AWW Feature: Q&A with Wendy James {and giveaway}

Wendy James lives in New South Wales, Australia, a mother of four children she juggles child care with work, university studies, and of course writing. Wendy’s first novel, Out of the Silence (Random House, 2005), won the 2006 Ned Kelly Award and was followed by The Steele Diaries (2008), a collection of short stories published in 2009 as Why She Loves Him, and Where Have You Been? (2010), a psychological thriller recently optioned by a film company. Wendy’s newest release, The Mistake, was published by Penguin Australia earlier this month.  Part psychological/crime thriller, part family drama, The Mistake defies genre conventions and simply delivers a compelling story about a woman whose past becomes a matter of criminal investigation and intense media scrutiny.

You can read my  four and a half star review of The Mistake HERE.

I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to ask a few questions of Wendy James and appreciate her cooperation.

Q: Your debut novel, Out of Silence (winner of the 2006 Ned Kelly Award) was inspired by a true story, was The Mistake also inspired by real life events?

Wendy: The initial inspiration for the book came from the notorious and tragic Keli Lane case, but I pretty quickly decided to move my story as far away from that as possible. It seemed too raw, too sad – and of course, for the people involved, it’s ongoing

Q: The Mistake was rejected several times as publishers felt the protagonist, Jodie, was not particularly likeable. Why did you insist on Jodie’s characterisation being largely unsympathetic

Wendy: What I was trying to do was to create a character who readers weren’t instantly going to ‘fall’ for, but one who they could gradually come to understand, and hopefully empathise with.  This was important in building up a sense of the way the public responded to her perceived personality rather than any actual evidence.

Q: Jodie was tried, and found guilty, by the media almost before the case became a legal matter. How do you feel media bias affects justice in this case?

Wendy: I think it’s potentially quite dangerous. Media and public scrutiny are so all-pervasive now, we’re bombarded with opinion and commentary ( of widely varying quality) as well as the straight news items. A real mob mentality – witch hunt stuff – can so easily develop. It would be very difficult, as a member of a jury for instance, to remain impervious to this – to not let it compromise your objectivity.

Q: The Garrow family dissolves under the pressure of suspicion, do you feel Jodie’s secret exploits, or creates, the cracks in the family?

Wendy: I think the cracks were there right from the beginning – but perhaps Jodie carrying the secret has always distorted her relationship with Angus and Hannah. With everyone.  Those cracks certainly get wider, though, don’t they?

Q: Why did you choose to leave the fate of your characters, including the baby,  largely unresolved?

Wendy: As a reader I always like to finish a book and have the story left slightly open. I need the essential things to be resolved – there’s nothing worse than an unsolved mystery, for instance – but just a little teasing question to keep the story going round and round in your head is good.  A little bit of uncertainty gives readers something to debate, too

Q: Your four published novels (Out of the Silence, Where Have You Been, The Steele Diaries, The Mistake) all have a crime at their core, what is it about the genre attracts you?

Wendy: I love reading all and every sort of crime novel, but when I’m writing, it’s not so much the crime itself, but what happens to the people involved that fascinates me.  The people I’ve written about – perpetrators and victims –  have all been very ordinary – they could be you or me. I want to know just how they ended up at this juncture, and what happens to the people around them, more than anything else. As in much contemporary crime fiction this often involves taking a good hard look at the cultural and social backdrop to the crime – for instance in my first novel, Out of the Silence, the story of women fighting for the vote, and for equal rights, was an important part of the story; and in The Mistake, the role of the media is essential.

Q: What are you working on now?

Wendy: Another family/crime novel. Set on the Northern Beaches of Sydney this time – in the late seventies and now.

Q: Which three novels by an Australian Women writer are your favourite?

Wendy: It’s far too hard to pick just three books! Some favourite novelists: Ruth Park, Henry Handel Richardson, Kate Grenville, Shirley Hazzard, Eleanor Dark… I could go on

Q: What is your preference?

  • Coffee/Tea or other?  TEA (and Champagne) Beach/Pool or River? BEACH
  • Slacks/Jeans or Leggings? JEANS
  • Butterfly/Tiger or Giraffe? GIRAFFE– I could use a bit more height.
  • Swing/Slide or Roundabout? SLIDE for sure. Don’t have to worry about vertigo or motion-sickness. Fast and fun!


Learn more about Wendy James and her work @

Website I Facebook I Twitter

The Mistake is available to Purchase

Australia: @ BoomerangBooks I @Booktopia I @Readings

(sorry, no international stockists as yet)

Enter to Win

1 print edition of

The Mistake by Wendy James

(Australian  Residents Only)

Required To Enter:

Leave a comment

and include your name, email address and state +1

(You do not have to include the email in the comment body as long as you fill in the email field when you comment)

For extra entries:

+1 tweet or facebook this post Use the icons below to make it easier and please provide a link

+2 leave a comment on my review of The Mistake at Book’d Out; Goodreads or Facebook

Total possible entries = 4

Entries close March 11th 2012

Winner drawn via

Good Luck!


20 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. puttputt11198eve
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 06:03:09

    I think it’s great that Wendy James’ book “defies genre conventions” because I think all too much attention is placed on pigeon-holing novels. It’s enough for me to know that a book is a great read! I haven’t read any of James’ novels but she is now on my Goodreads “to-read” shelf!



  2. VeganYANerds
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 08:27:24

    Great interview! And I definitely want to check out her new book seeing as it’s set in Sydney’s Nthn Beaches!



  3. 1girl2manybooks
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 10:48:01

    Really enjoyable feature Shelleyrae! I haven’t read this author before but I’m definitely going to keep a look out for her now – interested in a couple of her books even though as a reader, open endings tend to frustrate me a little! I’m very much a “closure” person 🙂
    1girl2manybooks {@} gmail {.} com



  4. Marianne Vincent
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 11:30:51

    An excellent interview, Shellyrae. This Aussie writer will be one on my wishlist. Thanks for offering the freebie!



  5. Brenda
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 11:47:36

    A really great interview Shelleyrae! I have this book on my TBR list, and was actually just reading about it on Booktopia, and added it to my wish list there!
    Brenda Telford
    Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy.



  6. Mystica
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 13:53:43

    Would like to be counted in (with an Aussie address).
    Vic state




  7. Annette Williams
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 14:22:48

    I’m so pleased that I’ve discovered your blog (through Goodreads), and so pleased too to have discovered Wendy James through this post. Another author for me to collect … yaay! Really looking forward to reading her books.
    A great interview and I really agree with Wendy’s comments about the effects of media influence and bias on justice.



  8. Elizabeth Lhuede
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 14:35:17

    As a crime fic fan from way back, this one is a must for my “to be read” pile! Thanks for the review and the interview, Shelleyrae.



  9. digireado
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 14:40:34

    Count me in too! I’m actually just reading Wendy’s Where Have you Been!
    annarosemaguire {at} gmail [dot] com (sorry, do that way in case of spambots!



  10. Mary Preston
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 14:59:06

    I have added THE MISTAKE to my wish list. I know I will enjoy reading this.

    +2 comment on the review of “The Mistake” at Book’d Out

    Mary P





  11. Annette Williams
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 15:09:03

    Aargh! I forgot to put my state. It’s Queensland.



  12. jenny
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 15:14:04

    Have added this one to my wishlist. Thanks for the review and great interview.



  13. Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 16:24:06

    Great interview, Shelleyrae. I agree with Wendy that a book with a slightly open ending gives the reader room to continue the characters’ story in their own mind, or to debate what happened. I think that kind of ambiguity is really essential, and I’m glad that it shows up in books (not so much in film, unfortunately!)



  14. Amanda
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 16:53:25

    I just discovered this site today and I’m excited to see such great support for Australian women writers. I really like the interview with Wendy James and will definitely be looking out for her books.
    Amanda, VIC



  15. The Australian Bookshelf
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 18:25:47

    Sounds like a fascinating crime story and your review has sparked my interest Shelleyrae. I enjoy this feature, it’s great to hear what happens behind the scenes and meet Aussie authors that I am otherwise unfamiliar with.



  16. Bec
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 19:17:55

    I’ve read a few reviews of this book – can’t wait to read it – we have so many great aussie female authors right now



  17. lisa Heidke
    Feb 29, 2012 @ 11:44:48

    Great interview, Shelleyrae. Looking forward to reading ‘The Mistake’.
    Lisa x



  18. Trackback: Review: THE MISTAKE by Wendy James | Fair Dinkum Crime
  19. Trackback: Review: WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? Wendy James | Fair Dinkum Crime
  20. Carol Balawyder
    Feb 03, 2015 @ 02:27:07

    I have just now discovered Wendy James’ work. I just finished reading her latest The Lost Girls and now want to read all of her books. I really like that in this novel she focused on the victims but also her story was great and the filled with suspense. This is the kind of crime writing I like. No car chases. No gore. No gratuitous violence. I found the writing fresh and the characters compelling.
    Also, this interview was super and wanting to learn more about James I got to your blog, which was a real bonus! 🙂



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