What inspired you to write Every Breath?
Well, there’s the long story and the short story… A few years ago, when I was still working towards publication, I submitted a story to a competition run by Sisters In Crime (the Australian women crime writers association). Amazingly enough, I won. I figured that crime writing was something I seemed to have a knack for, and I decided to write a novel splicing together crime and Young Adult fiction, which has always been my first love – Every Breath was the result.
How did you arrive at the title?
Something I’ve discovered about the way books are released onto shelves is that it’s very rare for an author’s original title to make it onto the cover – sad, but true. The original title of the book was Diogenes. There seemed to be a general consensus that maybe this would be hard for folks to pronounce and remember, so my publisher, my agent and I searched long and hard for a new title… I was actually overseas when a furious flurry of emails started, with ideas for a new title, and luckily I wasn’t so out of time zones that I was unable to participate! My lovely copyeditor, Hilary, actually suggested Every Breath – she has a great instinct for titles, I reckon.
Were you a Sherlock Holmes fan before writing the book?
Absolutely! In fact, while I’m writing this, I can look over the top of my laptop at my old 1950’s copy of The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. I still pick up the books quite often. And I’m a huge fan of Elementary, and the BBC series Sherlock. I’m a bit of a purist, though – I’m not so taken with the Robert Downey Jnr films… But I will happily watch or read anything Sherlock-related - my old crush has never really faded.
In a nutshell though, the book was inspired by my old crush on Sherlock Holmes! I love the Conan Doyle stories, and I knew if I was going to write a YA crime book, I wanted Sherlock to be in it. My curiosity about what a contemporary teenaged Sherlock would really be like kicked off Mycroft’s character, and Rachel Watts came soon after.
Is Rosemarina a replacement for Irene Adler in the original Sherlock Holmes series? Will we be seeing more of her in future books and... will she be one of Mycroft's nemeses?
Hm… I don’t want to give too much away, but Rosemarina is not a replacement for Irene. Mycroft does have a nemesis, someone linked to his English past – but we’ll see how that begins to unfold in the second book, Every Word.
Why did you allow a romance to flourish between Mycroft and Watts? Would it have been easier to make them just friends?
Interesting question… I think Mycroft isn’t quite as ‘emotionally compartmentalised’, shall we say, as the original Sherlock, who repressed a great deal in the service of intellect. And Rachel is a very appealing person – she complements Mycroft in a lot of ways, so they seemed to be a sort of natural couple. I think I could have allowed them to be ‘just friends’, with a lot of UST simmering below the surface, but ultimately I think Rachel would have lost patience with that! She’s a very honest character, with a lot of directness, and I felt that she deserved a straightforward emotional response. And, I admit, I like a bit of romance – it always gives a story a nice frisson, I think.
Did you have to do much research for this book and if you did how did you go about it?
Yes, I had to research police work and homicide investigation in Australia, for one, and the specific details surrounding the murder, as well as the locations (Melbourne zoo, and the areas nearby, where Rachel and Mycroft live). I also spent a lot of time researching forensic investigation and post-mortem examination – for that I had to consult with my sister, who’s a doctor, and a former colleague of hers, who is a forensic pathologist.
I was not allowed to interview anyone from the VIFM (Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine) here - it’s very difficult to make enquiries, actually, because the details of forensic examination are so sensitive, both judicially and in connection to the families of those deceased. But I did wangle my way into the foyer of St Kilda Road Police Headquarters here in Melbourne, just to get a look at the place!
I like how you covered numerous societal ills in the book but without overburdening the reader or taking away from the story line. Would you care to comment on that?
Yes – I did a lot of research on homelessness, and mental health issues for teenagers while writing the book, and only a little of that went into the final draft. Homeless Dave’s situation isn’t that uncommon in Melbourne – homelessness is an issue all over, and years ago, while doing street art, I spent a few nights in the CBD seeing it first-hand. Mental health is still a really poorly-understood and supported issue in Australia, too –many young people with mental health issues end up in hospital emergency wards, in police detention, or going it alone, often with problems compounded by substance abuse.
I wanted to highlight some of the inadequacies in the system without hitting readers over the head with it. Every Breath isn’t a ‘message’ book – I think books with a ‘lesson plan’ tone are of limited usefulness, as most teenagers spot it a mile away. And teens are well-informed, they know what’s going on, there’s no need to lecture. Giving a simple picture of the truth is usually enough.
The pacing of the book is excellent and keeps the reader wanting more. How do you approach your writing? Do you draft an outline first or just delve in and let the story take you where it will?
Thank you! I am not a plotter – I usually get ideas for scenes and get them down as quickly as I can, then work them all together later. Some scenes really seem to burn bright, and I have a real sense of urgency while writing – I usually find they have a tension that carries the reader along. And the first reader is me, of course, so in a way I’m writing for myself! I love books that keep me turning pages, unable to stop reading.
Because I have a big family, I used to get up very early in the morning – about 5am – to write, as I’m hopeless at night. Now my kids are all in school, the routine is a bit easier! But I find it really important to maintain a discipline, so I still set my alarm for 6 a.m. most mornings, so I can get in an hour or two before I have to come inside and make breakfast/get kids off to school.
Finally, I must say I really enjoyed the book and am looking forward to the sequel Every Word.
Thanks Ann! And thank you for reading, and having me to visit on the blog! You can catch me anytime on Facebook or Twitter @elliemarney too.