Ep 334 Meet Katherine Kovacic, author of ‘The Shifting Landscape’.

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In Episode 334 of So You Want To Be A Writer: We chat to Katherine Kovacic, author of The Shifting Landscape. Learn how to increase your opportunities for freelance revenue. Join Amie Kaufman and Allison Tait at the Your Kid's Next Read Author Talk. Plus, we have 3 copies of a mesmerising and unsettling thriller by Elizabeth Kay called Seven Lies to give away.

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Show Notes

8 ways to find your golden ticket for freelance writing

Your Kid's Next Read Author Talk with Amie Kaufman

Writer in Residence

Katherine Kovacic

Katherine Kovacic was a veterinarian but preferred training and having fun with dogs to taking their temperatures. She seized the chance to return to study and earned an MA, followed by a PhD in Art History. Katherine spends her spare time writing, dancing and teaching other people’s dogs to ride skateboards.

A research geek, Katherine is currently fired up by the history of human relationships with animals, particularly as they appear in art. In 2012 she was long-listed for the Voiceless Writing Prize and she continues to contribute to academic publications.

Katherine lives in suburban Melbourne with Leonardo the Borzoi, Oberon the Scottish Deerhound and a legion of dog-fur dust bunnies.

Katherine's latest book is The Shifting Landscape.

Follow Katherine Kovacic on Twitter

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(If you click the link above and then purchase from Booktopia, we get a small commission. This amount is donated to Doggie Rescue to support their valuable work with unwanted and abandoned dogs.)

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Interview Transcript

Allison

Katherine Kovacic is the Australian author of three novels featuring art historian and sleuth Alex Clayton. The latest book in the series, The Shifting Landscape, is out now with Allen & Unwin. Welcome to the program, Katherine.

Katherine

Thank you very much Allison. Lovely to be chatting to you.

Allison

Now, I read in your bio that you are both a qualified vet and an art historian. What made you sit down to write your first novel which was The Portrait of Molly Dean?

Katherine

Well I'd finished up on a project and I had that window in my schedule where I, you know, where I'd been doing that. And I didn't want it to be sucked back into regular work and family as our little blocks of time tend to be. And I'd always wanted to get back towards writing. I'd had that science background.

So, I decided I was going to write. And I had Molly Dean in my head because The Portrait of Molly Dean was actually based on a true crime, an unsolved Melbourne murder from 1930. And I'd come across Molly as a person in my art research because she was associated with some artists of the time. And I'd never known what to do with her story, but I always thought it was very sad that she'd been forgotten, and particularly when I came across her mentioned in the timeline of the artist who was her lover, who was Colin Colahan, and for 1930 it said for Colin Colahan: “Colin's lover, Molly Dean, brutally murdered. His career briefly stalls.” I thought that was–

Allison

Wow!

Katherine

Yeah, I thought that was pretty awful that this woman's life had been reduced to an inconvenient bump in his career. So, I'd had her in the back of my head, but never quite known what to do with her. And then I came across an old Colin Colahan catalogue which just was sort of basically a listing of his paintings, and it said that he had done a portrait of Molly Dean, and the portrait itself is missing. And that just gave me my little hook for developing my art sleuth/art dealer Alex Clayton, and getting her into looking into Molly's murder, basically.

Allison

So, Alex Clayton herself basically came out of the mystery. How did you then go about creating her as a character?

Katherine

Well I had Alex in mind – she had to be an art dealer, because the sleuthy qualities that she brings to it is that she is, she is kind of, she's not a pearls and black suit in, you know, South Yarra or Woollahra kind of art dealer. She is much more of a jeans and Blundstones – not that I want to say a grifter – but she's, you know, she's working hard for her money. So she's looking for the cheap stuff that isn't really cheap, that she can, you know, figure out what it is and sell for profit.

So she has quite good sleuthing qualities because she sees things that other people don't. She sees those little details and she can see beneath the surface grime to, you know, to what might lie beneath.  And she also is good at taking chances on things like that, she has to to make her living. So, the kind of qualities that you want in a sleuth.

Allison

So, was this book the first kind of fiction that you'd ever written? Was this the first time that you'd ever sat down to write, you know, a novel?

Katherine

Yeah, yeah it was. I, you know, had done a lot of academic writing – certainly for the PhD and what have you. And as a vet, I had done some more scientific-based writing. But, you know, there is a fairly limited audience for the dietary management of gastro-intestinal disease in small animals.

Allison

Seriously? You really shock me! Haha.

Katherine

Haha. It was a well-received paper, but you know, just a very small audience.

Allison

So, why did you think: I'm going to write a novel? What made you think: I'm going to do that?

Katherine

I think at that time, it was really almost just because I was thinking about Molly Dean the person. And I thought, right I just want to, I want to give her her own presence. And I sort of wanted to give her a resolution to her story – even if it was a fictitious one. But I think I just didn't want her to be forgotten – I didn't want her to be that inconvenient little speed bump in someone else's life story. So, it was really just to create a story around her.

Allison

For her.

And how did it then come to be published? Like, you wrote… Okay, let's go with the process of it first. How long did it take you to write that draft, that first draft?

Katherine

The first draft probably took me about a year, because there is a lot of research involved too with that historic period and the facts of the crime itself, which aren't – a lot of the files are missing. So, there's a lot that is missing from the story too. Just getting that research for the period right took a while.

Allison

Okay, so you wrote the first draft and just sort of like obviously working out how to write a novel as you wrote. What happened at that point? What did you do next? How did it then go from being a first draft to becoming a published novel?

Katherine

Okay, well, quite a bit of editing. And I think because Alex obviously is set in a more modern time – so, Alex is around 1999-2000 – and again that was predicated by Molly's story because I wanted people to still be alive. So, I had to push Alex back to that period, so I could still have a couple of people alive from Molly Dean's 1930 period.

Allison

Right.

Katherine

So, it was a matter of, you know, fusing those two stories together. So, the first book has those two timelines, but the others are just in Alex's period. So working those two timelines together and also I think with Alex playing her story off against Molly's, because both of them were single, independent women trying to make their own way in the world.

So working out how to just have little bits without, you know, beating readers over the head with the fact that there was a kind of compare and contrast going on. Um, and I think that's a real art in itself that you can only develop through playing around with manuscripts. It's working out how to put things there without, you know, having bells and whistles and a neon sign with a big arrow that keeps pointing downwards. You know those kinds of signs?

Allison

I do. I really do, yep. So you worked that out as you wrote? Or you worked that out as an editing, once you had a first draft, as an editing process?

Katherine

It was a bit of both, but I think it came together much more in the editing process – particularly sort of fitting together the chapters and how to make the story flow nicely without jarring too much between one and the other.

Allison

Okay so, once you'd done that and you had married everything together, did you look for an agent? Did you send it out to publishers? What did you do from that point?

Katherine

The first thing that I actually did was I went to a speed-pitching session.

Allison

Ahhh. Yes.

Katherine

Yes. Run by Sisters In Crime that year. So, that was five publishers in the room, and I think it was three or four minutes with each publisher, ring the bell, and then onto the next one.

Allison

And how was that process for you? Were you like, super nervous? Was it like meeting a first date?

Katherine

It was, yeah. I was hugely nervous. It was, it just, I think the bell ringing was almost the most *gasp*. You know, the ‘oh my goodness the bell has rung'. And I think that just because, you know, they were great publishers in the room too, so you just feel that pressure of getting that elevator pitch out and sounding like, you know, especially for a first writer, feeling confident about putting your work forward in that setting.

And I think that's a huge thing too, that we're all kind of trying to figure this out together in a way as new writers, as emerging writers, and that was, I think that probably a huge thing to do to go in first off and just pitch like that.

Allison

How did you hear about it? Had you joined Sisters In Crime as part of your process for writing the novel? Is that how you found out about the, I mean, was it joining the society finding out about it?

Katherine

Yeah, I'd actually been a member of Sisters In Crime for a few years. But yes, it was. And that particular year they ran a two day crime writing festival, which was called She Killed Her. And so, the pitch session was part of that.

But certainly, I mean, the Melbourne Writers' Fest, most of the writers' festivals often have that little session running somewhere, but they are very highly subscribed. That's a bit of a tip there, is that you keep an eye – sign up to all of these newsletters, because when those opportunities come up, you need to be on board and get a ticket to do it straight up.

Allison

Alright, so can you remember – casting your mind back – can you remember the elevator pitch that you used that day?

Katherine

Oh my goodness. No. I think, I think probably I forgot it about two minutes after I walked out of the room. Because it was um…

Allison

The sheer terror.

Katherine

Yeah, pretty much. Pretty much. So um, it was you know, it was an aspect of introducing the characters. So, two timelines – Molly Dean and Alex Clayton – saying who they were and what they did. Mentioning the fact that Molly was based on a true person. Giving a sort of a comparison to where the book would sit in a bookshop shelf – sort of similar titles, to give the publishers an immediate idea of what they might be looking at. And that was about it I think.

Allison

Okay, so did you from that process of talking to those five publishers, did you get a publisher from that pitch session?

Katherine

Yes, I did.

Allison

Ahh.

Katherine

I had interest from four of the five.

Allison

Well, that must have been exciting.

Katherine

Yeah, it was really exciting and I think just really surprising to get those, get the emails sort of arriving. And I think it was interesting because some of them were like, ‘Yes, here's my card, send us your stuff.' And the others were just like, ‘Ah well I can get your details from the organisers if I'm interested.' And you're just like, ‘Ugh, well that's that.' But then I got follow up emails from those guys too. So it's interesting that they kind of, some of them have real poker game faces going on in the room too, that they're not telling you that they're actually interested.

Allison

Interesting. So, you had interest from four, you sent the manuscript out to four, and you got an offer out of that? Is that how it worked?

Katherine

Yeah, that's right.

Allison

Terrific. Alright so, when you – just out of interest – you were saying you had a dual timeline in that first book but the others don't. Do you, are you someone, did you plot your book out before you began or do you just sort of start writing and then make it work?

Katherine

With Molly Dean, there was obviously already a line for her story because we know that she died in the end, and I didn't want to make her story: girl gets murdered and… So her story is sort of the last few weeks of her life, so that was, the timeline was just leading up towards her death.

But in terms of the other books, I guess, oh gosh, how can I describe it? I do plot it out, but I plot it out very loosely. So I'm not one of those people that kind of charts everything and knows exactly where things are going to happen, or indeed if certain things are going to happen.

I think probably the best way to describe it is that I'm more like someone who has one of those really dodgy GPS things, where you know the city you're going to arrive in and you plug it in thinking that you're going to go down the freeway the whole way. But then at some point, your GPS goes, ‘At the next exit, turn left.' And suddenly you turn left and you're in all these little narrow back streets – and sometimes it's just really scary and you just want to get back on the freeway in a hurry. But sometimes you find all these really cool little things down the side streets.

So, I know where I'm going and I know a couple of the towns I'm going to visit along the way, but how I get between the towns is a little bit sketchy.

Allison

Okay. So, alright. So, with Molly Dean – you started with that story. Just tell us out of interest, as an art historian and you're writing a fictionalised version of a real person's life and you're creating a solution to what happened to that person, you know, in quite a, you know, in a set world, an art, you know, where you have to be correct about the facts of some of it. Was there ever sort of like a point where you thought, ‘I wonder how this is going to be received'? Like, I'm coming up with a solution to what happened to an enduring age old mystery, what are my professional colleagues etc. going to think about this? Was there ever that point? Did you ever worry or wonder about that?

Katherine

Yeah absolutely, and I think, well, Molly's story – it's not really of interest to art historian people, I think, because she wasn't an artist herself.

Allison

Of course.

Katherine

Again, that kind of just drops her off the radar. But yeah, I was very conscious of the fact that she was a real person and that the people I was talking about are in her circle were real people too. So, in that book actually, it has an extensive notes section at the end that explains which bits are factual and who are the fictitious characters in that.

Allison

Right.

Katherine

And I think there are certainly bits in that where I perhaps would have liked to have taken the story in a different direction. But it would have pointed more specifically towards a person who had been alive at the time, but I can't, I can't kind of go there. So, no. I was very aware that this was a real person and obviously respecting her memory and respecting the story itself.

But as I said, most of the files about Molly Dean were lost which kind of compounded the mystery, because then of course there were people who had huge conspiracy theories that, oh, she had been dating a prominent parliamentarian or something, and he disappeared the files. Or he'd had her killed because she was going to expose him. You know, there were all of these other little stories going on that swirled around. So, right up through to the 1980s, about you know, who killed Molly Dean and why did the files disappear – but you know, the files probably disappeared because someone messed up in the office, as these things usually happen. But um…

Allison

Yeah interesting. Like it's a, when you're blending fact and fiction like that, in a world in which you are actually working professionally, like there is definitely a line that needs to be kept in mind the whole time.

Katherine

Absolutely. Yeah.

Allison

So, reading The Shifting Landscape, which of course is the latest book and is out now – book three. So, the art is at the heart of that. I read that and I felt when I was reading the art stuff, like I knew, it's like I often say to kids when I do story writing workshops with kids, I'm like, write what you know because what you know will ground the rest of your book. Now I definitely felt like I was in very safe hands and I found it fascinating, like I found it really, really interesting. Um, do you um, start with the art? Did you start The Shifting Landscape with the painting?

Katherine

Yeah, well I think particularly because that's Alex's world, so I think there always has to be that, there has to be a reason for her to be there. So, and in this case, the western district has such a strong artistic heritage from that colonial art period, so it was a great way to get her out of the city and to send her on that errand with the art there.

And of course, she kind of thinks about things in artistic terms – so that means that she looks at a particular landscape, she will go, ‘Oh yeah, that's a bit like, I remember that street in that painting'. Which kind of gives me a chance to… It's her character so it's the way she thinks. And again this is not hitting the reader over the head and giving them an art lesson as we go along because, how boring! How boring would that be? But um, but yes.

So, it always has to start with a painting or some sort of art element for Alex, just to get us into that setting in the story.

Allison

Alright, so how did you come up with that particular painting and why that particular setting? What made you decide… Maybe tell us a little bit about the story, about the book, and then explain why you chose to go down that particular road with that particular painting.

Katherine

Sure. So, in The Shifting Landscape, Alex is called to the western district, to the MacMillan family's historic sheep property, a squattocratic property called Kinlop, to value the family collection. And when she gets there, she finds this forgotten and very valuable painting. And she also finds that the family's undergoing quite a bit of tension, shall we say?

Allison

Stress.

Katherine

Yes, yes. And then the patriarch of the family dies in fairly mysterious circumstances and the painting goes missing. So, Alex decides to get out of town because, you know, families, tension, death, missing things – you just don't want to be in the middle of that.

But then a child goes missing and Hogarth, her dog – her faithful sidekick – also disappears. So she's stuck there and she's looking for her dog and they're looking for the child. And I guess the question is, is everybody going to be found? And is Alex going to unravel the secrets of the family before more people die or things get worse?

Allison

We always want things to get worse, don't we?

Katherine

Yes, things get bad and then they get worse. That's what we like.

Allison

And you said you wanted, you know, this particular painting takes her out of the city. Did you particularly want her to get out of the city or was there just something about the particular painting that you've used as the basis for this that made you want to write this kind of story?

Katherine

I think it was about the painting. Because in The Shifting Landscape the painting is by colonial artist Eugene von Geurard. And what he did, he spent a lot of time in the Western District and he painted these, I guess they could be sort of house portraits. So they're paintings of the properties of these squattocratic families. And essentially they are about power. They're about ‘this is the land we own and here's our house slap-dab in the middle of it'.

And so, having that house and that landscape, it sort of suggested to me that whole idea of the manor house mystery, except rather than being in rural England, we're in regional Victoria. So it gives you that whole lovely set up with the cast of characters in a, not sort of shut away, but they are isolated from the nearest township and that sort of thing.

And I think also the rich history of the western district in terms of, not just the squattocratic families, but in terms of the Indigenous history. And that sort of appeared in von Geurard's art in reality. And so that gives Alex a lot of scope to explore both, you know, on many levels, both what's going on with the family and what's going on at a deeper level in the whole district.

Allison

Mmm okay. So, obviously, as I said, you draw on your research skills to ground Alex and to ground the story. How do you handle weaving that research into the story, so that you're not smacking the reader over the head with an art lesson? Like, are there ever times where your editor says, ‘We could probably do with a little less detail here'?

Katherine

Well a couple of times they said, ‘Can you put in another painting?' Like, ‘Really? Another one?'.

I think probably about doing the research and then thinking about lots of things and then peeling it back. So, you know, someone once told me that if you're getting dressed to go out, you're supposed to do a twirl in front of the mirror and the thing that catches your eye is the thing you take off. It says you've overdone it too much.

So, I think that's it that sometimes they go in and at the editing stage I'm like, ‘Oh, that just needs to come out. We've got too much art.'

Because Alex thinks that way, so I try and keep it almost more as if it's not a painting that she's actually dealing with or looking to sell or restore, or it's right in front of her, if it's just a thought, then it needs to be in the manuscript as a fleeting thought. So she sees a landscape and she thinks, ‘Oh that reminds me of that painting by Claris Beckett.' And then we move on. So, it's, we don't sort of dwell on the detail of the line of the landscape or the brush tip or anything like that. Unless that bit is part of Alex looking at the painting and thinking, oh, this has to be, this is a valuable painting because… That's when you get a bit more artistic detail, but if it's a fleeting thought it's, it reminds me of a painting, and then we move on. So, it's that idea of just it kind of catches you as you drive past.

Allison

Okay so, the other thing I could recognise even before I read your bio and even before I realised that you were a vet etc., was that you really know dogs. And regular listeners to the program will know about my own dog, Procrastipup, so I was reading this thing going, ‘This lady really likes dogs.'

But Hogarth, Alex's companion, is a big part of her life and the story, and comes off the page as a character all on his own. Like, he's got his own personality and he's doing his own thing. Was he always an important part of your idea for Alex and this series? Or has he developed into a bigger part, a bigger character, along the way?

Katherine

He has 100% developed into a bigger character. So, if you start with The Shifting Landscape, if you haven't read the other books, and you don't have to necessarily read them in sequence, they can kind of standalone, Hogarth has a much bigger role in this book than he did in the first two. And that has partly been in response to people saying, ‘Oh, we want more about the dog.'

But also I think that he has proven to be a very good way – because Alex is a single person – to give her a foil when she's alone and to display her emotions a little bit more.

But it was always very important, I thought long and hard about which breed of dog she would have. And as you said, he's a big dog, he's an Irish Wolfhound, and he is, in a way he's a reflection of who she is as a person. She would be a very different person if she had a small, white fluffy dog. Or if she had a cheerful Golden Retriever bouncing along beside her, or a big old Doberman or Rottweiler next to her – you would think about Alex in a very different way to having this very big but also very staid and contained dog. You know, he is a very solid presence in the books. And certainly if she had a cat, well, that would be an entirely different character altogether.

Allison

Mmm. Well it's interesting, because I read on your website that you're researching the history of human relationships with animals as they appear in art. Do you think that this shapes your depiction of Hogarth as well?

Katherine

I think it does. Yes, I think he appears as, as I said, as a foil for Alex and her interactions with him, and her reading of him when he interacts with other people I think is a very important part of that dynamic and has become an increasing part of the story. As I said, this has been his biggest role by far.

But the other really crazy thing is that there are a couple of dog park scenes in the early books, and I still teach dog training classes, and I've had some of my students there and they identify, they think, ‘That Border Collie in the dog park, that was my dog wasn't it?'

Allison

Haha.

Katherine

And I can feel my eyes getting a bit wide, and I say, ‘Yes, that was absolutely your dog in the dog park. Of course it was.'

Allison

Of course that was your dog.

Katherine

Of course it was. Yes.

Allison

That is so funny. So, did you always envisage writing, when you started out, that this would be a series of mysteries? Or were you just writing a book to start with?

Katherine

No, it was just a book. As I said, because Alex came as a secondary, as a foil for Molly Dean. So, it was really just about Molly Dean's story to start off with. But then Alex kind of moved into my brain a little bit with that story. And because the art world itself, it's just got so many seedy, dirty, grotty, dark little corners in it, that there just seemed to be all these things that she could do and she would just be in my head saying, ‘Hey, you know that, that art heist or those fake Brett Whiteleys or something like that, we can talk about that.' So, yeah. She just kind of moved in and started telling me all these grubby little art crime stories, basically.

Allison

And what do you think was the key to her being a character that could sustain a series? Because there is a difference, you know, like she was a foil in book one, but how did you know she was a strong enough character that she could have her own, she could go out on her own and contain a series? Because you have to be a relatively interesting character and have a development arc of your own to be able to manage a series as it unfolds.

Katherine

Mmm, yeah. I think with Alex, her independence I think seems to have a lot of appeal. And because she's really… How can I put it? She's very astute. I don't want to call her a grifter, but she's kind of there making deals in back lanes and she's got this auction room tactic, where she's got subtle little winks and nods. So she's got a really interesting story in that regard.

And she also does have her best friend who's an art conservator, John Porter. And so he's her go-to guy when she's got paintings that need to be restored or cleaned up for her to flip for a quick buck. But he's also been a friend for life. And there's this kind of little potential romantic interest there. You know, they've known each other for a long time, and perhaps they've had a romantic past but maybe not. But there's a little bit of – will they? He's got a very messy relationship of his own that he's dealing with. But there's these kind of little odd glances and things that you think: are they gonna? Will they?

So, I think that has an element of it too. But I think, because it's almost Alex's struggle to achieve and to be an independent woman and a success in her own right, I think that's what really drives her as a character.

Allison

Yes, I was going to ask you about that relationship. Because, for me, that relationship between she and John is a key subplot and is part of sustaining it as a series, because you've got to keep up that, you know, the tension between them. The ‘will they/won't they?' You know, it's that whole thing, it all just fell apart once they got together.

Katherine

That's it.

Allison

Don't do it! But is that something that is actually difficult to maintain as a writer? To keep that tension going?

Katherine

Look, I think it is. Because everyone wants them to get together. And like you said, it's the don't do it. I feel like it would kill everything. And I think, you know, in real life people who have  moved from the friend zone to the actual zone, it's a big step because you know that it might destroy that really nice friendship that you've had if things go sour in a romantic relationship. And I think that's where Alex and John are. They know they've got this great friendship, and they kind of think, should we go to the next, should we take it to this romantic level? But if they ruin that, where does that leave everything? And it's kind of, in terms of writing it, just having those little bits and pieces where you can still see that that tension's there without pushing it too far, and it is a very fine line.

Allison

But you have, I think, the master stroke that you've done there is you've given him… Because he's married, right?

Katherine

Yeah.

Allison

And it's a complicated and difficult dynamic in that marriage. But it gives him a very, very solid reason, and Alex a very, very solid reason not to. Because I think that's what you need to have to maintain the tension is there's got to be a barrier, doesn't there?

Katherine

Absolutely.

Allison

And the barrier has to be a solid barrier. Not just that the writer is putting this here because it suits the writer.

Katherine

That's right. That's right. And it that certainly does make it, because Alex has kind of got it in her mind that she can't do anything while he's still attached. And obviously he's in that same vein. And his wife is difficult and fragile, and all sorts of things like that. So, there's multiple reasons why you just wouldn't push things, and push his wife to, you know, react in a particular way. Although she is very much a very shadowy, side-line character. She's just mentioned in the background.

But yes, having that barrier allows me as the writer to have those little moments with them where it's just a touch or a look or a song on the radio, and then everyone kind of catches their breath and there's a little bit of side-eye going on as everyone looks at each other to decide whether that's significant or not. And then goes, right, nothing to see here! Moving straight forward.

Allison

Moving right along.

Katherine

That's it. That's it.

Allison

And so are you working on a new novel at the moment? Is there a fourth Alex Clayton in the works?

Katherine

Yes, there's a fourth Alex Clayton in the works and there is also actually a true crime in the works, surprisingly enough.

Allison

A true crime?

Katherine

Yes, yes.

Allison

When can we expect to see a true crime?

Katherine

I think the true crime, because we've all sort of been messed around with publishing schedules because of lock-down, well, it's actually been brought forward. So it's potentially going to be in time for Christmas this year.

Allison

Interesting. Alright. And what kinds of things do you do to try and promote your novels? Are you active on social media? Are you someone who – before Coronavirus and possibly after Coronavirus – does a lot of speaking? Like, what kinds of things are you doing to promote your books?

Katherine

Yeah so, definitely speaking, when speaking is possible. And while we've all been in lock-down, things have been moving. I've done several Zoom events for libraries. We've done some, we did an online launch which is still on YouTube with a local bookshop who were valiantly still delivering locally. So we put together a YouTube video and did a launch that way. I did a virtual tour for this book too because we're all in lock-down. Some wonderful booksellers sent me pictures of their bookshops and either with or without my book already in it, and if it wasn't in it, I Photoshopped it in.

So, we made a virtual tour of about a dozen bookshops around Australia – which was great because it meant that we were promoting them as well. And the fact that they were still delivering to their community – which was really lovely. So, the virtual tour. And yes, I am on Instagram and Facebook, and Hogarth has a Facebook page, I have to say.

Allison

Hogarth does?

Katherine

Hogarth, the dog, yes, at the insistence of the publishers. When we had this meeting I said, ‘But what's the dog going to do on Facebook? Because the dog doesn't actually talk.' And they were like, ‘No, the dog needs a Facebook page.'

And I have to say, the dog's page gets more hits. If you put the same post on your author page and you do it on the dog page, there will be 80 likes on the dog page within half an hour, and yeah half a dozen or so on your page. And the author page slowly builds up, but for some reason the dog page just, and yes.

Allison

That doesn't surprise me in the slightest. And I know this because as soon, if I put photos of me and my books and all those sorts of thing on Instagram, you know, yeah whatever. As soon as I put up a photo of the dog, it goes nuts.

Katherine

There you go.

Allison

So people clearly like animals more than they like people, that's all I'm saying.

Katherine

That's it, yep.

Allison

Alright so, we're gonna finish up today. Thank you so much for your time.

Katherine

Absolute pleasure.

Allison

So, people can find you on your website, which is? What is your website address?

Katherine

It is katherinekovacic.com.

Allison

And Kovacic is C, sorry, K.O.V.A.C.I.C. And it is Katherine with a K.

Katherine

Correct. Yes.

Allison

All right, so let's finish up today with your top three tips for writers.

Katherine

Number 1, I think is: if there is a problem it usually means it started probably a few pages back or a chapter back. So I've found, if I've hit a snag, I go backwards rather than trying to work out the problem on the spot, and work out where things started to unravel. So that's my sneaky top tip.

The obvious one is always keep writing even when it's feeling really sluggish and quick-sandy, and desperately hard, because there is solid ground up ahead. And then you can always throw a bridge back over the quicksand. That's number 2.

And I think trust your gut, too. And be prepared to let your characters take you on those sneaky side roads, because I've had times when I've thought, ‘Yep this is the way the story is going to unfold.' And then Alex will do something and I will literally be typing it out thinking, why is this happening? Why is she doing this? No, don't! And then it turns out really interesting. So, if your characters want to take you on a sneaky side route, let them run with it for a while and then you can rein them in later if you need to.

Allison

Give them a smack.

Katherine

That's it. That's it.

Allison

Alright, that's perfect. Thank you so much for your time Katherine. And best of luck with the book. I'm actually going to go back and read The Portrait of Molly Dean because I'm quite fascinated by the whole sound of that story.  I can see, just based on the premise, why four publishers were interested in that. Because I just think that mystery at the heart of that is just fantastic, particularly when it's got that truth in it. So, that's gonna be on my ‘to be read' pile next. And good luck with the rest.

Katherine

Thank you so much. It's been so much fun talking to you, Allison.

Allison

Thank you. It's all about the dogs really, right?

Katherine

Oh yeah. Always.

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