Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot: Jackie Tritt
Interview by Karen
1. Your book The Burning was released first as an e-book, which, I think, is a bit unusual in Australian Crime Fiction. What made you go down that sort of path?
Well, The Burning is actually having a second life as an e-book. It was originally published at the end of 1998, as a 2-in-1 Whodunnit, by Australian Pocket Press within a very limited market. Now it has been reworked for American readers with Virtual Tales, firstly as an e-serial, then as an e-book and it will hopefully be released as a paperback with Amazon some time this year.
2. The choice of a background of bushfire is quintessentially Australian, how much did you rely on the area (that we both co-incidentally) live in to develop that atmosphere? What do you think makes that so unique?
I relied very much on my experiences with the Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1983. With my teenage daughter I saved our house (a police cordon stopped my son and husband from entering the area), but our community in Upper Beaconsfield was devastated by the loss of many human lives, cattle, horses and family pets, and, of course, homes, shops, pub and church. I worked with the Red Cross at the local refuge, providing food to families who had lost everything. Those experiences left such a deep impression on me that the memories of that time were still very fresh when I wrote the novel, and they provide an authentic setting for the story. For that reason, the first hand witnessing of those terrible events, I suppose it is unique.
3. Do you read much Australian crime fiction? Can you give us a few standouts that you've read recently? What do you think of the current state of the Australian crime fiction scene?
I do read a lot of Australian crime fiction. I enjoy Garry Disher and Shane Maloney. I recently read Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore, and I could see why it won the Duncan Lawrie Dagger award. The writing is wonderful and I think even readers who don’t enjoy crime fiction would appreciate this book. I like it that all these authors and Kerry Greenwood, for example, make themselves accessible, so that I’ve been able to attend talks and workshops by all of them, and that makes their work even more special. And they all set their work locally.
4. What do you think could be done to better promote Australian authors either at home or abroad (or both)?
Unless you are already known as an author, there’s really no promotion at all, so anything would be better than the present situation. Books appear on the shelves unheralded and are whisked off again within a month or two and sent off to the big pulping machine in the sky.
The Burning was released around Australia into newsagents only, no bookshops, absolutely no marketing, not even on the publisher website – so why would anybody pick it up? I’m amazed it sold any copies at all. I have a collection of short stories out with Ginninderra Press, but that’s only available from the publisher website and a few bookshops in Canberra. Both are small publishers (Australian Pocket Press is now defunct) and unable to afford the cost of marketing. They put their money into producing books and it’s great that they have both supported new authors to such an extent.
Unknown authors in particular need some promotion – bookshop signings, library talks, readings etc all help, but they are all very local, and it’s a big country. With the increasing use of the internet, it’s possible to catch a world wide audience, and I’m hoping this will improve the ability of small companies to market themselves and their authors. Book tours are expensive and will only be offered to well-known writers who already bring in lots of money.
5. If your fictional character could meet any fictional character who would you like it to be and why?
I’d like Foster to invite Rebus (Ian Rankin’s detective) over, now he’s retired. He could stay for a few weeks and enjoy Dot’s country cooking and the local ales. I think they’d get on well, compare policing and crims in Scotland and Victoria and find it’s not so very different. Some of that Aussie sunshine and hospitality would maybe thaw the chill in Rebus’s bones and heart.
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Submitted by Anonymous on Mon, 10/03/2008 - 17:31.
Thanks Jackie. Great interview. Your knowledge of the genre, the location, and the local writing industry makes an eye-opening interview. Wish all the local publishers would read this.