Episode 5

Violence against women, the 'perfect victim' myth and slow writing with Leanne Hall

Leanne Hall is an author of and specialist in young adult and children’s fiction. Her debut novel, This Is Shyness, won the Text Prize and was followed by a sequel, Queen of the Night. Her novel for younger readers, Iris and the Tiger, won the Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature at the 2017 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. This week we're diving into her beautiful and haunting YA novel, The Gaps. 

Just a note a warning before listening:  This episode deals with discussions of violent crime against women. It was recorded in late February 2021, before Sarah Everard's abduction and murder in London. Some of the discussions may be triggering and if you'd like to skip straight to the writing chat, skip ahead to 49 minutes. 

Our interview starts at 25 minutes. 

Read Michelle's article on how seasonally living changed her perceptions of living in the moment

Caitlin recommends:

Moxie (movie)

A fun movie about teen girls smashing the patriarch brought to us by Amy Poehler. Caitlin hasn't read the YA book of the same name, but we've both heard brilliant things about it. 

Michelle recommends: 

The Trespasser by Tana French

Character-driven and atmospheric crime fiction  filling the Line of Duty-shaped hole in Michelle's heart.

In this interview, we talk about:

  • The ‘odd-couple' friendship at the heart of The Gaps
  • The haunting crime at the centre of the novel and Leanne’s own experience as a teenager on the periphery of a major crime
  • Re-visiting teenage trauma when writing
  • The way girls and women are, from a young age, taught to protect themselves from violence
  • Why Leanne wanted to explore the ‘perfect victim’ myth and the dangers of that narrative in the media
  • Leanne’s view on the ethics around true crime as a media genre and the boundaries she gave herself when writing (with a tangent about the brilliance of Veronica Mars)
  • Why Leanne wanted to explore race, culture, and class issues in the novel and how writing and fictionalising the story was therapeutic
  • How Leanne wrote The Gaps in tandem with her previous middle grade novel Iris and The Tiger
  • Leanne’s genre-bending style and how she departed from that in The Gaps
  • The success of Leanne’s debut novel, This Is Shyness and the pressure of writing knowing people are expecting it

Books and other things mentioned:

  • 10 Things I Hate About You
  • Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging
  • Sundays Pop and Culture  panel from Louise McSharry (the episode Michelle referenced is this one)
  • Line of Duty 
  • Veronica Mars

Follow Leanne on Instagram @lilymandarin

Follow us on Instagram @betterwordspod

The Gaps is out now in Australia. 

We both received copies of The Gaps for review from Text Publishing. 

About the Podcast

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Better Words

About your hosts

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Caitlin Toohey

Hi, I'm Caitlin! I've been on bookstagram since 2016, a podcaster since 2017, and worked in publishing since 2019. So books and reading are my entire life. When I'm not reading, I like listening to Taylor Swift, watching sitcoms, and generally being a theatre kid.
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Michelle Gately

Hi, I'm Michelle! I'm an Aussie living in the UK, working as a bookseller at Waterstones. I'm obsessed with storytelling in all its forms – I spend as much time watching TV or listening to podcasts as I do reading. Other hobbies include bouldering, hiking and generally obsessing about my pug Percy.