13 August 2012

Interview with B. Michael Radburn, author of The Crossing

B. Michael Radburn
Australian author B. Michael Radburn drops by to talk about writing, reading, his favourite bookshop, and his newest book Blackwater Moon. Radburn is the author of the chilling tale, The Crossing, published by Pantera Press.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
All writers were readers first. Once I found an author whose work really spoke to me, I saw it as more than an art form. It was a way to explore your emotions in the safety of a fictitious world. For me the itch began when I read Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. I was twelve.

Having published more than 80 short stories, articles and reviews during your writing career, how did writing The Crossing differ?
Surprisingly, the disciplines required to write short stories for commercial markets helped me write The Crossing. Having limited word counts for many of the major magazines means you have to carefully consider pace and story relevance. In a crime thriller, these principles are very important. Therefore it was wonderful to have the broader platform of a novel to develop my characters further. The Crossing is carried by its quirky ensemble of characters, which is one of the book’s strengths.

When do you do your best work? Do you have any particular writing routines or quirky habits you've developed over the years?
I’m not the kind of author who needs a special place to write. I travel a lot with my work, so with laptop in hand, I can write at home, on a plane, or in a hotel room. The closest thing to a routine is that I prefer to do my creative writing in the mornings when my mind is fresh and clear. Evenings are better for research and plot development. If I suffer from writer's block I jump on my Harley and everything seems to fall into place again on the highway.

The main character in The Crossing is a Ranger in Glorys Crossing, Tasmania, a (fictional) town which is slowly being drowned by a local dam project. This makes for an original and eerie setting for a novel, what inspired you to choose this location and setting?
The Tasmanian landscape was important to me because the island has a deep sense of history. From a “mainlander’s” point of view, its isolation and unpredictable climate lends itself as the perfect setting for The Crossing which required a strong notion of place about it.

I was down there in the 1980’s when the eco-battle to save the Franklin River was on. I remember walking the streets of a nearby village, imagining it drowning beneath the dam waters, its history – and secrets – gone forever. It was an image that stayed with me all this time and formed the genesis of The Crossing.

My favourite character in The Crossing was The Librarian – the hoarder and master of information in the form of newspapers, books, reports and microfiche; mountains of paper stacked all around him. How did this character manifest on the page? I'd love to know more about him!
My process of creating characters for The Crossing required a complex mix of individuals, yet each needed that underlying drive of seeking redemption. Before the creative process of any piece, I write a detailed character profile. This entails physical description, general background and even a psychological profile in the case of more complex characters like the Librarian.

But of all the characters, he and Taylor virtually wrote themselves. This became evident whenever the two engaged in the story. It was almost like I was merely sitting in the corner taking notes.

Was it important to you that your novel was distinctly Australian?

I gave this a lot of thought while developing the storyline, and felt there was scope to not just to write a fast paced thriller for the Australian market, but also to write an Australian story to appeal to a wider international market as well.

This weekend is National Bookshop Day, do you have a favourite bookshop, and what makes it special?
I like Abbeys in the City in Sydney. I discovered Abbeys way back in the 1970’s when I was in my late teens. It was worth the travel because you were guaranteed finding the book you were after and many you weren’t. It’s still there today, and brings back many fond memories.

What are some of your favourite books and authors?

Anything by the late Ray Bradbury. He’s an author that uniquely tackles adult fears through the eyes of a child. I’ve been a keen fan of Stephen King’s work too. His early novels like Salem’s Lot, The Shining and The Stand are wonderful. But the one book I can go back to time and time again is Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I’d have to say that book is my all time favourite.

As for more modern writers, I’ve become a big fan of Tess Gerritsen’s work. Books like The Surgeon and The Apprentice. I was fortunate enough to meet Tess at a writer’s event last year. She’s amazing.

Do you have any literary influences?
Most writers begin their careers by emulating their favourite authors. Stephen King’s work was the most influential when I began, and from there I developed my own style. A little while later I met Stephen at a writers’ convention we were both speaking at in Canada. We got together at an after-party and I’ll never forget the insights on writing he offered. Guidelines I continue to use in my writing courses and general approach to the craft. Wow, how incredible to meet one of your favourite authors and biggest literary influences. You obviously made the most of the opportunity when many of us would have been star struck (like me).

Tell us a little about your new novel due out soon, Blackwater Moon.

Blackwater Moon is a brooding crime thriller set in the fictitious riverlands town of Blackwater. Set over several decades, it’s not only about “the crime”, but about the influence that one moment in time has over both the perpetrator and victim, all leading to a climax that you won’t see coming. I’m really happy with it.

Anything else in the pipeline?

I’m currently working on a sequel to The Crossing. Taylor Bridges and Sam Grady join forces again to solve a series of murders uncovered after a forest fire reveals the remote kill grounds of a serial killer. I’m really enjoying working with those two characters again.

A sequel sounds exciting, I hope the Librarian makes an appearance! Thanks for joining us here at Carpe Librum and I'm looking forward to reading Blackwater Moon!

Would you like to comment?

  1. I finished The Crossing last night, and have to say it's one of the most beautiful, tender depictions of grief I've ever read.

    I loved the entire book, and will be adding it to my personal stash of books, since I borrowed it from the library on your recommendation Trace!

    Great interview too, and I'm delighted there's a sequel in the works.

  2. I'm so glad you loved The Crossing, it sounds like it really struck a chord with you. I love it when that happens.

  3. I couldn't find "The Crossing" after reading your review, but did find "Blackwater Moon" which I just finished reading.

    Great read and I'm going out at lunch to try to find "The Crossing". Love it

  4. Thanks Joe, glad to hear you enjoyed 'Blackwater Moon' I absolutely loved it, and will be posting a review soon.

    Hope you enjoy 'The Crossing'.


Thanks for your comment, Carpe Librum!