Each Thursday I ask ten questions to authors of mystery, thriller and suspense about their books, their inspirations and how to get away with the perfect murder. In the hot seat this week is... Catherine Lee.
Australian author Catherine is a huge crime fiction fan, and her love of the genre is evident throughout her gripping Sydney-set 'Dark Series'. Catherine also loves Netflix and her dog (a winning combination if you ask me), and enjoys the self-confessed hermit/writer lifestyle with occasional trips out into the real world for some vitamin D.
Q1. Hello Catherine! Can You Tell Us A Bit About Yourself And Your Books?
Who am I? I’m an Australian writer, I guess I’d have to say middle-aged now, although I don’t feel it. I live close to Sydney, my favourite city in the world, which is why I’ve set my series there.
It’s a big sprawling city, with so much diversity and character, and a beautiful harbour to top it off. My main character, Detective Sergeant Charlie Cooper, has a bit of a love/hate relationship with the city. But I love it all the way.
At its heart the Dark Series is police procedural crime fiction, but I like to think I’ve added a little more. Each of the full-length books also deals with a topical issue – heart transplants and cellular memory, ancestry and genetic research, youth suicide and bullying, and the vaccination debate, for example.
My characters are people with families and opinions, and I like exploring the issues that can affect their lives.
Then there are the novellas, of which I’ve written two so far. No big issues there, just a murder for Cooper to solve as quickly as possible. The novellas are a lot of fun to write, and hopefully to read, too.
The second one, Dark Paradise, has just been released this week. It takes Cooper and his partner out of their city comfort zone and sends them to an island where a contestant in a reality show has been murdered.
Q2. What Three Things Should Readers Expect From A Catherine Lee Novel?
1. Like I said, the full-length novels will always touch on a topical societal issue. The next in the series, Dark Edges (which I haven’t written yet), will centre around drugs in professional sport. That should be interesting to write.
2. Along with that a reader can expect my books to contain a murder or two, of course, and a team of characters dedicated to solving that murder. Even though they may deal with some heavy issues, my books are crime thrillers at heart.
3. I’m told there can be a lot of page-turning and ‘just one more chapter’ angst when someone reads one of my books.
Q3. Can You Tell Us About Your Main Character Charlie Cooper?
Charlie Cooper is not a super hero. He’s not the tall dark stranger who’ll swoop in and save the day. He’s just a regular guy, who happens to be very good at his job of catching criminals. He’s been in Homicide for over ten years now, as you’ll read about in book one, Dark Heart.
He spent a lot of that time trying to catch a particularly nasty serial killer, which may have left him questioning his effectiveness, but everyone around him knows he’s a good cop. He’s also a family man, although he certainly has his flaws in that regard.
Keeping up with the demands of a busy job and a young family is never easy, and Charlie Cooper is no different to most men in that regard. He tries his best, though.
What’s he trying to achieve? Charlie is idealistic, at his core. He want to make the world, or at least his world, and his city, a better and safer place for his children.
Q4. If Your Books Were Turned Into Movies, Who Would Play Charlie?
Probably someone unknown, to be honest. Cooper is the everyday hero, the regular guy doing his job. I think perhaps having a big name actor play him might take something away from that.
Q5. How Do You Come Up With The Ideas For Your Stories – What Is Your Inspiration?
Because I like to centre my stories around a topical issue, I often take inspiration from what’s in the news. This was particularly the case for Dark Secrets, where I was reading too many stories of teenagers taking their own lives because of bullying.
And with Dark Chemistry, I read a lot on both sides of the vaccination debate and decided it was a topic I wanted to explore further.
As for Dark Edges, my father is a massive fan of rugby league (the major football code in my state). There’s been a lot of talk about drugs in the sport, both recreational and performance enhancing, and I figure that’s a good one for me to follow up on next.
Q6. What Do You Enjoy Most About Writing Crime Thrillers?
I think I like the fact that most things are resolved in the end, although not everything is black and white. People are messy, so I like to make my characters messy too, but with this genre at least the questions are answered (for the most part) and the murder is solved.
Q7. What Are You Working On Right Now?
Actually I’m taking a break from the Dark Series for now and I’m working on a stand-alone suspense thriller. It’s about a woman who goes on a holiday with her husband and two other couples, and finds a photograph that she cannot let her husband see. It has a dollar amount written on the back.
Is someone trying to blackmail her? As she investigates, she soon learns each one of her friends has something to hide.
Q8. Who Are Your Favourite Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Authors?
I’d have to say Jeffrey Deaver, for his twists, and Val McDermid, for the suspense of the Tony Hill series. They are brilliant. My favourite Australian crime author is Michael Robotham.
I also love the Cormoran Strike series, by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling. Man, does she know how to tell a story.
Q9. You're Being Sent To A Desert Island. You Can Only Take One Book With You. What Is It?
I’d probably take New York, by Edward Rutherfurd. It’s not exactly crime fiction, but it’s an epic tale of the history of the city through generations of the same families. It’s so well-written and captivating, and at over one thousand pages I reckon it’d keep me busy on that island for quite a while.
Q10. How Do You Get Away With The Perfect Murder?
I haven’t figured that one out yet, but if I do, I’ll most likely keep it to myself!