Kel Richards

Kel Richards

Writing is like reading

Writing fiction is, for me, almost exactly the same experience as reading-it takes me into the world I'm writing about, and makes me feel that I'm mixing with the characters in my story, in just the same way as reading a good book does. I'm not the first author to feel this way. In Barbara Stoney's biography of Enid Blyton she quotes Blyton as saying that writing a story was like "watching a movie in her head." I am always eager to start on the next book to find out what my characters are getting up to and what's happening in the places I'm writing about.

Historical crime fiction brings the great ones to life

American writer Lillian de la Torre invented the idea of making real historical figures central characters in crime fiction when she created her brilliant series of detective short stories featuring Doctor Samuel Johnson as the investigator (narrated, of course, by Boswell). Her lead has been taken up by many others-there are now detective novels featuring Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Teddy Roosevelt and even Edward VII (when he was Prince of Wales) in the central detecting role. I have long seen parallels between Dr Johnson and C. S. Lewis: both literary critics, creative writers, and larger-than-life highly "clubbable" men (Johnson had "The Club" and Lewis "The Inklings"). By making C. S. Lewis the central "detector" in my Inklings murder mysteries I've had the pleasure of seeing him walk off the pages of his books, into my imagination and come to life for me.

Lewis must have been great fun to know

I once interviewed on my radio show Australian poet Geoffrey Dutton. As an Oxford undergraduate in the late 1940s C. S. Lewis was his tutor. Dutton told me that when the two of them disagreed over whether or not Matthew Arnold's "Shorab and Rustum" was a great poem, Lewis leaped up grabbed two swords (which, for whatever reason, happened to be on the mantelpiece that day) and offered to "fight a duel to defend Arnold's honour." Lewis was no shy, retiring don-he was a boisterous, jolly larger-than-life person.

My favourite author

Apart from C. S. Lewis (of course) is Alexander McCall Smith-and I see strong parallels between his writing and mine (I hope he doesn't the comparison). Both of us are using light fiction and vivid storytelling to examine serious ideas (sometimes quite big ideas). In his legendary "No 1 Ladies Detective Agency" novels it is detection that is the narrative "spine" that holds his books together and holds the reader's attention. We both seem to have a very similar whimsical sense of humour. And those Mma Ramotse novels have an exotic (because geographically remote) setting in Botswana-while my Inklings murder mysteries have an exotic (because chronologically remote) setting in 1930s Oxford.

Detection and faith fit together

When I first discovered C. S. Lewis, as young Christian of 17, he opened my eyes to the fact that faith and reason fit together. Lewis insisted that he argued for the Christian faith as the most realistic way to live in this world (and the next!) only because it's true. And then he applied rigorous logic to explaining that. Well, logic is the detective's best friend. How was that seemingly impossible crime committed? In the last chapter we discover there is a perfectly logical way of explaining every mystery-just as there is a logical way of explaining the Christian worldview. Reading Lewis taught to think and reason logically-and it's "Lewisian logic" that I use in writing the Inklings murder mysteries.

Radio helps me write dialogue

Having spent more years as a broadcaster than I will now admit to, one of the benefits of my profession has been to "fine tune" my listening-to help me tune in not only to what people say but how they say it. There is no better preparation for writing dialogue than working as an interviewer, script writer etc. in the medium of radio.

Faith based fiction opens windows

I recently read Appointed to Die by Kate Charles and I was struck by the power Christian fiction has to show us how faith works in life-both in wrestling with important concepts and then living these out in the messy circumstances of life.

Jonathan Creek is my idea of fun television

David Renwick, the writer of the Jonathan Creek series is, like me, a fan of "impossible crimes" and "locked room" mysteries-and he has invented some absolutely stunning puzzles for this series. On top of which, he combines investigating murder with clever comic writing.

Every one of my jokes has been laughed at least once

By me! If I come up with an amusing line, or a striking simile, I chuckle out loud over the keyboard. If no one else ever laughs at my jokes, they have least succeeded in raising chuckle from me.

Fans can be anywhere

A senior Anglican minister from London was recently guest preacher at our church (St Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney). At hand shaking time afterwards I introduced myself just as "Kel"-he grabbed my hand, greeted me enthusiastically as "ah, yes, the author". A nice moment.