Interview by Alexandra Pierce.
Lucy Sussex was born in New Zealand. She has published widely, having edited five anthologies, written five short story collections, and the award-winning neo-Victorian novel, The Scarlet Rider (reprinted 2015). Her Blockbuster!: Fergus Hume and the Mystery of a Hansom Cab (Text) won the 2015 Victorian Community History Award.
One of your most recent works is Victorian Blockbuster: Fergus Hume and The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, which has been getting some good reviews around the place. What brought you to Hume’s story, and what kept your interest as you researched him and his work?
Actually Blockbuster!, because Victorian means different things in different contexts. Yes, good review in Washington Post, to my astonishment.
I knew about Hume when I was working as a researcher for Stephen Knight on his history of crime fiction in Australia. There was clearly a story behind the HANSOM CAB becoming the best-selling crime novel of the 1800s, but it wasn’t to be found. Then the digitisation of newspapers revealed the tale–and what a saga it was. Brilliant marketing, bank fraud, copycat murder, gay blackmail. It got more and more interesting as I joined the dots.
Similarly, you’ve done a lot of work in investigating female crime writers of the nineteenth century. What value do you see in this ‘literary archaeology’?
We really ought to know about these women, how tough, productive and simply talented they were. They’d been elided from the HIStories. I put them back in.
Have you discovered things that surprised you?
Well, Mary Fortune, who wrote the longest early crime serial (1868-1908) in Australia, was a bigamist with a career criminal son. That completely upsets notions of Victorian values.
You’ve written in a variety of genres – including crime, fantasy, science fiction, and non-fiction varieties too. Is there one genre you’re hoping to write more of in the coming years?
If I can get my hybrid crime/fantasy/quantum physics/neo-Victorian novel into print, I’ll do more of the same
Are there genres that you feel you haven’t explored sufficiently yet?
What Australian work have you loved recently?
I like a lot of stuff I’ve seen recently. Liam Moriaty. Kaaron Warren. The late lamented Paul Haines.
Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?
Probably Sensation novelist Mary Braddon, an ex-actress who had five illegitimate children with her publisher and managed to be a best-seller in the middle of the Victorian era. She was fun.