I like to call myself a ‘mystery writer’ because at the centre of every book I write—whether it’s a ‘cozy crime’ or a stand-alone adult novel—lies an intriguing mystery, one I hope my readers get a chance to solve. My most popular series is the Ghostwriter Mystery Series which features a feisty, Aussie amateur sleuth called Roxy Parker who swears and drinks a little too much for her own good. I have just written the second book in my best-selling Agatha Christie Book Club series, which is often dubbed a ‘cozy’. In each case, I provide readers with a complex puzzle and offer them all the clues (and a few red herrings) to help solve the crime.
Did anyone influence you / encourage you to become a writer?
I have to partially credit my parents because I grew up in tropical Papua New Guinea and used to spend holidays on a remote island that had a cannibal skull cave in the middle. We used to trek to the cave and I would stare, mesmerised at those skulls, wondering who they were and what they were doing there. That ignited my love of mysteries. Agatha Christie did the rest!
Tell us about the concept behind your books. How did you get the idea?
I used to belong to a very staid book club that took great pleasure in reviewing award-winning (read: dull-as-dishwater) novels that often left me yearning for the riveting crime novel by my bed. That real-life experience became the starting point for The Agatha Christie Book Club. In that book, two sisters decide to start a book club devoted to their favourite crime writer and, after gathering seven members, soon stumble upon a series of baffling mysteries. They decide to do as the ‘meddling Miss Marple’ would do, and investigate. Of course!
Who is your favourite Detective?
In the modern era it has to be Vera Stanhope of the Vera series by Anne Cleeves. In earlier fiction you can’t go past Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. Both women, Vera and Jane, have that slightly batty, dishevelled, older lady thing going on which serves them beautifully when it comes to disarming crooks and catching them out. They’re both beautifully developed characters who should never be under-estimated. I also have a soft spot for Hercule Poirot.
Roxy Parker is the amateur sleuth in my Ghostwriter Mystery Series and is a lot of fun. She glugs way too much merlot, avoids commitment like the plague, and has a nose for a good mystery. My Agatha Christie Book Club series features six amateur sleuths but my favourite, by far, is Alicia Finlay who is a devoted sister, a mystery bloodhound and a sweet soul looking for love.
What is more important in your books – the plot twists or the characters?
Both are obviously very important but plot is a real priority for me. Even the best developed and most intriguing characters are a waste of space if the plot is lame or the story goes nowhere. I don’t write to dazzle people with my prose. If I do, that’s great, but it’s not my main focus. I write to provide a fascinating puzzle and give readers all the tools to solve it (while secretly hoping they won’t!) I try not to make the plot too simplistic, or too overly complicated. It’s a fine line.
Do you throw in Red Herrings?
Oh I love a good red herring. After all, as Dame Christie knows, you don’t want to make it too easy for the readers! I often hide an obvious clue by immediately chucking in a bright red herring, which provides the requisite smoke and mirrors.
Not one bit. I’m not a fan of violence in books and I loathe creepy serial killers and vicious, drawn out murders. To me, the murder is inconsequential to the plot. And you won’t find any gory autopsies in my books either. That’s why I’m often cited as ‘cozy’ but, really, my Aussie sleuths swear a little too often for that genre. I’m often asked why I swear so much and I have to explain that these are Australian stories filled with authentic Aussie characters and, sadly, Aussies swear like troopers. It’s as natural to us as breathing. I’m not sure what that says about us, but I don’t do it to upset or infuriate and I hope readers understand that.
Do you include humour?
Very much so. I like my books to be light and entertaining and know from experience that some of the darkest, saddest times can bring out the wickedest humour in people. I love that about life. My characters all like a bit of banter and often lighten the tension with some sarcasm or a few snide jokes. There’s a lot of funny interplay between them, which helps to lighten the mood. Even crime novels can be good fun.
What would your friends say are your best and your oddest quality?
Just like my protagonist Alicia in The Agatha Christie Book Club series, I see danger and mayhem almost everywhere. It’s a bizarre habit. When I walk down the road I might picture the bus careering into the old lady at the bust-stop, or visualise the strange guy on the corner being a serial killer. Even though it freaks my friends and family out, it doesn’t upset me or even get my pulse racing. It’s just the way my mind works. I’m always seeing the drama and the headline in everything. No wonder I became a journalist and a fiction writer!
BIO: C.A. Larmer
The author of nine books, including eight self-published novels, Christina (C.A.) Larmer is an experienced editor, journalist and guest blogger with The Huffington Post. She was born and bred in Papua New Guinea, began her career in women’s lifestyle magazines and went on to run publishing bureaus in London, Los Angeles and New York. She now freelances and writes fiction from the Byron Bay hinterland of Northern NSW, Australia where she lives with her musician husband and two sons.
Now an Amazon best-selling crime writer with sales in excess of 40,000 e-books, her novels include The Agatha Christie Book Club, six Ghostwriter Mysteries, the adult fiction An Island Lost and the non-fiction book A Measure of Papua New Guinea. She was recently featured at the 2015 Byron Bay Writers Festival.
Contact her at: calarmerspits.blogspot.com.au/