One of the most stunning debuts I've ever read ... every word is near perfect
Luke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and child, then himself. The farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily. If one of their own broke under the strain, well…
When Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra for the funerals, he is loath to confront the people who rejected him twenty years earlier. But when his investigative skills are called on, the facts of the Hadler case start to make him doubt this murder-suicide charge.
And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, old wounds start bleeding into fresh ones. For Falk and his childhood friend Luke shared a secret… A secret Falk thought long-buried… A secret which Luke’s death starts to bring to the surface...
The Dry is on sale in Australia (Pan Macmillan), the United States (Flatiron Books) and the United Kingdom (Little, Brown). The Dry has also been sold to more than 20 foreign language territories.
Read Chapter 1 here first
My main aim when I was creating The Dry was to write the kind of book I would enjoy reading myself.
I love novels with a mystery element and a few twists and turns along the way – that's what I hope I've delivered with this book.
I feel The Dry is a mystery at its heart but, as I was writing, it became a book about many other things as well – community pressures, what happens when the bonds of loyalty are stretched too far, and how difficult it is for anyone to ever really shed their past.
I wanted to write something that would primarily entertain and engage readers, a story they would feel inspired to share with their family and friends.
I didn't have any real expectation while I was writing The Dry that it would be so widely published, or such a hit with readers. Winning the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript in 2015 though changed that completely.
It was incredibly rewarding to see this book through to publication, and I'm thrilled it is on the shelves and being supported by so many fantastic booksellers and readers. Ultimately I hope that you enjoy reading The Dry as much as I enjoyed writing it.
ABIA Book of the Year
Book of the Year
Indie Book of the Year
Indie Debut Fiction
Book of the Year
Best First Fiction
2017 DAVITT AWARDS
Best Adult Crime Novel
2015 VICTORIAN PREMIER'S
The fictional town of Kiewarra features heavily in the novel, and is a drought-stricken community in regional Victoria, Australia, five hours from Melbourne.
The town itself is an amalgamation of many rural communities I visited while working as a journalist in Australia and the UK. While none of those places had anything like the poor municipal morale of Kiewarra, they helped me get a sense of what it is like for people so reliant on things they cannot control, such as the land and the weather.
I was also interested in those communities where people have known each other, for better or worse, for most of their lives.
Aaron Falk left Kiewarra under a cloud as a teenager and built a new life for himself in Melbourne as an officer with the Federal Police. He is a financial investigator who is reluctant to return to Kiewarra and even more reluctant to stay for any length of time.
I wanted his character to be very much at odds with the people he left behind in the town – he is fairly quiet and cerebral and is a fish out of water on his return. The fact that he is such an outsider allows him to be the readers' eyes and ears and it is through him they experience the shock at just how far this community has fallen.
After 13 years as a print journalist, I applied for a 12-week online novel writing course in late 2014. As part of the application process I submitted a synopsis and 3000-word extract for a murder-mystery set in regional Victoria that ultimately became The Dry.
The course started in October 2014, and I completed a first draft during the 12 weeks. I knew of the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript and set myself the goal of entering, primarily as an artificial deadline to myself to get the novel into shape. I entered the award in April 2015 and in May found out I had won.
On the back of that I gained agent representation through Curtis Brown Australia; the novel was sold at auction to Pan Macmillan in August 2015 as part of a three-book deal. The Dry has since been sold in separate three-book deals to Flatiron Books in the US and Little, Brown in the UK, as well as being sold for translation in more than 20 territories.
My second novel, Force of Nature, is out now in Australia and will be released in the US and UK in early 2018. The main character from The Dry, Aaron Falk, returns and the book is once again based in Australia, but in a different setting. It is similar in tone and feel to The Dry, with a crime and mystery element. The book builds on Falk's character but can be read in its own right rather than as a direct sequel.
I firmly believe writing is a skill that can be taught and learnt. Some people will find it comes more naturally than others but, like any other creative skill such as painting and dancing, most people benefit from expert tuition and advice.
I had tried a few times to write a novel and never got past the first few chapters. I began writing The Dry as part of an online course. I found the external pressure and feedback helped me to make progress, and start to believe I could actually finish my book.
I would advise anyone who is struggling to complete a novel on their own to consider a good quality course and see if that helps bring things together.
There have been so many fantastic moments with The Dry. One of the best things now is being able to pick up a finished copy of The Dry in just about any bookstore, anywhere, and see my own words printed inside.
Harper has made her own major mark long before any film version of The Dry comes along
A sense of place so vivid you can almost feel the blistering heat add up to a remarkably assured debut
There is about The Dry something mythic and valiant ... a quintessential Australian story beautifully told