Jane Harper Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

Jane Harper

Jane Harper

An interview with Jane Harper

An interview with Jane Harper about her debut novel, The Dry set in Australia's Outback.

Was the setting for The Dry inspired by any particular place?

The fictional town of Kiewarra features heavily in the novel, and is a drought-stricken community in regional Victoria, Australia, five hours from Melbourne. The town itself is an amalgamation of many rural communities I visited while working as a journalist in Australia and the UK. While none of those places were anywhere near as dysfunctional as Kiewarra, they helped me get a sense of what it is like for people so reliant on things they cannot control, such as the land and the weather. I was also interested in those communities where people have known each other, for better or worse, for most of their lives.

What was the road to publication for The Dry?

I applied for the Curtis Brown Creative 12-week online novel writing course in late 2014, and as part of the application process submitted a synopsis and 3000-word extract. I came up with an idea for a murder-mystery set in regional Victoria, that eventually became The Dry. The course started in October 2014, and I completed a first draft during the 12 weeks. I knew of the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript and set myself the goal of entering, primarily as an artificial deadline to myself to get the novel into shape. I entered the award in April 2015 and in May found out I had won. On the back of that I gained agent representation through Curtis Brown Australia; the novel was sold at auction to Pan Macmillan in August 2015 as part of a three-book deal. The Dry has since been sold in separate three-book deals to Flatiron Books in the US and Little, Brown in the UK, as well as being sold for translation in more than 20 territories.

There was a pretty heated auction that happened for The Dry. But I also hear you had some other important stuff going on that day...

I think the day a novel goes to auction is something any author would treasure, but for me the memory is especially clear as by coincidence it was also my wedding day! Why celebrate just one life-changing event when you can celebrate two? I managed to resist any urge to check in with my agent and just concentrated on enjoying the day itself, but it definitely added to the excitement knowing the auction was taking place. I was so thrilled by the offers when I heard from her the next day, so it was a really crazy but wonderful few days for me.

How did the main character Aaron Falk develop?

Aaron Falk left Kiewarra under a cloud as a teenager and built a new life for himself in Melbourne as an officer with the Federal Police. He is a financial investigator who is reluctant to return to Kiewarra and even more reluctant to stay for any length of time. I wanted his character to be very much at odds with the people he left behind in the town – he is fairly quiet and cerebral and is a fish out of water on his return. The fact that he is such an outsider allows him to be the readers' eyes and ears and it is through him they experience the shock at just how far this community has fallen.

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

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