Tag Archives: crime

Interview: Rowena Cory Daniells

Rowena Cory Daniells’ latest book, The Price of Fame, has just been released through Clan Destine Press. Set in St Kilda in both the 1980s and the present day, it’s a paranormal crime thriller, engaging both music and painting in the unravelling of the murder mystery.

The storytelling is vivid, the characters strong and the distinctive sense of place combines with a slow-building creepiness to make The Price of Fame a compelling read. And it contains so many of my favourite things: Melbourne, mystery and rock and roll!

To celebrate the release of the book, I asked RC Daniells a few questions about the book, music and art.

Q: The Price of Fame is set in St Kilda: what relationship do you have with that town?

When I moved to Melbourne at the age of eighteen, I ended up living in St Kilda and stayed there (in several different flats) for the next twelve years. I loved Acland Street with its continental cake shops. I used to wander along the Esplanade to look at the craft markets and I used to go for early morning jogs through the Blessington Street Gardens.

Q: The Price of Fame combines crime, the paranormal and rock music. What do you think makes those three concepts go together?

Perhaps I’m weird but to me this seems perfectly normal. We lived in a grand old mansion that had been turned into flats. Below us were the members of a punk rock band who would practise all hours of the night and have noisy fights. One of our friends was a taxi driver who used to pick up street kids and try to help them. I was reading a lot of SF, fantasy and horror. It seemed only natural to combine all these elements. I wrote the early narrative thread of the novel when I was twenty-three, then added the contemporary thread more recently.

I should say here that the people in this book are invention. Like Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, they are an amalgamation of lots of people, fused together to drive a narrative.

Rowena and Lindy Cameron
Rowena (right) and Clan Destine publisher Lindy Cameron

Q: What music influenced the book?

Suffering through nights of trying to sleep while the band rehearsed. Someone told me they were The Boys Next Door (later known as The Birthday Party). I don’t know if they were, but I do know they were doing the whole Punk Rock thing. There was a vibrant music scene happening in Melbourne at the time. My husband Daryl was going to hotels like The Prince of Wales where bands like The Models, The Ears, Midnight Oil and Men at Work were playing.  He says if you want to get a feel for what it was like, watch the movie Dogs in Space, directed by Richard Lowenstein, staring Michael Hutchence.

Q: Does music influence your writing generally?

I’ve done some surveys with writers on this topic and I’ve found about 75% of writers are music oriented. They’ll play certain songs to get them in the mood for certain books, even make up a play list to listen to. Music is powerful. It goes straight to the hind-brain and draws on our emotions so it’s not surprising authors use it to help them find the ‘zone’ when they’re writing.

The proportion of writers who are visually based is much smaller. I’m one of the visuals. I can go to the art gallery and come out feeling like I’ve reached a zen state. I dream vividly in full colour (sometimes with a sound track, sometimes with people singing in rhyme. The night zombies did a 1940s song and dance routine down the street was pretty amazing). But I’m not a writer who will make up a play list for my books.

Q: Do you have favourite music to listen to while you write, or do you prefer to write in silence?

Looks like I’ve answered this one. When I was illustrating, (I used to illustrate children’s books and I painted super-realist), I would play classical music. But when I write I don’t seek out music. If something is playing in the background with lyrics, I find the words get in the way of what I’m writing.

Q: What artists do you find most interesting/stimulating or are just your favourite? 

Ahh, artists. You can hear me drawing a big breath. There are so many, I’m sure to forget a few.

There’s George de la Tour (1592, 1652), who did amazing things with light. He brings the intimacy of a life lived by candle light to us five hundred years later.

There’s Joseph Leyendecker, who was a homosexual immigrant to the US, yet he shaped the way US citizens thought of themselves and created the ‘look’ for a generation. You’ll recognise his work from the many Post covers and advertisements he did.

There’s the Pre-Raphaelites who reacted against the establishment until they became establishment. Their woman are beautiful, romantic and haunted. (I’ve blogged about them here).

There’s Maxfield Parrish with his saturated colours and idyllic settings.

I’ve blogged about Art Nouveau and Art Deco in the past because both these styles inspire me.

Sigh. Just writing about them makes me happy.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, iPhone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

GaryView: The Blood Countess by Tara Moss

Gary and LissaLissa: Given your usual misgivings about how vampire books are nothing like actual vampires, what’s the verdict

Gary: It was okay.

Lissa: I really liked Pandora English. She’s smart, capable, funny and I liked that she wanted to be an investigative journalist, not just write fluff pieces about fashion. Her Aunt Celia was a good character, and I liked her friendly Civil War ghost. Luke was a sweetie.

Gary: The ghost was okay.

Lissa: It was pretty funny in parts, and the mystery was good. It’s that Hitchcockian theory of suspense, when you know more that the protagonist.

Gary: I suppose that was okay.

Lissa: The writing style flowed really nicely too. It was fun and easy to read, which I like sometimes.

Gary: It was a fast read, yes.

Lissa: …You didn’t really like it, did you?

Gary: It was fine, for a light read. I did like the writing style, really. It’s very cinematic. It’s easy to see how it would look as a film.

Lissa: What didn’t you like about it?

Gary: I didn’t not like it. It just… had a lot in it about clothes. And shoes. What’s a Mary Jane shoe anyway?

Lissa: Sort of like what I’m wearing now, but with a chunkier heel.

Gary: And that’s what Pandora was excited about?

Lissa: Mary Janes are comfortable but still pretty.

Gary: …oooookay.

Lissa: Actually, the scenes with the vintage fashion dress-ups were some of my favourites! It would be nice to have an exotic former designer of a great-aunt giving me tips and nice shoes to make my way in New York.

Gary: You would?

Lissa: Yeah. That Chanel outfit sounded nice. The black pants suit.

Gary: I didn’t think you were very interested in clothes.

Lissa: I’m not obsessive about them…

Gary: Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Lissa: What do you mean?

Gary: I mean that I didn’t think you were into shoes and stuff that much.

Lissa: Why?

Gary: Well…

Lissa: Just because I don’t go on and on about fashion, it doesn’t mean I don’t like nice things.  I like nice clothes. I have my own style.

Gary: (nods vigorously, like he’s understood) Yes. Your librarian style.

Lisa: What’s that supposed to mean?

Gary: (uncertain) Ah….

Lissa: Sartorial criticism coming from a man who wears the Hawaiian shirts his mother bought for him in a job lot at a fire sale in the early 80s isn’t really my idea of expert comment.

Gary: I’ve said something wrong and I don’t know what it is.

Lissa: What does ‘librarian style’ even mean?

Gary: I just meant… you’re a librarian and… that’s how… you dress…? Should I have said Lissa style? You dress like you. Is that… how is that a bad thing?

Lissa: It’s…ah… not.

Gary: Would it help if I said sorry?

Lissa: You don’t know what you’re apologising for, do you?

Gary: … no…

Lissa: (sighs) Don’t worry. It’s nothing. It’s just… someone at work yesterday said I dressed like a hippy.

Gary: I knew hippies at uni in the 1960s. You don’t dress like them. Anyway, I like what you wear. I like the colours.

Lissa: You don’t think it’s too… old fashioned?

Gary: I think you look nice.

Lissa: Oh. Well. Thank you.

Gary: You’re welcome. (pause) What’s wrong with my Hawaiian shirts?

*For newcomers, the GaryView is a review of books/films/TV/entertainment carried out as a conversation between Lissa Wilson (librarian) and Gary Hooper (vampire) , characters from my book ‘The Opposite of Life’. Visit my website for more information.