This is #3 in our new feature here at Fair Dinkum Crime. New South Wales writer Sulari Gentill has agreed to respond to our version of an author interview. We’ve approached the author interview a little differently, trying to offer the authors (who we thought must get asked a few standard questions fairly frequently) the opportunity to share some of their lesser known secrets. Or not, it’s entirely up to them. We provide the authors with 13 beginnings and, like the creative geniuses they are, they turn them into sentences (or paragraphs, or full blown essays should the urge arise).
And so to Sulari’s responses…
I OFTEN WONDER what would have happened to me if I’d never worked out that I was supposed to write. I wasn’t unhappy as a lawyer, just a little restless. I came to writing on a transitory whim. And I have these whims all the time…sculpture, lead lighting, porcelain doll making, pregnancy testing cattle – all of which I’ve done on impulse without any lasting damage. Writing turned out to be different, but it did start out as just something to do because the welding course I’d enrolled in was cancelled at the last minute. I wonder, if that course had gone ahead, would I have continued relatively happily as a vaguely dissatisfied lawyer who could weld, or would the untold stories in my head have eventually caused me to explode? It alarms sometimes that I was so unaware for so long of something that now seems as natural and essential as breathing.
FRIENDS WOULD DESCRIBE ME AS a little odd I think. Not to my face of course—they’re too polite for that…but there are clues, minor slips of the tongue which haven’t escaped my superior crime-writing skills of observation. Allow me to quote
“There’s just nothing you won’t say, is there?”
“You remind me of my mother…we always thought she had some sort of disorder.”
“Are you nuts?”
“I lie awake at night worrying about your husband.”
I am also aware that some of my friends visit particularly to collect “You wouldn’t believe what lunatic thing Sulari is doing now” stories. I’ve come to accept it as my role. Of course they’re all wrong…I’m not odd at all
I WILL NEVER take for granted how insanely lucky I am. I went into the whole business of becoming a writer quite naively. I wrote a book and sent it out. To my surprise and delight a number of publishing houses were interested the manuscript. The way I chose a publisher was ludicrous…based mainly on who responded in the most timely manner (see my confessions of impatience below) and a gut feeling. I barely read the contract, and after I met John and Alison Green, I would happily have signed anything. I’m a lawyer – I’d have pitched a fit if any one of my clients had entered into a long term legal relationship in such a manner. But I did, and it turned out to be the wisest decision I’ve ever made. You don’t often realise before you’re signed how important it is to work well with your publisher, to trust them, to have them know exactly what they’re doing because, let’s face it, as baby authors we’re often making it up as we go (in more ways than one)Pantera Press has proved a perfect fit not only for the kind of books I write, but for the kind of writer I am. But I do admit that my decision-making process in choosing Pantera was less than rigorous and I feel incredibly lucky that it all turned out so well.
MY GREATEST FEAR(in terms of writing)IS that I’ll climb into my own head and the words and people and stories that have always jostled for space in there, will have gone. I think a lot of writers fear something similar. We all have our techniques and our processes but still there’s a bit of mystery as to where these stories actually come from. It makes you a little nervous that one day they may stop. Outside writing-related fears….I don’t like spiders and I’m really freaked out by chicken feet…I quite like chickens, just not their feet.
MY WORST JOB WAS as one of those people who “cold call” in the evening to sell you something…I was selling life insurance. People yelled at me all the time. The list I was given hadn’t been updated in a while so occasionally I’d call for dead people and end up speaking to the bereaved. I felt like a ghoul. It was really horrible. Now when I receive one of those admittedly annoying cold calls, I try to be nice and remember that the poor schmuck on the other end of the line is just doing their job
I’M IN DIRE NEED OF coffee most of the time
MY CHILDHOOD WAS, sadly, a fair while ago now. To my recollection it was tumultuous…mainly because of the kind of child I was. Even back then, I lived in my head a great deal. I felt things very deeply and I had giant and often quite ridiculous dreams. I was sure world domination was possible if I just went about it the right way. Shy and excruciating self-conscious, I remember being an avid observer—particularly of people. I still like people-watching. Reading this over, it sounds rather disturbingly like the profile of a serial killer in the making…For the record, I’m not…I just make the murders up.
I WISH I HAD more time…to write, to spend with my sons, to paint, perhaps even to clean the house when the debris gets so thick I can’t remember what colour the carpet was
I WISH I HADN’T told my sons that “only girls match their socks”. At the time it was expedient – I needed to get everybody dressed and out of the house and a three year old with mismatched socks is cute. But my eldest son is now ten, and he still wears odd socks.
THE THING I HATE MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER IS the waiting. I’ve always been unreasonably impatient. Although writing itself is a solitary sport, publishing is a team effort. So sometimes you just have to cool your heels and wait for clear spots in busy overcrowded schedules. The rub is that just because you’ve already been published, it doesn’t mean that you are any less anxious about what people will think of the next manuscript. From the moment I send off the draft I sweat on the response. Do they like it?…Is it any good?…Is it as good as the last one? My publishers(Pantera Press) are superfast readers who don’t seem to sleep, but it does take time to read something properly, and so there are still periods when I am waiting for judgement. Nervously. Without anything even resembling patience. Regardless, it’s not really acceptable to stand next to the publisher’s desk whining, “Have you read it yet?…What about now? Have you read it now?…What did you think? Did you like it?…”.
THE LAST BOOK I READ WAS Where is Green Sheep by Mem Fox…selected by my five-year-old but an excellent choice nonetheless. An extraordinary study of the search for oneself in today’s multicultural, multicoloured world…just kidding. Seriously, a delightful book.
THE NEXT BOOK I’LL WRITE IS the fourth book in the Rowland Sinclair series…it doesn’t have a title yet I’m afraid, just a vague idea of location, a couple of historical events and characters into which Rowland will walk (perhaps literally). The second and third books have been written and are lined up for release (the second in July and the third in July next year). At the moment, I’m in the middle of writing the second book of Chasing Odysseus Series. Because the novel mythic fiction set in Homeric times, I try not to even think about this next Rowland Sinclair book for fear that I will confuse the voices and my ancient Greeks will suddenly start saying, “Good Lord…rather smashing that!”
BEING AN AUSTRALIAN AUTHOR MEANS a great deal to me for a couple of reasons.
I like being Australian. To me it’s a state of mind, more than a passport. It’s a way of looking at the world; it’s a particular sense humour, and a love of irony, a lack of bitterness and a belief that Jack is as good as his master. It’s undefinable but instantly recognisable. So just being an Australian anything makes me happy.
Being an author was one of those giant dreams I had when I was a child that I dismissed (along with my ambitions to be an astronaut, a movie star and some kind of monarch) as fanciful. Instead, I pursued a realistic profession. Eventually of course, I came to my senses, remembered the courage I’d had when I was young, and I started writing. I discovered what I was always meant to do. For me, being an Australian author is a privilege beyond anything else, a statement of both my identity and my dreams.
Thanks to Sulari for agreeing to be interviewed and for giving such thoughtful responses. I suspect she is not the only crime writer whose friends and family react like that to the author’s creations. And in your honour I’ll try to be nicer to those cold callers Sulari, promise.
You can read my review of the first book in Sulari’s historical crime series A FEW RIGHT THINKING MEN at my other blog.
What’s next for Sulari?
In addition to being a crime writer Sulari also writes a young adult mythic fiction series. The series’ first installment, CHASING ODYSSEUS, was released on March 8 this year.
A new edition of A FEW RIGHT THINKING MEN will be released on the 1st of June in the smaller format with a new cover designed around one of my own paintings (I guess Sulari paints in all that spare time she has!). Sulari has shared her new cover with us and I for one adore it.
A DECLINE IN PROPHETS, the second book of the Rowland Sinclair Series will be released on the 1st of July this year (yipee!). While I’m reasonably happy to wait until July for book number 2 now that I know book 3 is already written but I have to wait 14 months for it I might have to indulge in some criminal activity of my own…burglary, computer hacking…you’d think I’d have learned something from all these crime books eh?
Sulari will be appearing in 2 panels at the Sydney Writers’ Festival in May this year – one called Secret Sydney Stories and another called Once Were Lawyers alongside another well known crime writer, Shamini Flint.
Sulari will also be appearing at the Crime and Justice Festival (Melbourne) in July and the Brisbane Writers’ Festival in September.
You can visit Sulari online at www.sularigentill.com
The Fair Dinkum Baker’s Dozen has been launched especially to celebrate Australian Authors Month which is a cross-genre celebration of Australian writing. In addition to sharing reviews, author interviews, competitions and anything else relating to the writing and reading of works by Aussie authors the month is focused on raising awareness of the Indigenous Literacy Project (ILP). The ILP is a charity with the aim of raising literacy levels among Indigenous Australians in rural and remote communities and it works in partnership with the Australian Book Industry and the Fred Hollows Foundation.