Three Minute Squiz With… Sarah Bailey

Sarah Bailey is an author and managing partner of a Melbourne advertising agency. And a Squizer, of course… Her most recent novel, and the third in the Gemma Woodstock series, Where the Dead Go had one member of Squiz HQ curled up on the couch for the best part of last weekend. Please welcome Sarah to the Three Minute Squiz. 

How and where do you Squiz?
Normally on the tram, en route to the office.

So you decide you want to write a book. How do you get started?
Well, there was a lot of false-starting to begin with! I gave it a crack when I was about 20yo, and then again at 25. It wasn’t until my early-thirties that I decided to get serious about it and carve out time every week to write.

And the inevitable question, how do you manage a big full time job and also find time for writing?
Well, I think it’s safe to say that some weeks I manage it better than others! It is a juggle obviously but I have come to realise that a busy pace suits my brain better. For the most part, the more time I have the less I seem to write, plus I lose all the urgency which is critical in the crime genre. I think I am doomed to simply work out a way of fitting writing around other things.

What attracted you to the crime and mystery genre?
I think I like the primal emotions and high stakes that crime evokes. You always cut to the chase in crime and see people at their worst, their most exposed, their most vulnerable. Ultimately though, I think I just find the ‘what if’ premise of a good crime story interesting.

All you books have the same protagonist, detective Gemma Woodstock. She is fierce, flawed, dark and conflicted at times – but she’s also likeable. How did you develop Gemma’s character?
It was a fairly organic process and it hasn’t necessarily gotten easier. I found the third book the most difficult to write and I think a lot of that was to do with how far I could stretch Gemma as a character and how cruel I felt I could be to her. She did originally arrive in my head fully-formed, but I then had to apply plot and consider interactions with other characters to round her out. It’s all about the light and shade, she can disappoint and frustrate a reader, but you still have to want her to succeed and grow as a person. It’s that balance that I am constantly striving for when I write about Gemma.

What does your ideal weekend look like?
It totally depends on the mood I am in. I’m pretty social and I love going out to dinner and drinks with friends but if I’m tired nothing beats curling up with a good book or watching a TV series. My ideal weekend would probably have a mix of both.

Name four people – living or dead – you’d kill to sit down to dinner with.
I’m always terrible at these questions! Um, I don’t know. I love the author Kate Atkinson so it would be good to chat to her. I am a Paul Keating fan and he would no doubt bring some killer one-liners to the table so he’s invited too. Aaron Sorkin for similar reasons, plus I’d hope some of his writing wit might rub off on me. And perhaps we round it out with James Corden or Graham Norton for some humour and slick hosting.

Your favourite book/writer?
As mentioned above, I love Kate Atkinson, especially her Jackson Brodie series. It is just a delight to read, so clever, so restrained. So perfect. I am in awe of her writing.

What is your worst and best habit?
I am very organised and find it hard to relax until my to do list is ticked off. This is both a good and bad habit for obvious reasons.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Diplomacy. Sometimes it’s best to just be clear and brutal so everyone can move on.

What would you say is the most currently overlooked news story Australians should know about but don’t?
There are so many, but I find it baffling that climate change isn’t treated as an imminent disaster. There is a constant narrative about our lifestyle and the economy, but assuming the experts are right, these things won’t matter in a few decades if we don’t sort out what we are doing to the planet. It’s odd to me that the typical fear-mongering that goes hand-in-hand with the coverage of refugees and tax increases doesn’t seem to apply to climate change which is something I think we should actually be scared of.

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