Tag Archives: Angela Savage

December 9, 2011

The allure of the short story

Filed under: Murderati blogs — Tags: , , — PD Martin @ 11:44 pm

Angela Savage and PD MartinToday I’d like to welcome Aussie author Angela Savage to my blog.

I’ve met Angela a couple of times on the mystery ‘scene’ and ran into her again at Sisters in Crime Australia’s Scarlet Stiletto Awards – Angela won the top honour of the night and I was there as the official presenter. You may also recognise Angela from my ‘photoshoot to kill for’ blog.

Given Angela’s first novel was written after an award-winning short story introducing her main protagonist, and that she’s written extremely successfully in both the short and long form, I asked Angela to blog about the short story and the novel. What attracts her to both forms? Does she approach them with a similar mind-set?

I’ve entered the Sisters in Crime Australia Scarlet Stiletto Awards short story competition twice, once in 1998 and again in 2011.

The first time I was an unpublished writer with an abandoned manuscript burning a hole in my filing cabinet. Short story competitions provided me with focus, opportunities to practice my craft and try something new. The Scarlet Stilettos held the particular appeal of being exclusively for women writers, with stories required to have an active woman protagonist.

In what was my first foray into crime fiction, I submitted a story called ‘The Mole on the Temple’ about an Australian expatriate detective called Jayne who exposes a card scam in Bangkok.

Behind the Night Bazaar coverMy story won third prize. More valuable than the prize money was the confidence this gave me to persevere with both the crime genre and the main character. Jayne went on to acquire the surname Keeney and became the hero of my first novel Behind the Night Bazaar published in 2006. The second book in the Jayne Keeney PI series The Half-Child followed in 2010 and I’m currently working on the third, working title The Dying Beach.

Funnily enough, Behind the Night Bazaar started life as a short story that just kept growing. I’ve since ‘cannibalised’—to use Raymond Chandler’s word—several of my early short stories for scenes or subplots in my novels.

I’m not the only author to have kick-started my writing career with a prize at the Scarlet Stilettos. So far 15 women, including category winners like me, have gone on to publish novels. But I’m the first established novelist in the 18-year history of the Scarlet Stiletto Awards to return to the scene and take home the coveted Scarlet Stiletto trophy.

scarlet-stiletto-2011So what made me decide to enter the competition again after a 13-year break?

Part of the motivation stems from a crisis I had earlier this year about whether I could call myself an ‘Australian writer’, when everything I’d written was set in Thailand in the 1990s, albeit featuring Australian characters. I challenged myself to set a story closer to home and the result was my winning entry for the 2011 Scarlet Stilettos, ‘The Teardrop Tattoos’ set in contemporary Melbourne. The plot, involving a restricted breed dog, became inadvertently topical when a four-year-old-girl was tragically killed in an attack by a pit bull terrier only weeks after I submitted the story to the competition.

As in 1998, the short story form gave me an opportunity to try something new. But this time around I have no desire to develop the characters or plots into a full-length novel.

Pound for pound, I find short stories harder and more time consuming to write than novels. Short stories and novels have different centres of gravity. Both need to hook readers in at the start, but the narratives have different arcs. Short stories are less forgiving. There’s no room for superfluous adjectives or adverbs.

With novels you can loiter a little, while the nuances of the story and characters play out. Short stories have to maintain the pace or they’re dead in the water.

Secretly, like an actor who longs to direct, I’d really like to write songs—to tell a whole story in three or four verses and a haunting refrain.

I’ll just have to keep practising.

Angela’s first book, Behind the Night Bazaar, won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award as an unpublished manuscript in 2004 and was shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Book in 2007. Her second novel, The Half-Child was shortlisted for the Ned Kelly in 2011 for Best Fiction. The Half-Child is available in Kindle version on Amazon or in hard copy through Text Publishing.

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October 14, 2011

It’s a wrap

Filed under: Events/appearances,Murderati blogs — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — PD Martin @ 12:14 am

SheKilda signOn the weekend I attended the ten-yearly (yup, not annual, not bi-annual but once a decade) SheKilda. It was actually the second ever SheKilda, to mark Sisters in Crime Australia’s 20th anniversary and the 10th anniversary of the first SheKilda. Happily, they are talking about maybe having another one in five years! I’m going to push for two years.

Anyway, having attended Bouchercon once, I was hoping that SheKilda would follow a similar format and, of course, be as wonderful and successful as the US convention. And I was NOT disappointed. It was an amazing weekend. A time for authors and readers to talk, exchange ideas and in the case of the authors complain that our partners don’t understand what we do and how tough it is.

One of the key differences between SheKilda and Bouchercon is that SheKilda was conceived and produced by Sisters in Crime and so all the authors were women. In terms of the audience, I’d say it was probably about 95% women too, but then again most crime readers are female.

The main difference between SheKilda and most of the other writing events I’ve attended (except Bouchercon) is that it was set up as a convention rather than a writers festival. The sessions and activities were centred almost entirely around the hotel venue (Rydges in Carlton, Melbourne). To my knowledge, this makes SheKilda the only one of its kind in Australia. They even served morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea in a common area near the venues, so we didn’t have to stray too far from the action or pound the pavement in the search of lunch.

SheKildaOpeningThe weekend kicked off with the Friday night gala opening. It was a chance for all the authors and attendees to mingle (with free champagne, red wine, white wine and beer – oh, and soft drinks too). There was also some extra yummy finger food! Then it was into one of the rooms for the official opening. MCed masterfully by Sue Turnbull (she’s an amazing interviewer and MC), it kicked off with a traditional welcome from Joy Murphy Wandin, who’s an elder of the Wurundjeri indigenous people. Then it was on to the entertaining (funny) City of Melbourne Councillor Ken Ong, then Mary Delahunty of Writing Australia and then the keynote address from Margie Orford, one of the three international guests for the convention. She gave a stunning speech about the setting for her novels and hometown (Cape Town). Apparently the murder rate there is so high that forensics will only be called if they think the murder might make the TV news. There have even been cases of people travelling to Cape Town to specifically arrange murder – hoping their victim will simply go into the massive pile of unsolved murder cases on some homicide cop’s desk. Margie’s police contact will often have 200 files on his desk.

Saturday kicked off with a joint session with all the international guests, Margie Orford, Shamini Flint and Vanda Symon. It was a great opening to the day’s events and was followed by Tara  Moss launching Scarlet Stiletto: The Second Cut, a collection of award-winning short stories by women crime writers.

For my other morning session, I attended Drawing the Line: Whatever!, which looked at how the line is drawn between a young adult novel and an adult novel. YA authors Marianne Delacourt, Karen Healey and Nansi Kunze were led by Alison Goodman. It seems violence was one key determiner, but sex was a more important one. For example, editorial notes removing the word “straddled” were discussed!

After lunch, I was on a panel with Narelle Harris, Marianne Delacourt, Alison Goodman and Kim Westwood, chaired by Tara Moss. The panel looked at bending the rules in terms of genre — mixing genres, moving genres, etc.

After my choc-chip cookie at afternoon tea it was time for my second panel of the day, Conquering the World: Heroes Abroad. This panel was chaired by Angela Savage and together with Lindy Cameron, Malla Nunn and LA Larkin we all explored setting our books overseas. Angela’s are set in Thailand, Lindy’s Redback is set in several locations, Malla’s are set in South Africa in the 1950s and Louisa’s first book is set in Zimbabwe and Australia and her second in Antarctica. And then of course mine are set in the US.

Davitt winnersSaturday night was the Davitt Awards, which were created to support Aussie female crime writers – who often seemed to be overlooked in our other crime awards. The winners that night were (from left to right):

Best true crime: Colleen Egan
Best YA crime fiction: Penny Matthews
Best fiction honourable mention: Leigh Redhead
Best fiction: Katherine Howell (who was my guest here in July)

There was also a reader’s choice award for fiction, which went to PM Newton (not in pic).

I kicked off Sunday morning with a panel called Brave New World: Or Death of the Book. As you can imagine, we spent the hour talking about ebooks in Australia and around the world. A recent stat for Australia is that the current $35million ebook market will increase to anything from $150 million to $700 million in the next three years. Big numbers!

After morning tea, I was an audience member for In the Face of Evil: Encounters with the Guilty, where true crime writers Rochelle Jackson, Robin Bowles and Ruth Wykes talked about their interviews and encounters with real-life crooks and murderers. And then I sat in on Them that Really Do it, which featured authors who used their past/present careers in their writing. Katherine Howell (ex-paramedic), YA Erskine (ex-cop), Helene Young (pilot), Kathryn Fox (ex-doctor) and PM Newton (ex-cop) were on the panel.

Manny Quinn1After lunch was Body in the Pool, which gave the SheKilda attendees an insight into how things would really happen if/when a dead body is found. The body had been on display by the pool all weekend and the experts included someone from police (actually our ex-assistant commissioner, Sandra Nicholson), a bug expert Mel Archer and a forensic pathologist. Timing (real versus that portrayed in crime fiction and crime TV) was also considered. At least 6-8 weeks for the entomology report and 10 weeks for the autopsy report.

It was an amazing, amazing weekend. A chance to talk to other authors, share stories (often complaining about how badly we’re paid!!) and expose ourselves to some great authors who are new to us. I kept my hand in my pocket over the weekend, but only because I’m sure Santa is bringing me a kindle for Christmas so I’ll wait and purchase the many fabulous books now on my ‘to buy’ list as ebooks!

What authors have you ‘found’ at a convention and then bought their books?

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September 29, 2011

The photo shoot to kill for

Filed under: Events/appearances,Murderati blogs — Tags: , , , — PD Martin @ 12:02 am

42-17620029Part of an author’s life is publicity. And, let’s face it, for the most part publicity is fun! You write in a cocoon for many, many months and then you emerge and get to flap your wings and show off all the pretty patterns. Well, it’s kind of like that.

For many authors, I know publicity can be a drag. For the shy, retiring type of author, publicity can be daunting and scary. Then there are the really, really big authors who do world tours and get a few weeks taken out of their writing schedule each year. They’re shepherded from city to city, country to country and plane to plane. I can see that after the first world tour (or maybe the tenth) that might get a little old.

For most of us, the publicity rounds are more sedate. And it depends on your publishing house and publicist too. My five books are released in Australia through Pan Macmillan Australia. They assigned me a fabulous publicist and for the two weeks around the launch of each book I’d block out time for media interviews. Lots were over-the-phone radio interviews, but then also some print stuff with the occasional photo shoot. However, in the US I didn’t have a publicist and so the publicity and media stuff was pretty much non-existent. The other weird thing about publicity is that by the time a book is released, you’re already well into writing the next book. So you have to get your head out of the current WIP and back into your last book.

But that’s not what this blog is about…today I want to talk about the best photo shoot of my career to date. And it’s not to publicise an upcoming novel. Next month, 7-9 October, I’m part of an Australian crime convention called SheKilda. It’s only the second of its kind (the first/last one was 10 years ago) and I’m hoping it’s going to be like Bouchercon for Aussies. It’s being hosted by Sisters in Crime Australia, so it’s only female crime writers (authors, journalists and TV writers) but there are still over 70 authors on 35+ panels. Needless to say, I can’t wait!!!!  I’m using the pun – a killer weekend.

But I’ve digressed again. So, a couple of weeks ago, as part of the publicity for SheKilda, I was asked to take part in an interview with two other Melbourne-based authors, Angela Savage and Leigh Redhead. First I went into city and talked to the journalist over coffee, then the next day we met at the Victorian State Library for the photo shoot. The theme: modern-day Cluedo. The three of us had to pick a colour – my first difficulty. You see, like many Melbournians about 90% of my wardrobe is black. Anyway, I managed to hunt out some purple and so I was Professor Plum (in the library – literally).

The first pose was on a Chesterfield with magnificent lights in the background. Angela Savage lay on the lounge with a dagger, Leigh Redhead had the gun and I had a magnifying glass. The second pose was Leigh lying on the lounge, me lying on the top of it (balance was required, people!) and Angela behind us, looking a little too excited to be holding a rope in her gloved hands. This one made it into the article and I also got a way less slick pic on my little camera.

Chesterfield pose 2-small

Next we were near an old marble staircase. I was sitting, magnifying glass in hand (I sooo wanted a gun) and Angela and Leigh were behind me, backs against the wall like they were about to kill each other (or maybe me). That one made the front cover of the Melbourne Times Weekly and is also the pic featured in the online version.


Then we did a Charlie’s Angels style pose. Again, I got one on my camera. This was a special moment for me, because I was able to play out one of my childhood fantasies — I was one of Charlie’s Angels! Sad, but true :)

Charlies Angels pose-small

I don’t know if you can see it in the pics, but it was a seriously fun shoot. Angela, Leigh and I were like excited school girls – with fake guns, knives, etc. And while most photo shoots take 5-15 minutes, this one went for nearly two hours!

It’s all in the look
When you’re posing for photos, it can be hard to work out what expression to use. Even though we were having fun and getting into it, do you go for sexy? Serious? Smug? Leigh and I joked about the classic crime writer “look”. Crime authors need to refine a little sexy smirk that says: “I know something you don’t know.” And the thing we know? Whodunit. And that’s kind of important in a murder mystery.

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