Y.A. Erskine, author of The Betrayal and The Brotherhood, answers Six Sharp Questions

by |April 13, 2012

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Y.A. Erskine

author of The Betrayal and The Brotherhood

Six Sharp Questions


1. Congratulations, you have a new book, The Betrayal. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

Thank you so much!

Like The Brotherhood before it, The Betrayal is set in Tasmania. This time the battleground is behind the closed doors of the Hobart Police Station. It tells the story a young, rather naïve female police officer who makes an allegation of sexual assault against an older, wiser and considerably more popular male colleague. From her fellow rookies right up to the Commissioner himself, everyone must take sides meaning grudges, prejudices and hidden agendas bubble to the forefront. But as well as support, there’s betrayal from the most unlikely of sources as justice, that ever elusive commodity, is hotly pursued.

The Betrayal has special meaning to me. I policed in Tassie for eleven years and during that time, many moons ago, I was sexually assaulted by a colleague. For many reasons including the nature of policing culture and my knowledge of the ‘justice’ system, I chose not to go ahead with a formal complaint. I’ve often wondered what would have happened had I done so. Hence, I let my poor old protagonist take that journey for me. As you can probably imagine, it was a cathartic book to write and one of which I’m incredibly proud. It was refreshing to give a voice to another dark, unmentionable side of policing.

Click here to buy The Betrayal from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

2. Time passes. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

It’s been an extraordinary twelve months and to be honest, I really can’t think of too many ‘worst’ moments.

The ‘best’ moments mainly concern the publication of my first book. Seeing The Brotherhood in print, finally seeing it on shelves throughout the country and reading fantastic reviews thrilled me each and every time. When a few readers began giving me five out of fives on reputable crime fiction websites, I was practically doing cartwheels! To see The Betrayal in print now makes me deliriously happy. On top of that, on a non-book, more personal note, finally being pregnant has just topped off this, the most wonderful of years.

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

There’s a quote on the wall in my favourite little café down the road.

Some people make things happen,
Some people watch things happen,
Some people wonder what has happened.

I find it incredibly inspirational and have vowed to always remain in the former category.

4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.

I’m actually quite boring and untemperamental as far as writing is concerned. I’m happy and easy to live with because I get to do what I love full time. That said, whilst writing is a passion for me, it’s also damn hard work and it requires a high level of dedication and perseverance. When I’m in draft mode I’ll try to write a minimum of ten pages a day. It doesn’t have to be brilliant – it’s enough to simply transfer the story from mind to paper. Editing days ebb and flow, but I still treat them like a normal working day and try not to get too stressed if it takes eight hours to fix one horrid paragraph.

5. Some writers claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

My writing has never been dictated by the marketplace. I’m completely self-indulgent when it comes to telling stories and my work is heavily influenced by my own very basic policing career – what I’ve seen, done, heard, smelt and touched. There are no hard core forensic investigators, no uber smart computer hackers, no vampires, no werewolves, no magical powers. If readers enjoy my type of writing, then great. If not, then I don’t lose any sleep over it. It’s important to be true to yourself and not to try to write the next big thing purely for commercial purposes. I write for love, not money (although, if my publisher is reading this, more money would be nice!)

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?

Wow! That’s a tough one. If we’re talking about introducing them not only to the beauty of the written word, but to the beauty of the world, not to mention teaching them a few lessons along the way, then I’d have to say, in order of simple to complex …

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. A simple childhood favourite with powerful messages about selflessness and love.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Exquisite literature containing important lessons such as never judging a book by its cover.

A History of the World in 100 Objects (Produced by the British Museum in conjunction with the BBC)

A beautiful little hard covered book containing photographs of the objects themselves for the more visual amongst the group. It tells a history of human movements and cultures from the point of view of the common man, rather than the prince, the preacher or the victor.

Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton. Because we all need just a hint of philosophy in our reading diet. An easy read, it’s about finding beauty, room to breathe and meaning within the modern, secular lifestyle. It’s about being a civilised human being in a modern, frenetic, often times uncivilised world.

The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Comedy, tragedy, history, romance, not to mention the pure craftsmanship of the written word – there’s something in there for everyone. Possibly a bit hard core, but an inspiring teacher will enable any kid to draw the most from his tales.

Yvette, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy The Betrayal from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

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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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