By Dana Granger
In a way, it seems inevitable that Australian author PD Martin would end up writing a popular mystery series; she wrote her first mystery novella as a budding author in fifth grade!
After that, she went back to concentrating on her schoolwork…but she never forgot her love of mysteries and writing. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in behavioral sciences, she wrote three unpublished young adult novels, before finally striking gold with her series about Australian FBI profiler Sophie Anderson, which have received international acclaim. This month marks the release of the fifth Sophie Anderson novel, Kiss of Death.
Recently I was able to catch up with the busy wife, mom, copywriter, and author, to chat about her latest novel and her future plans.
Australian FBI profiler Sophie Anderson is on a new case, and this one is strange, even for Sophie. The victim is found dead in a state park with two puncture wounds on her neck. There is no blood on the scene, but she looks to have been drained.
Is it a straightforward murder investigation, or the result of a ritual performed by LA’s secretive population of ‘vampires’?
Meanwhile, Sophie’s new squeeze is in town, and as usual she’s hard at work. Will she be able to balance her obsession with the case with her fragile new relationship? And what does she really feel for Anton Ward, the brooding, darkly handsome leader of the bizarre sect who claim to be vampires?
Special Agent Sophie Anderson must put the pieces together, and her feelings aside. If she’s wrong, the murderer may walk. If she’s right it will be a race against time to find the killer before more innocent girls die.
How did you decide on the profession of your main character, Aussie FBI Profiler Sophie Anderson?
My first book, Body Count, is based on a nightmare I had many years ago. In that dream I was investigating a friend’s murder – I was me, but I did have some official capacity in the case. Years later, when I started writing Body Count, I decided I didn’t want my main character to be a cop; I wanted to tap into my own interest in psychology and in particular criminal psychology. A profiler was the perfect choice – Sophie was a homicide cop first, and then studied to become a profiler. Given we only have three profilers in Australia, I knew Sophie would need to work for the FBI, where so much research and work has gone into studying and developing profiling.
Tell us about Sophie. What is she like? What drives her to work in a frequently grim and challenging profession?
Sophie is driven by her over-developed sense of justice and her need to help victims and victims’ families. Sophie’s brother was abducted and killed when Sophie was only eight years old and the case was never solved. This early trauma led Sophie into the police force and then homicide, before taking her to profiling. She also tried to solve her brother’s murder while working for the Victoria Police in Australia but was unsuccessful. However, I’ve recently finished a novella called Coming Home, in which Sophie does return to Melbourne after a boy is found murdered in similar circumstances to Sophie’s brother. This book will be available as a free ebook on my website by August 14 2010.
What kind of research did you do to learn about the position of FBI profiler, so you could create a realistic character?
Lots and lots of research! In fact, by the time I’d written Body Count I decided that if it didn’t get published I’d move into law enforcement myself, despite being in my early thirties at the time.
There’s actually a huge amount you can find out about police procedures, the FBI and profiling in books. I started off with books like John Douglas’s Mindhunter and Candice de Long’s Special Agent: My Life on the Frontlines as a Woman in the FBI, and then moved on to other ex-FBI agents’ accounts and more ‘text book’ style books like Practical Homicide Investigation and the Crime Classification Manual.
Forensics also feature heavily in my books and so my bookshelf includes heaps of books on forensics, medicine, autopsy procedures, etc.
In addition to books, I also have several experts that I consult while writing. These experts include Victoria Police’s profiler (one of the three profilers in Australia), a forensic pathologist (they do the autopsies), a doctor and a retired US cop (who lives in Melbourne).
I also exchanged several emails with Candice de Long when I first read her book, and I’ve visited the FBI to speak directly to current FBI agents.
The internet, research books and this pool of experts keep me covered!
Who are some of your favorite authors?
I don’t read as much these days as I used to, mostly because I have a three-year-old daughter who keeps me very busy – and any spare time I have is spent writing. Plus I don’t like to read crime fiction when I’m working on a first draft, because I like to be in my world, in Sophie’s world, rather than another crime author’s world. However, when I do read crime, I enjoy Kathy Reichs, Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, Lynda La Plante and I’ve recently read Stuart MacBride, Kathryn Fox and Michael Robotham. I also enjoy reading fantasy and paranormal books.
What inspired you to include the investigation of a possible vampire cult in Kiss of Death?
I guess it stems from my own interest in this genre (I’m a closet Buffy the Vampire Slayerfan!). I always thought it would be fun to write a vampire book, but I also wanted to focus on the Sophie series. My husband suggested a book in which Sophie investigates a crime that looks like vampires. I thought it was a great way to combine two of my interests – crime fiction and vampires. I thought it was going to be a fictitious scenario, but then when I started researching I discovered there’s a whole subculture of people who genuinely believe they need the blood or ‘life force’ of others to survive. And I found a few medical and psychological explanations of the phenomenon too. It was fascinating research and I got to include that in Kiss of Death.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve just started a new series, which is both exciting and scary! It’s strange to be leaving Sophie after so long, but I’m passionate about the new character and series. It’s very different to Sophie – much darker. I describe it as Alias meets Dexter.
Plus I’ve just finished my free ebook/novella, Coming Home.
What’s your writing routine like? How do you juggle work, family, and writing?
It’s certainly a juggling act and I’m afraid I do let balls drop from time to time! My daughter’s preschool gives me eight hours a week to write, plus my husband looks after her one day and my Mum takes her for four hours a week too! So there’s some time in there, but probably not enough to produce the one book a year that I’ve done in the past and that I’d like to get back into. Like many professional, working women I find it hard to balance my career aspirations with my love for my family and the desire to be there for them. I’m open to any suggestions!
It has taught me to sit down and just write – if I wait for the muse, it would be time to pick my daughter up from pre-school.