Cruel Sister – A new adventure by David Greagg & Kerry Greenwood

Clandestine Press is an innovative Melbourne genre publisher with many titles on their list. Their newest up-coming release, “And Then… The Great, Big, Book of Awesome Adventure Tales!” was an ambitious undertaking that has paid off. The book will be released in late June as an amazing double-volume of books full of short adventure stories, written by over 30 well-known authors.

I was delighted last year to meet Kerry Greenwood, author of over 60 books, including the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries series and Corinna Chapman Mysteries, along with her partner David Greagg, who is also a noted author of both fiction and non-fiction books, as well as an educator, mathematician and many other impressive titles.

David and Kerry joined forces to contribute a story to the “And Then…” anthology, and kindly agreed to an interview with me about their latest masterpiece!

An invitation to write “good old-fashioned rip-snorting action adventures” is such a tempting offer for any writer! What aspect of this project was the most enticing?

Oh it really was! A chance to collaborate? On a fantasy/SF novella? Way too good to miss!

The anthology boasts some of the best genre writers in Australia and New Zealand. Do you feel there is a kinship within the genre writing community?

Oh yes. Capital L Literature writers often look down on us. And we have all collectively decided not to care. But we need to stick together, and we do.

How much support is there for writers in Australia, and what advice would you offer new authors?

In the past there has been excellent support. Apparently, this is all supposed to end and Oz Literature will be driven out of business because the Productivity Commission doesn’t think we should have any local writing. But we shall see about that. Our campaign kicks off this coming week. Please support us and sign the petition (links below!). Our advice to new authors: Be flexible. Be adaptable. Don’t ever give up.

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Your story within the anthology, called Cruel Sister, is set in deep space. What led you there?

In the (so-called) Dark Ages, Irish monks set off in leather boats on what was called a navigatio in order to (a) get closer to God or (b) have exciting adventures or (c) both. This is a futuristic version of the same thing, with spacecraft. Also, we wanted to suggest that people would revert more closely to cultural identity in the vastness of interstellar space. 

What do you think makes a great protagonist for this type of adventure?

Passion, kindness, and curiosity. And cats. Always have a cat if you can.

Cruel Sister promises some new SciFi ideas, how did they evolve?

Our new ideas arose spontaneously out of the story. We dream things, we wonder how they might work, and answers suggest themselves. Not getting tied down to previous ideas is important.

Cruel Sister is a collaboration between the two of you as joint authors. Have you written together before and what is your shared process?

We have done this a little. Once in Fitzroy we were both writers on an ambitious attempt to write a detective novel in a day, with eight writers having an hour each at the typewriter. That was enormous fun.

Our shared process for this story was:

  1. Kerry dreams the story.
  2. She tells David what to write for each section.
  3. He writes it and reports back.
  4. We edit it together.
Are there particular parts of the planning/ writing/ editing process that you each particularly prefer?

Kerry likes dreaming and planning best. David likes editing. (He is a Virgo…)


Click for David’s book ‘Sanctuary’

Aside from the word limit, how different is story telling for a short piece as opposed to a novel?

It’s a series of very short stories. Each must be written with not a superfluous word, and must be vivid vignettes with no elaborate setting of scene and character. Quick sketches only, with no scene painting. We are also inspired by Norse sagas, where you only hear what people said, and did. All characterization must be inferred.


Click for David’s non-fiction titles

David, aside from your numerous published works, you’ve also had a varied career as a mathematician, physics and chemistry teacher, among other things. Australian history and conservation have been the topics of some of your other books, topics which are so fundamental to children’s education. From a teacher’s perspective, how important is it to combine science with imagination for learning? Do you think the arts and sciences collaborate enough and/or equally?

Yes, it’s important. It just doesn’t happen enough. I am optimistic about the future. CP Snow’s Two Cultures have not yet begun to work together, but they are shaking hands and talking about the weather.


David, three of your books, Dougal’s Diary, When We Were Kittens and Sanctuary, share your particular love for cats, and the manner of storytelling suggests they choose to speak through you, rather than you for them, as it were. (My nine year old son, Finn, is currently obsessed with feline-adventures, so I’ll add these ones to his reading list!) Can you share the inspiration for these stories?

We have had so many cats, most of whom really aren’t like anyone else’s. The world has so many cat books. Most of them are far too human-centred. We need to get out of the way and let the cats take centre-stage. I am pleased to see that other writers have followed my lead with this. I have been advised that I do speak Cat, though imperfectly.

Sales from these books have provided support to Ingrid’s Haven, a no-kill shelter in north Melbourne. Can you tell us a bit about your relationship to this shelter and what it does?

Sometimes I have had to take healthy cats on The Journey of Sadness. I wish all shelters were no-kill. But as long as there are irresponsible humans around we cannot hope for that as yet. Ingrid’s Haven is excellent. We need more of this.


Find out more about Ingrid’s Haven on Facebook!

Dougals Diary front

Click for David’s book ‘Dougal’s Diary’

I’m sure you have many projects on the go, David. What can we look forward to next?

My campaign to knock over the Productivity Commission’s draft report is next up. Thereafter? More books. I’m not slowing down anytime soon.

Kerry, how has the publishing climate changed over the last twenty years or so, and where do you think we are headed?

While there are stormy waters before us, there are advantages now which were not available before. There is more diversity, especially in SF and fantasy, because even twenty years ago a print run had to be 3000 or more to have a hope of making any money. Technology has improved so much that there are far more niche markets available since unit costs have shrunk. Also e-books and talking books have provided transformative platforms and new audiences. People are reading more than ever.


Click through to the Phryne Fisher website to view all the series’ titles

Kerry, you’ve already had a very busy year with a trilogy of short story anthologies and a Phryne Fisher colouring book published, among other adventures. What’s the next exciting project underway?

The Phryne Fisher computer game is next up. It will be out very soon and it is excellent. Tin Man productions have done a wonderful job with it. After that? We shall see!

*Cover Image taken by Pat Scala for Sydney Morning Herald, direct link: Cover Image