Thursday, December 6, 2012

Next Big Thing

Well it's BIG, being that it's tipping the scales at over 120,000 words at the moment and it is the next thing.

This post is part of a meme of writers tagging other writers to talk about their next project. At the bottom of the post there are links to other writers' pages where you can discover what their next big things are going to be - a sort of virtuous circle

1) What is the working title of your next book?

Book 2. 

Not because I don’t secretly have a title for it (I have a list and one in particular that I love). However I know that the one I love probably won’t be the title that goes on the cover. My titles are always a little too idiosyncratic, or tangential to make it through title production meetings (Exhibit 1: the name of this blog is the name of my first book, only it wasn't - see what I mean?). So this time, I think I’ll just  offer a list of possibles, wait and see what comes out at the other end.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

I want to write a series of crime novels that chart what happened to us here in Australia during the 1990s. A lot changed during this time. Police wise, there was the Wood Royal Commission in New South Wales that started half way through the 90s and blew up the force. It was still detonating landmines into the early 2000s. 

In federal politics there was a change of government and as Paul Keating said at the time, when you change the government, you change the country. The change of government precipitated the rise of One Nation and a sanctioning of language and attitudes towards race that I think led all the way to the Cronulla riots.

So Book 2 was always going to be a book that continued on from where The Old School left off. And as my main character, Nhu “Ned” Kelly finishes that first book in pretty rough shape, I wanted this one to address a realistically slow healing process for her. And frankly, it's been a tough place to dwell.

A surprising number of people wanted to know if I was going to “send her to Vietnam” to get in touch with her “roots.” I never had any plans to do that. Instead, I’ve sent her to Cabramatta in the first months of 1993, to get in touch with the newly established Australian-Vietnamese community here.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

It’s crime. Police procedural with a social history twist.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Ha! In The Old School the main character of Ned Kelly is an Australian-Vietnamese woman in her early twenties. It says a bit about casting on mainstream TV that no name springs readily to mind to play her, doesn't it? 

So, I like to think that she’s a blank slate waiting to be filled by an actress that no one knows yet but who everyone will know after they’ve seen her playing Detective Ned Kelly. The same goes for Marcus Jarrett. A role for a 30 something Aboriginal actor who isn’t Aaron Pedersen or Wayne Blair (not because they aren’t any good, they are, but because I want to see the next generation of Aarons and Waynes given a big breakthrough role).

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Sometimes asking who did it, isn’t the right question.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

My agent is the ever-patient and ever-optimistic Sophie Hamley of Camerons Management and she secured a two book contract with Penguin. They are tough loving the drafts through to publication as we speak.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

About a year. More if I count the thinking about it. Then another year on the second draft, which also included lots of thinking time. Quicker turnaround on the third draft. Waiting for that to come back now.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Oh, the chance to be delusional!
I’ve recently read Attica Locke’s The Cutting Season. It’s so very, very good - it it is what I *aspire* my book to be. A slow paced character driven crime story that unwraps crimes greater than those under investigation. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, by Tom Franklin, set in Mississippi in the 1980s is another character driven social history expose that I admire enormously. In writing crime that also acts as an investigation into social history I'm inspired by the work of Mala Nunn, who dissects the establishment of apartheid in 1950s South Africa and David Whish-Wilson, who is accounting for the dirty secrets of Perth and Western Australia in the 1970s.
Read them.
Also, this time I have tried to do something technically similar to The Laughing Policeman, by Sjöwall and Wahlöö in that I want to have one last big reveal as close to the final lines of the book as possible.

I invite you to check out these writers for their next big things:

(Watch this space - more to follow)


  1. Sounds like Book 2 will be fantastic Pam and my impatience will be amply rewarded :)

    I have read 3 of your other suggested authors and loved them all so I'd best be heading out to read Ms Locke...while I wait for someone to finish editing Book 2 :)

    1. Thanks Bernadette! Such a slack blogger, only discovering comments now.

      I hope you enjoyed Attica Locke. The American equivalent to Malla Nunn. I too hope everyone's patience is rewarded by Book 2 ........ I swear, only editors encourage people to run with scissors, as in run with scissors through all your words, slashing, slicing and cutting.

  2. Great to get some insights into your next big thing, Pam. I am very much looking forward to hanging out with Nhu in Cabramatta.

    As you know, I am also interested in that period of change in Australia's history, though I write about the view from outside the country: in Thailand in the 1990s, people thought Pauline Hanson was the Prime Minister of Australia because she got all the airplay. Makes one shudder.

    Speaking of One Nation, Cronulla, and now the ghastly Frankston bus incident on Remembrance Day this year, have you discover Pat Grant's extraordinary graphic novel Blue yet? I can't recommend it highly enough.

    1. Thanks Angela, no haven't discovered Blue yet, But sounds good. The 90s were a time of change for Australia, not for the better I think. We are still dealing with the hatereds today.

  3. Hi Pam, I saw a link to this blog post on twitter and am so glad I've found your blog. I love reading about processes and new projects so before I follow those links you give to other authors, just wanted to say hi and thank you. Also I love the name of your detective, also that she's female and Vietnamese-Australian. There should be more contemporary characters like her written, it's coming I think. My daughter is Turkish-Australian and needs to be able to read about other bi-cultural kids. So while I don't read detective fiction these days (now I'm wondering why is that??) I intend to read yours. Good luck with the second book. All the best,
    Jenny Ackland

    1. Thanks Melba.

      So sorry my reply is so slow. Yes, I want to see more faces that match the faces I see everyday on the train, on the streets, in my workplaces, and for the kids of those faces to see themselves in our culture. TV makes one despair but in our novels we have the power to cast who we want.

      Glad you like Ned's name ... I wanted to reclaim that story for women and for multiracial Australia!

      If you are looking for good crime fiction that deals with race and not slasher horror serial killer rubbish - I can recommend Angela Savage who commented in this link, Malla Nunn, whose books are set in 1950s South Africa, and Attica Locke, who delves into America's racial wounds. You won't be disappointed.

  4. Hi Pam, I enjoyed The Old School and thought your descriptions of the locations and times were spot on. I grew up around Bankstown in the 60/70s and worked in the area during the 70s/80s/90s in the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES - aka the dole office. I remember when the first Vietnamese refugees started coming in the later 70s and how we mashed the pronunciation of Nguyen, making it into "Nu-guy-en". I cringe with embarrassed shame now. I also remember how scary-tough some of the Vietnamese men were who had been South Vietnamese officers. Coincidently I worked in Cabramatta CES for part of the 90s, and so I look forward to Book 2. The smells and atmosphere in the THK(?) supermarket and some of the back lane arcades was like suddenly stepping through a portal between the Sydney suburbs and some Asian marketplace. I remember taking research delegations from the then just emerging ex-Soviet union countries like Kazakhstan through those arcades to demonstrate just how multicultural Australia had become. I once lost half a delegation because they had pulled up in front of a Vietnamese butcher shop amazed and spellbound. We were their first information tour just off the plane. Their interpreter explained they had never seen so much meat and fish produce displayed for sale before. So you can see that your first novel evoked lots of memories, and I'm confident that Book 2 will so the same.


    Paul Mitchell

    1. Thanks for sharing those memories, Paul. Love that image of Kazakhstani delegates saucer-eyed at all this amazing food. Apologies for the time lag in getting this comment up - I've been having random internet access and this one slipped through the net.

      I do remember the market - BHK? - and the open air greengrocers and fishmongers. It was like stepping off the plane into Asia, that rush of spicy air was transporting. Fish sauce will do that! Still a buzz.

      I'm glad the first book brought back such vivid memories for you of those times, and I hope the next one will as well. You'll find the cops of 1993 Cabra have similar difficulties with Vietnamese naming protocols.