Writers On Writing / Writing across genres with Marianne Delacourt

We chatted to award-winning author Marianne Delacourt, ahead of her course Online: Crime Writing starting on Monday 22 June, about writing across different genres, her writing process and what she loves in a good crime novel.

You write across a broad range of genres, including speculative fiction, crime and young adult fiction. Do you have different writing processes for each?

Honestly, I don’t think so. Of course the window dressing is different e.g. the language. But my stories always begin with the main character and their journey, and end there as well. In all my work I strive to keep the reader a little off balance. I hate predictability. This, of course, leads to a lot of plot twists and traumas! The main difference I think, lays in the themes I investigate. With Spec Fic, I seem to come back again and again to women trying to find their way in a hostile world. My crime has been more about the many shades of morality. And with YA I’ve enjoyed exploring how from even the darkest places you can find the light again. That’s why, I think, I love writing in different genres.

The structure of a crime novel is particularly important. How do you juggle the narrative, keeping track of the threads and building a resolution? 

Crime writers all have their own ways of working. Some are quite systematic, using charts and chapter breakdowns to track pace, clues, reveals etc. I still prefer to let the narrative drive me through on the first draft. I set a destination point for the protagonist and hang on to their coat tails. That’s partly because I love the feeling of having a lot of balls in the air. Problem solving in the moment is one of the most enjoyable challenges in the process, for me at least. It can lead to more rewriting, but it also allows for lots of surprises. It’s a bit messy, but fun. Then I do a draft with a lot of note taking, working out what pieces need to be moved where. I’ve tried different software over the years, but have found a good old notebook works best.

What do you consider the hallmarks of an exciting crime novel?

I am a complete and utter sucker for a whodunnit. If I don’t feel there’s a big, fat compelling mystery, I get bored with the characters just noodling around, chatting. So straight up, I need to know what puzzle I’m unravelling. Then I’m prepared to immerse in the world and the characters. A great crime novel needs to engage both your heart and your head; this genre demands intellect and emotion. Also, crime fiction audiences are very sophisticated. So, a cracking novel must reek of authenticity. The course I’m running goes into this in a lot more detail, especially the question of how to craft a memorable ‘crime’ protagonist.

What are your favourite true crime podcasts? 

Australian True Crime podcast with Meshel Laurie and Emily Webb offers consistently intelligent, sensitive interviewing of local crimes and local true crime authors. Highly recommended.
The Night Driver from Hedley Thomas is renown for his work on the Teacher’s Pet podcast. But this coverage of the disappearance of Janine Vaughan in Bathurst almost 20 years ago is comprehensive, carefully even handed, and totally compelling.
Trace, the Nicola Gobbo story, with Rachael Brown and her co-reporter Josie Taylor conveys a passion for the truth and presents all sides of a very complex story.  Excellent production values as well.

Marianne Delacourt is the crime-writing pseudonym of speculative fiction author, Marianne de Pierres. The first book in her Tara Sharp crime series, Sharp Shooter, won the Australian Sister’s in Crime Davitt Award for Best Novel. Marianne has a doctorate in creative writing from the University of Queensland. Visit her websites at tarasharp.com.au and mariannedepierres.com

Join Marianne Delacourt for her course Online: Crime Writing, starting Monday 24 May. Enrol now>>

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