It isn’t too unusual for the LEAP Ambassadors to meet someone that is nationally known. It is rare, however, that we get to meet someone who first reached stardom in Australia. Jane Harper, a novelist from Melbourne published her first novel The Dry in 2016, and it soon became an international bestseller. It reached audiences from all over the world and allowed her to write a follow-up book called Force of Nature and a standalone, her latest work, entitled The Lost Man. She is currently on a media tour of the US to promote The Last Man, and this tour allowed the Ambassadors to cross her path.
After a rather extended trip into Houston, we finally arrived at “Murder by the Book.” Even though we arrived thirty minutes before the event began, almost all of the seats were already taken, with even more patrons standing in the back.
Luckily, we managed to grab a few seats before even more readers flocked in.
Harper was introduced by John McDougal, the Event Coordinator for MBTB and then interviewed by employee Cindy Burnett who, not coincidentally, has been a fan of Jane Harper’s ever since The Dry was published.
Ms. Burnett asked questions ranging from Harper’s inspiration to write, to the plot and characters of her latest novel, and to personal questions about the writing process.
Harper was very well-spoken, as expected, but was relaxed despite being on her first US tour. Perhaps most interesting was the manner in which Ms. Harper got her start writing novels. As a journalist for 13 years, writing was second-hand to her, but even considering this, her brisk path to publishing best-sellers was pretty amazing. She took a short online class on writing novels, and she completed a 40,000 word draft in 12 weeks. From that point, she knew she had six months to submit her work for consideration of the Victorian Premier Literary Award, for the top Australian unpublished manuscript. She won, prompting massive attention–and offers–for her new book, The Dry.
Also of interest was the research she did on her latest book, The Lost Man. Set in the extreme outback, the novel addresses isolation and loneliness, while revolving the mystery of Cameron Bright who died, seemingly lost, at the foot of a grave in the middle of the outback.
Ms. Harper traveled through the outback, interviewing inhabitants of isolated communities to learn the folkways and patter of the outback dwellers. The results were intriguingly offered up in The Lost Man, which explores the efforts of Nathan Bright to find out they mystery of his brother’s death.
After the discussion, we had the chance to meet Ms. Harper and get our new books signed by her.
Also, since we stayed until most of the fans left, we were lucky enough to get a group picture with her, while also meeting her New York publicist, Amelia Possanza, whom Professor Yawn had worked with on a review of The Dry in The Houston Chronicle.
Famished after a long day of travel and learning, we drove around the block to eat at “Platypus Brewing” located off Washington Avenue in Houston.
The orders consisted of a traditional Aussie pie (similar to a shepherd’s pie but with ground beef substituted in), surf ‘n turf, a sausage roll, a butterflied chicken sandwich, a massive grilled cheese, and a colossal burger called the “Platypus Burger.”
It’s safe to say that we left the restaurant with full stomachs and smiles on our faces. We left Houston that night thankful for the opportunity that LEAP provided to meet with such a talented and well-known author.