Kathryn Fox, author of Death Mask, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

by |November 1, 2010

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Kathryn Fox

author of Death Mask,Blood Born, Skin and Bone, Malicious Intent and Without Consent,

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Sydney, moved to Adelaide when I was two, and one of my first memories was seeing pictures of the 3 missing Beaumont children on the front page of the newspaper. After the cyclone in Darwin, we lived there before moving to Canberra where I went to high school. I attended medical school in Newcastle, NSW and have practised medicine in Launceston, Gosford, Taree and Sydney, where I now live. It feels like coming full circle, being back here.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

From the age of five I wanted to cure autism. I vividly remember seeing a movie about a boy with autism and feeling so sad that he couldn’t emotionally connect with his parents. At twelve I was just as determined to find the cure and by eighteen I was studying medicine. By thirty I had developed a passion for forensic medicine and rediscovered my love of writing.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

At eighteen I believed that evil did not exist as an entity, that it was merely a lesser degree of good and conscience. Now I believe that evil really does exist – as an absolute.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote influenced my desire to write about crimes and their ramifications, and motivations of the perpetrators.

Post-Mortem by Patricia Cornwell was a major inspiration when it came out.

Two paintings that particularly moved me were different versions of Monet’s Path Through The Irises. One was painted before he had cataracts and is more violet and the other is of the same scene, only more yellowy. He painted this when he had cataracts, which dramatically altered his perception of colours. They are a perfect example of viewpoint being influenced by personal experiences and how easily perceptions of the same scene can be altered.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

For me, writing is like breathing, and novels allow me to explore complex issues and characters. Although I adore the harp, I’m not that adept at playing.  Good news is, I don’t have to spend hours tuning strings with the computer.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Death Mask is about footballers behaving badly. I wanted to explore why we keep hearing about alleged sexual assaults and inappropriate behaviour from athletes who are admired and have so much to lose if embroiled in a scandal. More than about sport, it’s about power and abuse of power, cover-ups and what really goes on behind the scenes.

(BBGuru: From the Publisher… In the US, a number of sexual assaults are reported against players in the Jersey Bombers football team. This is the last straw for the management, who decide to bring in an expert to investigate the claims and help reverse the violent culture.

They are pointed in the direction of a leading Australian forensic physician, the one person with the expertise for the job: Dr Anya Crichton. Due to Anya’s work with Australian sporting agencies and the Government, she has become an expert in the incidence of sexual violence in relation to male sporting teams of all codes.

Assigned to help Anya with this mission is enigmatic private investigator Ethan “Catcher” Rye. Together with Ethan, Anya must deftly balance her responsibilities to the Bombers management with her increasing desire to see the perpetrators of these violent crimes brought to justice.

But it is only when the violence hits too close to home, and Anya’s mettle is truly tested, that she makes the breakthrough in this investigation with shocking results.

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

I hope people learn a little more about some fairly controversial issues and if nothing else, maybe have a little more empathy for victims of crime than they otherwise would have.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

I admire so many writers including Harper Lee, Jodi Picoult, Eric Van Lustbader, Jeffery Deaver, Maeve Binchy. Novelists can always learn from great film and TV writers as well. Brad Bird and John Lasseter from Pixar studios are outstanding story-tellers and create wonderful, three dimensional characters as well.  To bring that much joy to so many people is truly amazing.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I would love to be an international bestseller in the crime thriller genre, and have time to write my children’s book, which will be turned into an animated film by Disney. At least that’s the ambition!

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

I would advise any aspiring writers to actually write. Don’t procrastinate, take steps to ensure you write every day, then rewrite. Attend writing conferences, meet authors, make sure you connect with people who understand what writing involves. And don’t lose heart. If you’re prepared to learn the craft and practice, you’ll get there. You can’t expect to write a symphony just because you can read music, so don’t be afraid to put the work in.

Kathryn, thank you for playing.

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

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