In conjunction with the launch of Radcliffe, today’s interview is with the wonderful Madeleine D’Este!
To begin, tell us a bit about yourself – who you are, where you live, a hobby / passion you have outside writing.
I’m Madeleine D’Este and I write my dark mysteries from Naarm/Melbourne. Outside of writing, I like long runs by the Maribyrnong River with an audiobook, radio play or podcast.
What do you write, and why?
My stories range from steampunk to historic fantasy to horror, but always with a supernatural element. The eerie and uncanny have always intrigued me. I blame 1970s era Dr Who and seeing horror movies like Poltergeist and American Werewolf in London far too young.
Radcliffe – which is out now – is a gothic novella set in North Melbourne during a heatwave. What was the inspiration behind this setting?
I love gothic fiction which always features a big spooky house, and I like to play with transposing my favourite tropes to Australia, the place I know best. Another one of my books, the vampire novella Bloodwood, was set in the Victorian Goldfields.Melbourne architecture, and especially the rundown grand houses of inner city Melbourne inspired Radcliffe (the building), including a few grotty rental properties from my past.Bad weather and heightened emotions are also essential gothic tropes, and instead of a storm or mists on the moors, I’ve set Radcliffe during a heatwave. And if you’ve ever suffered through a week of 40’c temperatures, you’ll understand how that can heighten everyone’s emotions.
Tamsin – the main character – is guided to the Radcliffe by a voice in her head telling her that ‘Death is Coming.’ Was there anything about having the main character being an auditory psychic that spoke to you?
The message Tamsin hears was the first kernel of the whole story which became Radcliffe. The idea struck me – ‘what would you do if you got the message that death was coming’ and the rest of the story evolved this one message. Then I researched different types of psychic abilities, which include ‘clairaudience’, and of course I was mindful of the old cliché – ‘hearing voices is the first sign of madness.’
Another thing that we feel is an interesting aspect of Radcliffe is that all the key characters are women. Was that a conscious choice – and if so, why?
Yes. I am sick of stories which feature few women, and the token women are the moral compass or paragon of virtue, or window-dressing. I want to write about messy, complex and monstrous women. Because as the recent news stories about Lucy Letby have shown, women are just as dangerous.
Can you let us know about another book or anthology that you’ve written / contributed to that you’re particularly proud of, and what you like about it?
I’m proud of all my books because especially proud of The Flower and The Serpent – a young adult horror set during a school production of Macbeth. It’s the most personal book I’ve written, recalling my theatre-nerd youth in Hobart. And the Australian Shadow Awards honoured me with a nomination for Best Novel 2019.
What are you currently reading?
‘The Reddening’ by Adam LG Neville. It’s a frightening folk horror set on the Devon coast about archaeological digs, old rock stars and red clay. Neville is one of the scariest writers today.
Who are your literary heroes?
One of the great things about books is they don’t have an expiry date, so I’m always finding ‘new’ books and new heroes. Some of my favourites are Agatha Christie, Patricia Highsmith and Daphne du Maurier. In terms of current writers, I’m a big fan of the highly imaginative and versatile Silvia Moreno Garcia and the historical fiction of Kate Morton and CJ Sansom.