Please welcome Anne Buist, author of the Natalie King Forensic Psychiatrist Series.
Anne Buist is the Chair of Women’s Mental Health at the University of Melbourne and has over 25 years clinical and research experience in perinatal psychiatry. She works with Protective Services and the legal system in cases of abuse, kidnapping, infanticide and murder. Medea’s Curse is her first mainstream psychological thriller. Professor Buist is married to novelist Graeme Simsion and has two children.
Who is Natalie King?
Natalie King is the protagonist in a psychological thriller trilogy: Medea’s Curse and Dangerous to Know (MC out in UK with Legend, and DTK out March 15th, and Australia with Text), and the third This I Would Kill For should be out later this year in Australia at least.
She’s a forensic psychiatrist that specializes in women with young children; MC tackles infanticide and kidnapping (as well as stalking…), DTK the suspicious death of a woman in pregnancy and TIWKF child custody and abuse accusations. Like all good crime heroines she’s not perfect…she’s swears, tells it like she sees it, sings in a rick’n’roll band, has issues with her mother and absent father… and has bipolar disorder. The stories all stand alone but the arc of the trilogy in her trying to sort out her private life.
Why did you pick her for your story?
Why her? Write what you know…and I’m a forensic psychiatrist who specializes in perinatal psychiatry, and I’ve been known to do the occasional gig! What Natalie offers is an insight into the world of forensic psychiatry and family dynamics when things go badly wrong. Her own battles with mental illness allows this also from an inside point of view, though you only get flashes of this. She has a lawyer and police boyfriend (in consecutive novels…though they both pop up in the last one) which helps her get inside information she wouldn’t be otherwise privy to. And she has insights and information that only psychiatrists obtain and make sense of. She has lots of demons but that makes her complex and she develops through the books. I may write more in the series but want to do some stand alone ones first.
What does a Forensic Psychiatrist do?And how are they different from other psychiatrists?
Forensic psychiatrists are brought in on cases where mental illness may be a factor in the crime; often there may be issues of fitness to plea, and the question of whether the person knew right from wrong at the time it was committed. Thus my books are as much WHY dunnits as Who dunnits.
What motivates Natalie King?
Natalie King is passionate about her work – she was in a serious motorbike accident at 16 and while in rehab decided to do medicine. As an intern she had her first manic episode and this led her, via her supervisor and psychiatrist, Declan, to be a psychiatrist herself. She doesn’t suffer fools – but is a strong defender of her patients and her mission is to help empower them to get over the often difficult starts in life they had. I am myself very passionate about my work, the people that litter the pages of my novels are “real” in the sense that they aren’t cardboard cut out “evil”. The patients I work with are rarely this (and I wouldn’t work with them if they were”; one of my reviewers said I made unsympathetic characters sympathetic, and to me this is the crux of understanding how and why things can go badly wrong.
How do you create characters?
Characters develop slowly, with layer upon layer added as I get to know them. Sometimes they have a role to fill so I start out with a personality “type” and build from there – eg Frank in DTK had to have some narcissistic qualities. Because I am a psychiatrist with a strong background in Freudian theory and Family Therapy, my characters have to make sense, starting right from the day they were born; who their parents are and the experiences had shape them. In TIWKF I explore a lot of what happened to Natalie as a child and how this shaped her. This has been done a bit with abuse, and in TIWKF abuse is touched on as to what effects it may have, but Natalie has a more complex trauma with more subtle results. Of course the books are meant to be page turners so this is all in the background!
What does your writing process look like? Do you outline your books?
My writing process starts with an idea. Then notes. Sometimes I write a page or two to get “voice” and decide who is best to tell the story. My husband, Graeme, and I plot and plan together – usually over a glass of wine or two (he’s author of The Rosie Project, The Rosie Effect and The Best of Adam Sharp)! Then I plot out chapter by chapter, usually just a line or two. This may change as I write, but I always know where I am going and roughly how to get there. Then there’s a lot of writing, which I can do quite quickly. Reading and editing, then out to a couple of readers. Then re-writing and editing. Usually Graeme reads at this point and I edit again, a few more readers, final polish and submit! Note that this is VERY different to when I was writing erotic romance when the timeline is sped up. Writing thrillers for a main stream publisher takes longer…it allows more time, more development and produces more complex plot and characters.
What are the most challenging aspects of writing a novel?
Re-writing is never easy. Particularly when, as with TIWF, I thought it was ready to go, but got feedback that suggests it was not. I had to take a break and return to look at it afresh – and my readers were right. It meant a major, almost complete rewrite, but is infinitely better for it.
What else are you working on?
I’ve just finished two books! TIWF, but also one I am co-writing with my husband, a romantic comedy set on the Camino de Santiago, called (at this stage) Left Right. We have a contract and submitted it two weeks ago. So I’m expecting to be editing two books over the next months.
I have already two psychological thrillers also brewing in my mind…one I’ll write with Graeme, the other with a psychologist main character, set in a rural town in Australia where a group therapy program turns murderous…
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