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Sunday, May 06, 2012

A Wonderful Evening with Kerry Greenwood By Bruce Gillespie

Bruce Gillespie is a well-known Australian SF fan who has been publishing fanzines since 1968. His fanzines Steam Engine Time and SF Commentary can be found on-line, along with other fanzines he has produced over the years. Last Tuesday I went along to the Northcote Library for my usual monthly meeting of the Nova Mob, but like everyone in the group, I went early so we could hear Kerry speak to the library public in general before the meeting, after which Kerry kindly agreed to come along to that as well. Bruce sent me this report as an email and I thought that rather than try making my own, I would get his permission to publish this one, which says pretty much everything I want to say, though he did invite me to add anything he had forgotten.

Welcome to The Great Raven, Bruce!

Kerry Greenwood is the author of the Phryne Fisher mystery novels. Last night there was a joint meeting of a group at the Darebin branch of the Northcote Public Library who bring in speakers from time to time; and the Nova Mob, Melbourne's SF discussion group, which meets at the library once a month.
Kerry Greenwood did an amazing job, as she had to give two talks -- one was for an hour to an assembled multitude of more than 200 people who had been gathered by the library, and then after a rest, she came and talked to the Nova Mob for what I'm sure she meant to be only half an hour, but went for at least another hour. She is filled with great stories, and I wish I were a better witness and rememberer. Basically, she loves the TV series for the attention paid to 1928 detail. The Production Designer and team will spare no effort to track down authentic items from the period, sometimes basing their researches on tiny details in the books that Kerry had forgotten about.
She was given absolute veto on the main actor -- and in fact saw the audition video from Essie Davis only after a long process of watching hundreds of them. She also has veto on scripts, but says she balked at only one incident in a script -- where it was proposed that Phryne should be rescued. 'Phryne is never rescued!' said Kerry. 'She does the rescuing.' She is particularly pleased by the actor who plays Dot, because not only is she exactly right, but she is the right age (18).
There will be a second series. Loud hurrahs.
But most of the new series will be based on Phryne Fisher short stories. Kerry says that when Phryne starts a story, she does exactly what she wants to do, and the result is often three-and four-strand stories. Much easier to do a TV episode out of a short story. Kerry says that she was afraid that the TV series would make it impossible to write further novels -- but had no trouble with the latest novel. As she says, if people don't like the TV series, just read the books.
Kerry types so fast and for so long that she was developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Her hands were freezing up. However, her cat has solved this, at least temporarily. Her cat always sits beside her while she's working. Every couple of hours the cat has developed the habit of reaching over and touching the CAPS LOCK key. Suddenly Kerry finds herself writing IN CAPS ... so she stops for a rest break. I wish we had cats as useful as that!
The whole series began as an attempt to resurrect 1928, because Kerry's father was a wharfie involved in the wharfies' strike of that year. Many great details come from childhood memories of her parents telling stories and singing songs. Her mother was most astonished to have Kerry (who sings very well) sing to her at the age of ten a very rude WWI song that her father had sung when she was four. Kerry began singing the song, so Bill Wright, in the Nova Mob audience, started singing along as well. This led to a regular little love-in, as both realised that Kerry and Bill come from the same background, if hardly the same generation.
The series does as well in Sydney as in Melbourne, has been sold to cable in America, but not yet to Britain. Brits simply do not believe the colonials can do anything with any style. The books are doing well in America (much better than expected), but the first three novels will not be released in Britain for the first time until late this year.
A good night, but I don't know how Kerry kept going all that time. Endless stories that I have not remembered yet.


Terry Morris said...

I'm really enjoying Phryne on a Friday night, except that its the sort of series I expect to see at 7ish on a Sunday night. The actress is just right and makes Phryne believable. Ditto Dot, but you and Bruce have already said everything. I hope the series goes on for a long while.

Thanks for article, Bruce, and thanks to Sue for thinking of posting it here.


Sue Bursztynski said...

Yes,Essie Davis is a fine Phryne, I'm almost seeing her when I read the books. The girl playing Dot was in Tomorrow When The War Began. I asked if they were planning to base any of the Season2 episodes on existing short stories and Kerry said she hoped so because she'd love especially to see the story about Jock McHale's hat out there. But she will be writing the stories on which episodes are based, so hopefully the scripts will be more faithful than the current episodes to the flavour of Kerry's work. She also said that she won't let through anything anachronistic, such as the word"okay".