Later, I discovered this was because she’d been at the opera. Yes, the opera. This, I thought, was clearly an author of high class, all hoity-toity tea parties, breezing through Sydney’s drawing rooms with a passing nod to the mayor on her way to shake the hand of the lord Jesus Christ himself.
Perhaps my notions of the opera are somewhat excessive, but I nonetheless went into this interview with trepidation. With some relief, I later found her to be—well, rather like a lot of us aspiring writers.
So it’s about time you met Candice Fox: creative writing lecturer, PhD student, and most recently, author of internationally published thriller Hades.
“The book really questions everyone’s personal evil,” Fox says.
“Every character in the book is carrying some personal badness inside them, they all have different levels, and I suppose the reader has to decide who they’re going to root for in this group of evil people.”
Random House describe the novel, released in January this year, as “the debut of a stunning new talent in crime fiction”, but Fox actually had great difficulty getting the attention of a publisher.
After finishing the book in 2010, her manuscript was rejected by all Australian publishers, and was eventually picked up by a UK independent publishing house, which then went bankrupt in 2012.
A second attempt with Australian publishers finally yielded a two-book deal with Random house for Hades and its sequel, Eden, of which Fox has now finished the first draft.
She says Eden was much harder to write, under the pressure of expectation.
“I had the deal, so I knew that what I was writing was going to be read by the public,” she says.
“At the same time as I was writing it, particularly as I was finishing it off, people were saying, ‘I like this and that about Hades’… and it’s difficult to not change your plans because of what a few people have said.”
There’s no doubt that Candice is now writing what she loves.
“Crime is a hobby for me, so I’m always reading about it, I’m always watching things about it, I keep my eye on it in the news, it’s just a basic awareness of it for me,” she said.
“People ask me where I get all these sort of scary, creepy ideas from.
“People say to me, ‘Oh, you look like such a nice person, how can you be thinking these horrible things?’
“But I’m one of those people who knows seventeen different ways you could knock someone off.”
Juggling study, teaching and writing a novel every year (as she is now expected to do for Random House) is a hard thing to ask of anyone, but she always takes time to write when the mood strikes.
“I don’t write it unless I’m excited about writing it, because I don’t think people will be excited about reading it if I’m not excited about writing it.”
She holds persistence as key for aspiring authors.
“For me, it was just practice, I’ve put down a lot of novels and half-novels, and I chased four serious ones, but it’s only now that I’ve really stopped trying to write what I think other people want and writing what I think is fun.”
“Just keep doing it. I know that sounds really simple, but I say to my writing students, if you write one novel after the other until you’re 75, and you never stop, you’ll get there eventually.
“I think a lot of people write one novel and they fail and think oh, that’s how it’s supposed to be.
“If you really want it, you’ll just keep going.”