It’s a pleasure to welcome author Ruth Morgan to talk about her book The Whitworth Mysteries
Ruth lives in Lismore, New South Wales where the whole community has been devastated by flooding. We are talking unheard of flood levels of up to 14.4 metres. Lives and homes and businesses were lost. Even more cruelly, a month after the first flood, when the cleanup was well underway, Lismore endured a second flood. While helping out in her local area, Ruth is still writing. She is also promoting a re-stocking drive for the Lismore library which lost 29,000 books.
DETAILS HERE. https://rtrl.nsw.gov.au/ – Flood Recovery Donation page.
So, I am very grateful that Ruth has taken the time to talk to us. We will discuss her writing later, but first some quick-fire questions.
Late nights or early mornings? Always early mornings.
What’s for breakfast? Toast and coffee.
Night out or Netflix? Night in, with a good book.
G &T or Tea/coffee? All three – but not at the same time!
Perfect weekend? Going for a walk, catching up over coffee with friends, and time spent in the garden getting dirty.
What did you want to be when you grew up? I’m not sure I’ve grown up yet! Everything! Reader, writer, dancer, nurse, vet, work in a zoo..
What is for dinner tonight? Can you cook? What would you rather be eating ?Love cooking. Dinner tonight – probably leftovers! Preference these days is vegetarian, and when the veggie garden is productive, whatever is in season is usually what’s for dinner. I love it though when someone else cooks.
What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits, chases away a down mood. Cats – always cats. The sound of a purring cat, being head-butted, sat on – magic. Or going for walk, sitting by the ocean, listening to beautiful music.
Your hero? I don’t know that I have a hero. If I look around me at the moment my community is full of heroes. To deal with two floods a month apart makes heroes of us all. A hero is someone who doesn’t quit, although they may want to, even when the odds appear overwhelming, they just keep going. Those who help clean up after the flood, those who listen, those who are running a business from their damaged premises and are operating through the back door, yet still going. The battlers, the fighters, those putting one put in front of the other… Those wonderful heroes who came from nowhere in droves to help, the wonderful Sikhs who drove 27 hours to come and cook the most amazing food for everyone, groups who turned up offering food, water and fruit to the mud army, those who run the Resilient Lismore FB group…
If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party,( dead or alive)who would they be and why?
Only three! Probably Laurens van der Post, Arthur Upfield, Agatha Christie and Carl Jung – maths was never my strong point!
Questions about Writing.
Have you always written? I’ve been a storyteller since childhood. Growing up in a very isolated location threw me back on my own resources for entertainment. So I learned at a young age to see stories everywhere and in the most mundane events. In my first years of primary school, I began writing. There have been long periods when I haven’t though and always felt something was missing. Now it’s a full-time occupation, and I’ve never been happier.
What inspired your new book?
Mildura. My home town renamed Whitworth for the book. I love the wide-open spaces, the red dirt, the river red gums, the river… The breathtaking sense of solitude that standing in the middle of somewhere like the Hay Plains brings. The sense of peace. I grew up in Mildura when there were lots of interesting things going on – especially for a budding crime fiction writer. I wanted to explore links between events, characters, to explore what was hidden, and always to learn why people do what they do.
What time of the day do you usually write? Much prefer mornings. Brain is fresher and ideas emerge more easily.
What is the most difficult part about writing for you? When my characters refuse to co-operate, or tell me what’s going on. Sometimes threats work, cajoling, offers of tea or something stronger. They fall silent when I’m taking the story in the direction I want it to go, rather than how they want it told. When we work in harmony it’s so much easier.
What is your work schedule like when you are writing? It depends on where I’m up to in the process. Always start early and often work through. If I have a deadline, I just keep going. If I have time, usually finish about lunchtime and do other things in the afternoon.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? Being able to close my eyes and watch the characters interact, eavesdrop on conversations, see what’s unfolding through someone else’s eyes. And if the characters are playing nicely, be able to ask questions. That’s a fabulous quirk to have!
Did you do any research for your current book? Yes. Because it’s a police procedural I need to understand how things are done, interviews conducted, the treatment of a crime scene. A lot of information can be gathered by reading widely, asking questions, but in the end how you put the research together, which sections you use are all determined by how the story wants and needs to be told.
Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special? It would have to be David. The man in my current novel who didn’t want to be the hero. His refusal to take on the role ground the entire story to a screeching halt. It was only when I asked a writing group I’m part of why he was being unhelpful that someone made the suggestion that perhaps the wrong person was in the hero role. I listened to the characters, to the story, and swapped the hero. A flood of ideas and events, layers and understanding emerged and I have to type more quickly in order to keep up.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions? Possible. But perhaps not fiction. So much of what goes on in a story, love, loss, anger, grief, hope – are strong emotions and for many felt physically as well as in the mind. It would be hard to be convincing if the emotion wasn’t felt.
Best writing advice/ Worst writing advice you ever received? Best advice – get the story out of your head in whatever way works for you. Worst advice – draft everything. That takes out all the fun of discovery.
Best money you have spent as a writer? The first course I did at the NSW Writer’s Centre, was in about 1996. I don’t remember now what it was, but I remember the teacher and her belief that I had the capacity to tell gripping stories. No one had ever given me that backup before.
Do you have a favourite author and why? Favourites change from month to month, there are always new discoveries to make. I always come back to Garry Disher and Peter Temple. I love the speed in Temple’s work, and the dark depths and how he handles dialogue. I love the spartan writing in Disher’s work and how the landscape is a powerful part of what unfolds.
What are you reading now? Gary Jubelin’s I Catch Killers, and Fiona Macintosh’s The Spys Wife.
What books or authors have most influenced your writing? I think everything I’ve ever read has added something. The way of describing a scene, an emotion, a discussion between characters – I’ve taken some piece of information, view, learning from every book I’ve read. Some books show me how NOT to tell a story. The influences can be positive and negative.
Favourite book/story you have read as an adult? How much paper do you have! So many remarkable books and all have had a different impact on how I see stories. I loved the Far Pavilions, Len Deighton’s Hook, Line and Sinker series, Ruth Rendell, Simeon, Arthur Upfield. Arthur Upfield’s, Death of a Swagman has a special place in my memory. It was the first book set in a country that I knew well and had grown up in. Jon Cleary, Trent Dalton, Kate Forsyth….
Favourite book/story you have read as a child? Lord of the Rings was the first book I read as an early teen that has stayed with me and is reread on a regular basis. But I don’t write or read fantasy. There is such depth to the story that it always enriches anything I’m working on. LOTR is a place to retreat, to emerge inspired and restored and after, well, some decades, it always has something new to offer that I hadn’t discovered before.
If you would care to donate to the library appeal ,as I did, more details can be found on the Lismore library home page.