>Passport Australia: Author Kerry Greenwood answers our questions


Kerry Greenwood visits with the Paperback Dolls

I was introduced to Kerry Greenwood’s books by my lovely friend Sally (who you met earlier this week ;)), who sent me ‘Raisins and Almonds’ (along with a care package of made in Australia goodness). One book and I was hooked on Phryne Fisher, the 1920’s detective with a flair for fashion who causes quite a bit more than a raised eyebrow or two. It is therefore my pleasure to introduce you to the author of this, and other series, Ms. Kerry Greenwood.

Kerry Greenwood was born in the Melbourne suburb of Footscray and after wandering far and wide, she returned to live there. She has a degree in English and Law from Melbourne University and was admitted to the legal profession on the 1st April 1982, a day which she finds both soothing and significant. Kerry has written twenty novels, a number of plays, including The Troubadours with Stephen D’Arcy, is an award-winning children’s writer and has edited and contributed to several anthologies. In 1996 she published a book of essays on female murderers called Things She Loves: Why women Kill.

The Phryne Fisher series (pronounced Fry-knee, to rhyme with briny) began in 1989 with Cocaine Blues which was a great success. Kerry has written sixteen books in this series with no sign yet of Miss Fisher hanging up her pearl-handled pistol. Kerry says that as long as people want to read them, she can keep writing them.

Kerry Greenwood has worked as a folk singer, factory hand, director, producer, translator, costume-maker, cook and is currently a solicitor. When she is not writing, she works as a locum solicitor for the Victorian Legal Aid. She is also the unpaid curator of seven thousand books, three cats (Attila, Belladonna and Ashe) and a computer called Apple (which squeaks). She embroiders very well but cannot knit. She has flown planes and leapt out of them (with a parachute) in an attempt to cure her fear of heights (she is now terrified of jumping out of planes but can climb ladders without fear). She can detect second-hand bookshops from blocks away and is often found within them.

For fun Kerry reads science fiction/fantasy and detective stories. She is not married, has no children and lives with a registered wizard. When she is not doing any of the above she stares blankly out of the window.

PBD: How did you get started writing professionally?
Cocaine Blues (Phryne Fisher Mysteries (Paperback))KG: I put a revisionist history of melbourne into the Vogel Prize, which I didn’t win (and didn’t deserve), but one of the judges, Hilary McPhee of McPhee/Gribble, asked me to come and talk about a detective story and I broke the land speed record to Fitzroy and came out dazed with a two book contract. I only thought I would ever get two books published. The fifty-one out under my name amaze me, intermittantly.

PBD: How many books did you write before you were published?
KG: At least eight. I LIKE writing novels. I did it for fun.

PBD: What would you like people to know about you?
KG: I look like Corinna. Except with red hair. I have done a lot of different things. I come from a working class background. My father was a wharfie. I went to Melbourne University and qualified as a lawyer. I work part time for Legal Aid, defending the indefensible. I never married and have no children. I do have three cats and a resident Wizard. Also a lot of books. My favourite pursuits are reading, embroidery and walking. I also stare blankly out of the window and claim that I am working.

Murder on the Ballarat Train: A Phryne Fisher Mystery

PBD: In the Phryne Fisher books it seems that with each book we learn something new about Australia in the 1920s – people, immigration, lifestyle etc… is this something you plan in advance for each book or does it just become part of the plot?
KG: For Phryne I select a location and the story seems to arise from that. Dorothy Sayers, my hero, did the same. Then I just start to research and follow wherever the trail leads me. I love historical research. It has Eureka moments.

PBD: Why the 1920s?
KG: While doing Legal History at University, I researched the 1928 dock strike. I over researched it. Historical research is addictive. I read all the newspapers for 1928. I found all the old men who had been on the waterfront in 1928, and I read through the union’s archives in Canberra. Then I wrote my essay, but I could not bear to throw all that work away. So when iw as casting aout for a time for my detective story, I picked 1928 because I thought I knew a lot about it. And it was a fascinating time.

PBD: What is the characteristic you love most about each of your heroines and what do you like least?
KG: Corinna is brave, Phryne is heroic. But Phryne is ruthless and Corinna takes a dim view of the future.


Raisins and Almonds (Phryne Fisher Mysteries (Paperback))PBD: Both the Phryne Fisher series and the Corinna Chapman (Earthly Delights) series are set in Melbourne, what made you choose Melbourne and what is your favorite thing about the city?
KG: I love Melbourne because it is complex. It had not YET beeen extensively wrecked like Sydney. Old buildings co-exist with new ones. You can still find the traces of earlier occupation.

PBD: Are you more of a Phryne? A Corinna?
KG: I resemble Corinna more than Phryne.

PBD: What is next for your heroines?
KG: Corinna in the next book encounters cooking for a film set, nursery rhymes, soap operas and a surprising tiger. For Phryne, it is pirates, mysterious disappearances, surrealists, Queenscliff and the attempted assassination of a film star.
I never know…
PBD: Can you share some info about “Out of the Black Land” (upcoming historical)?
KG: I went to Egypt and did all the tourist things (incuding sailing down the Nile on one of those Agatha Christie boats, it was terrific) and found myself fascinated. So I did a lot of research when I got home about the 18th Dynasty, the time of Akhnaten. I found myself at odds with scholarly opinion about him so I wrote a book to sort out how I felt about him and about Egypt. I had thought they were a death-worshipping people. Then I found that they just wanted to party on in the afterlife. Wierd. But logical. I used Herodotus, my favourite ancient writer as a guide. Things haven’t changed all that much…

Heavenly Pleasures (Corinna Chapman Mysteries (Poisoned Pen Press))PBD: If someone who had never been to Australia came to you and asked you about the five ultimate things anyone visiting Australia had to see – what 5 things would be on your list?
KG: Red desert
Healesville sanctuary (to pat a kangaroo)
Sydney harbour (she said grudgingly)
Tea at the Windsor Hotel
A rainforest in Queensland

PBD: One Australian export you wish no-one had ever heard of?

KG: Vegemite. I can’t stand the stuff.

PBD: One Australian thing you wish you could share with the world?
KG: Our tendency to take changes laconically. Our inability to work up mass hysteria.

Thank you to Kerry Greenwood for taking the time to visit with the Dolls and answer our questions.
The next Phryne Fisher mystery ‘Dead Man’s Chest’ will be out September 2010.

2 responses to “>Passport Australia: Author Kerry Greenwood answers our questions

  1. >Thank you so much for the awesome interview!

  2. >Kerry, Thank you so much! Good luck with the release of Dead Man's Chest and Out of the Black Land! Day – you must read these books.

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