Name: Brian Kavanagh
Where are you from: Melbourne, Australia
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc:
Melbourne is my home town but I have travelled, worked, and lived in various towns and countries. I grew up in the war years but am grateful to my parents for the comfort and security they provided for me and my elder brother. My working life has been in the Australian film industry, which was moribund when I entered it, but along with others who felt the need to tell Australian stories representation was made to the Liberal government of the time. It was convinced by our passion and set in motion the beginnings of a revival that led to the industry today which affords many young Australians the opportunity to tell their story.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I’m currently working on the sixth book in my Belinda Lawrence mystery series with the working title of MURDER ON THE ISLAND. I’ve been encouraged by the reaction to the series by readers who have found Belinda, the young Australian sleuth, to their liking and have been supportive and encouraging. My publisher in London, Endeavour Press is keen to add to my portfolio with, not only this new novel but also, some novellas for Kindle. My plan is to have each story feature one of the central characters in the series, namely Belinda or her associate, Hazel Whitby so they act independently of each other, rather than in tandem as they do in the full length novels.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
A little over twelve years ago, film work was beginning to dry up and to fill in time I started writing a romance novel. It was OK but I really knew that romance was not my speed, and as I’ve always enjoyed mystery novels, it seemed logical to attempt to write one. It was planned as a one-off book but soon after it was published, I realized the characters had a lot more to say and so, encouraged by the success of the first book, CAPABLE OF MURDER I wrote THE EMBROIDERED CORPSE, which extended the personalities of the central characters and developed their relationships. Gradually as I lost interest in film production the books became my work and continue to be so.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably about the time the second book was published and the royalties began to come in.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
CAPABLE OF MURDER is an English village mystery. Its origins are in a small cottage an old friend of mine inherited when his aunt died and left it to him in her will. He was Australian and often on my visits to England I would stay at the cottage, which was in a small village on the outskirts of Bath. Over time, I got to know the area and also the history of the village and in particular, the cottage. Out of that came the idea for the book; using the history of the cottage as a basis, with the central character being a young Australian woman who inherits the cottage when her great aunt is murdered. An added element was another historical event which is the genesis of the motivation for murder. So the settings are real, but the events fictional. And having a central female character was intentional with, hopefully, an appeal to women readers.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style:
I’m told that I write visually and given my film background that would be no surprise. I tend to give information via the words and/or thoughts of the characters rather than through descriptive prose. I prefer not to overload the reader with a comprehensive description of a character, choosing rather to give a quick sketch of a character’s physical appearance and /or personality. I do this because I believe the reader will always form a physical impression for themselves and hopefully structure a personality from the way the character speaks and behaves. Some readers have been critical of this style, but I feel the writer and the reader are a team and each contribute.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The titles for the books spring from elements within each story. CAPABLE OF MURDER alludes to an historical figure in English landscaping. THE EMBROIDERED CORPSE, a reference to the Bayeux Tapestry. BLOODY HAM relates to the setting of Ham House where the murders occur. A CANTERBURY CRIME being the location and a reference to the murder of Thomas Beckett. A WICKED DESIGN combines two elements within the story; an architectural design and an historic statement.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I haven’t consciously sent a message to readers, but thinking about the question and looking back on the behavior and attitudes of my central characters, I believe a coded message could be ‘be independent, don’t take no for an answer, and be you own person’.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
The settings and location in each book is realistic and contemporary; the actions and events are fictional although largely built around actual historical events or objects.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
No, purely fictional but I draw on my own experiences from travelling and my interest in English History.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
A hard question. In my early days I read much of American literature, John Steinbeck et al, and most of the English novelists who were active in the 30’s through to the 60’s. A wide selection of styles and subject matter. I didn’t bother much with adventure or romance preferring works that dealt with the human condition, both emotional and farcical. It would be true to say that all books have influenced me from Iris Murdoch to Australian, Hal Porter.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Presumptuous of me I know, but I would nominate Evelyn Waugh for revealing how wicked humour could be used to highlight human folly and expose balderdash within society at all levels.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Hollywood, by Garson Kanin, the writer and director’s recollections of his career. When writing, I tend to read light literature preferably biographies.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Recently, Australian author Mathew Reilly.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Two projects. As mentioned above the sixth Belinda Lawrence mystery, and also a novel, not a mystery, exploring siblings who are entering into old age and exploring the differences they have that kept them apart throughout their lives.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
That would have to be Australian author, Meredith Whitford who at the time I wrote my first book, was a publisher at Jacobyte Books in Adelaide, Australia. Meredith saw some value in my work, which other publishers failed to do, and taking a risk published my first two books. That faith and support was a great encouragement to me and for which I am eternally grateful.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
In as much that I am now ‘retired’ and as my work is sporadic, yes, it is my new career.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
If I HAD to do it again, no doubt I would find much to change, but otherwise I wouldn’t go looking for it. There comes a time when one must say’ it is finished’ and send it out into the world. Nothing is deader to a writer than a story told. The NEXT one takes precedence over all.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I suppose I’ve always been interested in writing. I recall as an eight year old, after watching the Saturday matinee at the local cinema, usually a colourful adventure film with Maureen O’Hara, Cornell Wilde and pirates or musketeers, I would come home to write the story as a play in an exercise book. With my film work which involved editing and direction the story was always uppermost in my mind, so it was for me a form of writing.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
This is an extract from the current 1st draft of MURDER ON THE ISLAND.
Dowager Lady Sallinger, or as she preferred to be addressed, Melba, Lady Sallinger, removed her glasses and looked at Meg Giles – a look that instigated a tremor in the cook’s stomach – a small, mouse like woman with greying hair and a face set in permanent lines of disillusionment. Not for the first time did she wonder if she’d erred in employing this husband and wife team. He the gardener and the wife as cook.
“There will be an additional guest staying this week, Mrs Giles.” The tremor became a quake as Meg recalled the number of guests she was already expected to feed. Seven. Plus the residents of the house.
Lady Sallinger glanced at the letter in her hand. “A Mr Harvey will be arriving this evening, so that will be nine for dinner.”
“Yes, M’Lady,” replied Meg, quickly reviewing her planned menu. Soup, steak, potatoes and greens, and steamed pudding. Should be able to stretch it to another mouth.
“One thing,” continued Lady Sallinger, “Mr Harvey is a vegetarian. I imagine that will not present a problem?”
Meg’s heart sank.
“And I see from his dietary requirements, he does not eat anything with sugar,” continued Lady Sallinger, peering at the letter through her glasses. “Really, the things one is expected to provide for guests. In my day they took what they were given and put up with it. But this gentleman comes highly recommended and I need his services, so salads it must be.” She noticed the worried expression on the cook’s face. “Mrs Giles, I hope you aren’t going to tell me there will be a difficulty.” This was not a question, more like a requirement.
“I think I can manage a small salad this evening, M’Lady, lettuce, tomatoes and things, but there were no cucumbers at the market this morning, I looked twice.”
Lady Sallinger had already lost interest and reached for a magazine devoted to restoring bathrooms. “That should suffice. No doubt you will be able to obtain further vegetarian accessories tomorrow. That will be all.”
Meg gave a bob before the elderly, tall domineering woman seated before her. The sun shone on silver hair where a single hair out of place was never to be tolerated, dark piercing eyes sheltered now behind cat eye styled glasses, and a permanent haughty expression designed to intimidate anyone foolish enough to offer a challenge. Wondering if she and her husband had made a mistake in taking on this job, Meg retired to the kitchen, where she promptly downed a glass of cooking sherry and set about planning ways in which she could maim Lady Sallinger for life.
In another part of the house, in her room, Ms Angela Massey gazed at her reflection in a mirror. Today was the 13th. Her birthday. 70 years. Her face revealed those years with heavy lines gouged deep and numerous. Guilt? Sorrow? Maybe both. She inspected her reflection more closely. Hooded eyes had faded to a dull grey, her hair still held much of its original darkness. Her mouth now thin and vinegary. She glanced down at her body, heavier now than in those days. Was it so many years ago that it happened? With a grunt of dismissal she threw the mirror onto the bed and lifted a typewritten list. The guest list, she as housekeeper, had received from Lady Sallinger. In all the years as housekeeper she’d been required to maintain the property, with only the occasional visitor. Much had changed since it ceased to be a company investment property when sold to Sir…… With him now dead his widow was making noises about retiring to the house, and in addition, modernising it. Ms Massey liked the old Tudor house for what it was and as it was. Thoughts of giving notice flittered through her mind again, but faded quickly as she remembered the special bond she had with the old building.
© 2014 Brian Kavanagh
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Only ensuring I don’t bore the reader and am able to hold their attention and interest.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
It has to be the connection the writer makes with me, and that applies to a few of my favourite writers, so I can’t really nominate only one, but writers I admire are, Evelyn Waugh, Agatha Christie, Hazel Holt, Simon Brett, E. F. Benson. The connection and style is what attracts me.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
In terms of writing, no. Fortunately I have travelled widely in the past so many locations I am familiar with.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Mostly I make suggestions and liaise with the publisher. I think I made some mistakes in earlier editions of my books.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Getting the first draft completed. Once that is done the fun begins with editing and shaping the work.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I believe we learn from everything we do, and in my case it has been the critical response from readers, critical in the sense of their positive reaction to the characters and plots. And the negatives. I don’t mean those who dismiss the books outright, but honest criticism detailing problems the reader had with the books. That criticism is taken on and provides guidance for future works.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Only to say, ‘do it!’
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
To say’ thank you’ to those who have discovered Belinda and my books, and to remind readers that these mysteries are entertainments, light, hopefully witty, and at the ‘cozy’ end of the genre, so if that is not to your liking, don’t expect anything other than what I have described.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Not really, but I have an affinity with Wind In The Willows, which I remember fondly from earlier times.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
In both cases, human stupidity and vanity.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
I can’t nominate one. There are so many.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
Rest In Peace. Why? Well why not?
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Reading, music, films, history.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I avoid TV these days other than watching old UK comedy series. Films I prefer English/European dramas and comedy.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Food; French and Italian cooking and traditional English dishes.
Music; Opera. Classical (Rossini, Mozart, Bach). Big Band Jazz. Popular singers, Kristin Chenoweth, Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Composing or music arrangement.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Publisher 1: http://www.vividpublishing.com.au/capableofmurder/