The brilliant crime novelist, Candice Fox, took time out from her busy schedule to have a chat with us about being an author, working with James Patterson and dealing with rejection letters. Her first novel, Hades, won the Ned Kelly award for best debut novel in 2014. Her latest novel, Crimson Lake, is out now.
Your character in the Hades series is a strong but disturbed woman, how did you come up with the character?
Eden was very difficult to write, as a lot of female characters had been to me at the time. I was very intimidated by writing women, as I don’t have a lot of female friends and certainly no groups of female friends. Some of my most formative years were spent in the navy listening to groups of men interact. So I approached the task with a lot of trepidation, and I think she turned out more masculine than I would have liked. Basically she’s what I thought at the time was my ‘ideal’ me – not the serial killer part, obviously! – but someone who is cool, calm, stylish, wealthy, someone who always knows what to say. I can be very awkward and goofy, so Eden was my chance to experience being this wonderfully composed, darkly mysterious woman.
What is it like co-writing with James Patterson? What challenges did you face writing alongside a very popular author?
There were the obvious challenges of putting a project together with someone over email and across long distance. Because he collaborates with so many authors, it’s just not practical for him to be taking face-to-face meetings or phone calls. He needs to be able to see where we last left off so the process is all written. But for me it was more the pressure (totally self-inflicted) of working with someone so powerful and experienced. I didn’t want to screw it up. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and the results of it would be very public – if I couldn’t hold up my end of the book, that book would be out there, in the world, forever inadequate and regrettable. Intimidating stuff. It was lucky that he’s such an encouraging and friendly guy. That brought the worry down a lot.
Give us the last three novels you’ve read that you think everyone should read as well.
I read a lot of true crime, and the best I’ve ever read was The Stranger Beside Me, by Ann Rule. Incredible, historic, addictive. Adrian McKinty’s Rain Dogs, in fact his entire Sean Duffy series is great. And Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore should be compulsory reading for wannabe crime writers setting things in Australia.
What do you think is the biggest hindrance that female authors face today? Do you think there is sexism in the publishing industry?
I haven’t experienced or witnessed any sexism myself but that’s not to say it doesn’t exist. I work with a team of really awesome women, all over the world. Almost all my international publicists, editors, agents and acquisitions publishers are all women, as is my agent here in Australia. My German publisher and French agent are guys.
While it may have been difficult to be taken seriously as a crime fiction author in the past as a woman, the two authors I’d consider my closest rivals right now are women – Jane Harper and Liane Moriarty. But in saying all that, I don’t know how women writers or publishers are paid compared to men, or what the uptake and promotion of female authors against male authors is.
How should aspiring novelists see rejection?
Look, here’s my disclaimer: It’s easy to say rejection should be a spiritual journey and a necessary toughening and a character building exercise and all that jazz after you’ve eventually succeeded. When you’re in the midst of it, with no evidence that it will ever end, there’s no other way to see it – it’s a huge kick in the face. However nicely it’s presented, it feels personal and insulting and inevitable. If I could wave a magic wand and have every rejected writer know deep down in their heart that rejection is good for them when they’re experiencing it, of course I would. But I think then we’d have this weird situation in which writers proclaim to love rejection and trumpet about it and cheerfully accept it with big fat fake grins and veins pulsing in their foreheads. If you’re rejected you should cry and shout and drink and throw things around and then recover and go back and try again. It’s a natural sucky, crappy process.
Any advice for women authors who want to write their own crime novel?
- Study writing somewhere – a TAFE course, a university course, something with an independent agency, whatever.
- Don’t be afraid to be genre-bending and weird, but in saying that, err on the side of caution with the really hardcore stuff – gore and sexual violence and torture and all that have a legitimate place and time in fiction but in my experience the debut author rarely knows what that is.
- Get an agent.
- Be enthusiastic and grateful whenever you deal with anyone related in any way with books – they all know each other.
- Don’t write to trends.
- Don’t waste your time trying to build an online following before you’re published.
- Have multiple ideas for books ready in case a publisher asks you for them.
- If you’re thinking of being funny or cheeky to a publisher in an email; don’t. You can do that later. Much later.
- Never write an abusive email back after a rejection letter.
- Never be snide to another author, published or unpublished.
I could go on and on!