At the start of the month I reviewed brilliant fun crime novel Nancy Business. I adored this book (and its predecessor, The Nancys). Author R.W.R. McDonald very kindly agreed to answer some questions about the book and his writing process, which I’m sharing today. Read on to find out more.
First I just want to say the biggest congratulations on the release of Nancy Business – it was such a delight to be back in Riverstone again!
Hooray! Thank you, I am so glad 😊
– I absolutely loved the characters we meet in The Nancys and Nancy Business – especially Tippy, Uncle Pike and Devon. When you first started the books did the characters come to you first or the story?
In 2006 I wanted to write a murder mystery, I enjoy reading them and particularly those with amateur detectives. But at that stage I had no characters, it wasn’t until I started writing and the first thing I wrote was a line of internal dialogue which ended up being that of a child. I wondered who this kid was and why were they investigating a murder and where/who were the adults in their life. It was from this initial paragraph that I met Tippy and from there her irresponsible babysitters, Uncle Pike and his boyfriend Devon.
– One of the things I think is quite unique about your books is that we are seeing a fairly adult story unfold through the eyes of and eleven year old. Did you always know you wanted this to be Tippy’s story to tell?
It seemed to be the way the story wanted to be written, I think if it had been from an adult character it would be very different. I liked how from Tippy we have a child’s optimistic, or non-jaded, view of the world, that sense of hope even when things are tough. I also realised at the beginning there was a larger story at play which needed to be driven and told by Tippy and that is the story about the death of her father.
– In both books I feel like you really nail the line between heavy topics and lighter, fun bits, which make the books feel really uplifting and joyful overall. Did you find this came naturally in your writing, or were there times where you felt like you needed to push and pull to get a good balance?
Thank you! I approach the stories with the type of emotions and feelings I would hope the reader will feel, for example with The Nancys it was a feeling of being wrapped in a warm blanket. That is my intention and then in writing the scenes it does come naturally with these characters, I follow their lead. Then in the re-drafting I am working on pacing and trying to ensure we are spending enough time in those darker or heavier moments then finding an organic way back out, or into another scene. My mantra with the Nancys is this is a real world for these characters and to treat it with that respect when it comes to problems or issues they face.
– Nancy Business is your second book, following The Nancys, which was released 2019. Was the experience of writing it very different to working on your debut novel?
Yes, I think with Nancy Business I knew what to expect when it came to the structural, copy and proof editing stage. I also had the characters and knew how I wanted them to grow and develop, plus after writing The Nancys I was very familiar with the setting. So, in some ways it was easier to write but on the other hand I had to grapple with reader expectations and book two worries – is it going to be as good or better than your first book?, will those who love The Nancys enjoy this one as well? etc. What I tried to do was keep those voices at bay and focus on the Nancy Business story, where I felt it needed to go, and hoped that readers would come along for that journey.
– Lastly, I’d love to know what you are currently reading, or whether there is something you have read recently and loved that you would like to recommend?
I am currently reading and loving The Housemate by Sarah Bailey, which will be out in September. Two local 2021 crime fiction debuts I have read and loved – Girl, 11 by Amy Suiter Clarke , a well written page turner which has a true crime podcaster investigating the cold case of a serial killer, and The Silent Listener by Lyn Yeowart which is rural gothic noir and so beautiful written, about a family under siege by a tyrannical father.
Thanks so much for your time!
I’m super grateful to get this insight into Nancy Business! I honestly adored this one, and can wait for the next installment. You can find The Nancys and Nancy Business on Goodreads here, and keep up to date with R.W.R. McDonald on his website here.
Massive thanks again to Allen & Unwin for sending these books my way!
R.W.R. McDonald: Author Bio
R.W.R. McDonald (Rob) is an award-winning author, a Kiwi and Queer dad living in Melbourne with his two daughters and one HarryCat. His debut novel, The Nancys, won Best First Novel in the 2020 Ngaio Marsh Awards, as well as being a finalist in the Best Novel category. It was shortlisted for Best First Novel in the 2020 Ned Kelly Awards, and Highly Commended for an Unpublished Manuscript in the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.
It’s been four months since Tippy, Uncle Pike and Devon were together for Christmas. Now back for the first anniversary of Tippy’s father’s death, the Nancys are reformed when Riverstone is rocked by an early morning explosion that kills three people and destroys the town hall.
A new case is born. Is the accused bomber really guilty? Is there a second bomber? And if so, does that mean a threat to destroy Riverstone Bridge is real? And is asparagus a colour? Once again, it is up to the Nancys to go against the flow and ignore police orders to get to the truth.
It’s great to be back in Nancy business again, but this time it’s all different. Uncle Pike and Devon can’t agree on anything and Tippy is learning hard truths about the world and the people she loves the most. Can the Nancys stay together to do their best work and save the town? Or will the killer strike again? When everyone is right, does that make you wrong? And can Tippy ever trust anyone again?