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?
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.
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.