before you started?

Yes and yes! We started the book with the final twist – that came to us very early on in the process and completely informed the characters we then developed. We found the most interesting murder mysteries were the ones in which the reader had to play a role – drawing conclusions from the facts presented, experience first-hand the frustration of dead ends – and we were keen to replicate that for the reader. In some ways, we wanted the reader to keep reading to affirm what s/he already knew.

Can you tell us a little bit about what kind of research you did for the book? (It sounds like it would have been uncomfortable to research…)

We looked at a number of cases about grooming here and abroad. We also had to research all of the documents in the book – the pathology reports, witness statements, citilink documents etc and speak to relevant professionals. We needed to understand how the documents for a crime are put together, the role of police, the psychology of both the victim and perpetrator.

The villain of Cry Blue Murder is incredibly creepy.  Did you kind of freak yourself out when you were writing those scenes?

Marion wrote the character Alice and she was a wonderful creep – it’s quite frightening to hear her discuss the various states of her character in the novel and the reasons for this (if you’re interested here’s a link to a Radio National interview we did in which she discusses Alice Sometimes Marion did freak me out and I haven’t quite ruled out my suspicion that she may in fact be a serial killer...

On a lighter note, who is your favourite fictional detective? (and why, of course)  And do you have any skills that would serve you well if you were called on to be a detective yourself?

I like PD James, Alexander McCall Smith’s gentle The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series, and I completely adore TV crime – Midsummer, Law and Order, The Killing, Morse. I’m not sure that I’m systematic enough to be a detective although I’m certainly nosy enough and I’m fascinated by the psychology behind crime. 

So what do you do when you’re not reading and writing?  How do you recharge?
I like running, walking and swimming although I’m finding less time to do that these days. I adore my family and spending time with them – scooting, walking, hanging at the library or building castles at the beach. The twins are four so we go to lots of panto and theatre, playgrounds, or we just knock around with sticks at the park. I have some very amusing friends whose company I adore, but really any down time is usually spent reading as I’m too tired to do anything else and have to be home to look after the kids.

I can understand that!  Thanks so much for coming over, Kim – good luck with the Inkys!!

If you’d like a copy of Cry Blue Murder, go to where all good books are sold.  You can find out more about Kim over here :)

Well, it’s going to be a busy weekend for everybody.  The Splendid Wrens outside are dashing around, looking for mates, and the pobblebonks are going off in the creek – and I’m going to the annual Sisters in Crime Davitt Awards, the grand celebration of Australian women’s crime fiction, on Saturday night.  I’ve already got my red and black gear picked out (not a frock, sadly – I really need to get a proper Sisters in Crime frock, for special events) and I’m looking forward to seeing good friends and kicking up my heels.  I’ll tell you all about it when I get back.

Now here’s another bit of exciting Every Breath news – I’m starting a Goodreads giveaway today, so if you’d like a copy of Every Breath, go on over to the website and put your name down (or check the widget here at right!).  There are three copies to giveaway, and I’ve actually opened it up internationally as well, so bootscoot on down there quick!

And…a little birdy told me that the Readings newsletter in today’s edition of The Age features a wonderful review of Every Breath by the lovely Emily Gale from Readings Carlton :)  Have a gander and see if it’s true-all-true…

Remember, if you’re ready to party, we have two parties coming up.  The Official Every Breath Launch, which will be on at Readings Carlton on Thursday 12 September at 6.30pm, is almost upon us!  I’m ordering enormous cakes and buying bottles of wine, even as you read this.  If you can’t make it to Melbourne, you’re also welcome to come on down to the Castlemaine Every Breath Big Bash, which is on at the Castlemaine Library on Friday 20 September at 6pm.  Send me an RSVP to elliemarney[at]gmail[dot]com if you can, or just come on over and help me celebrate.

I’ll be giving big hugs to everyone who’s been involved in bringing Every Breath to life – friends, family, reviewers, editors, copyeditors, bloggers, supporters all!  I can’t wait to see you at the parties, and I’m incredibly grateful to everyone involved.  So many people have been amazingly supportive in the lead-up to the book’s release – respect, guys.  I couldn’t have done it without you.

Talk again soon.


Friday 23 August 2013

Release Week

Hi again!  I know I said I would post up an article with a new YA Crime guest, but this week things have gotten a little hectic.  I wanted to update here with news on what’s been happening since Every Breath’s release.  I thought it wouldn’t really do justice to the lovely Kim Kane (Cry Blue Murder) to post her article up until my blathering and excitement has had a chance to die down.

So Every Breath was released into the wild on Wednesday 21 August.  It was a day like every other day – I still did the school run, took my son to footy training, took my other son to soccer training, took my other sons to swimming lessons, made salami and cheese sandwiches for Thursday lunches, made the dinner.  A very normal day, except that I had a book published!  (Dan Brown – a friend pointed out on her own book birth-day – probably doesn’t sweep the kitchen floor on publication day.  Or hey, maybe he does.  What do I know?)

What’s been wonderful is that so many people have started reading and responding to Every Breath.  This is the amazing moment you dream about – the moment when other people begin reading your novel.  When it goes out into the world, and people see it on a shelf somewhere, and pick it up, and become intrigued…

People have started putting up reviews on Goodreads.  And on their blogs.  And  on their websites.  That is so unbelievably cool.  I want to hug ALL of you, especially the reviewers who’ve liked Every Breath enough to give it such high ratings, and especially that one reviewer who posted a pic of Benedict Cumberbatch whipping his scarf off (I could sit and watch that all day).

Madison and Sydney, the two girls from Castlemaine Secondary College who so kindly agreed to read and review Every Breath, have sent me their review - I’m going to include it at the end of this post.  But if you DO read the book, and you like it, feel free to go say so on Goodreads, or Facebook, or wherever you fancy.  It would make me ridiculously happy.  And if you feel inclined, send me a link so I can Tweet it around @elliemarney.

So I promised more info about the blog tour and here it is:

Book Probe Review (already up! – author Q&A)
YA Midnight Reads (review and giveaway posted!)
A Sunny Spot (review posted!)
Vegan YA Nerds (review and giveaway on 26 August)
Novels On the Run (author Q&A on 26 August)
Bad Ass Bookie (author Q&A on 9 September)
Kids Book Review (author Q&A 14 September)
Speculating on Spec Fic (author Q& A on 16 September)
The Rest is Still Unwritten (author Q&A on 23 September)
Claire Reads (review coming)

There’ve also been some AMAZING reviews that have emerged - ALPHAreader has posted a great one, and I’m still gasping from the one at Hypablewow.

To celebrate all this incredibleness, and just to celebrate the whole ‘I got a book released, woot!’ thing, I went to see The Mortal Instruments:City of Bones movie with my son (yes, it’s awesome, go see it) up in Bendigo.  Then, in the continuing spirit of celebration, we got Nutella and banana pizza on the way home.  Now that is an excellent way to mark the occasion.

So I promised Madison and Sydney I’d post their review - here it is (and a very lovely one too, even when I asked for warts-and-all!)  

“Every Breath – Ellie Marney
What if Sherlock Holmes was the boy next door?
Rachel Watts is an unwilling new arrival to Melbourne from the country.
James Mycroft is her neighbour, an intriguingly troubled seventeen year-old genius with a passion for forensics.
Despite her misgivings, Rachel finds herself unable to resist Mycroft when he wants her to help investigating a murder.
And when Watts and Mycroft follow a trail to the cold blooded killer, they find themselves in the lion’s den – literally. A night at the zoo will never have quite the same meaning again...
This impressive book is burdened with suspense-filled moments. It is a fast-paced novel with wonderfully flawed characters, all with unique personalities and possibilities. The novel is refreshingly original with diverse ideas from different stories. I think it’s clever how the author has woven in the idea of Sherlock and Watson being these two rebellious teenagers.
 “I’m an academic genius and a social moron...Being a moron in one or two areas serves to highlight my extraordinary brilliance in everything else.”
 I love how Mycroft is equally clever and quick-witted, as he is damaged and cocky.  Equally brilliant as he is broken. Mycroft was only young, fourteen, when his parents were killed in a tragic accident while on their way back from a holiday. After that, he changed and he changed people. Mycroft prides himself on keeping his guard up and never letting anyone see what is really behind his blue eyes because he knows that they won’t like what they find.
However, there is one girl in particular who can see (who he lets see) through the layers and layers of pretending.  Rachel Watts, a country girl at heart but living in the busy streets of Melbourne. Although Watts has only recently moved to the city, a strong connection between Mycroft and Rachel has already formed. Together, these two solve the mystery of a murder, lying, sneaking, and charming their way through the many obstacles that obstruct their path.
I feel that this book is perfect for the young minds of today, filled with teenage hormones and bright minds, ludicrous characters and mind-blowing twists, the realization of deception. People are not always who they declare they are. 
I, personally, don’t typically read crime novels but I thought that this one was great!
Review written by Madison and Sydney Oliff”
Thank you, girls, for reading, and I’m so glad you enjoyed it :)

xx Ellie

Friday 16 August 2013

Something is about to happen

So, friends, we’re reaching the business end of this adventure.  Every Breath is about to go out into the world.  I am about to go on a blog tour.  I am learning the truth of that happy aphorism ‘if you want something done, give it to a busy person’ – these last few weeks have been insane.

I have been editing book 2 (Every Word), plus organising launches, answering blog questions, arranging fun stuff like badges and t-shirts, and visiting schools.  I’ve also started a new job, been horribly ill, dealt with family being ill, started writing a grant application (which is due in the week before the launch – WHY does everything happen at once?  Bad timing, guys, bad timing!) and did all the usual parenting/household stuff.

I’ve been trying to write book 3, but needless to say not a lot of writing has been done.  My head is full to bursting – stuff I need to do, stuff I’d like to do, things I’d like to write if I only had more time.

But hey, look outside!  Spring is slowly unfolding: the buds are out on the fruit trees, the weather has been craptacular but generally not as cold as it was four weeks ago, the fairy wrens and the currawongs are all going silly.  The daffodil bulbs that have not been eaten by the echidnas are starting to flower.  Our chooks are beginning to give us eggs again.  At night we hear the occasional gun pop, as local farmers keep the foxes off the spring lambs.

The season is changing, and something new is about to happen.

The air is starting to smell different.  I haven’t needed my electric blanket in my writing cave recently.  Maybe by the time the launch parties roll around I’ll be able to wear a dress, something that doesn’t involve four or five thermal layers.  I am so sick of leggings, I really cannot tell you.  I’m ready for a big exhale.

In spite of the busy-ness, it’s very exciting, this whole book launch thing.  Just in time for spring:)  I received my author copies – aren’t they gorgeous?

In other news, my friend Ali Daws wrote a lovely blog post about finding inspiration, and slogging on through the tough writing times.  He featured my little outhouse-study as an example of how you can keep going through adversity, and I have to admit that conditions have been pretty adverse of late – temperatures dropped to negative a few mornings, and trying to write with popsicle fingers kind of sucks.

But if you really love something, you kind of power on in spite of the obstacles.  Which makes you either a bit nutty, or really really determined, I guess.  And then before you know it, you turn around and…something has happened, something has emerged from it all.  Something that makes you feel really happy, something satisfying and new.

All right, enough philosophical rambling.  Here’s the update!

* School visits
I went to Castlemaine Secondary College and met a bunch of fantastic students from Rachael Webb’s classes.  
I met Madison, who won the CSC Every Breath book review comp, and her sister Sydney – these are the girls who are going to read the book and write a review, which will soon feature on this blog and Castlemaine newspapers.

On Monday 19 August, I’m going to be at Kyneton Secondary College, meeting people from the book club, and awarding the winner of the Every Breath short story comp.  I used to teach at Kyneton, so it will be a lovely trip back to my old stomping grounds!

* Blog tour
This is SO COOL – I get to visit other people’s blogs!  And some of them have already put up lovely welcoming banners – check it out!

Vegan YA Nerds - look at the vid! omg!

I’m also going to be dropping in at a bunch of other places, so when I have names and dates confirmed I’ll let you know.  And I’ll be doing a Goodreads giveaway soon too.  Until then, keep an eye out.

* Launches
This week I send out a bunch of invites to the two launch celebrations – if I didn’t send you one personally, I’m sorry, I honestly am trying to make sure I remember everybody!  Feel free to come along to either of the launches – if you’ve stopped by FB and seen the Official Launch invite, just click ‘yes’ and bobble along, or send me a note via email.(elliemarney[at]gmail[dot]com)

Remember, there are two parties.

Every Breath Official Book Launch
A big send-off by Carmel Shute, from Sisters In Crime, at Readings Carlton on Thursday 12 September at 6.30pm.  Reading, signing, drinkies, balloons, and maybe a nice cake.

Every Breath Castlemaine Big Bash
A celebratory launch party, where I get to drink too much champagne.  Kicking off at 6pm in the Castlemaine Library foyer on Friday 20 September.  Music, food, giveaways, books by Stoneman’s Bookroom, signings, posters, lots of people talking loudly over each other…a right honourable Castlemaine bash!

I’m looking forward to both events, and especially looking forward to seeing mates from Melbourne who I rarely get to visit.  My husband is sad, because 20 September is the Friday night of the AFL Preliminary Final.  Never mind, honey!

Next post, I’ll have another special YA Crime guest.  Until then, have a lovely week, and hope your spring has sprung.


Thursday 1 August 2013

YA Crime Report: GUEST POST - Dr Shelley Robertson

Hi again, welcome back to the blog!

Now you know that Every Breath is a crime thriller, right?  It features a character called Rachel Watts, an ex-rural sheep cockie and her eccentric seventeen-year-old neighbour, James Mycroft.  When Mycroft asks her to help him solve a murder near the Melbourne zoo, Rachel becomes his reluctant ‘Girl Watson’.  Together they race to find the killer, and a trip to the zoo will never have quite the same meaning again…

Mycroft has a passion for forensics – it’s an integral part of his quirky Sherlockian character.  

But how exactly does one develop a ‘passion for forensics’?  And what does having such a passion entail?

Well today’s very special guest might be able to shed some light on this.

Dr Shelley Robertson is a former senior forensic pathologist with the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, and she’s been kind enough to visit here today and answer a few questions about forensics, pathology, and other homicide-related things.  Please give Shelley a very warm welcome!

Thanks for dropping by to visit, Shelley!  How’s it going over your neck of the woods?

Fine thank you Ellie.

Could you tell us a little bit about the kind of work you do?

Well, when working for the VIFM, a large proportion of my work was performing medico-legal death investigations which included post-mortem examinations, autopsies, reviewing medical information and other evidence relating to sudden, unexpected deaths and compiling reports for the State Coroner , the police and justice departments.   Now I run a consulting business giving expert opinions in cases which may ultimately be used in court.

Helen Garner wrote a famous article about the Melbourne morgue, in which some of the pathologists she interviews are quite young – in their very early twenties.  In Every Breath, the character of Mycroft is only seventeen, but he’s already had an interest in forensics for some time.  Is forensic pathology something that trainees often come to early, do you think? What drew your interest to forensic pathology in the first place? 

Forensic pathologists are generally a bit older than that, but at the VIFM, there were often medical students and trainees around which may have given Ms Garner a false impression.  I just thought it would be an interesting thing to do rather than spending my time peering down a microscope in a hospital laboratory.

And I know that there are many different branches of forensics (including forensic chemistry, forensic engineering etc), but pathology focuses on determining the cause of death and the pathological process that leads to death.  What kind of training do you undertake to work as a forensic pathologist?  Do you have to be a medical doctor to work in the field?

Yes, in order to be a forensic pathologist, one needs a basic medical degree.  Then one has to obtain Specialist qualifications in Pathology. 

So I imagine that to work in this field you’d have to have quite a strong stomach…and a lot of empathy.

I don’t know that a ‘strong stomach’ as such is required.  Most doctors don’t have a fit of the vapours at the sight of blood.  One does learn to be fairly resilient to bad smells and terrible sights but I think that is all part of the practice of medicine.  Forensic pathologists may have limited contact with family members and others related to a deceased person, so empathy may not necessarily be a dominant characteristic.

What’s an average working day like for a forensic pathologist?  Could you give us a bit of an idea what a normal day might involve?

A typical day may involve performing several autopsies followed by paperwork, completing microscopic investigation of previous autopsies, writing reports.  Some days involve court appearances, that is, being questioned in the witness box by both Prosecution and Defence in murder trials, or teaching at university.

In Every Breath, Mycroft and Rachel stumble upon the scene of a homicide.  Do forensic pathologists sometimes work outside the lab, examining the scene of the crime?

Yes, forensic pathologists may attend crime scenes at the request of attending police or the coroner.

Now I know that in my research for Every Breath I discovered a few things about real-life forensic pathology that made me understand how fictional detectives sometimes get it all wrong – like the fact that autopsy results can take 6-10 weeks to come back (in CSI, they make it seem like it happens overnight!).  What are some of the most glaring differences between real-life forensics and fictional forensics?

I think that you have picked the most glaring difference, that is overnight versus 6-10 weeks and not just the autopsy result, also things like toxicology results, DNA testing.

So does it detract from your own enjoyment of literary and television depictions of forensic pathology, when they don’t get the details right?

Yes, I much prefer shows like ‘Midsommer Murders’ where there is limited nasty forensic stuff.

And for any of our readers out there who are interested in pursuing ‘a passion for forensics’ – any words of advice?

Go and talk to some real people actually doing the job, don’t just rely on the media.

Shelley, you’ve been very generous agreeing to come on the blog, so thank you!

And now is the part when I let you all know what’s been happening, and what’s coming up.  Well, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind week, not the least because I received my first author copy!

Yep, that’s me, looking extremely happy!  I think if I was smiling any harder, my face would bust :)  But seriously, it’s been a long journey to this point, and it’s incredible to finally have a finished copy of Every Breath in my hot little hands…  I’m very aware too, at the moment, of how many people have contributed to the making of the book, and getting it to this point.  I’m feeling full of gratitude right now, and I hope I remember to thank everyone on the launch night…

Speaking of launch nights – I’m getting in early to let people know that Every Breath will be launched in Melbourne at Readings Carlton on Thursday 12 September at 6.30pm.  The convenor of Sisters in Crime, Carmel Shute, will be launching the book into the world.  Drinks and nibbles will be on hand, and also some balloons may be involved…or something else suitably celebratory!  I’ll be sending out a big invite soon, so keep an eye out.

But wait, there’s more!

There will also be a Launch Party for Every Breath locally, in Castlemaine, on Friday 20 September at 6pm at the Castlemaine Library.  Hostess with the Mostest, Robyn Annear, will be MCing proceedings.  There will be food and drinks, music, books on sale courtesy of Stoneman’s Bookroom, as well as readings and giveaways.  I’m also toying with the idea of inviting people to come dressed as their favourite detective…  Anyway, basically it’ll be a night to remember, so please, if you’re around the traps, drop by and say hello!

xx Ellie

PS: and thanks to the wonderful artists who created the Sherlock image on the wall of 'She Sells Seafood' in Castlemaine - I don't know who you are, but all kudos to you!