Ten Terrifying Questions with Lyn McFarlane!

by |April 14, 2022
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Lyn McFarlane is a Canadian-Australian author who splits her time between Sydney, Australia and Vancouver Island. She’s a former freelance journalist and holds degrees in economics, journalism and law. Lyn is a member of the Australian Society of Authors and the Crime Writers of Canada, a graduate of The Faber Academy and a mentee with the Australian Writers’ Mentorship Program. Her debut novel The Scarlet Cross won the 2019 Arthur Ellis “Unhanged” award for best unpublished manuscript, sponsored by the Crime Writers of Canada and Toronto’s Dundurn Press.

Today, Lyn McFarlane is on the blog to take on our Ten Terrifying Questions! Read on …

Lyn McFarlane

Lyn McFarlane

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

I was born and raised in western Canada, went to a public school, like most Canadian kids, and lived in several Canadian cities, including Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, before moving to Sydney, fifteen years ago. I am a lawyer by day and a writer by night, and I split my time between Sydney and Vancouver Island.

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

12: A private investigator and a poet, because I was curious and I loved words.

18: A lawyer, because I liked helping people solve problems.

30: A writer, because I loved stories.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you don’t have now?

I don’t think my beliefs have changed, but they have mellowed and become more nuanced. I was pretty strident at eighteen. Now I realise that you need all kinds of people and views to achieve good outcomes in this world, and the fine arts of moderation, negotiation and compromise are essential for solving some of our world’s most diabolical problems.

4. What are three works of art – this could be a book, painting, piece of music, film, etc – that influenced your development as a writer?

I’ve been most influenced by the classics – if I had to whittle it down to three, I would say, Moby Dick by Melville, Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky, Middlemarch by Eliot. Each of these three books came into my hands at the perfect time. They fundamentally changed me and taught me the power of story to transform, teach and inspire.

5. Considering the many artistic forms out there, what appeals to you about writing a novel.

Writing a novel is like diving into the ocean – it’s a limitless, immersive exploration of imagination. I love the process – each bit of it has its own texture – from the free flowing fluidity of the first draft to the precise, detailed work of the final proofing.

‘Crime is a tear in the social fabric – it rips open the surface of things and allows us to see these characters more clearly and understand their context.’

6. Please tell us about your latest novel!

The Scarlet Cross is set in a Catholic hospital on the stormy pacific northwest coast. It stars the hospital’s lead emergency nurse, Meredith Griffin, who notices a pattern of young women dying in her emergency ward from a mysterious laceration. Everyone around her labels this fatal injury as self-harm but Meredith is convinced her patients have been victims of foul play, so she teams up with her detective boyfriend to investigate. As they get closer to the truth they face resistance from all quarters – the hospital and the police – and Meredith finds herself in a race against time to get to the truth, and protect the next victim.

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

I write crime novels to present an intriguing, compelling mystery but also to explore the characters involved in a crime. Crime is a tear in the social fabric – it rips open the surface of things and allows us to see these characters more clearly and understand their context.

When I started building the characters, I realised I wanted to have these characters grapple with several important social issues: how people who have mental health issues manage them and how their families help or hinder that; sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace; institutional power. The Scarlet Cross shows how the main characters struggle with all of these issues.

My decision to place this story in the setting of a hospital was informed by the intense stress and violence that nurses face. My family is full of health care professionals – nurses, doctors, social workers – and they all have stories of violence they’ve experienced while trying to care for patients. I hope readers get some insight into the pressures these critical caregivers are under, particularly in the current plight of NSW nurses who have to resort to strike action to get their case heard by the government for nurse-to-patient ratios.

8. Who do you most admire in the writing world and why?

Independent booksellers and the readers who support them. Bookshops have always been my favourite places. They are like little cocoons where I feel both safe, and also deeply connected to the world. I so admire the people who keep these places alive.

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

Writing is my vocation and I would rather be gentle with myself than ambitious. First, I’d like to see how The Scarlet Cross is received by readers. Ideally, I’d like to progress to a sequel or at least a second story that involves some of the same characters from The Scarlet Cross. I really enjoy the short story form, so I may try and write another and find an audience for the ones I have already written.

10. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Find your community. Writing is a solitary activity. I think it’s quite important to find people you can share your writing with, and who you can walk shoulder-to-shoulder with, as you travel the writing path. I am an introvert, but having a small community of writing friends was an essential survival technique.

Thanks Lyn!

The Scarlet Cross by Lyn McFarlane (Pantera Press) is out now.

The Scarlet Crossby Lyn McFarlane

The Scarlet Cross

by Lyn McFarlane

Meredith Griffin manages the emergency department at St Jude Hospital. A specialist in psychiatric nursing, she's also an expert at hiding her own problems – and solving everyone else's.

When women with the same fatal injury begin turning up in Meredith's emergency ward, their deaths are labelled as suicides. But Meredith isn't so sure. With the help of Detective Leo Donnelly, she begins an investigation to prove that the women were murdered. As pressure mounts from all quarters to stop her, questions arise about why the women were targeted...

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