Author’s name: Dorothy Johnston
What is your latest novel called and what is it about?:
My latest novel is called ‘The Fourth Season’. It’s the last book in my Sandra Mahoney mystery quartet. I think of it as an extended meditation on Canberra and multiple levels of betrayal. A review of ‘The Fourth Season’ can be found on the Awesome Indies site. Here is a short synopsis.
When the body of a young female environmental activist and science student, Laila Fanshaw, is found floating in Lake Burley Griffin, security consultant Sandra Mahoney’s life is turned upside down, not least because her partner, Ivan, was in love with Laila. Ivan is a suspect and has no alibi for the time of death. A further strain is put the relationship when another suspect, who worked in the Federal Environment Department, wants to hire Sandra to help him clear his name. Against opposition from Ivan, Sandra says yes and takes on the assignment.
Laila was a complex person, good friends with a Greens senator, and committed to her cause, but also unscrupulous in her use of men, and an accomplished hacker. While Sandra is attempting to understand Laila’s character, and the events that led to her murder, there is another ‘death by water’. This time the body of professional diver, Ben Sanderson, is found in Sandra’s local swimming pool.
Sandra has to weigh up her desire to learn the truth against her children’s needs. Both her children are deeply affected by Laila’s death and Ivan’s reaction to it and are possibly in danger too. Added to this, Sandra’s friend in the Federal Police, Detective Sergeant Brook, is absolutely against her involvement in the case.
Laila had a secret passion, and though this passion was connected to her love of the sea, nobody who knew her guessed what it was. In pursuit of this passion, she stumbled on a major criminal activity. It takes all of Sandra’s ingenuity and courage to steer herself, and her family, through the dangers that lead to an eventual unmasking of the truth.
Why is independent publishing important to you? :
For the purposes of answering this question, I take independent publishing to include both self-publishing and publishing through a small, royalty-paying company. The first point to make, an obvious one, is that opportunities have increased enormously following the digital revolution. The big traditional print publishers, and even the medium to small ones, are more and more influenced by purely commercial considerations. They have to be because of the cost of producing and distributing hard copy books. If I had the space here, I’d include a history of fiction publishing in Australia from a brief, heady expansion in the 1980s and 90s to a subsequent and continuing decline. Producing and distributing ebooks for a fraction of the cost of printed ones enables tiny stand-alone publishers to compete with big ones. They can afford, once again, to take risks. It’s often, in the past, been the small independents who have taken the risks. More digital-only publishers are starting up every day. The really exciting part, in my opinion, is that authors now have many more choices than they had a couple of years ago.
Do you ever read novels more than once? If so, give us the name of one and tell us why you reread it.:
When I was teaching myself how to construct a crime novel, I re-read Martin Cruz Smith’s Russian trilogy several times, mainly for the dialogue, but also for his skill in building characters. I was especially interested in protagonist Arkady Renko’s leaps of insight and how Smith turns corners with his dialogue in surprising ways. At the other end of the spectrum, every other year I re-read Marilynne Robinson’s ‘Housekeeping’ for the sheer lyrical joy of it.
What is your least favorite part of the writing process? What part do you like least?:
My least favourite part of the writing process is coming up with a satisfying ending. There always seems to be a conflict between aesthetic resolution on the one hand, and plot resolution on the other. Temperamentally, I’m inclined to trust my instincts with regard to the former, but plot resolutions often strike me as artificial and I re-write them dozens of times.
How many books have you published? Which is your favorite? Why?:
I have had nine novels published and have self-published a short story collection. Details of these can be found on my website. I also have several novel manuscripts complete, or near complete, including the start of a new mystery series, and one novella.
My favourite is always the one I’m working on. Being an optimist, I hope that this time I can really get it right!
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