August 16, 2011
My Murderati blog from 21 July is an interview with fellow Aussie crime author, Katherine Howell. Katherine is an ex-paramedic turned author who uses her own expertise to create realistic characters and scenarios. So far, she’s won two Davitt Awards (Sisters in Crime Australia) and has recently hit the best seller lists here in Oz.
Her third novel, Cold Justice, has just been released in the UK. In Cold Justice, Detective Ella Marconi is on the trail of a cold case, an eighteen-year-old murder.
Katherine also has ties to other members of the Murderati gang, namely Tess Gerritsen – who had the following to say: “COLD JUSTICE races like a speeding ambulance, delivering so many surprises and thrills that you’ll scarcely have time to breathe. This was one of my favorite books of the year. Katherine Howell has written a real winner!” Katherine is delighted to be interviewing Tess in Melbourne at a Sisters in Crime dinner on Saturday 27 August. You can find out more at the Sisters in Crime website. I’ll be there
You use paramedics and police almost equally in your books. Can you tell us why you decided to do that?
I always wanted to write a crime series, partly because it’s what I love reading and partly because the idea of developing characters over a number of books really appealed to me. But I started the early drafts of Frantic with paramedic Sophie as the main character and no cop in sight! I felt I couldn’t write a cop point of view because I didn’t know the police world the same way that I knew paramedic life and worried about being able to portray it with convincing detail. I realised, though, that the story would be so much deeper and stronger if I could build the POV in, and also it was going to be a stretch to have a paramedic coming back in each book, especially if I was going to have her solve crimes! I needed to pull myself together and just do it. I have a number of cop friends who help with the facts of the job and draw on my own experience in being called as a paramedic to police stations and the cells and so on too.
And so Detective Ella Marconi was born. She’s about half of each book that I write. The stories involve one and sometimes two paramedics who get caught up in crime in varying ways—sometimes they’re called to a homicide scene, sometimes they find a body, sometimes they’re involved personally—then Ella is one of the investigators called in on the case.
What differences do you find writing a paramedic versus cop?
The main difference is their role in the story: Ella investigates and is fairly distanced emotionally, while the paramedics are caught up and drawn in and often are very emotionally involved. The way I write each point of view differs too: I’m very comfortable writing the paramedic scenes because of my years of experience there, but with the police scenes I’m continually questioning my detective friends over each little detail: what would the detectives say here? What would they do next?
Is Cold Justice based on something that happened to you while you were working as a paramedic?
Paramedic Georgie in Cold Justice was viciously bullied at her previous station, and when I was writing the book there were many reports in the media about bullying cases in the ambulance service and their subsequent investigations. None of this was news to me or to paramedics I knew, however. The things that happen to Georgie are a combination of tweaked stories that I’d heard, made-up events, plus a few of my own experiences. The plot however is fictional. While I use some elements of particular cases that I did (such as a burns case in The Darkest Hour), none of the plots as a whole are based on anything I did.
Tell us a bit about your writing day and space.
I have an office at home and I write at the computer (though now and again I like to take a notebook and sit in the sun). I get in there about eight or nine but I write best in the afternoons so unless I have a looming deadline I tend to spend the morning dealing with emails and working on whatever author talks or workshops I have coming up, and uni research (I’m doing a PhD in writing at the moment too). I have a big corner desk currently covered in edit notes and reports. My window looks out onto the garden, and in the co-worker department I have a big, fat, long-haired cat who sleeps in her bed on my desk and a Chihuahua pup who sleeps in a blanket on my lap. Lazy girls.
Thanks to Katherine for being my guest today!Comments Off