1. What inspired you to start writing mysteries?
I suppose it was an abiding love of the genre. The old maxim is "to write about what you know." Well, having immersed myself in murder mysteries for decades now, I feel I know them pretty well. My bookshelves are stuffed with the works of UK writers such as Colin Dexter, P.D. James, Ian Rankin, and Peter Robinson. Among the Americans I always return to Michael Connelly, and from "Down Under" it's hard to go past Peter Temple and Michael Robotham. You pick up the characteristics of compelling crime fiction almost by osmosis.
Apart from the sheer entertainment value of murder mysteries, they allow a writer to examine characters under extreme pressure. And there is always the element of seeing how a society really functions in its pursuit of justice.
2. How would you describe your main character, D.I. Mahoney?
Detective Inspector John Mahoney is something of an "outsider." He lived abroad (England) for a substantial part of his career before returning to Australia. So he struggles to re-adjust to the cultural mores of his hometown. Through his eyes, the reader is able to critically view what many unthinkingly take for granted. He is unmarried but seeks personal stability: he feels he has missed the boat in the relationship sense. His is an ongoing struggle to understand his place in the world.
But not in his professional life. Here he is a scrupulous and committed investigator. His moral compass is steady as he seeks not only to solve his cases but to bring a strong level of accountability to bear. Something of a loner in life he is a natural leader when working on a homicide case. It is then that he can keep his insecurity at bay.
3. What's the difference between a "whodunnit" and a "whydunnit"?
Within a traditional "whodunnit," there are a range of suspects and the detective cunningly solves the mystery. My concept of a "whydunnit" is that the case still requires a thoughtful solution, but there is a much greater emphasis on why characters act the way they do. In particular, why are relatively normal people "driven" to commit the ultimate crime? Many writers are good at laying out the pressures faced by investigators, but I am aiming also to explore the reasons my perpetrators enact "bloody murder."
4. Would you tell us a bit about the setting of your books?
The D.I. Mahoney series is set in Tasmania. A smallish state, by antipodean standards, it is located south of mainland Australia. Its violent convict history and island status set it apart from the rest of the nation. Geographically, it is a rugged and inhospitable place but also a locale of staggering beauty. Formerly the butt of derision, it has become an emblem of artistic creativity and tourist potential. In a real sense, it is a microcosm of the macrocosm: it is an ideal size in which to set mysteries that consider modern society.
5. How are you enjoying the transitions from teaching and coaching into fiction writing?
For a few years now, I've been scaling down my teaching commitments to devote my time to writing as well as I can. I certainly don't miss marking essays! I do miss my involvement in coaching sport, but I've committed to being an author and that takes dedication and effort. Regardless of what commercial success I attain, there are few better places to be than at my desk, in the "zone." In the same way that a good novel transports the reader, I have discovered the satisfaction of traveling to that fictional world where the magic happens.