I’ve been tagged by Australian crime writer David Whish-Wilson to take part in the Next Big Thing meme that’s making the rounds among writers — a great way to find out what some of my favourite writers are up to and to give readers a heads-up on what to look out for in 2013.
1. What is the working title of your current/next book?
The Dying Beach, forthcoming July 2013.
2. Where did the idea come from?
I visited Thailand’s Andaman coast for the first time in 2009 and thought, ‘This place is so beautiful, I must find an excuse to come back.’ That excuse was to set my next novel in Krabi province, requiring a return fieldwork visit in 2011.
In between visits, I sketched out a story. My partner, fellow crime writer Andrew Nette, worked for a Thai environmental organisation in the late 1990s and I raided his files for ideas. I had a character inspired by a spunky young tour guide I’d met in Krabi and created a role for her as liaison between a zealous Australian volunteer and local villagers affected by a proposed power plant.
The novel opens with the young woman’s body washing up on a beautiful beach.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
Crime fiction – as if the body in the opening chapter wasn’t a dead giveaway.
4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
When I first created Jayne Keeney in the late-1990s, I had Jacqueline McKenzie in mind for the role. But working on TV series in the US has made her too glossy and brittle these days. Emilie De Ravin could play Jayne Keeney and her CV could do with something interesting.
Dev Patel is a shoo-in to play Jayne’s lover and business partner Rajiv Patel. Joel Edgerton could play Australian volunteer Paul O’Donnell, or maybe the lovely Nathan Page.
Casting the young Thai activist Chanida Manakit, known by her nickname Pla (Fish), presents a challenge as Pla is a dark-skinned southerner and most successful Thai actresses have pale skin and Western features.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Jayne Keeney doesn’t buy it when the death of a young tour guide in Thailand’s south is explained as an accidental drowning and sets out to investigate in a case that brings her face-to-face with unscrupulous businessmen, embittered thugs, environmental zealots and deadly cobras.
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The Dying Beach will be published by Text Publishing, which also published Behind the Night Bazaar and The Half-Child.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft?
Just under 11 months. This is the first novel I’ve written entirely while holding down a day job. Previously I’ve had extended periods of leave in which to write full time. Not surprisingly, this one took longer than usual.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Of other Australian women writing detective crime fiction, my books are probably closest to Leigh Redhead’s: her PI Simone Kirsch and my Jayne Keeney would hit it off if they ever met. I share a Thai setting with crime writers John Burdett and Christopher G Moore.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I was inspired by the environmental activists working in difficult, even life-threatening circumstances in Thailand in the 1990s, and by the attitude of local villagers, many of whom have a profound understanding of conservation in the face of market pressure and the forces of modernisation and ‘development’. I wanted to give these villagers a voice in fiction as the Thai environmental activists do in their advocacy.
At the same time, I wanted to showcase the beauty of the natural environment and traditional culture in Thailand’s south.
10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Sun-drenched beaches, sex, death, corruption and cobras – what more could you want in a crime read?
I’m thrilled to tag the following four writers, whose posts will appear on their blogs in a week’s time:
Margie Orford, aka ‘the queen of South African crime thriller writers’, is author of the Clare Hart series. The title of her next book is Water Music; I’m keen to know more.