Marele Day is an Australian author known for mystery novels like The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender and Lambs of God. She has won the Shamus Award for her first Claudia Valentine novel and the Ned Kelly Award for her non-fiction book, How to Write Crime.
Marele Day says she has always been a writer. Even as a child, she felt the strength of the written word. “I have to say that I was always strongly aware of the power of language. When I was about three, for example, my aunt was getting divorced and the word was spoken in such hushed tones I felt that it had such power that if you said it out aloud that something might explode. So I was always aware of the strength and power of language.
“But I didn’t start writing. I had no conscious desire to do it. I was even actually writing before I realised that was what was happening. It had to do with travel and, instead of taking photographs of places, I’d write a little something because perhaps I felt that taking photographs was intrusive.
“I do remember my very first line of what I think is probably writing: ‘Spring dotting the grass like Claude Monet.’ That was an observation that I must have made somewhere. It sort of popped out and I thought, ‘Well I wouldn’t actually say that so this must be writing.’ But it very much started with doodling and little poems and little descriptive pieces.”
From poetry to plotting
So how did Marele get into writing crime fiction? “When I first decided to write crime fiction it was not the crime so much as that sense of place that’s depicted in crime fiction [that inspired me]. I wanted to write a novel about Sydney and I wanted to practise writing plot because most of my experience had been with poetry. It seemed that a crime novel would kill these two birds with one stone.”
Marele didn’t always know where she was going with her story. “I think I was winging it a lot. I became far more precise with the detail in the crime research. I obviously didn’t go out and murder someone myself.”
Marele’s tip: Prioritise and sit down!
“Sit down and do it. I know that sounds trite but stay seated. Stay seated for as long as it takes. I think what you need to do is to prioritise it because I know myself too you will willingly do enough other things and just procrastinate.
“The writer is the only person who can write this book. Everything else in your life can be taken care of by others in a sense. Even if you die, let’s go to an extreme. Other people can look after your family but no one can write this book. So you need to prioritise it and see that it’s important. Sit down and give it the time for as long as it takes.”
Listen to the Australian Writers’ Centre’s spine-tingling Murder and Mayhem podcast here.