Following Marisa’s brilliant interview with crime writer Katherine Howell last week for our focus on lesbian and queer women writers in March, we have an interview with another crime writer, Lindy Cameron.
Lindy wears a number of literary hats: she’s the author of crime titles including the Kit O’Malley trilogy Blood Guilt, Bleeding Hearts and Thicker Than Water, and the recent Redback; she runs the publishing company Clan Destine Press; she’s a founding member of Sisters in Crime Australia, which promotes crime writing by women; and has edited the group’s magazine Stiletto for nearly two decades. I’m impressed she found time to answer my questions!
Lindy has always thought of herself as a writer – her first ‘novel’ was a serialized mystery written when she was age 11. She suspects, like many Aussie crimes writers that it was Enid Blyton’s fault that she turned to a life of crime. Below, she talks about her writing, publishing queer/lesbian writers, her research, and juggling everything in between.
Does your identity as a queer/lesbian writer inform what you write and publish?
It informs what I write. While the ‘story’ dictates the types of characters I need, I always have a least one gay – female or male – in every story. And they mostly just turn up. It’s not a conscious thing – except in the case of the O’Malley series; and in my scifi novella Feedback. Even in Redback – which is my kickarse, all-explodey action novel– the sexuality of my female protagonist Bryn Gideon is ‘queered’. But, as there’s no actual sex happening on the page, it was all in the subtext. I was looking for a different audience for my books and thought making the hero a woman was enough – for the first book at least.
Given the success of queer protagonists like Lisbeth Salander, though, I’m thinking I should ditch the subtext and get to the point. Then again, that series was written by a man… so there’s a whole other topic for possible-ranty discussion. Would the Millennium Trilogy have been relegated to being a women’s crime series, rather than an international phenomenon, if it had been written by ‘Stella’ Larsson?
In terms of publishing I am actively looking for QILTBAG writers. I’ve been scouring the woodwork – looking for Aussie writers who identify with any of those initials. So far I’ve scored some short stories and novellas for Encounters – our erotica imprint – but I’d love some crime, specfic, and urban fantasy (please, some queer urban fantasy); and oh, hello!, gay and lesbian sci fi writers – where are you?
We do have Unnaturals, a terrific dark urban fantasy novel which includes action, romance, more action, lesbians, monsters, and polyamory, but some more historical writers too would be fabulous. The boys in Kerry Greenwood’s splendid Out of the Black Land are getting lonely, and would love some new characters to join them on the Clan’s history shelf.
How do you go about researching your novels?
It depends. My character-based O’Malley novels sort of grew organically. As my hero, the lesbian ex-cop private investigator Kit O’Malley, began her fictional life in Blood Guilt by investigating an errant husband, there wasn’t a lot needed for research. It was more along the lines of ensuring that one of my other main characters – the city of Melbourne – was accurate and interesting and vibrant. I did have a couple of drug and gun type things I needed to verify when the book was finished, so I asked an ex-cop I knew. I didn’t really need to research the ‘lesbian’ part of the series, but it was my aim to create a lesbian hero/protagonist who was totally comfortable with who she was. And was also surrounded by completely ‘out’ lesbian and straight friends, none of whomever felt the need to talk ‘about’ their sexuality. Kit was falling in lust and love while solving crimes – but there was zero angst about who she was falling for – except in the best tradition of URST making the whole sexual tension last as long as possible.
By the time I was writing Bleeding Hearts and Thicker Than Water – the second and third books in the series – I had, and still have, a wealth of contacts within the Sisters in Crime membership to call on for research before, during and after writing. Sisters in Crime Australia – of which I am a founding member and National Co-Convenor – is the best organisation for authors, emerging crime writers and readers of crime fiction.
The research for my very first novel Golden Relic – which is an archaeological mystery adventure – I did mostly using library books and the fledgeling internet. And I mean ‘fledgeling’ – given Golden Relic was one of the first ever officially serialised books on the internet.
Redback – my most recent action adventure – however was researched almost entirely via the internet. It was the best way to find out about terrorist organisations, the White House, various kickarse weapons and how to blow up a train and a helicopter. As you do.
What was the spark for establishing Clan Destine Press?
The idea to start my own publishing company had been floating around my ‘in-your-dreams, Lindy,’ imagination for a long, long time.
I’ve been part of countless conversations and rants with many fellow authors over the years about the general state of publishing, and the lack of opportunities for authors in Australia. Too many of us were dissatisfied with the attention paid by the Big Publishing Houses to their own mid-list Australian authors. We were frustrated by those same publishers who pigeon-holed their authors into one genre and wouldn’t let them experiment with others. And we all knew emerging writers who just weren’t getting noticed because the big four or five Houses were too busy importing bestsellers from overseas to notice what was going on here. So the idea of wishing we could do something about it was a regular topic of conversation amongst my fellow writers.
And then, one day in 2010, I realised that I had the all the skills necessary to start my own ‘small’ totally-independent publishing company. I had been a book editor for many years, I knew layout, I new lots of authors and cover artists and designers. I had industry contacts. I had time.
Clan Destine Press was created as a genre fiction specialist.
We were looking for new Australian voices in crime, spec fic, historial fiction, horror, scifi, fantasy and horror – for adults, YA and kids. I also offer opportunities to existing authors to talk to us if they have a project that doesn’t fit their current publisher’s pigeon-hole. We publish many of our authors in paperback and eBook; and have a huge ditigal-only list, which includes the backlists of authors who have joined the Clan with their latest books. We now also have three (and counting) digital Imprints – Crime Shots, Encounters, Clan Destine Fictions – for our true crime; and for our novellas, short fiction, and short-story collections.
What can be done to encourage more representation of lesbian/queer characters in fiction?
Blogs like this are a great way to start. And, as readers and writers, reposting this and other discussions about writing more-inclusive fiction. Also – even if you’re a straight writer – don’t be nervous about including queer, gay, lesbian, trans and bi characters. I’m sure you know one or two in real life that you could consult if you’re worried about ‘getting things right’. But then, you know, we’re humans first, so being gay etc., can be mentioned in passing in much the way as any of your straight characters who don’t acutally have sex in your book. Minor characters Bill or Jim can go home to Barry or Steve; and Linda can go on a date with Julia.
If you’re a reader the thing you can do is read more widely. Don’t be put off if you think the book is ‘full’ of lesbians or gay guys. Given the ‘hot thing’ at the moment is male/male romance written by women for women, that’s probably less of an issue than it used to be. (And possibly a topic for another blog.)
What are some great books we should be reading?
Hmm – well, as the publisher of Clan Destine Press, I would naturally say all of our books. In terms of the QILTBAG context of the blog I would say, all of my books; the aforementioned Out of the Black Land and Unnaturals; and the following from our Encounters imprint: Loveless, Homecoming, Standing Date, Perfect Timing, and the brand new Queermance Anthology.
Australian queer-themed books (by women) that don’t belong to Clan Destine Press: The Raven’s Heart by Jesse Blackadder; Kerry Greenwood’s latest Phryne Fisher novel, Murder and Mendelssohn; the fantasy duology Eon and Eona by Alison Goodman; and anything by the late, extraordinary Dorothy Porter, but especially The Monkey’s Mask.
How do your juggle writing with the day-to-day running of the press (or with life in general)?
I will let you know when I work it out. My own writing fell by the wayside in CDP’s first couple of years, so I now have a weekly writing day, when I go to a cafe with a writer friend and work on my current book.
We’re looking forward to Lindy’s next book when it comes! In the meantime, you can read any of the titles by lesbian/queer Australian women writers that she’s mentioned to be in the running for a copy of either Michelle Dicinoski’s Ghost Wife and Yvette Walker’s Letters to the End of Love. You have until the end of March to link your review!