author of A Donation of Murder
Six Sharp Questions
1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?
Thank you! A Donation of Murder is the fifth book in my Dody McCleland historical mystery series. Dody is a female autopsy surgeon who faces not only the challenges of a demanding career, but a demanding career that in the Edwardian area was not considered suitable for a woman.
In this book, she and her lover Chief Inspector Matthew Pike solve the mystery behind the near death of a woman who ‘comes back to life’ on Dody’s autopsy slab.
This book was tremendously fun to research. For example I learnt that one of the most successful criminal gangs in London, a gang that wreaked havoc upon the city for about one hundred and fifty years was actually a female-only gang – which marries in well with the feminine focus of my books. Above all though, this book is a turning point in my series as it is set within the eve of a new era, the First World War. With the new era comes an important shift in the relationship between Dody and Pike – but you’ll have to read the book to find out what that’s about!
2. Time passes. Things change. What are the best moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?
Undoubtedly the birth of my third grandson, Charlie, born two months ago.
3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.
Indeed I do, John Donne’s poem For Whom the Bell Tolls, extolling the inter-connectivity of the human race – particularly appropriate for these troubling times.
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.
I write in bed, early in the morning. Once my back starts to protest I slither to the desk, also in my bedroom. I remain in my PJs until about lunch time and from then I have a relatively normal afternoon – doing chores and exercising. I tend to get brain fog when I’m immersed in a book and can be very forgetful. I also get grumpy when the phone rings during my writing time. My friends know to leave me alone in the morning.
5. Some writers claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. How does the marketplace affect your writing?
I write what I want to write. It was sheer luck rather than good planning that my Edwardian series came out at about the same time as the Downton Abbey TV series.
6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?
That’s quite a hard one as I don’t have any adolescents in my life at the moment. I remember the kinds of books that influenced me and my children, but these days they’d probably be considered old hat. I guess a lot depends on the ages and sex of the kids involved. The books would have to be chosen for them individually where possible, and focus on topics of interest.
For example, a kid who was interested in footy but had limited reading skills might enjoy a humorous book like The Killer Boots by Wendy Jenkins.
A more intense book that some of the kids might relate to would be Remembered by Heart, an anthology of Indigenous Writing. Sally Morgan who wrote the foreword said: ‘These stories are powerful: sharing pain, humour, grief, hope and pride. Pride in family, community and survival. Pride in being Aboriginal.’
There’s also a fantastic range of books by Kate McCaffrey that deal with an assortment of adolescent problems often facing girls. Destroying Avalon is a fine example.
Despite their reading difficulties it would be important that books are not chosen that are too juvenile. Certain books that might appeal could be read to the children and discussed. Books that have been made into recent films might fit the bill because they can be easily visualised. Such books might include The Lord of the Rings and The Hunger Games, exciting tales that would help broaden a child’s perspective, stimulate the imagination and help them to feel connected with pop culture.
That’s my five. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to brush the surface of this very interesting topic.
Thank you for playing, Felicity!
A Donation of Murder
Dr Dody McCleland Mysteries
The fifth in the Dr Dody McCleland series - Agatha Christie meets Phryne Fisher.
Forensic doctor Dody McCleland is horrified when the seemingly dead body of a well-dressed woman she has just sliced with her scalpel bolts upright with a howl. Dody has heard of bodies frozen into a false death before but never come face to face with the phenomenon. She feels a terrible debt - and a strange connection - to this woman, discovered incongruously near the notorious Anchor and Whistle public house. Yet Dody is puzzled: how did such a woman of such means and intelligence come to be left for dead in the icy cold of this ...