The Whitworth Mysteries are a collection of short crime fiction stories set in and around a rural city in outback New South Wales. Beneath the sunshine of Whitworth, lurk dark secrets, deceit and betrayal.
Beyond the murky waters of the river, and a bank lined with ancient river red gums is a land of red dust, blue saltbush and vast empty spaces.
In a small country town, police officers are reliant on each other, and band of blue. A rural posting is punishment for some. For others it’s escape. Some are forced to confront the decisions of the past, and pay the price.
The harsh nature of the climate, floods, violent storms, and the almost limitless open spaces are as much a character as the humans themselves.
Let's talk about it
Tell us something about yourself that not many people know:
I spent my earliest years on an isolated outback station called Wilkurra. No running water, electricity or phone. Our nearest neighbours were half an hour away over dirt roads which were impassable in wet weather.
Why did you choose the themes in your book and were you aware of them from the start?
I was aware when I started writing that I wanted the impact of isolation to influence how the stories played out and how the characters reacted. Vast open spaces require self- reliance and resilience. The cost of revenge, the price of love and redemption are also part of these stories.
How difficult was it for you to write this book? Did you face any obstacles?
When I started, I thought a collection of short stories would be ‘easy’. What I didn’t realise is that each story is a mini novel. Every story has to be a satisfactory reading experience in itself. Being unsure that I could complete this project well enough to be half way pleased with the outcome has always been an internal obstacle.
Do you always write in this genre or do you like to break out of the box?
Crime fiction is my preferred genre both for reading and writing. Every now and then I do like to escape the box and write romance or sci-fi. I’m planning a series of romance short stories when I’ve finished my current project.
What are your writing habits or idiosyncrasies?
I’m an early morning writer. I love the quiet before the world starts to stir. I need to feel the setting of a story, to have been there and have it clearly etched in my imagination. Recently I was able to revisit the location of most of these stories when the collection was half done. I returned with a collection of photos and an outline of the remaining stories. It is the landscape, the river, the trees that influence the ideas that emerge. There is something magical for me about standing in the middle of somewhere like the Hay Plains and feeling the landscape and hearing the silence.
What would you do differently next time?
Accept that I work more effectively when I’ve got a variety of projects on the go. Make sure I schedule in more time out to do things not related to writing. The cats though may object to my plan of more patting time, and more cuddles.
With hindsight, what would you say to yourself as a fledgling writer?
You can do this. Ignore what you’ve been told in the past. Take a deep breath and work with the characters – they know how the story unfolds.
If you worked with a professional editor, what was the experience like?
Working with a professional editor has been an interesting and collaborative experience. Challenging sometimes when they point out something you’ve missed. It’s taught me negotiation skills – how to tactfully fight for a scene you believe has to be as its written – well almost anyway.
What’s next for your writing?
I’m currently working on the first book – Hot Rocks – in what is planned to be a trilogy. Sergeant Leigh Taylor planned her future in childhood. A successful career, her own home and independence. Romance wasn’t included. Then Zac, a fellow cop, changed her mind about love. His murder sparks a fire for the truth. For the first time in her career, this hard-nosed Internal Affairs detective will ignore orders, taking matters into her own hands.
Based in Northern New South Wales, Ruth Morgan loves telling stories of the characters and outback country she knows and loves. Her preference is crime fiction with a twist, her stories set in rural and regional Australia. The harsh landscape with its vast open spaces, floods, trees and isolation are essential elements in her stories, influencing how the tale unfolds, and how individuals react.
Writing since childhood, Ruth was the 2020 winner of the Great Clarendon House Writing Challenge and has stories published on a variety of sites including Spillwords as R. C. Morgan.