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Lea Scott, author of The Ned Kelly Game

Readersvoice.com aims to collect a few interesting reading tips. For this issue I interviewed Lea Scott, author of The Ned Kelly Game. It’s a well-plotted story about some teenagers who steal bushranger Ned Kelly’s skull from the Old Melbourne Gaol. When they’re adults, they're murdered one by one, by hanging. The main character, Felicity Simons, who was a friend of the teenagers all those years ago, could be next.

I’d recommend The Ned Kelly Game to anyone who wants to learn how to keep pages turning by gradually introducing characters. I suppose you might call it the red herring method. Lea Scott engineered this novel very well. It’s one of those books that would be worth a second reading by writing students, just to study how to progressively bring out suspects. Is it the professor killing all these old friends of the main character? Quite possibly. But wait a minute. There’s a mysterious relative in a psychiatric institution. Could it be him? Maybe.
I asked Lea Scott about plotting, the paranormal and her reading.

READERSVOICE.COM: How much detail in the planning of your book did you go into, as far as plot goes, and did you stick to the plan?

LEA SCOTT: Writing for me is a very right brain creative process. Planning is more logical and I never wanted my writing to seem like ‘work’ because it’s something that I enjoy so much. I began with a beginning and an end in mind, and a rough idea of what would happen in the middle (ie. one by one the characters would be murdered).

The process I take is to map out very briefly the next two to three chapters ahead, then let my subconscious mind work out the rest while I go about my usual day.

Any ideas that come to mind I jot down in my notebook, then work into the story when I have the time to sit down to write. So it almost seems as if the story writes itself. Or should I say, the characters in my subconscious write it for me.

As to sticking to the plan, the characters often develop a mind of their own and go off on all sorts of tangents that aren’t in the plan. I find it best to let them have their own head and generally write down what my mind comes up with, then work out a way to get them back on track from there and keep the story moving in the direction I want it to go.

RV: I like the way the book progressively plants suspects into the story. Are there any other plot tips or structuring techniques that you’ve come across that you can give?

LS: Thank you. The technique of planting ‘red herrings’ is something I learnt in high school from a very passionate English teacher while deconstructing Daphne DeMaurier’s novel, Rebecca. Full of red herrings, this book remains one of my classical favourites.

I wrote a lot of these into the Ned Kelly Game after I had completed the main story, thereby creating suspicion aro und a number of the main characters to keep you guessing ‘whodunnit’ to the very end. Another technique I like to employ is to leave a ‘hook’ at the end of a scene or a chapter to keep the reader in suspense and yearning to continue reading.

A lot of the feedback I’ve received from people is that they found it difficult to put the book down. Constant suspense, however, can be draining so I’ve tried to balance this with slower descriptive passages and historical information.

As chunks of history can be boring to read, I’ve tried to include most of the historical information from the characters’ viewpoints.

I’ve structured the plot in a fairly linear way, with the story starting in the present and moving forward in time. All the past events are set as flashbacks. This keeps the reader in the present of the story and makes it easier to follow. I had originally structured it chronologically, starting when the characters were teenagers but I found it more difficult to relate to them as adult characters and felt my readers may have the same problem.

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