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P.M. Newton

Author, Inspirational Speaker, Social Commentator

After thirteen years as a detective in the NSW police force, P.M. Newton decided to take a leap into the unknown and seek a different path, one that did not involve constantly meeting people for the first time on the worst day of their life. Since then she has travelled to Timbuktu, written about music in Mali, studied Buddhist philosophy in India, taught English to Tibetan monks and written a critically acclaimed novel.

Who says you can’t change your life?

What other jobs have you had?

Police detective, housemaid, English teacher, waitress, retail, stable hand, information management, data entry, university tutor, creative writing instructor, research librarian.

What themes are recurring in your life?

Grief: Crime fiction has often ignored grief. My work focuses on the long-term damage that violence, as a result of crime and of war, does not only to victims but also to their friends, families and communities. It examines the grief violent death leaves behind.

Race: My work asks questions about what it means to be Australian? It presents the changing face of Australia from a white Anglo-Saxon nation to one where my character, an Australian-Vietnamese woman called Nhu can be nicknamed Ned Kelly. The characters and settings reflect the multi-cultural nature of Australian society today.

History: My protagonist, Nhu “Ned” Kelly’s family was formed during the war in Vietnam. I am interested in the way Australia remembers and interprets its history, particularly its military history, how we can revere and eulogise Gallipoli yet still contest the history that surrounds the clash between white settlers and Aboriginal people.

Buddhism: How people make sense of their lives, how they deal with violence and trauma is a continuing theme in my work. I am interested in how for some people Buddhist philosophy offers a way of coping, and healing.

What have been the highlights of your career?

Travelling to places I longed to see, such as Mali, the Himalayas, and then having the opportunity to live and work in them.

Being accepted into a university Masters Research program to write my first book and then having five publishers make offers for the book.

Publishing The Old School with Penguin was exciting. It meant working with a publishing house with a proud history and high standards, and that resulted in making the book even stronger. Seeing my first book receive excellent reviews and make it to the Indies shortlist was beyond my dreams.

Where have your works been published?

The Old School has been published in Australia/NZ.

My chapter “Beyond the Sensation Novel: Social Crime Fiction—Qualia of the Real World” was contributed to Literature and Sensation, an academic work published in the UK by Cambridge Scholars, 2009 (edited by Anthony Uhlmann, Helen Groth, and Paul Sheehan).

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about the potential crime fiction has to incorporate political, social and cultural ideas, issues and themes.

I’m a close watcher and analyzer of genre TV, such as Battlestar Galactica, Buffy and The Wire. I’m interested in examining what fiction writers can learn from these works as quality TV drama has revitalized genres such as sci-fi and crime.

I’m something of a political and cricket tragic. I follow them both a bit obsessively and will talk about them at the drop of a hat.

I have surprised myself by becoming a passionate user of social media (twitter and blogging). I talk about many of these interests with experts and amateurs around the world.

Haven’t I seen you before?

I have been a guest at the Gold Coast Literati Festival (2011), The Sydney Writers’ Festival (2011), and various Sisters in Crime events in New South Wales and Victoria. I have taught at the NSW Writers Centre, the QWC and spoken at library and bookshop events.

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