Tell us about your latest creation:
It’s a crime novel set in France and the first in a series. The main character is a senior French detective at the Criminal Brigade in Paris. This book opens with an investigation into the murder of an elderly woman. Others will die. The main suspects are two evangelists, a man and a boy, who go door-to-door distributing religious pamphlets. I won’t give the rest away – I hope you’ll read the book!
Where are you from / where do you call home?:
There’s no simple answer to this. My father is Malaysian and my mother is half French, half Spanish. My father was a diplomat and we moved every three years or so. I went to French schools, but only lived in France once I’d turned 17 and enrolled in university. I love Southeast Asia and feel very comfortable there. New Zealand holds a special place in my heart and is possibly the place I would call home, if I had to choose. I spent many happy years there. It’s where I met my husband and where one of our two sons was born.
Yes. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer. Nothing else.
What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:
This is my first published novel. Hopefully, my best work is yet to come!
Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:
I’m not a particularly tidy person but my writing room is reasonably ordered. It’s probably the only room in our house that doesn’t have action figures or pieces of Lego lying around. It’s filled with books and photographs. There are books everywhere in our house, but my favourite books are in this room. I also have lots of photographs here of my two boys. I write next to a window that looks out onto the garden.
When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:
I read everything. Lots of crime fiction – Ian Rankin, Denise Mina and Robert Wilson are among my favourites. I also love the books of Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, Jhumpa Lahiri, Lionel Shriver, Jonathan Franzen … I could go. Non-fiction authors I like include Patrick French, William Dalrymple, Orlando Figes and the BBC journalist John Simpson.
What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:
My earliest memory of reading intensely dates back to when I was a teenager. I devoured books by Jane Austen, F. Scott. Fitzgerald, the Bronte sisters, Henry James, Thomas Hardy …. I remember reading the Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell and being mesmerized. Reading the Catcher in the Rye was a defining moment. The authors I come back to again and again are Graham Greene, Anton Chekhov and William Trevor.
If you were a literary character, who would you be?:
That’s a difficult one. Maybe Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo! Not for her asocial and introverted nature, but because of her strength of character. She takes charge of her own destiny. I see her as a moral character. She is a fantastic creation. I absolutely loved the Stieg Larsson trilogy.
Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:
I have two young boys and so family life is what takes up most of my spare time – no surprises there, I’m afraid. I recently went back to university, and I also work with an amazing group of people who provide support to refugee families here in Melbourne.
What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:
My favourite drink has to be red wine and my favourite foods tend to be Asian, be it Vietnamese, Thai or Indian. My parents live in Malaysia and I love going there for visits, because it means I get to eat all my favourite things.
Who is your hero? Why?:
I don’t really have one particular hero. But the people I admire are generally intellectually passionate and engaged with the world. At the moment I am reading a memoir by Penelope Lively called Ammonites & Leaping Fish, in which she reflects on her life. She is eighty and yet so full of life still, and intellectual curiosity. I admire people like Salman Rushdie and the late Christopher Hitchens for their brilliance and for having the courage to speak their mind, even at the risk of offending others.
Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:
The biggest challenge is keeping independent bookstores in business, and libraries open. So that our children and their children will continue to read and to understand the immense value of books – the many ways in which they enrich our minds, our lives and our communities.