Crime fiction author Dinuka McKenzie wrote her first mystery, The Torrent, with her newborn baby at her side. The Torrent explores the idea of using a natural disaster, in this case a major flood, to disguise a murder.
“I’ve always loved crime fiction, so I wasn’t surprised that a detective came on the page, but she was going through something like me,” Dinuka said, explaining that her protagonist, Detective Sergeant Kate Miles, is a breast-feeding new mum trying to balance the competing demands of motherhood with solving crimes.
“She was very good at her job, but she was a mum, and she was trying to balance a demanding job with the demands of motherhood,” she explained.
“I don’t think that side of police work has been put front and centre in a book before.”
To mark the release of her second novel Taken, Dinuka is about to begin a tour of the Riverina and Central West libraries.
“The number of times I’ve had messages asking me to visit and now I can finally go out to these places and meet readers,” Dinuka said. “It’s just lovely that people are investing in my books and want to meet me.”
She feels privileged to be able to write full-time and said it is not that long ago that she was on the other side, wanting to meet her favourite authors.
“It’s mind-blowing for me. What a privilege. People are so generous. They talk to you about characters that have lived in your head as if they’re real. There’s a magic in that,” she said, enjoying the fact that her fictional Detective, Kate Miles, is developing a growing following.
“A lot of people have enjoyed reading about Kate and connected with her character. I get a lot of messages from people who feel like she’s a friend and connect with her,” she said.
“A lot of people relate to being a female in a male-dominated workplace.”
Dinuka didn’t particularly plan to be a writer, but explained that it “came out of the place I found myself in”.
“I had very young kids and a job and I felt pulled in different directions. I could feel bits of my identity falling away,” she said. “I was feeling like I wasn’t doing a particularly good job of either parenting or my work. I needed to reclaim a place for myself.”
Since first being published in 2022, Dinuka has met many other authors who have also turned to writing during new motherhood.
“It’s a phenomenon. Since I’ve had this book published, I have met so many other people who also wrote their first novel after they became a mother. I just wanted something on the table that wasn’t me as a mother or an employee – I just wanted something that was completely and entirely for myself.”
Dinuka is speaking at two events in the Riverina: Cootamundra Library on Friday 7 July at 3 pm and at Temora Library on Monday 10 July at 10:30 am. Books will be available for sales and signings.
Find out more about upcoming events at Riverina libraries here.