Tag Archives: Patreon

Q&As from the Scar Tissue Launch

Narrelle M Harris Q&A

I recently held an online launch for my collection Scar Tissue and Other Stories. Part of the launch involved me answering questions, so I thought I’d share that Q&A here for anyone who missed it!

George asked: Will there be a third book for Gary and Lissa?

Yes there will! Once I’ve finished editing my latest Duo Ex Machina novella (which is being serialised on my Patreon) I’ll be writing the third book in the Vampires of Melbourne series!

Question as an image

The working title is “Beyond Redemption” and when it’s done, Clan Destine Press will be re-releasing The Opposite of Life (which is out of print, but I have the rights back for it now) and Walking Shadows with a matching set of covers!

Scar Tissue contains a story set after the end of Walking Shadows: “Bad Night at Bite Club”.

Margaret asked: Will there be more adventures in Australia for Holmes and Watson?

The Holmes and Watson from The Adventure of the Colonial Boy appear in the Scar Tissue story “The Beekeeper’s Children”. I would like to write a short story collection for them, but as a project that is at the back of the queue for now.

I am considering writing a modern Australian alternative universe series for them in my Patreon when the Duo Ex Machina novellas are finished next year, riffing off my short story from The Baker Street Irregulars: The Game is Afoot where are a pair of Aussie hipsters running, solving mysteries while they run a cafe called The Sign of Four. Does that count?

Sally F asked me if I ever put people I dislike into my books and then killed them off. 🙂

I never put people I dislike into my books. If I don’t like them, I don’t want to spend more time with them in my head if I can avoid it!

Instead, I put people I like into my books – sometimes just as a set of background characters, sometimes in minor roles, sometimes in more prominent roles. I do sometimes kill them off too, but usually I give them warning and make sure they’re okay with it.

My out of print Witch Honour and Witch Faith books have lead characters inspired by two close friends. (Sylvia and Leenan become their own people, but they have real people roots!)

A friend I worked with at World Vision was a dead body in The Opposite of Life. (She gave Enthusiastic Consent for that :D) Gary the Vampire is kind of based on every nice geekboy I’ve ever known.

Other people have been in the background (walking their dog on the beach; laughing together at a far table in a cafe; that sort of thing).

Maybe I should make it a Patreon Reward – to become a character in a story I’m writing.

Sally F also asked “Do you think you are on ASIO’s watch list from researching anything odd for your stories?”

My running joke is that ASIO keeps two lists: one of dodgy individuals with criminal leanings and writers. When they get a ping about someone researching murder, how to hide the bodies, explosives, detailed building layouts and schematics for aeroplanes and trains, they first check to see if the Googler is on the Author list (and maybe bookmark to see what novel results a year down the track).

I’ll be very disappointed if I’m not on the ASIO Writers to Watch For list purely on the strength of my research for crimes for Sherlock Holmes stories.

You know who is stalking me though? Google ads. And some of the ads that come up for me on the strength of writing some of my stories is HILARIOUS.

KRin asked “Has a story idea ever stopped you in your tracks and you had to write it down then and there?

The answer is “all the bloody time”. My phone is full of ideas and bits of prose and dialogue I’ve emailed to myself, and I always carry a notebook (or three) into which I scribble down ideas.

Because of course the time when I am most likely to come up with an interesting new concept or resolve a plot problem or think of some really sparky dialogue is when I’m walking or in the shower or in bed, rather than in front of the computer. So I leap up, scribble things down and hope it’s still legible when I got to type it up.

Robin asked “How do you dream up your characters?”

My characters come from a variety of sources, but a lot just seem to manifest themselves. I’m sure they spring from somewhere that I just haven’t worked out how to articulate.

Some of course are inspired by fictional characters, and very directly too – my versions of Holmes and Watson are obviously derived from Arthur Conan Doyle and have elements of the Granada Holmes & Watson too – but I’m often writing romances with them, so I try to work from the source material that I then extrapolate from to create the Victorian-era men in love, or the modern-era versions.

A few are inspired by people I know personally, though there it’s more that I might be inspired by a facet or two, rather than inserting them wholesale (see my answer to Sally’s question about putting people I know into my books.)

Some are inspired by other fictional characters I’ve liked (me and Lois McMaster Bujold both cherry picked some personalities from Blake’s 7).

Often, however, the concept that I want to explore in a story readily suggests the personality type that will be involved to help tell it, and the other kinds of characters they need around them to create balance, conflict and drama. The characters evolve within that context, so I may begin with particular “types” but then they grow.

When I was writing Kitty and Cadaver, I initially plotted about half of it then only sketched out the rest. I had to write the first half before completing the plotting – because I had to get to know everyone better before I knew how they’d respond to all their troubles. Once I knew who they were, it was easy to plot the rest of the book with each of them behaving in character.

KRin asked “What is your favourite colour?”

…which should be an easy one but it turns out, no. I will not make this easy.

I suppose the short answer might be ‘red’ but I like it in combination with black. and jade green. But I love that brilliant peacock blue too. Also rich purples.

I’m not a huge fan of yellows and oranges in my clothing because they make me look jaundiced, but a glorious buttercup yellow or bright burnt orange? Gorgeous.

I should have gone with the answer Janet MacLeod once gave: “My favourite colour is shiny!”

Robert asked “What’s your favourite story in the collection? Why?”

This could be like the ‘what’s your favourite colour’ question, or possibly make me howl DON’T MAKE ME CHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSE.

I mean, I loved getting back to Gary the vampire for “Bad Night at Bite Club”, and it’s primed me for getting to work on the 3rd of the Vampires of Melbourne series. It made me happy to write Ravenfall‘s James and Gabriel again in “Shadow at my Shoulder” – I’d really like to write another novel with them some time.

I think of the long stories, maybe “The Beekeeper’s Children” is my favourite – Holmes and Watson (from The Adventure of the Colonial Boy) in a loving relationship, in retirement in Sussex – but Sherlock is off in danger, John is caring for the bees (and reading the oblique love notes Sherlock has left for him) and also caring for two young men who are negotiating love as well as trauma.

Of the super short stories I have a soft spot for “Long Live the King” because I feel Richard III has been given a rough deal by history, but my favourite is “Plot Bunny” because of the juxtaposition between the sweet little toy bunny and its murderous intent.

But otherwise, don’t make me choose – they are all my favourite.


Scar Tissue and Other Stories is available in paperback and ebook directly from the publisher, Clan Destine Press, as well as the usual online sellers: Amazon, Kobo, Booktopia etc.

Research: The (invented) Hobart Kites

In the new Duo Ex Machina novella, Kiss and Crycurrently being serialised on my Patreon – I have my muso couple, Frank and Milo, hitting their late thirties and a bumpy patch in their relationship.

While Frank is working long hours as a producer now, Milo is burning the candle at both ends keeping his charitable foundation running. One way he’s doing that is by competing on an ice dancing show – Icing it!

One of Milo’s fellow celebrity contestants is Adam Wills, Indigenous star mid-fielder for the Hobart Kites, Tasmania’s Australian Rules Football team.

Sharp-eyed Australians will know that at present in real life, Tasmania does not have an Australian Football League (AFL) team playing in the nationals.

I decided to invent an AFL team for this story because of the kind of off-field shenanigans some of Adam’s team-mates get up to. Real life AFL is full of scandals and misbehaviour, but I felt for Kiss and Cry, it would be better if I assigned any such activity to a not-real club, so that I wouldn’t be perceived to be accusing anyone of anything.

Thus the Hobart Kites were born – the club coming from Tasmania’s capital and given a bird motif (common among the clubs). Tasmania has four kinds of native kite – a predator bird. Tassie boasts eagles and hawks as predator birds as well, but other clubs in the AFL have already adopted those as mascots. So far, no Kites are in the big league.

(The Tasmanian Devil or the Tasmanian Tiger might have worked too, but of course such obvious names are already in use by other sporting teams in Tasmania and/or those mascots are also already claimed within the AFL!)

The colours for the Hobart Kites –  green, yellow and maroon – are the state colours of Tasmania, so it made sense for the Kites jerseys to be in those hues. I’ve attempted to make a mock-up of the jersey (using a template) but please excuse my terrible Paint skills. 

Tasmania would LOVE to have an AFL team and have a website to promote it – I’ve no idea when or if it will ever happen. I honestly don’t know that much about the rules or the current AFL ladder, though I’ve been to games in the past and support the Richmond Tigers because that’s where I lived when I first moved to Melbourne (and they have the best club song!).

tl;dr – Tasmania does not currently have a team in the AFL. I invented one to use in Kiss and Cry to avoid any unpleasantness with real people and clubs and reiterate that the Hobart Kites are not based on anyone or anything in particular. 🙂 

If you want to find out more about Frank and Milo’s relationship crisis, the Icing It! dance competition or the Hobart Kites shenanigans, you can either sign up to my Patreon at the Backstage Pass level for fortnightly updates (and loads more) or wait until the novella ha run its course there and is available for sale.

In the meantime, you can look at getting the first three novellas in the Duo Ex Machina series!

Australian Music: 2014

Richmond’s Corner Hotel

Over on my Patreon, I’ve started posting cahpters for the fourth Duo Ex Machina book, set in 2014.

Kiss and Cry brings Frank and Milo five years on from the events of Number One Fan: Frank is a successful producer and Milo is concentrating on raising funds and doing work with his Foundation. I’m inventing lyrics and bands for the story, but the real music scene was full of amazing real Australian musicians.

Melbourne live music was also changing in 2014. Music venues had been facing difficulties with restrictive regulations on things like liquor licensing, noise level complaints from new residents in areas where venues had been for decades (we nearly lost Cherry Bar), and conditions for all-ages concerts – then in March 2014, the Victorian government introduced reforms to ensure the city’s incredible music scene not only survived but continued to thrive. 

Just as well, not only for Australian cultural life, but for the music sector’s contribution to the economy (valued at over a billion dollars in 2013).

Actually, a report by Pollstar had revealed Melbourne venues were among the top in Australia: from Richmond’s Corner Hotel as the top Australian spot and 13th worldwide. (In fact, the Corner makes an appearance in my upcoming novel, Kitty and Cadaver.)

In 2014, Sia, Iggy Azalea and 5 Seconds of Summer were all charting in the UK and US while the JJJ Top 100 2014 was full of Chet Faker, the Hilltop Hoods, Lorde, Chvrches and Vance Joy and contained the since-ubiquitous Uptown Funk.

(While we’re here, this is one of my favourite videos using Uptown Funk.)

Here in 2019, some of the venues that were under threat 5-10 years ago are still going strong: Cherry Bar, the Tote and The Espy, which has just undergone a massive refurbishment and still has three stages and some impressive cocktail bars as well as free local music in the basement.

But back in 2014 Melbourne, Frank and Milo and their friends and family will continue to listen to the Hilltop Hoods’ Cosby Sweater and Sia’s Chandelier and donate to the soundproofing of venerable venues to save them for the future.

Check out the first three novellas in the Duo Ex Machina series!

Research: A home in Carlton

When Duo Ex Machina‘s Frank and Milo first appeared in a story, they’d just returned from Amsterdam – they were kinda big with the Dutch – to attend a funeral in Fremantle. They had no home but a hotel. 

By the second story in 2004, they were on a publicity tour, and still no home was mentioned. At this stage, Frank had in fact inherited a flash house by the Swan River but here they were in hotels again. Milo’s mother and some extended family were dotted about Melbourne, though.

So here we are in 2009 with Number One Fan and I thought it was about time they had a home of their own. The house by the river was full of sad memories, and besides, it’s a lot harder for me to research locations when I don’t live in Perth any more.

When looking for a home for them in Melbourne, I knew I wanted them to live in one of those beautiful Victorian-era two-storey houses with iron lace and stacks of charm. I knew I wanted them to be somewhere with an open view in front of them, in a suburb that connected to their Italian roots. While they had a heritage home, I wanted them to live somewhere full of young energy; maybe on the line between traditional and hipster.

After a bit of poking about, I kept coming back to Carlton. Although Lygon Street, also called ‘Little Italy’, is a bit overhyped, it’s still a lovely area when you get away from that central street. It’s said Melbourne cafe culture started here, with all the Italian restaurants. It’s home to La Mama Theatre (where playwright David Williamson made his debut), Readings Bookstore, Cinema Nova, and Italian delicatessens, and Melbourne University is just over the tramlines.

Carlton was established just after the Victorian Gold Rush, in 1851. It started out a bit posh – Sir Redmond Barry (the man who pronounced the death sentence on Ned Kelly) lived on Rathdown Street in the early days – but became a place of small industry and the working class. The Jewish population got their synagogue in 1919, and after WWII an influx of Italians strongly influenced the area’s character, along with all those hungry minds at the university.

Some beautiful houses with iron lace are dotted all about Carlton. Quite a few parks are in the area too. I went for a walk around it one recent sunny day to choose where I’d like their house to be, and to see what was nearby. 

This row of terrace houses opposite Argyle Square was the best option. From those front balconies, people can look over the English elms in the park and see the students lollling about on the lawn to study, or families picnicking and eating ice-cream they bought up on Lygon Street, a short walk away. Around the corner is The Lincoln Hotel if they want a quietish drink.  At the Lygon Street end of the square is what was in 2009 a red brick power substation, but as of a few months ago is a new cafe called Parco.

The location was right but the houses there weren’t so I took some small streets, crossing Lygon and heading towards Drummond and Rathdown Streets. There I found two lovely white terrace houses. One of them has beautiful leadlighted decorations on the downstairs window and above the door. The other was plainer at ground level, but had lovely etched glass in the upstairs window and the balcony door.

A wee bit of googling gave the prices that they last sold for. One of them, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and even a car space, went for $800K in 2005. I think Frank’s Swan River place would have covered that.

Of course, Frank and Milo’s place isn’t really real. I’ll be playing around with its insides and outsides, maybe having them refurbish and add a fancy music room onto the back of the house while the front gazes onto the park with its demure 1890s lace of iron.