Ep 48 Harper Lee’s new book; top journalists turn to branded content; Women of Letters goes from Melbourne to New York (via Molly Ringwald); What surrounds YOUR desk? And Writer in Residence crime thriller author Candice Fox.

Share on Pinterest
Share with your friends










Submit

podcast-artwork

In Episode 48 of So you want to be a writer: Join Kate Forsyth in Oxford, Harper Lee to publish a sequel, Women of Letters travels to New York via Molly Ringwald, how top journalists are pivoting their careers, Australia’s new creative grants model, nine famous writing spaces, share your desk, what you should read next, Writer in Residence crime thriller author Candice Fox, the apps we’re in love with, how to keep an interview on track and much more!

Click play below to listen to the podcast. You can also listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher Radio. Or add the podcast RSS feed manually to your favourite podcast app.

Show Notes

Writing in Oxford

History, Mystery and Magic

Our interview with Kate Forsyth

Harper Lee: a late twist in the tale of an adored writer

Molly Ringwald and Stoya bring back the lost art of letter writing

How top journalists are pivoting their careers in writing into brand journalism.

2015 grants model

Some hints on applying for arts funding & fellowships

Writing Spaces: Where 9 Famous Creatives Do Their Best Work

What should I read next?

Tell us: what surrounds your desk?

Writer in Residence

Candice FoxCandice Fox is the bestselling crime and thriller writer behind the novel Hades, which won the Ned Kelly Award in 2014. Its sequel, Eden, was published in January 2015 with book three in the series to be released in late 2015.

Hades and Eden are international sellers – already translated into four languages, they hit the US shelves this year.

Candice has two undergraduate and two postgraduate degrees. Her Honours degree is in Creative Writing, and she holds a Masters in Writing, Editing and Publishing.

Candice is passionate about the genre of crime writing. Growing up in a large, eccentric family from Sydney’s western suburbs, Candice is the daughter of a parole officer at one of Sydney’s biggest prisons and an enthusiastic foster-carer. She spent her childhood listening around corners to tales of violence, madness and evil as her father relayed his work stories to her mother and older brothers.

As a cynical and trouble-making teenager, her crime and gothic fiction writing was an escape from the calamity of her home life. She was constantly in trouble for reading Anne Rice in church and scaring her friends with tales from Australia’s wealth of true crime writers.

She started raiding her mother’s true crime collection as a young girl and quickly became addicted to the dark side. 

Bankstown born and bred, she failed to conform to military life in a brief stint as an officer in the Royal Australian Navy at age eighteen. At twenty, she turned her hand to academia, and now teaches creative writing.

Website
Anatomy of a Crime: How to Write About Murder
Random House on Twitter

Web Pick

Scrivener for Mac | Scrivener for Windows.
Dragon dictate

Working Writer’s Tip

How to politely cut someone off in an interview

Answered in the podcast!

Check out Al’s GoodReads reviews!

Race to the end of the world

Sign up to the Australian Writers’ Centre Newsletter!

Just fill in your details over here.

Your hosts

Allison Tait
Valerie Khoo / Australian Writers’ Centre

Connect with us on twitter

@altait
@valeriekhoo

Email us
podcast at writerscentre.com.au

Share the love!

48 sq

Transcript

Valerie

Thanks for joining us today, Candice.

Candice

Oh, thanks for inviting me.

 

Valerie

Tell us about your new book, Eden.

 

Candice

Eden is the continuation of the Bennett Archer series, which I started with my novel, Hades. It sort of picks up where Hades left off. I don’t want to ruin that for people. I suppose it’s just looking at the partnership between Frank and Eden and how strained that is because she’s a serial killer, and obviously his job is to catch serial killers. So, emotionally he’s trying to deal with all of that.

Eden is going undercover to find three missing girls in the outback of Australia, and Frank is helping her father, underworld figure Hades Archer, to find who is stalking him from his past.

 

Valerie

Wow, as you say this is the sequel to Hades, how did you come up with the idea for this series? Because it’s pretty out there. 

Candice        

It is.

 

Valerie

You know, like this detective serial killer in Sydney with this fantastical life, how did you come up with the idea? 

Candice

I suppose it came from a range of places. I mean I’ve always wanted to write something dark and grizzly and something that sort of used my background in crime and my interest in crime to write something really, really dark.

 

My mother used to foster children when I was very young. I mean I was one of six and she used to foster four and five at a time. So from a very young age I had police hanging around in my kitchen at home. I would wake up in the middle of the night and there would be three cops in the kitchen all having coffee with my mom and some family of kids in the corner terrified.

 

I sort of just got the idea from a young age that the world is full of scary people, that children aren’t always safe. The children themselves are sometimes quite scary people, I suppose that comes from some of them being violent, some of them being quite traumatized, things like this.

 

Then I’ve got my father who was the parole officer at a Sydney prison and he would come home and tell my mother horrific stories of things that would go on at the prison and things that people who were in the prison had done.

 

As a little kid I was just growing up in this environment where I learned that crime and murder and mayhem are just a part of the world. You know?

 

Valerie

As a child were you scared, or did you just think this was normal life, like everyone had a life like this? 

Candice

No, I wasn’t really scared. It was, for me, learning that there was different shades to the world. I mean I wasn’t the kind of kid who believed in Santa for very long. I was just slapped with reality and it was good. It armed me for things like loss and death and violent things that I would see that would probably traumatize other people throughout my life. It made me pretty tough, I think.

 

It also just grew this dark imagination. I mean my friends were feeding their imagination at that time with the Chronicles of Narnia and stuff like that. So they obviously grew up with quite light and bright imaginations. I have quite a sick imagination and it’s just because I mean my mom was crime-obsessed. Her entire library, and it still is, was all true crime.

 

Valerie

Really?

 

Candice

Yeah, and so if I ever wanted anything to read I would go into her room and read her true crime books. I was seven and eight and reading these grisly true crimes and just loving it, just absolutely loving it. I’ve never been sort of that badly disturbed by anything I’ve seen or heard in them. I’ve got a massive catalog that I’ve put together over the last 25 years of all of this criminal information, so it’s just very useful for me as a writer.

 

Valerie

So, you’re obviously fascinated by it, what about it is so fascinating? About crime and the dark side of stuff?

Candice

I suppose it’s not just me. People say, “Oh, why are you so fascinated by murder?” but everyone is. When there’s a crime scene at the side of the road people slow down, they want to see. It’s natural to be fascinated by dark stuff, I think. I’m just really, really fascinated by it.

 

I suppose I am always looking for an answer for as to how people got to the stage that they’re at. Some of my — I hesitate to say ‘favorite’ murders, because that sounds like I have no compassion for the victims, but some of the murders that have most intrigued me that I have read about, I’ve been so fascinated when I’ve heard what has happened, how did that killer get to that stage? What happened to Ted Bundy in his childhood that made him do what he did? I’m just really interested in that.

 

I think it’s also a little bit primal as well, murder. Most people won’t admit, I have been so angry in my life sometimes that I could kill someone or I’ve wanted to kill someone, most people don’t say it, but I feel as though it’s true. Certainly I’m happy to say it, I’ve been angry enough, you know, at times, that I could kill someone, but I’ve obviously haven’t.

 

Valerie

When you wrote the first book, Hades, did you write it knowing that it was going to be a series, or did you write it as a standalone and then you thought, “Oh, this would be a good idea for a series afterwards?

 

Candice

No, no. I wrote four novels before Hades, for some reason I shied away from full on crime fiction. I had crime elements in — one was a fantasy and one was a paranormal and one was an action thriller. I sort of went, “I’m just going to bite the bullet and do crime.” I don’t know why I was resisting so much.

 

Valerie

Yeah, especially considering you’re obsessed with it.

Candice

Yeah, yeah. I don’t know, I don’t think I believed very much in my procedural knowledge, but when I started doing it was all right.

 

I had been struggling to get any attention from publishers across those four novels I had previously written. I had 200+ rejection letters.

 

Valerie

Wow.

 

Candice

I stopped counting them after 200, because I thought, “This is really depressing.” I knew some publishers, publishers knew me, only because I cried on the phone to them when they rejected me and this sort of thing. I was just going at it.

 

So, I didn’t believe at all that it would be published, so I didn’t want to waste my time with a sequel, but then again I did really like it and I wanted to submit it to publishers with the option for them to say, “Hey, I like this and it has potential for a series, I think I’ll take it.” So I left the end of it open in that way. It could be satisfying enough to finish it, but that door is just open a little bit.

 

Valerie

Have you thought of going back to those four other novels now? Or are you continuing on with the series?

 

Candice

No, I couldn’t go back. I have just finished book three of the Bennett Archer series, and that’s going to be out this December. I have to finish that off and write what I’m going to write this year.

 

I’m in an interesting time because the Bennett Archer series is going to the US this week, it’s in Hebrew, it’s in Spanish, it’s going to be out in Spanish, this sort of thing. So, it’s getting quite a lot of global attention. So I don’t know if people are going to be like, “We need more of these!”

 

So I’ve written three and that door is open a little bit at the end of three. But for this year I thought, “I want to show people…” I’m a new author, I’m the new kid on the block, I want to show people that I have other characters, within crime, because that’s my genre, but I want to show people that I have other settings and other crimes and other partnerships to explore. I’m really excited about the next partnership. But, if somebody comes along and says, “No, you need to be doing this,” I’ll have to turn back around, you know?

 

Valerie

You write crime thrillers and they can be complicated because you have to keep the pacing up, you have to keep the suspense up, you have to keep the reader engaged, I mean as you do with any book, obviously. Do you plot out your books, like so you know what’s happening by the end? Like, when you first start? Or do you start and then see what happens?

 

Candice

I never sort of get a big piece of paper and map it all out, as some writers do with little post it notes and things and highlighters. I can’t do that, it ruins the mystery for me, I suppose.

 

There was a writer, I can never remember his name, he said that it’s like you’re driving somewhere at night and you can just see as far as the headlights, and that’s as far as you need to see, really. And you can get all of the way there. So I sort of set out with a general idea of where I’m going. And sometimes unexpected things happen, but once I sort of go, “Oh, the killer is Jason Beck, and this is why he kills people…” once I have all of the main players on the board I sort of know what they’re going to do with each other.

 

When I wrote Hades I got to the final scene and I didn’t know who was going to come out of that alive, as I was writing it. So it was very exciting to write, because I was just putting it down as it was coming up in my mind.

 

Valerie

Wow.

 

Candice

But the rest of it had been sort of mapped out, at least mentally.

 

Valerie

I wonder what it’s like living in your head. Can you try your best anyway to describe what it’s like thinking about crime and murders all of the time? 

Candice

It can be quite awkward, it really can.

 

Valerie

That’s an unusual word, awkward.

Candice

I’m a little bit socially awkward anyway. People have to know me. I mean I suppose my friends would say I have sort of a black sense of humor. I’m always interested in the dark side of humor, but I just think about stuff all of the time.

 

I always give the example of my partner Tim and I were at a park La Perouse and these guys were flying those really big remote control helicopters and airplanes and I was like, “All right, can you kill someone with that?” I said, “I’m never going to see these guys again,” so I walked over and I was like, “OK, so if you flew that into someone’s head…” And they were telling me about all of these injuries that their friends have had. And this guy in the US had a helicopter one and he killed his son with it accidentally. You know, all of this sort of stuff. My mind turns around to that.

 

All of the books that I read in my spare are all sort of crime fiction or true crime. All of the TV series I watch are all true crime or crime fiction. So it’s just my lifestyle, I suppose.

 

Valerie
Do you ever just read about, you know, fluffy clouds? Or look at YouTube videos of kittens or something?

 

Candice

No — no! I really can’t stand it.

 

I said to Tim, we were deciding what TV series to watch next, and he said after the last one, which was quite grisly, he said I think I need a refresher of like a comedy TV series. I said, “Are people going to die in it or not?” If nobody’s dead by the end of episode 1 I’m kind of not that interested. I just think it’s the peak — I’ve gone straight to the peak of the human existence I think, which is people killing each other. And I just don’t have any time for, like, all of the stuff that goes on before that, all of the romance… I don’t know. Maybe I’m odd.

 

Valerie

What’s the most challenging thing about writing a book like Hades or Eden, where it is a little bit dark, but also it’s complex, because there’s a lot of things that need to make sense, they’re going to need explanation, and obviously they need to be written well as well. They are written well, they are written fantastically.

 

Candice

Thank you.

 

Valerie

What is the most challenging thing about writing a book like these?

 

Candice

I suppose it is, like you said, about keeping the plot tense and tight and thrilling. I wrote Hades with the general practice, I suppose, that at the end of every scene, because it jumps back and forth, and I thought at the end of every scene something needs to be clearly at stake, so readers are ending a chapter and they’re going, “Oh my god, I can’t believe…” “I can’t wait to see what happens next…” If you’re ending a chapter and it’s sort of like, “And then everything was fine for awhile,” they’re going to put the book down, because they aren’t really in particular stressed about what’s going to happen next. It’s about keeping people stressed. And so many readers have said to me, “Oh my god, I read this in ten hours. I didn’t even eat, I just read it straight.” And I suppose I didn’t realize how difficult it is to write like that until I came to Eden and I was ending parts and going, “What is at stake here?”

It’s also the twisty turn-y kind of trying to not reveal who the killer is, but hinting at it, and not being too obvious. I used to hate it when I was a teenager and I’d write creative pieces and I’d give them to my friends and a couple of pages in they’d be reading it and they would turn to me and go, “It’s this guy isn’t it?” I’d go, “Damn it. Stop that, don’t say that!” You know? “What gave it away? I was too obvious, so it’s a subtle game.

Valerie

Wow. Now you mentioned that your dad was a parole officer at a Sydney jail, and I understand that he worked there for 30 years. You had a long time of hearing stories from your dad.

Candice

Yeah.

Valerie

I understand also that back then they had their Christmas parties at the jail and you as a little kid were running around the jail.

Candice

Yeah, yeah!

Valerie

Tell me more about that.

Candice

Yeah, that’s weird. I’m certain that they don’t allow that anymore, but we’re talking about 20 years ago, you know? They would have, and I’m purposefully not saying which prison, because I think he likes his privacy. They would have a staff Christmas party, and mom loved it, because she loves prisons and criminals and that sort of thing, so we would rock up and they would have shut the whole prison down, obviously, it was at night, all of the prisoners were in their cells, and we’d have fruit cake and stuff that the inmates had prepared. Mom would be like, “Chew carefully, kids.” Trying to freak us out about it.

But then they’d open up the yard, the prison yard, and we could all run around out there. And they would take us on a little tour. I remember they took us on a tour of the mental ward or the forensic ward or whatever it was. You know, we were knocking on the glass and the inmates were on the other side like, “Hello.”

I’m sure they just don’t do that anymore.

Valerie

I’m sure.

Candice

But, I remember the workrooms and that sort of thing. And they would lock us all in a cell, all of the little kids, and we’d be, “Oh…” You know? “I’m a murderer.”

Valerie

Oh my god.

Candice

Yeah, very weird. You can count on your hands the amount of people that you have ever met that have been inside a prison.

Valerie

Yes.

Candice

I just used to go there every year. It was great. It was fabulous.

Valerie

Yeah, to meet Santa. That’s just nuts. 

Writing books like this, you’re talking about the most challenging, but what’s the most fun, what’s the most enjoyable part of it? 

Candice

I suppose going into everyone’s minds. I write from the killer’s perspective, or third person, and I have a look at Frank’s perspective and these sort of things. So I can kind of live all of these different lives, which is really interesting, because when I pick up the killer, I’m like, you know, really rooting for myself, “I’ve got to get away — I’ve got to get away with it.” You know? And I’m kind of on my own team, on that side. Then I drop them and I pick up Frank and I go, “I’ve got to catch him — I’ve got to catch him.” It’s like I’m playing this weird cat and mouse game in my mind.

Valerie

Yes.

Candice

It’s the freedom of being able to explore what interests me, because I am writing characters that perhaps resemble people that I don’t like, and then I’m thinking, “What am I going to do to you?” Or, “How am I going to depict you? And what’s going to end up happening to you?”

Or people that I do like I’m taking different aspects from people that I admire and sort of weaving them into characters, stitching in somebody’s way of talking and stitching in somebody else’s hair style. You build a little community of people who aren’t real. And you can get attached to them, you know? I’m very attached to the whole crew. I’m just going to have to leave them for the next book.

Then I’ve got a whole bunch of new people to meet. It’s wonderful.

Valerie

I was actually going to ask you what kind of research would have done for these books, but the reality is you’ve been living and breathing the research for so long, did you have to do extra research?

Candice

I did. I mean I didn’t know much about organ transplant when I started. But, it wasn’t difficult to find people who would talk to me about that. Once people hear that you’re writing a book that’s all they want to do. And people want to talk about themselves, I find. As much as they protest, people love talking about themselves.

 

Valerie

Absolutely.

Candice

Every now and then, like the research that I have to do is weird stuff that I come against, for example recently in book three I just had to find out what time Baywatch was on in Australia, like in the mid-90s, and I just went to the Facebook page and I just said, “Does anyone remember what channel and what time?” And it was actually less than a minute and I got somebody who was like, “Sundays, 7:30, Channel 7.” I was like, “Wow, this is better than Google.”

Valerie

You’ve written mainly from the point of view of Frank, who is Eden’s police partner, detective partner. When I first started reading it I thought, “Oh, how unusual. It’s from the point of view of this guy.” Obviously I’ve met you before, so this guy is so nothing at all like you. 

Candice

Oh really?

Valerie

It works really well. What did you have to do to get into the mind of a middle-aged male guy who doesn’t really look after himself so well? 

Candice

Some dude.

I suppose I’ve known a lot of guys who are like Frank. I was in the Navy, just for two years when I was a young lady and I’ve observed a lot of men who were sort of like that, kind of rough and tumble and just gripping their way through life one handle at a time. I’ve always gotten on with people who were like that, and particularly men who are like that, better than I do… the female experience is a bit of a foreign landscape to me. I go to bars and I see five women all dressed up for a hens night or something and they’re drinking white wine and they’re chatting away and this sort of stuff and I think, “What are you talking about? How do you all know each other? What is going on over there?” I don’t understand.

I don’t understand women very much. I understand myself, I guess, but do you know what I mean? I feel as though I understand men. So, it was just easier, it was easier. I mean I’ve done female characters before and they always come off sort of super-aggressive or super-feminine and kind of catty. And you’ll find Eden, in particular, is very aggressive and masculine and this sort of thing.

Valerie

And she would never be at a hens night chattering away.

Candice

No. I’m not sure I could authentically do those girlie-girls, you know?

Valerie

Tell us about your path to publication for Hades. You had 200 rejections of the other novels before, then Hades. Can you just sort of briefly tell us the key steps in getting Hades to publication?

Candice

I knocked on every door, every single door for all of the novels.

Valerie

Do you mean publishers or agents?

Candice

Publishers. I sort of felt as though it would be as hard to impress an agent as it would be to impress a publisher, and it was the few times that I tried it. I just thought I’ll be cheeky and I’ll go straight to the publishers. It was interesting because I ended up getting an agent eventually.

But, I just knocked on absolutely every door. I think the key was eventually to give up on a book. If I had knocked on every single door and everybody had said ‘no’ I would put it in a drawer and write another one, you know? And I just was determined to keep writing novels every year until one of them hit gold.

I didn’t see four novels as a failure, I just saw it as four practice novels before the real thing.

Valerie

You knocked on every door, what happened?

Candice

Well, it’s interesting because Hades was actually almost published in the UK by an independent publisher, and he was the first person, he was actually in the Isle of Man and he was the first person ever to have said ‘yes’ to anything I had ever written. I said, “Yeah, great, I’ll publish the book with you.” And then he had it for two years and then he was just fiddling around with it, I don’t know. We were waiting on a cover to be created for six months. Then he just said, “Look, I’ve run out of money.”

Valerie

My goodness.

Candice

I had really given up and so I said… I was writing a post-apocalyptic alien book at the time, just for fun. And I said to my boss at the university where I was working, I said, “You don’t know any people in publishing do you?” And she said, “You should try Gabbie Nayer,” because she helped her with her book. And then I sent it to Gabbie and she said, “I’ve seen a lot of crime around. I’ve had lots of experience in it. I’m kind of sick of it. It would really have to blow my socks off,” and all of this other discouraging stuff. She’s a bit of a hard case, she’s really good. And she said all of that and I said, “Oh, alright, well here’s hoping.” And three days later she called me and she was like, “We need to meet each other.”

It was great. It was so good. She’s such a good friend to me now.

Valerie

Hades won the Ned Kelly Award for best debut in 2014, which is fantastic.

Candice

Yeah.

Valerie

When you started writing Eden did you feel the pressure, “Oh my god, can I do it again?”

Candice

Yeah, for sure. I was telling people it’s like I threw a dart at a dartboard blindfolded and hit the bullseye and then people are saying, “All right, now do it again,” with no extra tries, you’ve just got to throw and do it again. It was very, very scary. And it’s such a relief that it’s done well and that people are loving it and it’s getting good reviews and everything, because, yeah, it was just terrifying.

I had about a quarter of the time that I had on Hades, I mean I wrote Hades over the space of about a year and a half, and then that publisher and I fiddled around with it for two years. Then they said, “OK, write us another one and give it to us by December.” So the time and the pressure was on. I was doing my PhD and just freaking out in general.

Yeah, very stressful. And being the new kid around I feel as though I’ve just been absolutely blessed and I don’t want to mess it up.

Valerie

You haven’t messed it up, they’re both fantastic books.

Candice

Thank you.

Valerie

What’s your advice then to people who are listening out there and they’ve had some rejections letters or they’re scared to put their work out there or even just to approach publishers, what’s your advice on what they should do? 

Candice

When I was one of those people I would really hate it when published authors would say, “Just keep on trucking, you’ll get there.” I would hate it, because I would just think, “You don’t understand me.” But there’s a certain amount of that in there.

Someone said, I don’t know who it was, I just get quotes that I like and I don’t care who said them. Somebody said, “If you can be persuaded to not be a writer then you should.” People just couldn’t persuade me that this pipe dream was never going to happen. I just had my heart set on it and I was just going to do it. So I just wrote a book a year.

I don’t think I heard anyone saying, “Put the book down if it’s failed.” But, that is my advice, if you’ve written it and you’ve edited it and it’s gone to every single door and every single door has remained shut, put it down and do something else, because I think people re-edit at that point and then the re-edit and they
re-edit and it’s like getting a painting and just keep painting over and over, it just gets muddy and cluggy, you know? The original thing is lost. You should just start fresh.

It’s like a relationship, every book is like a relationship. If it doesn’t work out don’t keep flogging the dead horse, go and find someone else, you know?

Valerie
And on that note, that’s brilliant advice, thank you so much for your time today, Candice.

Candice

Thank you very much for having me, it’s been a pleasure.

 


Comments