Great cover, isn't it!
This was created by the in-house design team at Penguin. I've had some pretty terrible cover in the past, although the longer I've been part of this business, the more I've learned to speak up and demand something different. The covers of The Book of Lies and The Love That I Have are exceptional, but this is my favourite for its eye-catching splash of blood and the perfect way it encapsulates the story within.
Kill the Possum is my tenth novel for Young Adults and it is not for the fainthearted. How can it be when two of my teenage protagonists set out to murder a man? That's right, the big M.
Is such an act ever justified? That's one of the questions my novel asks the reader to consider and it's not as easily answered as you might think. After all, we don't call it murder when soldiers kill on the battlefield. Ask a warrior in uniform how he justifies killing and the answer might be the need to defend one's country from aggression or to regain what has been stolen by force of arms. But when a soldier is caught up in the terror of battle where politics doesn't seem as important as survival, his answer is more likely to be, 'I killed the other guy so he couldn't kill me first,' or 'to stay alive' or 'because the guy next to me was depending on me to do it.'
In Kill the Possum Dylan Kane chooses the worst possible moment to make an unexpected call on his girlfriend, Kirsty. What he sees leads him to a dilemma similar to that faced by the soldier on the battlefield. He becomes the only person to witness what Ian Cartwright does to Kirsty's family, to her mother and her brother Tim in particular. Cartwright is a bully of the most vicious kind, someone who gets a rush out of what he does. But he doesn't use his fists to harm and intimidate. The damage he inflicts on the Beal family is psychological which means the bruises he leaves aren't visible on the body. If it doesn't stop, the abuse will might well lead to Mrs Beal or her son taking their own lives.
So what does Dylan do? The police and the courts can't stop Cartwright. Someone has to take responsibility.
What would you do, and how would you feel if the price of your actions was the same as what happens in this story?
Where does the possum come in? In part the reference is a metaphor for characters in the story but there is also a real possum and its fate will shock you.
After I had written this book, I began to wonder about my view of my fellow man. Seems awfully grim, after all. I've always done my best to see the good in humanity and it is still there to be glimpsed in Kill the Possum. I hope Kirsty's character comes across as bursting with life. I deliberately set out to make her that way. Yet there is darkness here. Maybe I have watched too much of The Sopranos. Or perhaps it is the influence of Barry Unsworth's novels where the naive and the good are trampled so ruthlessly by the cruel and the powerful. His story, A Morality Tale is one of the most brutal indictments of the human heart you will ever read.
So many of my ideas these days come from the books, the movies and the television that I watch. I know that I first started to think about a story of this nature after seeing a movie titled In the Bedroom. It's not a film young people are likely to choose for an afternoon in front of their big flat screen TV, (and it's not pornographic, as the title seems to suggest) but it's well worth a look if you want to understand my book.