2012 Snapshot Archive: Rhonda Roberts

First published at Tansy Rayner Roberts’ blog.

Rhonda Roberts has a PhD and worked as an academic studying the formation of knowledge systems in different cultures and historical periods, especially in Japan, the USA and Australia. She trained in Akido in Japan and now learns Chinese sword near her home in the Illawarra.

Check out Rhonda’s interview in the 2010 Snapshot.

1. The second book in your Kannon Dupree series, Hoodwink, was released earlier this year, and takes your time travelling detective to 1930’s Hollywood and specifically to the set of Gone With the Wind. What is it about this particular place and time that appealed to you?

Multiple reasons. Firstly, I wanted to write about a murder on a film set and 1939 is the most glamorous year in the Golden Years of Hollywood. And, of course, I had to choose Gone With The Wind. For sheer breadth of drama, scandal and controversy, it’s a writer’s dream. After doing my research I had no idea why there weren’t several murders on the film set. (If I’d been forced to work there, there probably would’ve been!)

The producer, David O Selznick, was said to be a slave driver addicted to Benzedrine, who went through multiple directors to make the film – one of whom was driven to the brink of suicide. Most of the cast was hiding outrageous secrets, ranging from simple old adultery through to operating as a spy in pre-war America. And that’s just for starters…

On top of that the film itself is a paradox. GWTW is about the American Civil War and by today’s standards is extremely racist, but still considered a masterpiece and (according to Wikipedia with adjustment to 2010 prices) the highest grossing film of all time. In 1939 the Klu Klux Klan was very interested in how Selznick, a Jewish New Yorker, would actualize their favourite book, which the film was based upon. As I said – GWTW was OOZING conflict and intrigue.

The other main reason is my life-long lust for anything remotely Noir. Even the word makes me shiver. Anyway, Hoodwink (Book 2 in the series) is when Kannon is hired for her first real investigation so I had to send her back to the era of the hard-boiled private eye… In 1939 all the private dicks (pun intended) were portrayed as male, so I really wanted to put Kannon through her paces with the boys.

Basically Hoodwink gave me an excuse to have Kannon slink around decadent, old Hollywood with her dark glasses on and her black trench coat collar turned firmly up. It was a lot of fun to write. 🙂

2. When we last did this Snapshot thing your first novel,Gladiatrix, had just been released. How has your life changed since then?

Everything’s pretty damn good. (I’m looking at my office ceiling and muttering, ‘Don’t anyone take that as a challenge!’) Gladiatrix was nominated for 3 awards: the Norma K. Hemming, the Davitt and the Ned Kelly for
best first novel – and the third book in the Timestalker series comes out in September this year.

I’m happy living in the beautiful Illawarra, walking on the beach every day, doing my Chinese sword classes and occasionally looking up from my computer to drink in the view over the Escarpment cliffs and forest and then down to the rolling ocean.

That’s all interspersed with doing field research for Books 4-6 in my series, which means regular travel to exotic places and the excuse to interview people who fascinate me. I feel very privileged.

3. What are you working on now – more Kannon? Where is she going next? Yep, definitely more Kannon. I’ve got the next three books (4-6) in the Timestalker series plotted out and I’m now knee deep in writing the fourth one. It’s going to be a ripper too.

In the third book, (the one due out in September 2012), Kannon goes on a completely different kind of adventure to Hoodwink, in a completely different century – 1867. No scandal-ridden, twentieth century film sets, no noir detectives lurking in trench coats or pampered, psychotic Hollywood starlets in this one. Kannon goes undercover as a bounty hunter and gets down and dirty with lots of danger, mystery and full throttle action. Stay tuned to my news page in July-August for a lot more details of the next adventure.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

That’s such a tough question. We’re so lucky here, a tiny population with such a rich pool of talent. Every time I check the shelves I find something new that intrigues me.

Anything by Rowena Cory Daniells, Marianne de Pierres and Sean Williams, The Aurealis Award nominees for 2011 are full of talent and Kim Westwood’s excellent new book is setting everyone talking across genres, which is great.

5. Two years on from Aussiecon 4, (and the last Snapshot) what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?

Apart from anything else the changes to the industry are having a huge impact…bookstores closing down, the explosion in on-line venues and other new media for publication. It’s a whirlwind at the moment and that’s
affecting what’s seen and read and what readers are open to reading.

In general there’s more diversity, more genre bending and blending and more international sales. Interesting to see how it will all shake out. The scene could be completely different in a year or two.

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