Amy Doak on the creation of Eleanor Jones is Not a Murderer.
I have always loved a good puzzle. Raised in a household where crime shows and movies were considered quality family time (who could guess the culprit first!), my mother also introduced me to mystery novels at a young age. When I was little, The Famous Five, The Secret Seven and Encyclopedia Brown were the launchpads to Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew and The Dana Sisters. Then, as I got older, I found Agatha Christie, Mary Higgins Clark and Sue Grafton. Later, novelists such as Karin Slaughter, Val McDermid, Elizabeth George, Minette Walters and Tess Gerritsen all were firm favourites. These days, I love Aussie authors like Michael Robotham, Candice Fox and Margaret Hickey. Anything that inspires critical thinking, sets a cracking pace, keeps me on the edge of my seat and offers me the perfect escape are the books I look for. The idea of writing one someday has always been a dream.
I also love fabulous characters, a quality support cast and an element of humour. When I was growing up, shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer (with an excellent group of friends) and cosy mysteries like Death In Paradise (fun side characters, a murder to solve) have always offered quality comfort viewing! I think my media consumption over the years has most definitely impacted my writing. Eleanor, as a voice, arrived fully formed in my head – almost like a real-life person – and Min, Troy, Alfie and Namita came soon after.
When I was a teen, I would have loved a book like Eleanor Jones is Not a Murderer. Something fun and action-packed, with enough heart to make you want to be a part of this unique group. To me, books will always serve as a way to understand others and a place to escape into a world that makes you feel good. Perhaps that is the appeal of crime for me. The bad guy is always found, the mysteries are solved, and the ending is a happy one.
I’ve been writing since I was a child, but I always believed that writing novels – and being published – was something that happened to other people. Certainly not me! Over the years, I’ve become involved in my local writers’ festival, and I’ve met some wonderful authors who have become mentors and friends. One of them, Katrina Nannestad (who is an incredibly talented middle-grade fiction author) read the first few pages of Eleanor Jones as a rough draft and suggested I write it in the present tense rather than the past. With that feedback, and the positive nudge that this was a story worth writing, I was able to keep going – and I’m so glad I did!
– Amy Doak
Discussion points and questions
- Amy Doak has been inspired by a lot of the authors and stories she read growing up.
Do you think you’ve been influenced by the books and stories you read as a child and as you grew older? Is there a particular author you’ve tried to learn from?
What about that author’s work attracted you?
- Have you read any of the authors Amy mentioned above? Can you see these authors’ influence in the novel Eleanor Jones is Not a Murderer?
- How often are your reading habits influenced by authors and what they are reading (instead of what they are writing!)? For example, do you read the ‘end of year’ articles that often appear at the start of summer, where authors talk about their favourite reads of the year? What have been your favourite reads this year? Did they include any other crime fiction novels?
- Amy mentions that she originally wrote the story in past tense, and then changed it to present tense for the final version. What difference do you think being in the past tense would have made? How do you think this has affected the ‘voice’ of Eleanor Jones?
- How has Amy woven her own love of books into the character of Eleanor Jones?
- What is your favourite trope? Has Amy used it in Eleanor Jones is Not a Murderer?
- A key murder mystery trope is the red herring. There are many characters and situations in the story that aren’t what they seem to be. For example, Ethan isn’t the delinquent bad boy everyone thinks he is . . . What are some other red herrings in the story? How has the author used them to throw the reader off track?
- Codes and patterns often play a big part in mystery novels. How has the author utilised this in Eleanor Jones is Not a Murderer?
- What did you think of the characters in the story? Are they realistic? Why or why not?
- If this novel were going to be made into a movie or television show, who would you cast as the main characters?
- Do you think Eleanor is a reliable narrator?
- At the end of the book, there is an ad for a sequel. What do you think Eleanor Jones Can’t Keep a Secret will be about? Can you think of possible ways Amy could expand on the characters and their relationships?
Want more? Read a Q&A with Amy here!
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