Katherine reflects that whilst some crime novels leave the setting vague and anonymous, she herself finds it important to locate the scene somewhere familiar. “I have read crime novels that are set in no distinctive place, so you could say to yourself, ‘Well, this is London…’ ‘This is in Sydney…’ ‘This is in New York…’ You don’t really know. So, I guess they’re thinking – either their focus is just on a story, or they are thinking about appealing to a wider audience.
“Other people say to me, ‘Why didn’t you set it in the States? You could have a wider readership’. I know nothing about the States, I couldn’t do it realistically, and I would have had to go down that path of being so bland and non-specific that it could have been set anywhere.”
She says that the setting plays an important part on how characters react and behave. “This is where these characters are. As paramedics and policeman you’re out on the roads and on the streets, all the time, and you’re affected by the weather and that sort of thing. That, for me, is where setting comes in too. So, there was never a question of where I would set them, because Sydney is a place that I had worked as a paramedic.
“So, it made sense to me that here’s a city where you can have a lot of murders happening, as opposed to some other small rural areas where I’ve worked, you couldn’t sort of pull it off there. Then the city also gives you scope to use different areas, so you’ve got the inner-city and the harbour-side, and then the suburbs as well.”
KATHERINE’S TIP: GET TO KNOW YOUR GENRE
“Read a lot, it’s really important to be familiar with your genre. But, also read outside it, because then you see things, like how authors use voice and build their characters and that sort of thing, how they’re keeping you absorbed. So, it’s active reading, I guess. Because when I read a crime novel I think, ‘OK, where is this going? How are they making me feel this for the characters? How are they putting in their clues and building the whole thing?’ This kind of changes the experience of reading forever, but that’s just how it is, because I can’t turn that off now when I read, I’m always pulling stories to bits.”
Listen to the Australian Writers’ Centre’s spine-tingling Murder and Mayhem podcast here.