Karen Brown – The Friends of Port Macquarie Library

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The Friends of Port Macquarie Library, a local non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting the public library system, are busy celebrating 2012 − the National Year of Reading – with a range of events designed to promote and inspire a love of books and the written word. President of the organisation, Karen Brown, is very excited to announce that the Port Macquarie-Hastings Library will receive a visit from crime fiction writer Katherine Howell on August 22.

What is the aim of The Friends of Port Macquarie Library?

The aim of the group is to support the Port Macquarie-Hastings Library in any way possible. Our goals are also to promote the use of library services and foster an appreciation of these services within the community and to assist in maintaining the library as a free public service for everyone.

In 1989, Library Manager Robyn Hardman formed what was then The Friends of Hastings Municipal Library. Robyn wanted to bring together people from the community who believed that “libraries were a necessity, not a luxury”. Such a group would be invaluable in publicising the library, raising funds, assisting staff and lobbying for necessary funding and improvements for the service.

2012 is the National Year of Reading. What exactly does this mean for Friends of Port Macquarie Library?

I’m really excited that it’s the National Year of Reading. This is my first year as President, and to take on the role at this time is particularly inspiring for me!

The National Year of Reading is a national library initiative to promote books, reading and literacy. It’s primarily about children learning to read, but it’s also about expanding readers’ horizons. Something we like to do at the library is to encourage people to read more non-fiction books as well as fiction – many people aren’t aware of the wealth of wonderful books on all the subjects that are available for borrowing.

There’s a wonderful website for the National Year of reading: www.love2read.org.au that highlights all of the events happening around the country this year.

Another thing I’d like to mention is that 2012 is the International Year of Cooperatives, which aims to raise awareness of the benefits cooperatives bring to their members and the community. Cooperatives contribute to both community building and socio-economic development in their local areas. The Mid North Coast Library Cooperative consists of the Port Macquarie-Hastings Library and the Kempsey Library, with 6 branches.

Who’s the special guest you’ve arranged to visit the Port Macquarie-Hastings Library on August 22?

We’ve invited crime fiction writer Katherine Howell to come and run two events for us: a writing workshop in the afternoon at 2.30pm – 4pm and a meet the author session in the evening, from 6.30pm – 8.30pm.

Katherine is a prize-winning Australian author who had 15 years’ experience as a paramedic. Her novels are about the character Ella Marconi, a Sydney-based detective and always include either a paramedic or a paramedic team. So, as Katherine is using her own experiences to write, her novels have a great authenticity – the paramedic scenes in the novels can actually be quite scary.

Paramedics were recently voted the most trusted people in the community, and looking at the life and job of a paramedic through these novels, I think shows why this is the case!

What costs are associated with the event?

The writing workshop is $15 and includes afternoon tea. The meet the author session is $10, including supper. Katherine will talk about her books, answer questions, and there will be books available for sale, which Katherine will sign.

Whom do interested people contact if they’re interested in attending one or both of the sessions?

They can contact the library on (02) 6581 8755 – and we do ask that people RSVP before Friday, August 17 please. Email confirmation of attendance can be sent to: portlib@mnc.library.org.au

Thanks Karen. 

A few words from author Katherine Howell.

It’s well known that you draw on your experience as a paramedic to help craft your novels. Do you feel it was your stint in such a demanding career that ultimately led you to become an author – or do you feel the urge to write crime fiction would have surfaced regardless? 

I was always keen on writing, even as a child. I wrote a lot of short stories as a teen, then decided my dream job would be novelist − though I had no idea how I might get there.

Crime fiction was what I loved to read, so when I started trying to write a novel myself, that genre seemed the natural choice. Over the fifteen years that I worked as a paramedic, I wrote three poor crime novels that did not involve paramedics. It took me a few years to work out how I could use my paramedic experiences in a novel, then I wrote what became my first published novel, Frantic.

Suspense is a very important element in your novels. How do you go about creating this feeling in your work – what tools/devices do you use? 

The key points in suspense are that readers care about the characters and that those readers are uncertain about what’s going to happen to those characters. If either of those elements are lacking, it’s so much harder for the suspense to develop. These are my main focus, then I also make sure I build in lots of narrative questions, red herrings, and ambiguous clues – and use atmospheric detail too.

Your fifth and latest novel – Silent Fear – continues the story of Detective Ella Marconi. How do you personally feel this book compares to your previous work, and is there likely to be another story in the same series? 

I always try to make each book better than the ones before, but find it so hard to tell whether I’ve managed to do this. I had great fun writing Silent Fear, in that I love finding ways to throw trouble at my characters, and I love imagining what the reader is thinking and feeling and expecting to happen, then trying to take the story in a different direction.

The sixth book, Web Of Deceit, is in the editing process at the moment, and then I’ll be working on the seventh and eighth books too.

You’re visiting the Port Macquarie Library in August, and as part of your visit you’ll be holding a writing workshop. What are some of the skills/experiences you’re hoping to share with prospective new writers? 

I’ll be talking about the important elements of crime fiction, and how new writers can make sure not only that they have those elements, but also get them working well.

Among other things, we’ll be looking at the job of the first page of a story or book, the importance of characters the reader can connect with, and how to build questions into the story.

If someone was to ask you what motto you live and write by, what would you say?

Never give up.

Thanks Katherine.

Thanks so much. I’m really looking forward to meeting the readers and writers of Port Macquarie!

Committee Photo Caption L-R: Marj Page, Karen Brown, Karen Gurton, Judith Hansen, Chris Hart and Robin van Loggerenberg.

Interviews by Jo Atkins.

This story was published in issue 81 of the Greater Port Macquarie Focus

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