By Parker Mckenzie
Author Kerryn Mayne’s debut novel Lenny Marks Gets Away With Murder is set in the base of the Dandenong Ranges, following the protagonist revisiting a traumatic experience from her past.
Ms Mayne, who grew up in Narre Warren North, told Star News she has always been interested in crime fiction and decided to try her hand at it during the Covid-19 lockdowns in Melbourne.
“What has happened in Lenny Marks’ life was quite significant to her and she was only eleven when it happened,” she said.
“It’s focused not just on an offender or an offence, but to look at the people left behind and try to deliver it in an uplifting manner.”
She said she wanted to write about something that was a “step away from my job as a police officer and to focus on some positive stories.”
“When you’re writing, you do have to do some terrible things to your characters, otherwise you don’t really have a story,” she said.
“You have to take this gorgeous person and then torture them somehow, which is so terrible, but also necessary for their character arc and their growth. “
Set partly in Belgrave and Selby, the book was published on 21 February this year and follows Lenny’s experiences after a traumatic event at age 11.
Ms Mayne said the feedback she has received has been positive and uplifting.
“That was really nice given the subject matter, which does cover a bit of domestic violence and isolation,” she said.
“It’s a pretty heavy topic but it does come off with a bit of dark humour and an uplifting vibe.”
Ms Mayne said she chose the setting of the Dandenong Ranges because it is a magical setting.
“My husband and I’ve always loved to drive up there and stop and have lunch somewhere, it was just an obvious choice,” she said.
“Lenny Marks has a very sentimental attachment to The Hobbit in the book and I love the parallels between Middle Earth and the Shire in particular to the Dandenongs.”
She said while writing the book, she spent time throughout the hills on writing retreats to ensure the setting was authentic.
“One was Clarendon Cottages, I think that’s in Sassafras and that was just gorgeous,” she said.
“I just sat there solo, no kids, no husband, no friends, just myself there to type and a do a fair bit of editing too.“
Throughout the book, Lenny’s quirkiness is shown through unique traits like playing Scrabble by herself, making anagrams in her head to relieve stress, rearranging her 36 copies of The Hobbit and talking to her imaginary roommate, Monica from the Friends TV series.
“If she’s a bit overwhelmed, she’ll think of a word or something that’s around her and she’ll just break it into as many different words as she can,” Ms Mayne said.
“It’s one of her calming techniques, which is actually quite funny, because I’ve had a couple of people tell me they do the exact same thing, where some people pick specifically eight-letter words only, which is really sweet.”
Ms Mayne said she is now “contractually obliged” to write two more books.
“It’s a glorious problem to have, I did my first with Penguin Random House which was an absolute dream come true to be published with one of the big five,” she said.
“They’ve contracted me for two more, now the next one isn’t set in the Dandenongs, but as a Bayside dweller I’m setting the next one there.”
You can find out more about Kerryne Mayne and Lenny Marks Gets Away with Murder at kerrynmayneauthor.com