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Kerry Greenwood

Kerry Greenwood was born in the Melbourne suburb of Footscray and after wandering far and wide, she returned to live there. She has a degree in English and Law from Melbourne University and was admitted to the legal profession on the 1st April 1982, a day which she finds both soothing and significant. Kerry has written twenty novels, a number of plays, including The Troubadours with Stephen D'Arcy, is an award-winning children's writer and has edited and contributed to several anthologies. In 1996 she published a book of essays on female murderers called Things She Loves: Why women Kill.

The Phryne Fisher series (pronounced Fry-knee, to rhyme with briny) began in 1989 with Cocaine Blues which was a great success. Kerry has written sixteen books in this series with no sign yet of Miss Fisher hanging up her pearl-handled pistol. Kerry says that as long as people want to read them, she can keep writing them.

Kerry Greenwood has worked as a folk singer, factory hand, director, producer, translator, costume-maker, cook and is currently a solicitor. When she is not writing, she works as a locum solicitor for the Victorian Legal Aid. She is also the unpaid curator of seven thousand books, three cats (Attila, Belladonna and Ashe) and a computer called Apple (which squeaks). She embroiders very well but cannot knit. She has flown planes and leapt out of them (with a parachute) in an attempt to cure her fear of heights (she is now terrified of jumping out of planes but can climb ladders without fear). She can detect second-hand bookshops from blocks away and is often found within them.

For fun Kerry reads science fiction/fantasy and detective stories. She is not married, has no children and lives with a registered wizard. When she is not doing any of the above she stares blankly out of the window.

In 2013, Kerry was awarded the Sisters in Crime's Inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award at its 13th Davitt Awards for Australian women's crime writing. Kerry's Lifetime Achievement Award joins Kerry's previously awarded Ned Kelly lifetime achievement award.

Kerry writes both the Phryne Fisher and Corinna Chapman novels, usually in alternate years. But it's such a big workload that Kerry is having a very well-deserved holiday from her demanding schedule. The next novel will be a Corinna Chapman (title as yet unknown) but we can't tell you the publication date as yet so watch this space for an update.

Kerry Greenwood answers your Phryne questions

1. Have you ever thought about writing a Phryne story set in the 1950s?

I did write a Phryne story set in 1946 for a collection called True Detective, which had a fictional detective solving a real crime. It was the Somerton Beach murder, as it happens. Phryne aged very well having worked for the French resistance during the war. She didnt like Dior's New Look, however.

2. Where was Phryne Fisher born?

In Richmond, Victoria. It was a home birth with a midwife. Her father was drunk throughout.

3. Why did you decide to keep Lin Chung throughout more than one novel unlike Phryne's other lovers?

He wanted to stay... or perhaps, Phryne wanted him to stay. Also, he's gorgeous.

4. Why does each chapter in your books open with a quote?

They're a little extra mystery for the alert reader. Not only do they provide a smug glow for those who recognise the quote, but they refer to something in the chapter, usually only after one has read it. Like a cryptic crossword. Just an indulgence...

5. I love your Phryne Fisher books! My question is: what aspects of yourself do you see in Phryne?

The only thing i share with Phryne apart from gender is extreme stubbornness. I am persoanlly a lot like Dot. Though I do love speed and have, for example, jumped out of a plane with parachute (though I never walked on the wings), flown a Tiger Moth, fired a pistol, etc.

6. Why did you want Phryne to be such a clotheshorse and a siren - unusual for a detective?

Don't know. She isnt anyone's clothes horse, if by that you mean the person who wears the clothes and has no other personality. She likes fashion and the fashions of the time suit her perfectly. And I love designing her gowns...

But Phryne is a hero, just like James Bond or the Saint, but with fewer product endorsements and a better class of lovers. I decided to try a female hero and made her as free as a male hero, to see what she would do. MInd you, at that time I only thought there would be two books.

7. What will happen to Phryne in the 1930s during the time of the Great Depression in Australia?

Phryne has sensible investments, and in any case the Depression didn't really BITE here until 32, and I have no interntion of letting Phryne get to 1932. 1929 is far enough...

8. When the luscious Lin Chung had his ear chopped off when he was kidnapped, he was fitted with a false ear. How does the false ear attach? E.g. is there enough flesh there to attach onto? And does the sexy Lin remove it for... ah... intimate moments? How strange that the false ear has never been mentioned again since Away with the Fairies...

Oddly enough i have a friend with a plastic ear - he lost the original in a car accident. When it was sliced off, there was a ring-shaped scar into which the artificial ear fits easily. It's pretty secure against movement but Lin Chung's rubber prosthetic would be fixed with spirit gum. I didnt realise I hadn't mentioned it again. Lin isn't particularly conscious of it.

9. I would like to know if Kerry is going to write a Phryne Fisher book set around the Melbourne Cup. According to the internet, it began in 1906 but unfortunately, Phar Lap didn't become prominent until around 1930+ so I guess that bit's out of the question. Still, if "they" had Oaks Day back then, or what would eventually turn into ladies day, perhaps Kerry could use that.

Very probably, I have always had the Cup in reserve for when i want to write a horsey book. We are pre-Pharlap but there were some good beasts around then. We'll see where she wants to go next.

10. Not a question, but a suggestion of a location for a Phryne Fisher novel: The Mt Buffalo Chalet. According to the information at the chalet, all the 'in crowd' of the 1920s went to Mt Buffalo to ice skate during the winter. Atop a mountain, possibly snowed in, who else but Phryne (or someone from an Agatha Christie novel)?

Lovely idea! I have the Buffalo chalet in mind, but I have just written a closed-house mystery and will need to defer it. But I have all the info about it, especially since they are trying to sell it at present and who knows what will become of that remarkable building? I usually go there out of season, it's so quiet...

11. Is Phryne Fisher ever going to make it onto the small or even big screen, and if so who would play her?

Oh, I do hope so, but the casting will have to be fairly exact or we will end up with the Uma Thurman for Mrs Peel disaster. I need someone who can look like Louise Brooks and sound like Stephanie Daniel. Actually Stephanie
would be good... perhaps a new actress. The trouble is that it costs $30,000 more a day to make a historical drama. The books have been optioned on and off for years and years and it may be that, like the man who drew the Phantom, I will only see Phryne on screen when I am seventy.
**(As it happened, Kerry was wrong about when Phryne would hit the small screen - the superb Essie Davis plays Phryne in the ABC TV series - find out more here)