MURDER EP 19 Crime writer and psychologist Leah Giarratano

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leah-giarratanoLeah Giarratano is a clinical psychologist and author who specialises in psychological trauma and sex offences, which feature in her novels Vodka Doesn’t Freeze and her recent Disharmony series including The Telling, The Laeduin and Immortal Combat.

Leah talks the plotting process and the dichotomy between understanding your characters and forming a plot. “The plotting is the hardest for me. I know some writers who say the plot comes easily, it’s the characters that are hard – and I’m the opposite. For me, the characters become so real and I really understand them. Whether their back story is in there or not, I know what they are thinking and how they would react so they can stay consistent throughout the novel.

“But the plot is hardest for me – getting a plot. I know the content of what is going to be in the book. I know the crimes that are going to be in the book. Is it going to be a whodunit? Are we going to know the killer at the beginning and it’s now going to be a chase?

“Those kinds of things are harder because I’m doing a whodunit at the moment and so we can never be inside the villain’s head. I really love writing from the villain’s perspective. Being the offender in the book is really fun for me. But in the book I’m writing at the moment, I can’t be. We have to keep him hidden and how to do that is always a challenge.”

LETTING YOUR STORY EVOLVEleahgiarratano_immortalcombat

Changes occur during the writing itself. “I do try to plot from the beginning but I inevitably find that almost all of that gets changed halfway through. I don’t scrap scenes. It’s just that my characters take me some other way and I start to realise something and it hits me. It can be scary and it’s a bit like having a tiger by the tail trying to rein it in and control where it’s going. But I just keep going and keep working and keep plotting as I go.”

leahgiarratano_vodkadoesntfreezeLEAH’S TIP:


“I think that the most valuable thing for me is I read a book called The Right to Write. It might not be the best book for everybody but for me it was all about the inner critic and how to turn that off. When I’m writing … if that inner critic starts to come in that’s when I really get constipated I guess. That doesn’t happen to me very often because I use some of the techniques that they suggest to turn off the critic.”

Listen to the Australian Writers’ Centre’s spine-tingling Murder and Mayhem podcast here.