Tag Archives: Australian writers

Interview with Australian Crime Fiction Author, Vanessa Skye: Writing, Crime, and Australia

Today, I spoke with Australian author Vanessa Skye about the second book in her Enemy Inside series!  Broken, book two, is available this week. A crime and psychological drama, these books will have you on the edge of your seat! We talk about her inspiration, her advice for writers, and how challenging it was to go from writing as a journalist to creative writing. Take a peek, enjoy! But before you do, here is a Rafflecopter link for you to take part in a special giveaway! Stay tuned soon to the blog for a review and a guest post!

Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/YWY2YzM5YWI0MWE1NWIzOGZhNzVjMDg5MTliMGJkOjI5/

Hi, Vanessa! So glad to have you here on Oh, for the Hook of a Book!  I missed out on your first book, but I know the second book in your series is releasing this month! Broken is an intense crime thriller, how has all the momentum leading up to your launch been going?

Vanessa: Honestly, it’s snuck up on me a bit due to a personal tragedy that unfolded over January. I have to hope that the book, Broken, speaks for itself as I haven’t heart the heart to do much about the launch leading up to it. 

Erin: I’m very sorry to hear that! 😦 We’ll try to lighten your spirits a little with this interview, at least for a few moments.  You’re quite a bit of ahead of me in time there in Australia, but I’d love to make it for a cup of tea by the ocean. It won’t stop snowing here! Let’s settle in for a conversation.  But first here is the book cover for readers….

Broken cover

Q:  Can you talk about the inspiration for your books, The Enemy Inside and Broken, and some of the themes that they deal with?

A: The Enemy Inside all started with a dream about eight years ago that I kept having every night for about a year. In the dream I was writing the first chapter of a book. Every night, I would write this chapter over and over again in my dream and it annoyed me to the point where I decided to write it down just to get it out of my head! The rest of the book followed, quite by accident! After writing it, I didn’t feel that Berg’s story was done, so what started off being one book by accident will actually be three books, all up: The Enemy Inside, Broken, and Blood Lines. You can read Broken as a stand-alone book, but it contains spoilers for The Enemy Inside, so I would recommend reading them in order.

There are various themes in the books, everything from love and romance, to murder, psychopaths, justice, abuse, depression, addiction, and most importantly, healing. I also write interesting female characters, characters that may have been more traditionally male in the past.

Q:  How much psychological and/or crime research did you put into your novels prior to writing them?

A: When I wrote The Enemy Inside, it was by accident, so I had done no research whatsoever! So after the first draft was done, I had to study up on the American Criminal Justice System, criminal investigations, evidence collection and storage, autopsies, forensics, interrogation techniques, and much more. I then went back and added the detail and changed the storyline where necessary. All up, the research has taken more time than the writing itself, but it’s crime fiction and it has to be believable in the real world.

While I have studied psychology, I tried not to write each character via a ‘checklist’ of behaviors, as I wanted them to feel real and believable. The books are more about the triggers and tipping points that switch people from ‘normal’ to ‘something else’ and how they heal from that, if they can. It’s about people and their journeys, rather than their pathology.

Q:  What do you hope readers will take away from your book about any sociological issues, such as child abuse?  Do you feel you are speaking as if this is an international problem? What are some steps that can be taken to create more fair justice system?

A: I think justice is a very subjective thing, although many people feel that justice has been lost in the criminal justice system. Some people may read Broken and think that my main character and female detective, Berg, goes too far to get justice, and some may think she doesn’t go far enough. Berg is all about an ‘eye for an eye’, but her love interest, Jay, is far more forgiving and happy to work within the bounds of the law, even if that means that sometimes they don’t get the bad guy. Do you consider people like Dexter or Lisbeth Salander (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) to be villains? I personally don’t, but others will likely disagree with this. So I urge people to read Broken and judge if they consider Berg a hero or a villain for themselves.

Child abuse is a major problem in the world today and I find it devastating that we as humans don’t do more to protect the most vulnerable among us. Child abuse has far reaching consequences not only for the child, but society at large. 

Depression is also an issue that is close to my heart, having dealt with it my whole life. It’s important to me to be able to normalize this kind of mental illness and remove the stigma from it. There are people who suffer with issues like depression but don’t seek help because they are embarrassed, and they shouldn’t be.

Q:  What did you find the most interesting part of your research?

A: I just love to see how my characters will react to things. I have completely changed plotlines and taken the books in different directions just to stay true to my characters. I am fascinated by human behavior. The fact is that you can put two people in a room and have them watch the same sequence of events, and then each of them can react totally differently, and get something else entirely out of it. This is why eyewitness testimony is some of the most unreliable testimony you will ever have. You never know how people are going to react to something. I love it, people are awesome!

Q:  Is any part of your book based on true events or stories? Or is it all fictionalized?

A: It’s all fiction developed in my damaged imagination!

Q:  When you decided to work on your book, did you plan an outline or are you a writer who likes to write from free thought and research notes? What did you learn in the process that you might recommend to first-time writers?

A: The first thing new writers should know is that there is no RIGHT way of doing this. You have to do what works for you. Because The Enemy Inside was an accident I had no plan and no idea what I was doing. I went back over more than seven drafts and added and removed things, changed characters and plots and it ended up completely different to how to started. With Broken, I tried to have a nice plan and I even created a fantastic excel spreadsheet with chapter breakdowns (I love a good spreadsheet). Of course, when it came to the writing, that all went totally out the window. Because my characters are real to me (they even have their own playlists on my iPod), I let them take the lead and the story follows. This is really important because if you try to mould your characters to fit your plotline, you end up with a story that doesn’t come across as being authentic or real. Let you characters run free and see where they take you.

Q:  I read that you first received a degree in Journalism, and then you went into Public Relations, before quitting it all to write your books. This intrigued me as it sounded like my path too and I now have a freelance business and write my books (though the latter is slow). I love to ask those in the field who’ve made the transition what it was like for them to go from a journalistic type of writing into creative writing?

A: It was HARD! As you would know, the journalistic style of writing is very factual and bare bones, with the most important information at the top of the story. I had to re-learn to write, to write fiction. I had to become familiar with flowery descriptions, and ‘showing’ instead of ‘telling’. Even now, my first drafts are very bare, containing basic plotline only. In later drafts I go back in and add descriptions, locations, and adjectives. I have a very vivid imagination, but to get it out of my brain and onto paper is difficult for me. 

Stemming from that, also what skills do you feel your journalism background lent to your fiction writing?

A: Discipline. If you want to be a writer you have to treat it like any other job. You have to write even when you don’t feel ‘inspired’, and you have to stick to deadlines. If you wait for your muses, you will get nowhere. It’s the act of writing that spurs creativity.

Q:  Are you planning any more books for in the future? If so, what types of books? Will you ever write another genre?

A: I have two more books in the works, Blood Lines, the final book in the Edge of Darkness series, and I have written a paranormal romance called Koven, which I hope to get off to my publisher soon. Koven is the first book in a new series. Apart from that, I’d love to write fantasy one day. When I was little, that’s always what I pictured myself writing, I don’t know where the crime fiction came from!

Q:  What is the best thing you like about living in Australia? It sounds so wonderful and I’d love to visit one day. Can you give me a peek through words?

A: Everything, it’s like being on holidays all the time. As I’m typing this, the sky is azure blue outside and the there’s a cool breeze coming off the ocean cutting through the warm, summer air. The birds are chirping outside, the garden is green, and later I will take my girls for a swim. On the weekend we are planning a BBQ, and I might ride to Manly beach on my bike for some exercise, or go for a bushwalk. Australians are very laid back people, the food is fresh, it’s not too crowded, and it’s quiet here, which is perfect for an introvert like me. What’s not to love? I love visiting other places, but I only ever want to live here. Or maybe Hawaii. You could twist my arm on that one, I’m a beach girl (I’ve only even seen snow once in my life, but I believe you have a lot of it over there right now? Perhaps send me some please?)

Q:  Where can readers connect with you?

A: Come visit me on my blog: http://www.vanessa-skye.com, or on twitter @vanessaskye, or on my Facebook page: Vanessa Skye (author), I’d love to hear from you.

Broken-Large-Blog-Tour-Banner

Q:  Where should they go to purchase your books in the US, UK, and/or Australia?

A: Check out the TWCS website, amazon.com or amazon.co.uk, Kobo, Book Depository and Booktopia. The books are also on Goodreads, so please stop by and leave a review.

Erin: Thank you so much for your time with me today, Vanessa! It was lovely to speak to you! I am gathering up a nice list of women I’ve “met” who are past/present journalism/PR women who are now writing fiction! Makes me proud! Best wishes on all your ongoing writing.

Vanessa: Thank you so much for having me Erin, I’ve had a great time! Best of luck with your own writing endeavors, don’t give up. Yes, us ex-journos/hacks are pretty marvelous people. 🙂

Vanessa Skye, Biography~

Vanessa skyeVanessa Skye has always had a love of words and spent her school years writing poetry, speeches and fictional essays.  After completing a Bachelor of Arts in Print Journalism and studying Psychology at Charles Sturt University, Vanessa got a job at Australia’s largest publisher of regional and agricultural news and information, Rural Press, where she worked as a journalist in the Central West of NSW for four years.

Thousands of stories later, Vanessa decided to move back to Sydney and try her hand at public relations while studying a Master of Arts in Communication.

Skip forward a few years and Vanessa once again found herself joyfully studying various psychology subjects while managing a Sydney public relations firm. Enthralled with examining the motivations behind people’s actions, Vanessa realized what she really wanted to do in life was combine her love of words with her fascination for human behavior.

So Vanessa quit public relations to begin the significantly more impoverished life of a professional writer.

Inspired by a recurring dream, Vanessa wrote her crime fiction debut, The Enemy Inside, which challenges the concept of justice, asks if the need for vengeance sometimes justifies murder, and explores whether you can ever heal from childhood abuse. The second book in this series, Broken, soon followed. In her spare time, Vanessa wrote a short story, The Piece, which was published in February 2012 by Dark Prints Press as a part of the ‘One That Got Away’ dark fiction anthology.

Vanessa now works as a freelance writer, lives in Sydney’s northern beaches and tries to immerse herself in salt water at least once a day.

Broken, Synopsis~

Broken coverA Chicago mother is murdered in a robbery gone wrong…

A teenager is raped and beaten, her life hanging by a thread…

For Chicago Detective Alicia Raymond, a.k.a Berg, the need for justice burns deep and fills the emptiness when therapy and relationships fall short. And while Berg wages a life or death battle against a sociopath who is always two steps ahead, an old adversary will stop at nothing to end her career.

As Berg fights to prevent another murder, she will cross the line between hero and villain—and there’s no turning back.

Broken follows the series debut, The Enemy Inside and is available this month, February 2014.

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The Raven’s Heart by Jesse Blackadder an Amazing Family Legend of Intrigue, Drama, Loss, and Gain

The Raven's HeartThe Raven’s Heart, by Jesse Blackadder, was set in the 16th Century at the time of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland’s return from France to her Scottish throne after the death of her French husband. Scotland, ruled by regents during her time in France, is cold, despairing and void of life.

The novel surrounds the Blackadder family who had lost its claim on their beloved lands and castle along the vibrant, flowing Blackadder River.  The remaining heirs have been hunted down and killed for years by the Hume family, the castle’s new owners. Alison, the main character and 16-year-old daughter of would-be heir, William, are hiding in plain sight.  Alison has been raised by another family disguised as a boy, Robert, her entire life.

Now, after meeting the Queen first dressed as Robert, she is sent to the Queen as Alison in hopes of making a friendship and asking for a favor of having Blackadder Castle restored to her family. What ensues is more than she had imagined and she finds herself fighting for her life at every turn, while also learning who she is and who she wants to be.

It was such a phenomenal read that it’s a book that will haunt my soul for a longtime into the future. It’s now on my list as one of the best books I read all year, as I longed to read it during times I had to put it down and when I picked it up again got lost in it during both the day and night.

The book twists and turns with fervor creating angst in the reader as much as the characters. Clutching my chest at times, I was compelled to advise Alison in her lonely pursuit of favor with the Queen in order to win back the castle her family had lost a generation before. 

Have you, or someone you know, ever wanted anything so badly that you would give completely of yourself to have it? Though in this day and age we don’t long to always restore our honor, or reclaim family property, I think we all can understand what it’s like to have something taken from us. And probably we all can relate to succumbing to material goods as a way to define our lives.  In the 16th century, when times were very harsh, people had only their honor and their family property. Their whole identity, and that of their children, depended on this ownership and reputation.

The descriptions by Blackadder made me feel as if I was in the surroundings of the story myself. Though I could generally picture the scenes in my head, it was actually more like I could FEEL them. Her writing used all my senses and plucked at my emotions.  The prose carried me along with ease and enveloped me. Whether I was rocking over the waves of the sea on a boat, feeling the stone ice-cold in the lower regions of the castles, or being scorched by the hot heat from a raging fire set in the Queen’s bedchamber, it was Blackadder’s style of writing and word choice that lends to me being immersed in the story.

Blackadder’s creation of Alison was finely crafted, with each calculated movement and precise action.  However, in the moments Alison’s character ‘let go’ and felt true emotions I could feel her anxious release, was on edge for every emotion that she felt, sensed and understood her loneliness and confusion, and even felt loss when Alison was had to be unemotional. The rollercoaster ride of emotions from characters in this book are not unlike most I might have felt from characters created from these time periods, which lent to anyone and everyone losing their head very easily!  However, something about the way Blackadder presented Alison made me feel sympathetic to her at times while also wanting to scream at her to feel more at other times, even when I knew that in her life she couldn’t risk the chance of one wrong breath or facial expression.

Though actions in this book are sometimes vile, they are true to the time period and watered down more than many other books I have read. Fact is, this time period was rude and violent in both actions of torture, treatment, and sexual perversion. People’s actions were atrocious. I could feel the author’s disdain for the actions and felt the fear she wrote into her characters as well as how her characters learned to “put up walls” so to speak, show no emotion (as to giveaway any feelings that might make them lose their heads), and keep moving minute to minute in the fast-paced drama life was at that time. I don’t even know how anyone slept back then!

I felt she painted a more personal picture of Mary, Queen of Scots, as well. Leaning on her emotional side and showcasing her in way most historians might not. She was a woman in a man’s world who needed to be extra strong to gain respect, but also was selfish and lonely and demanded the attention of others the only way monarchs sometimes know how. Blackadder painted a gentler side of this woman and how she managed to make everyone around her love her with loyalty, how forgiving she actually was for varying ends, and it really propelled the story and made Alison’s character come to life.

By the end of the book, I felt Blackadder as an author helped her characters come to grips with all the hidden emotional turmoil and to be able to find some peace. I could tell she asked some of the same questions as an author as I do as a reader of literature and facts from this time period. For instance, how do they treat others so badly without the blink of an eye? How do they watch the torture? Manipulate others for their own gain? With her cast of characters, she truly tried to answer  some of these questions and offer reasoning as to why it’s all so unnecessary.

I enjoyed for the most part how she wrapped up the story at the end, though I was overcome with grief and used a whole box of tissues. It all comes down to the question of if material goods or structures are worth so much death and drama or if we as human beings can find love and peace within ourselves? Finding that eternal peace and happiness is something no one can put a price on.

I really enjoyed how Jesse Blackadder took something from her family history, traveled and researched the story, and then wrote how it might have happened.  I’m glad she took us all along on this ride of words. It’s a fabulous woven tale of how truth can become legend.

She’s an amazing new writer that will continue to make a splash on the international scene. Her writing is phenomenally good and I can’t wait to read her next book. She had me hooked from the very start with her dramatic writing.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Publication Date: September 11, 2011 | Bywater Books | 464p

SYNOPSIS: Scotland, 1561, and a ship comes across the North Sea carrying home Mary, the young, charismatic Queen of Scots, returning after thirteen years in the French court to wrest back control of her throne.

The Blackadder family has long-awaited for the Queen’s return to bring them justice. Alison Blackadder, disguised as a boy from childhood to protect her from the murderous clan that stole their lands, must learn to be a lady-in-waiting to the Queen, building a web of dependence and reward.

Just as the Queen can trust nobody, Alison discovers lies, danger, and treachery at every turn.

This sweeping, imaginative, and original tale of political intrigue, misplaced loyalty, secret passion, and implacable revenge is based on real characters and events from the reign of Mary Queen of Scots.

“The Raven’s Heart” is a breathtaking epic from a bold, fresh voice. Winner of the Varuna HarperCollins Manuscript Development Award, “The Raven’s Heart” was published in Australia in 2011.

View the book trailer HERE.

GIVEAWAY!

Enter to win a copy of this book just by commenting below on my blog! Be sure to leave your email there, or email me at hookofabook@hotmail.com!  This contest is open internationally!! A great book to add to your collection or give as a gift!

Enter now through 11:59 p.m. EST on Dec. 17!  Winner will be randomly drawn on Dec. 18 and contacted via email.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR, JESSE BLACKADDER

Jesse BlackadderBorn in Sydney, Jesse now lives near Byron Bay. She is an award-winning short-story writer and freelance journalist, fascinated by landscapes and belonging. Her first novel was After the Party (2005), which was voted onto the Australian Book Review’s list of all time favourite Australian novels in February 2010. She is writing her next novel about the first woman to reach Antarctica.

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Note:  I was sent a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review. Opinions are my own.

 

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