Author Margaret Hickey has turned her focus to crime fiction for her new novel Cutters End.
Hickey, who grew up in Bendigo and now lives in Beechworth, is traditionally a short story writer but decided to try her hand at a a novel.
"There is something about crime stories, especially when you are in a safe place, that you can enjoy from afar," she said.
"You wouldn't want to be in it but there is something intoxicating about reading it when you are safe yourself.
Hickey said she found the decision to try something new, freeing.
"I just wrote 1000 words each day and didn't plan anything," she said.
"I found it really enjoyable to write. I find short stories quite torturous to write compared to this.
"There is more freedom with a novel. With short stories every word, syllable and punctuation has to be checked and rechecked. Whereas I felt more freedom to explore characters in this.
"I didn't plan it at all, until I had almost wrote it. I wouldn't recommend that to the students I lecture at university and the year 12s I teach but it worked for this because I wasn't writing to a deadline.
"Sometimes I had to cull thousands of words but I didn't worry because there was no pressure. Then I sent it off and was picked up by Penguin Random House. I was shocked."
Cutters End follows the investigation of a fictional crime that happened 30 years ago that ended with a body being found on the side of a highway.
Hickey said Cutters End was definitely fictional and partly inspired by times she spent hitchhiking up and down the Stuart Highway.
"It is chiefly inspired by the vast landscapes of central Australia, and the sense of freedom, but sometimes the dread that can bring," she said.
"It's set on the Stuart Highway and is about a body that was found on New Year's Eve in 1989. Thirty years later there is a reinvestigation into who it was and how they got there.
"I had started thinking about when I left Bendigo and did a lot of hitchhiking. It was very adventurous but we and we had a great time but we had some scary times. That time of freedom in the late 1980s to 1990s was coming to end because of people like Ivan Milat.
"My friend and I would often get picked up older ladies who asked if we had heard what was happening to those people on east coast. The book is kind of a nod to to those last days of freedom and innocence."
Cutters End was released on August 17 and has featured in the top 10 of Apple Book Australia and New Zealand.
The book's release falls during a lockdown as did Hickey's last release - a collection of short stories titled Rural Dreams - in 2020. She hopes people are spending time reading during their time in lockdown.
"The timing is a bit crappy for a release but book sales were up last year, so I am hoping people are reading," she said.
"I have been surprised at how successful it's been. It's available everywhere and the support from Bendigo has been brilliant.
"The Bendigo readers are always really supportive of me as are the Bendigo bookshops. I am fortunate I grew up there and will be coming to Bendigo to talk at the Bendigo Library on October 21."
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