Interrogating the Author: Kerry Greenwood
On the eve of Phryne's big debut on the small screen (Miss Fisher's
Murder Mysteries begin screening on ABC1 on Friday 24 February, 8.30pm)
we managed to catch up with Phryne's creator, the one and only Kerry
What was the first crime novel or story you can remember reading? How old were you?
I was seven years old and it was The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes. I didn't know all the big words though I learned them fast) but I was enthralled.
creation Phryne Fisher is coming to life on the small screen this
month. Do you have a favourite crime TV series and/or movie? What do you
love about it/them?
I really admire the Mrs Bradley
mysteries, because I love Diana Reed with a pure passion (I was
thinking of her when Phryne came into my life, among other people) and
because the original mysteries by Gladys Mitchell are not very good. The
TV versions are stylish and ingenious and puzzling, without being too
gory (and have now disappointed me by bringing in that most trite of
story lines, the serial killer mastermind, such a pity). Although
Sherlock had his Moriarty. I also like Brother Cadfael. Both are
extremely accurate historically and really engrossing.
were lucky enough to visit the set during production of the Miss
Fisher's Murder Mystery series - what can you tell us about that? Any
behind-the-scenes revelations or gossip?
missed out on the goss - unless it is intriguing to know that John Wood
prefers salad for lunch or Miriam Margolis can do an imitation of her
elderly relative speaking Glasgow with a Yiddish accent which reduced my
favourite cafe to hysterics. Or that I first met Essie Davis in the
flesh when she had just returned from her initial tango lesson (she is
SO perfect for Phryne).
On the set of the circus, where I play a
fortune teller and David Greagg a wizard (he was typecast) I met most of
the crew, all of whom were delighted to be there. There were a lot of
fanatical Phryne readers who had demanded a part. They were charming and
delightful and very patient with my endless questions. There was a
lovely feeling of shared endeavour about the set.
As for acting,
I'm glad I'm a writer. I would go bats sitting around with nothing to
do, then repeating something over and over and OVER again. I think
whoever does this for a living is VERY skilled. But to be an interloper
was a lot of fun.
The circus set was a strange experience, like a
dream or possibly an hallucination. I remember inventing Farrells
Circus, thought of the name, typing away, three in the morning, the
rain outside on my Footscray window, Belladonna the cat asleep on my
desk. Then to go to Altona and see a yellow and red big top with
Farrell's Circus on it - was wierd. A little like being God. Or a
paranoid schizophrenic. I thought of it and it was made real.
attention to detail has been remarkable. The circus even included my
Sherlock Holmes joke. Watson mentions that Holmes was engaged in solving
the case of the Giant Rat of Sumatra but doesn't tell us anything else.
I put it in Blood and Circuses as a tent show and there it was - giant and rodentlike and very convincing, painted in the correct style and colours for 1928.
also saw the set for Phryne's house. Another dream like experience. Not
only all the things which I have SAID were there, but all the things I
have implied were there. For instance, a Clarice Cliff coffee set, which
is only referred to when Dot hears a crash and hopes it isn't the
coffee set. A Fantin-Latour of white roses which refers to Phryne
arranging flowers in that manner at the end of Queen of the Flowers.
The lalique glass birds of exactly the right year. Warrander's esences
in the kitchen. Wonderful. Wonderful. I felt very honoured.
- Phryne and some friends from officialdom
it confronting or odd to see your characters being personified by the
cast members? How have you enjoyed (or not, depending) the whole
experience of having your novels adapted for the screen?
been very interesting. Luckily I am familiar with what happens to the
play once it gets into the hands of the actors, so the process was not
too shocking for me. One cannot fit the whole of none of my books into
one hour (minus three minutes). But I have been in on it through all of
it, from the initial script conference in Byron Bay to the actual
writing. I have read and vetted every script and advised extensively.
Although I have not necessarily agreed with every plot line, I have not
disagreed, either. Throughout, Deb and Fiona have been the eseence of
kindness and patience. It's going to be amazing. Not all Phryne fans
will like it. I expect to get a lot of emails saying "that wasn't in the
book". But most should like it. It may not be the actual words, but
they have caught the essence.
Now some more general questions. What was the last book you read, and did it live up to your expectations?
Bleak House. I always read Dickens when I am writing a novel. And he never fails to elevate, amuse and instruct.
When did you realise you wanted to be a writer? Are there any authors in particular who you would cite as inspiration/influence?
was about six when I hungered to have a book of my very own with KERRY
GREENWOOD on the cover. Dorothy Sayers taught me how to write a
satisfying, re-readable detective story. And Wodehouse taught me how to
be funny. He is the Master.
Did you make any New Year's resolutions for this year? Are you sticking to them?
To finish the new Phryne book on time. So far it's going well.
Tell us when, and where, you do your writing?
it strikes me, and always at my desk in the front of the house. I used
to write late at night, now I seem to prefer early mornings. Both times
are quiet and there are no phone calls or visitors. Or if there are it
is either 1) an emergency or 2) burglars, both of which need to be
attended to immediately.
If you could meet any historical or real-life person, living or dead, who would you choose?
Eleanor of the Acquitaine and her troubadours. That would be a VERY good party.
If you could meet any fictional character, who would you choose?
Hercule Poirot, to smack him with a brick right in those little grey
cells. And I'd love it if Phryne swanned in and sat down on the corner
of my desk and sipped her cocktail while relating the latest story. In
fact, that seems to happen now...
And finally, what are you working on now? Can you tell us a little about your next book?
new Phryne involves Soldier Settlers, Socialism, the Abbotsford
Convent's Magdalen Laundry, White Slavery. apple jelly and brothels. I
will watch my future progress with much interest.
recently appeared on the 13th Street channel in conversation with fellow
crime author Tara Moss - you can see their chat here.
Greenwood is the author of more than forty novels, six non-fiction
works and the editor of two collections. Previous novels in the Phryne Fisher series are Cocaine Blues, Flying too High, Murder on the Ballarat Train, Death on the Victoria Dock, Blood and Circuses, The Green Mill Murder, Ruddy Gore, Urn Burial, Raisins and Almonds, Death Before Wicket, Away with the Fairies, Murder in Montparnasse, The Castlemaine Murders, Queen of the Flowers, Death by Water, Murder in the Dark, A Question of Death: An illustrated Phryne Fisher Treasury, Murder on a Midsummer Night and most recently, Dead Man's Chest. She is also the author of the Corinna Chapman crime series, Earthly Delights, Heavenly Pleasures, Devil's Food, Trick or Treat, Forbidden Fruit and Cooking the Books.