Author L.J.M Owen has a new book called The Great Divide which a selection of our members will be reading with us. To celebrate the book, she took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with Beauty and Lace:
Tell us about your latest book “The Great Divide”….
The Great Divide is an atmospheric page-turner set in rural Tasmania. It introduces Jake Hunter, an ex-Melbourne detective, who must contend with small-town politics and prejudice as he hunts a killer through a fog of lies. Jake’s world is chilling, gritty and his tale makes for compulsive reading.
Where did you get your inspiration?
A significant proportion of Australian rural crime fiction is set in hot, dry, tinderbox-like locations, the ever-present threat of fire reflecting the friction between characters.
During my first winter in the Tasmanian mountains I was struck by the eerie, almost gothic experience of being enclosed by fog all day, never glimpsing the sky.
All I could see, in every direction, was a glowing white miasma that became smothering, suppressing.
This is the landscape that Jake Hunter walks into in The Great Divide, a fog-shrouded mountain community filled with dark, unspoken secrets.
How did you get into the mind of Detective Jake Hunter?
Jake is one of those characters who sprung to mind fully formed. He’s a dedicated detective running from a situation in Melbourne he can’t yet face, with a penchant for rock-climbing that I found surprising – given that I’ve never attempted rock climbing myself!
Jake is a very easy leading man to work with. I provide the technical detail needed for the investigation and he does the rest.
What makes rural Tasmania such a great backdrop for storytelling?
Much of Tasmania is still raw, absolutely itself, barely touched by modern human interference. It can be soft and beautiful, encompassing and healing or it can be terrifyingly wild and harsh, cold and bleak. I think that’s how it lends itself so perfectly to a wide array of stories.
Who would most love this book?
As a page-turning whodunnit set in remote Tasmania, The Great Divide is the perfect weekend or summer holiday read for someone who loves Australian rural crime fiction with a twist.
How does someone with a PhD in Genetics become an author?
My studies focussed on palaeogenetics, or reconstructing the genetics of past human populations. This included learning a wide range of forensic techniques – the same techniques the protagonist of my Dr Pimms series, Elizabeth, uses in her cold case investigations.
You speak 5 languages, what are they?
Apart from English I’ve studied and spent time immersed in French, Chinese, Spanish and Welsh. It’s been a while, though, so I’d need to spend a week or two in-country before adjusting to living or working in any of those languages. I’m ridiculously rusty at the moment.
What is one fun fact we wouldn’t know about you?
I’ve galloped across the sands of Egypt on a dapple-grey thoroughbred Arabian stallion towards the pyramids of Giza. It felt like I was flying.
Who are your favourite Australian authors?
That’s a hard question to answer, due to knowing so many Australian authors and being the kind of reader who finds something to celebrate or enjoy in almost everything I read.
I’m going to say the authors I’ve just spent a fantastic, intense long weekend with discussing crime fiction at my festival in southern Tasmania. I’ve read all their work and can thoroughly recommend it to crime and mystery fiction lovers as a varied and rewarding collection: Tara Moss, Shamini Flint, Angela Meyer, Angela Savage, David Owen, Jack Heath, Meg Keneally, Joanna Baker, Lindy Cameron, Sulari Gentill and Tansy Rayner Roberts. Check them out!
What’s next for L J M Owen?
There are a number of characters in my head vying for attention, demanding to be the focus of my next writing project.
Dr Elizabeth Pimms and her crew of archaeological investigators are itching to go on another adventure. There’s a group of women in 1890s London planning a heist the likes of which I can’t wait to write, and Tasmania’s ever-changing landscape is pressing for another Jake Hunter case…
I’m interested to see who wins when I sit down to write my next novel.
Name one item we would always find on your desk…
Boudicca, my European female skull. She sits next to my cats and the inevitable cold cup of tea as I write.
What does being an author mean to you?
Freedom. The freedom to be myself and to say what I think; the freedom to create page-turning books for others to sink into and escape the daily grind.
The Great Divide is available now where all good books are sold!
Book credit: The Great Divide by L.J.M. Owen (Echo $29.99)