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Episode 73

Join hosts Veronica and Darren for a psychological thriller inspired episode! There's a fabulous interview with one of Australia's premiere crime fiction/domestic noir writers Petronella McGovern. We have discussions about fish and chip shop suspense, literary news and book reveals, thoughts about what draws us to psychological thrillers, and a whole lot more...

Intro - 00:00
News - 06:20
Reader's Cafe - 20:40
Author Interview - 34:00
Interview Discussion & Wrap Up - 1:28:00
Book Review - 1:48:50


What Country do you write on? 

I live and write on the traditional lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation (Sydney). Our house is close to a national park which has beautiful sandstone rocks and scribbly gum trees. This land and the coastline really helped inspired the setting for The Liars. We did a lot of walking in the national park during lockdown and I’d think about the history of these rocks and all that had gone before.

Is there anything specifically Australian about your book/books? 

All three of my novels have a strong Australian setting. The Liars delves into our hidden histories, on both a personal and a community level, through a fictional coastal town. It looks at the secrets we keep and those who benefit from the secrets. In The Liars, a teenage girl is campaigning for the truth to come out after she finds a skull in the national park. She thinks it’s from an Aboriginal massacre by the town founder in the 1800s which no-one will discuss. Her parents believe the skull is related to a school-mate who went missing in the 1990s. With all the secrets and lies, history seems doomed to be repeating itself until we confront our difficult past.

Why do you think listeners should read your book/s?

I love reading a good thriller with twists and turns, so that’s what I write! If a reader wants to be totally hooked into a story which they can’t put down, then pick up The Liars. Along with a great mystery, it also touches on a range of contemporary issues which affect us all. The Liars is a crime story which will have you guessing and make you think.

As a writer, are you a plotter or a pantser or somewhere in between?

I wish I could be a plotter. Every time, I start a new novel, I spend weeks trying to plot! I think I should! But then I just have to trust myself and start writing because that’s how I discover my story and my characters. Usually I’ll have a few plot points, the twist and the setting before I begin. I love those moments when the story takes an unexpected turn – and other moments where connections happen between characters or storylines. I write a fast first draft and then do lots of editing.

How much research is involved in your writing?

I do a lot of research, and then I do a whole lot more. I used to work in communications and write articles so I want to have all the facts and understand the science or the issue. When I’m in the editing phase, I always second-guess myself and think ‘Did I check if that’s correct?’ so I’ll go back and re-check things. I fall down rabbit holes when I do research, I find it so fascinating. For this book, I also researched humpback whales from the time of the whaling industry to now. I learnt that whale oil powered the industrial revolution, and it was even used in margarine!!

What’s your writing routine – if you have one?

My most creative time is early morning before the rest of the family is awake – apart from our ever-hungry Labrador. I make sure that I don’t look at any social media or news and sit down to write with a clear head. I often go to bed thinking of my story and wake up with an idea. I’ll write for an hour before I have to organise my daughter for school. That hour really helps set me up for the whole day and means that I’ve started and can easily get back to it later.

What’s your favourite writing food and drink?

Whenever I’m editing, I need home-cooked popcorn with salt, pepper and fennel seeds. It’s an absolute must to keep me going! (Lionel Shriver’s book, The Post-Birthday World, has lots of interesting recipes for home-cooked popcorn.) The fuel that keeps me going is Earl Grey tea. I drink it all day, every day!

What words of advice would you give an aspiring author?

Firstly, read a lot – both in the genre that you want to read and more generally. Try and read analytically to see what makes a story work, or not work in your opinion. Secondly, find a writing buddy or a writing group or join a course so you can share your work and get feedback on it. As writers, we’re so deep in the story that it’s hard to look at it objectively; an outside reader can help you understand if your characters are believable and if your story is making sense. They can also be a friendly support when writing is such a solitary pursuit.

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Click below to learn more about this author's spectacular literary work!

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