author of Olmec Obituary
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
Growing up we moved around a fair bit, so I’ve lived on a dusty sheep farm, in a glittering city and amidst a beachside rainforest. The most honest answer I can give, though, is I was raised and schooled between the shelves of numerous libraries.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At twelve I wanted to be a palaeontologist or archaeologist; I was obsessed with history and prehistory.
At eighteen I envisioned being the head of a school of archaeology or biological anthropology in a quiet little university somewhere; it was my idea of order and peace in a painful and chaotic world.
By thirty I wanted to become someone who helped others in their journey of self-transformation, which eventually led to creative writing. I wanted to explore both the harsh realities of our existence and provide a haven from them; to open doors to alternative ways of thinking and being. The Dr Pimms series arose from that desire to create a place of escape.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
At eighteen I placed a lot of weight on first impressions, believing they were a good indicator of whether I would become friends with someone or not. Since then I’ve learnt it’s definitely not a good idea to judge a book by its cover – but it’s also essential to follow your gut instinct if you sense something is off in someone’s behaviour. Taking time to get to know someone before forming an opinion about them is my approach now.
4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc. – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
As a young teenager I escaped into the Eddings’ Belgariad series every chance I could. I loved the wide cast of characters and banter between them that exposed cultural differences. The comfort I found in this series fed my desire to create another story world for us to all run away to.
Reading Orwell’s 1984 was life changing. The idea that I could imagine an entire other world based on a set of underlying assumptions from my own society then extrapolating was a valuable lesson. It encouraged me to challenge self-satisfied dogma whenever I encountered it, much to the chagrin of those I questioned. But once armed with the idea that things can be other than they are I was irrepressible.
Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Witches series, which examined a variety of social truths and feminist issues in an incisive and entertaining way, gave me hope that I could find my own voice and explore social themes with similar subtlety one day.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I’m most comfortable communicating with people via writing. It allows me to think through what I’m trying to express. I love archaeological discoveries and processes and wanted to find a way to share the knowledge from my studies with people. Fiction made the most sense.
Olmec Obituary is the first novel in a new Australian crime fiction series: Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth. It’s the journey of an archaeologist/librarian who solves ancient mysteries from across the globe, with plenty of forensic science, culinary exploration and historic trivia along the way.
At the beginning of Olmec Obituary we meet a rather unhappy Dr Pimms who is yearning for her former life as an archaeologist and struggling with work and family. Elizabeth is quickly drawn into investigating evidence from a royal Olmec cemetery deep in the Mexican jungle. Her sense of elation is short-lived, however, as her position on the team is threatened by a volatile excavation director, contradictory evidence, and hostile colleagues. Elizabeth must strive to determine the cause of death of a 3000-year-old athlete before being fired.
So far readers of all ages, from teens to retirees, have provided very positive feedback, with an equal male/female split across all age groups. Those who enjoy archaeological, historic or forensic crime fiction – similar to Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series or Kathy Reichs’ TV series Bones – consume the book then demand the next one!
Younger women seem to identify with the main character, and men who are technically-minded or normally read sci-fi, fantasy or steampunk have been fascinated by the forensic detail in Dr Pimms’ investigation. The series is cosy crime fiction, so no swearing or sex scenes, but I do caution parents of younger readers that there are adult concepts.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
The most important thing is a sense of relaxation and having escaped the everyday for a while. If they pick up an understanding of the myriad ways humans define culture, or an appreciation for the work of archaeologists or librarians, or question underlying assumptions in their own lives, then all the better. But the most important thing is for them to be entertained.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
A year ago, as an avid reader and nascent writer, I would have given you the name of a specific novelist. Now, after experiencing the passion, inclusiveness and support of the Australian writing community, I have to say it is the community itself – the readers who post regular book reviews; the authors who rise at 5am to write before their families wake-up; the editors who reach out to encourage. The dedication and generosity of everyone inthe Australian literary scene has been unexpected and refreshing.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
30 books, one a year, until they are complete. I’ve planned nine books for the Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth series, along with a book of recipes and a compendium of archaeology from the series. I have plans for another recipe book that examines evolutionary aspects of human nutrition and the domestication of plants and animals across the planet; a dystopian political novel; a novel featuring a 17th century Cornish girl abducted by Barbary pirates; an historic trilogy examining the depth and breadth of the Celtic world; a young adult Elizabeth Pimms series of twelve instalments; and an autobiography.
I’ve also planned two series of short stories: one set in a steampunk Victorian England with historically accurate epidemiology; and one set in religious institutions around the world in the first half of the 20th century.
I don’t expect to get a full night’s sleep for quite some time!
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Read the books you love. Read the kind of books you want to write. Study the basics of storyworld, character, plot and theme. Sit down and write for at least an hour a day. Research how to improve your writing. Rinse and repeat.
And remember, you can do it.
Thank you for playing!
Yearning for her former life as an archaeologist, Australian librarian Dr. Elizabeth Pimms is struggling with a job she doesn’t want and a family she both loves and resents.
A royal Olmec cemetery is discovered deep in the Mexican jungle containing the earliest writing in all the Americas. Dr. Pimms is elated to join to team investigating the ancient skeletons found on site. Triumph is short-lived, however, as Elizabeth’s position is threatened by a volatile excavation director, contradictory evidence, and hostile colleagues. With everything working against her, will Dr. Pimms find the cause of deathfor a 3,000 year old athlete and those buried with her?
With the archaeological … Read more.