Candice Fox is the daughter of a parole officer and an enthusiastic foster-carer, her crime novels Hades and Eden have both won the Ned Kelly Award, making her only the second author to win the award back-to-back. She also wrote Fall and has recently written the James Patterson novel, Never Never. She is also a presenter at the Australian Writers’ Centre.
Some crime writers are a product of their own childhood, perhaps growing up in their own environment of murder and mayhem. Candice Fox talks about how both her mother’s fostering and father’s job as a parole officer has shaped her fascination with the act of murder.
“As a little kid I was just growing up in this environment where I learnt that crime and murder and mayhem are just a part of the world.
“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.”
Use the real world
For Candice, the world was a scary place, but she used that in her writing. “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 traumatised.”
Her father’s job meant that dinner time was full of enthralling and sometimes terrifying stories. “My father who was the parole officer at a Sydney prison 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.”
The human experience
But it’s Candice’s fascination with human behaviour that spurs her on. “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 ‘favourite’ 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 the 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.”
Candice believes that all of us have experienced the desire to murder, even if we don’t admit it. “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 that, you know, at times, I could kill someone, but I’ve obviously haven’t.”
Know when to stop tinkering. “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 it’s like getting a painting and just painting over and over, it just gets muddy and cluggy, you know? The original thing is lost. You should just start fresh.”
Listen to the Australian Writers’ Centre’s spine-tingling Murder and Mayhem podcast here.