It is a pleasure to welcome Kerry McGinnis to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews for A Tea Break with Mrs B, an author interview series. To help celebrate the release of The Missing Girl we sat down for a chat. Thanks Kerry!
What is your drink of choice as we sit down for a chat about your new book?
Coffee. I’ll have a flat white thanks, extra hot, one sugar.
Can you give us an overview of your writing career to date?
I’m currently working on my 16th book. The first one Pieces of Blue was published in 1999. It was the first of two autobiographies; after that I wrote Outback mystery novels with an emphasis on family relationships and the land. In 2018 I wrote the first book of the Farseeker trilogy which I completed in 2019 and 2020 (when I also wrote The Missing Girl). I really enjoyed my venture into fantasy but have no plans at present to pursue it.
How different was the experience of writing The Missing Girl, compared to your previous releases?
The main difference was that I was unable to travel due to Covid 19. I do know South Australia (I was born there) but it has been a few years since I was back and I like to check out the areas I write about to have landscape descriptions correct. So my trip has been deferred until next year, which is also why my current work is set in the Gulf Country. I don’t need to visit that to ensure accuracy as I spent forty years living there.
What kick started the creation of your latest novel, The Missing Girl?
Meg’s name. I once owned a lovely-natured racing mare called Lady Meg and wanted to use the name. Then I thought about where I hadn’t set a book and came up with South Australia, and once I’d chosen the area, which I had visited several times in the past, it just grew from there. If you have a character and a locality in mind it’s simply a matter of waiting until a situation comes to you. (Why is she there, what is she doing for a living?) and then you’re away.
What issues do you explore in The Missing Girl?
Something that has always interested and outraged me is the deception often practiced upon children within a family. Not so much nowadays perhaps but how many illegitimate children have had their pasts obscured forever by family? The children that called their mothers sister. The uncles that were also their nieces’ fathers. Or the parents/siblings/relatives that conveniently ‘died’ to prevent a child from learning who they really were. Most families hide something and these are the issues I like to explore.
Where did the inspiration for your characters come from?
I don’t think of it as inspiration. More a case of who’s useful for the plot. I have to admit I that I too had a Gorgon of a grandmother so you could call that creation historical fact. Then 2020 will always be remembered for the summer of bushfires that ushered it in — a useful edition for suspense. Also I have a friend who is both a wonderful photographer and has lived in New Guinea. Writers make use of everything. Like cooking really — a bit of this, a bit of that…
Can you give us an insight into the setting base for The Missing Girl?
The Adelaide Hills is pretty country. Lightly settled, small farms and acreage, great growing country (necessary for the novel’s garden, I love flowers) with a town large enough to have a retirement home, a solicitor and a show. None of which you would find in outback towns. Ditto Michael’s restaurant, one of several. These considerations dictate the need for a rural rather than outback setting for the novel.
What key ingredients are essential to crafting a rural suspense novel?
First you need a crime/secret/mystery, then some danger (you can’t have your protagonist sauntering around uncovering things without some suspense involved) If you character has a little esoteric knowledge or ability to get themselves out of a jam or to solve a problem then that’s good, and self-sufficiency is a must because isolation ensures there isn’t too much outside help available.
What is one thing that you really hope readers will take away from the experience of reading The Missing Girl?
That life was possible before the mobile phone and computer.
Can you tell us about your writing space?
I have a dedicated workroom that contains only my desk, bookcases, my harp and a few indoor plants. It’s at the back of the house so I can’t hear the doorbell, but desperate visitors can ring me through the phone on my desk. So people who don’t know that (salesmen, Jehovah Witnesses etc) don’t disturb my day.
What is the best part of being a published author?
The satisfaction of a favourite character getting a wider audience, so they live on after you’ve ended your acquaintance with them.
When you are not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
I play the harp, I garden, I read, go to the gym and for walks every day. I don’t have pets because, Covid permitting, I travel every year.
What book is next on your reading pile?
Louise Penny’s ‘All The Devils Are Here’.
What are you working on writing wise at present?
My 16th novel, untitled as yet, is another tale set in the Gulf Country, this time throughout the Wet Season. Once again an exploration of the wrongs and secrets and consequences of love given in ignorance of the truth.
Thank you for the lovely tea break and chat Kerry. Congratulations on the release of your new book, The Missing Girl.
A highly evocative family mystery of secrets and betrayal from the bestselling author of Croc Country.
The darkest secrets are buried the deepest.
Meg Morrissey has just lost her job, and her partner to an overseas assignment, when she is called back to the family home of Hunters Reach in the picturesque Adelaide Hills. Her ailing grandmother, who raised her when she was orphaned as a child, has always been a formidable figure in her life, and this is hardly a welcome summons.
When Meg arrives at the ramshackle old homestead, she learns that the place is up for sale. She is expected to care for the property with its extensive garden, while packing up the contents of the house. As she begins the arduous work of bringing the grand old homestead back to its former glory, she is forced to examine the question that has plagued her all her life – why nobody loved her as a child.
As the house unfolds the history of an earlier age, it also spills out secrets Meg had never imagined – in particular, the discovery of an aunt she never knew, her mother’s twin sister, Iris. The discovery brings horror in its wake, as Meg learns the secrets of the missing girl and the truth behind a wicked heart where love simply never existed. The more she uncovers, the more questions she has. With her grandmother unwilling to share what she knows, Meg must seek out the truth for herself.
Set against the stunning backdrop of the Australian bush in summer, with the ever-present threat of bushfire at its back, this is a highly evocative story of secrets and betrayal from the bestselling author of Croc Country.
The Missing Girl by Kerry McGinnis was published on 2nd July 2021 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.