Jane Harper is the author of the international bestsellers The Dry and Force of Nature. Her books are published in more than 36 territories worldwide, and The Dry is being made into a major film starring Eric Bana. Read our fascinating interview with this thrilling crime author and enter the competition to win a copy of The Lost Man.
Read an extract of the thrilling novel here.
Can you remember when you first knew you wanted to be a writer?
Writing a book was something I’d dreamed of doing since I was a child, and I can’t clearly remember a time when that wasn’t the case. I was a big reader and the idea of writing a book myself one day seemed magical. As an adult, I was drawn to journalism because I wanted to write professionally, but I still secretly harboured an unspoken ambition to write novels.
How did you transition from a career in journalism to writing novels? How has your previous career influenced your writing?
I worked full time as a print journalist for thirteen years before I wrote my first book, The Dry, and that experience has helped me in countless ways. Working professionally as a writer on newspapers meant that when I turned my hand to fiction, I already had a lot of tools at my disposal. I knew how to express myself clearly, structure a story, draw readers into a narrative and I was confident meeting deadlines. I still rely heavily on the skills I learned through journalism and use them daily in my novel writing.
Why do you write crime thrillers?
My books are always character-driven, and I like to explore the way that pressure in its various forms drives behaviour. It’s crucial that the characters feel authentic, and I spend a lot of time considering the challenges they would face and the potential impacts. I aim to write the kind of books I enjoy reading myself, which are novels with strong characters and an element of mystery, ideally set against a vivid backdrop.
Which writers have most influenced your own writing?
My love of reading formed when I was young, and I’ve always believed those childhood authors had the most significant effect on my life as both a reader and a writer. Two books that continue to be favourites to this day are Roald Dahl’s The Witches for its unflinching darkness and Goodnight Mister Tom, by Michelle Magorian, which is a beautiful study of characters and relationships.
How did the idea for The Lost Man come to you?
I love writing about the Australian landscape and I became fascinated by the lives of those in far-flung outback communities. I was particularly interested in the way the relative isolation influences people’s day-to-day lives. I wanted to write another Australian mystery and a cattle station in outback Queensland offered such a beautiful – and brutal – backdrop for the story.
While working on The Lost Man, what research did you do, and how long did you spend researching before beginning the book?
Researching this book was a joy. I wanted the remote outback community in the book to feel authentic so I spent months learning about the area before I wrote a single word. I spoke to dozens of people and read widely around the subject, then travelled to outback Queensland to conduct on-the-ground research. In Queensland, I arranged to meet a retired cop called Neale McShane, who used to single-handedly police an area the size of the UK. He and I drove nine hundred kilometers together across the outback while he provided tremendous insight into life in that part of Australia. I spoke to locals about their lives in a remote community and on isolated cattle stations. Hearing their stories about everything from childbirth to radio signals gave me not only factual information, but also an appreciation of the unique challenges they face.
Setting plays a major part in your novels, from the claustrophobic town of The Dry, to the hostile bushland of Force of Nature and now the isolated outback of The Lost Man. What is it about the Australian wilderness that fascinates you?
The Australian landscape is such a gift for a writer! It is so beautiful and diverse, but also has a brutality and unpredictability that keeps the reader guessing. I like the landscape to be interwoven with the plot, rather than just provide a backdrop, and I aim to create scenarios where the setting drives characters to act.
Was the setting of The Lost Man inspired by any particular place?
The setting is entirely fictional, but I have aimed to accurately reflect life in remote communities in outback Queensland.
If you had to inhabit one of your novels, which would you choose to inhabit and why?
I did love visiting the outback and learning more about that fascinating part of the country. It is so completely different to life in coastal and metropolitan Australia. But life out there is not for the faint-hearted, so how long I would last is another question!
What is one book that you would recommend everyone read?
I encourage people to read anything at all that they like. I feel life’s too short to feel burdened by ‘must read’ lists. Find a book about something you find interesting, written in a style you like, and enjoy it.
Tell us why you’d like to get your hands on a copy of The Lost Man for a chance to win. You can enter on Twitter or by email. Competition open to UK residents only. Competition closes on Friday 14 June.