This week, I had the opportunity to talk with Alana Woods, author of two contemporary Australian thrillers.
- Tell us about yourself:
Career public servant in a past life. And a professional editor for much of it. After giving up full-time employment some years ago I took on contract editing, and that ended up being full-time as well, which was not my intention. Now I only take on jobs I really want, and something needs to persuade me to do it—such as knowing the author and being sweet-talked into it :), or because the project excites me.
I live in Canberra, Australia’s national capital, and love it—but my husband is less taken with the place so we’re in the process of selling our house. Right now I have no idea where we’ll end up but we intend doing a lot of travelling. We love travelling. We love walking tours, in the UK so far because we have a daughter there and we combine visiting her with our travelling.
- Tell us about your book:
I have two I’d like to tell your readers about. Both are contemporary Australian thrillers, although I think of them as suspense intrigue. Automaton is a legal suspense and Imbroglio an intrigue suspense. They both have principal characters I think of as very likable but also very human, with the frailties, prejudices, strengths and ethics we all have. If your readers would like to see who I’d cast in films of the books they can check them out on my website. All well-known Australian actors, some internationally known. Automaton is set in my home town of Canberra and Imbroglio in Sydney—and I have some great location shots for both.
3. Who is your favorite character in your book, and why?
I’m rather fond of all of my principal characters and don’t have an outright favourite. But one that I’m rather partial to—a main character without being a principal—is Marion Davies in Imbroglio. She’s a young widow with two small children and she’s dragged into the story on the strength of her dead husband’s past—but she holds her own and doesn’t compromise her beliefs and morals. Continuing the if-a-film-were-made theme and I was given casting choice, I’d offer the role of Marion to Australian actor Anna Torv in a shot.
4. Are any elements of your book autobiographical or inspired by elements of your life?
Yes. My novels so far have been inspired by jobs I’ve had. I worked at a weapons research establishment many years ago and eventually that experience resulted in Imbroglio. The idea for Automaton was sparked when I spent five years court reporting criminal trials in Canberra’s Supreme Court. So many of the people on trial were old hands and knew the system, as did their families. But the ones that got under my skin were the families new to it all. They used to look totally lost and my heart bled for them. I wanted to write a story around that.
And my daughters tell me they can see some of my traits and idiosyncrasies in my female characters. Inevitable, I think, when fleshing out characters.
- What’s the strangest place you’ve ever been?
What springs immediately to mind are some of the weird places I found myself in as a child because I never refused a dare. I’m the total opposite nowadays!—probably based on youthful experiences. Once I swam way way past the safe swimming point to retrieve a little wooden boat my older brother had let float away. He wouldn’t go out for it and dared me. We were living in a remote spot on the Great Australian Bight at the time and everyone in Australia knows how big the sharks are out there!
Then there was the time friends dared me to climb up the side of a disused quarry. The surface was slick and slippery with dust and half way up I found myself without good foot and hand holds. My toes still curl when I remember the fear! Obviously I eventually made it to the top—where I lay on the grass for a minute or two to recover!!
- What’s your favorite scene or location in the work you’re currently promoting, and why?
The scene that jumps immediately to mind is in Imbroglio where my two principles finally meet. Noel Valentine, the heroine, and David Cameron, who I can only describe as charismatic but shady. It’s early morning on Coogee Beach, a Sydneyside suburb. Noel has gone for her daily morning swim across the bay and David follows and waits for her on-shore. It really resonates with me because I love swimming and grew up beachside in South Australia. And should I say that they have already met, but this is the first time they’re both awake!
- What book or author has been most inspirational for you, and why?
It’s an author. Dorothy Dunnett. A Scottish writer who died several years ago, much to the distress of her many fans world-wide. She wrote historical as well as contemporary fiction. She was, and continues to be, inspirational because of the beauty of her writing. In my opinion no superlative would be too extreme or fanciful to describe her talent with words and the way she could put them together.
- Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
Two. One is a thriller I wrote years ago and put in a drawer to think about—I don’t like to rush into publication because I’ve learned that I inevitably decide I’m not happy with the first draft. But I’ve recently started working on it again. It’s a corporate legal thriller based on my years working at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Think big business and mergers.
The other is a story based on true events. In 2013 I was in Italy for my daughter’s wedding. I’d taken my best jewellery with me to wear, and also because my daughter wanted to wear my favourite bangle as her something borrowed. Two days before the wedding it was all stolen. I was devastated. But I always knew I’d write about it one day, when I could bear to think about it. I’m about a quarter of the way into the story. The robbery itself is the starting point and from there it enters the realms of fiction because, unlike reality, in the story I make sure the thieves get their comeuppance. I’m going to enjoy writing that! I put a curse on them at the time—May you and everyone involved never find peace!—and it remains in force.
- Finally, where can we find you?
I have a new website which I’m really pleased with. Your readers are invited to visit and if they left a comment to say how they like it, that would be wonderful.
Likes and Follows to any or all are always greatly appreciated.
All pictures for this interview were provided by and used with permission of Alana Woods.