Winner of the Emerging Writer Manuscript Award at the 2017 Queensland Literary Awards, The Killing Of Louisa author Janet Lee reflects on the inspiration behind her latest novel. Janet lives in South East Queensland with two dogs, 13 very spoilt chickens and her family, who periodically come home to graze.
Can you tell us about the spark that inspired The Killing of Louisa?
Janet Lee: I first heard of Louisa Collins at the NSW State Library in May 2015, when Caroline Overington spoke about her book, Last Woman Hanged. The inspirational spark for The Killing of Louisa came when I imagined the dreadful, botched hanging. When Louisa Collins stood on the scaffold with the noose around her neck and the lever was pulled, the trap door did not initially open. The pin holding the trap door was still in place and had to be bashed out with a mallet. I wondered if in those last few moments, she thought she had been granted a reprieve. I wrote that scene first and the book grew from there.
What is the main thing you want readers to take away from it?
Janet Lee: I hope readers enjoy the book. People are never just the one story, they are complex. My character, Louisa, was so much more than just a convicted murderess, she was a woman, a mother, a wife, a daughter.
Did you grow up using libraries? If so, what memory stands out?
Janet Lee: When I was a child, my Mum would take us to the library nearly every week. I remember one particularly nice library in Sydney which wasn’t very big, but it had a lovely book smell. I read a book from that library about a family in a fishing village and I borrowed it over and over. I suppose I was about eight. I can’t remember the title, but I have never forgotten how that book made me feel, as though I was living in the cottage with the family. I still love libraries.
What’s a great book that you’ve read recently?
Janet Lee: Taboo by Kim Scott.
You’re at the home of a potential romantic interest. Is there a book you could see on their bookshelf that would make you turn around and go home immediately?
Janet Lee: Probably seeing no books on the bookshelf would be a romance killer.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Janet Lee: Read.