Mark Brandi wins ‘Debut Dagger’ Award
At Cube Group, we are proud of all of our team members, but all the more so when they win major international awards.
Senior Consultant Mark Brandi recently won the 2016 Debut Dagger, the British Crime Writers’ Association prize for the best unpublished crime novel. It was awarded for Mark’s first manuscript, ‘Wimmera’ – a moody, blackly humorous, but unsettling depiction of small-town crime and vengeance.
Nick Field sat down with Mark to find out more.
Why crime writing?
I mostly write literary fiction – in the case of ‘Wimmera’, this happened to include a crime at its centre. My background is in criminal justice, so I have long been fascinated by the social dimensions of criminality.
How did you become a writer?
The catalyst was a serious bike accident – it made me realise I had to take a risk and truly commit to my writing. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to receive freelance opportunities with The Big Issue, The Guardian, The Age, and ABC Radio National. The radio work has especially helped my craft – writing for the ear means every word has to do its job. It’s a discipline I’ve tried to carry over to my novel work.
How does your background influence your writing?
I was the youngest child of a migrant family – the only Italians in a small country town. It was the sort of place where, as the cliché goes, you’re only local once you have a few generations in the cemetery. But there is a quiet intensity to country life – the constant gossip hums alongside unspoken secrets. There is a lot of tension in rural towns, fizzing just below the surface.
I loved reading throughout my childhood, especially my older brother’s 2000AD comic books, which probably kindled my interest in writing fiction. That said, I went to a local school without particular emphasis on the arts. Then at university, after dropping out of law, it took me a while to find anything of interest. I started five different courses before finally completing a Criminal Justice degree.
My subsequent career in the justice portfolio – and, more particularly, as a ministerial adviser for corrections – exposed me to some of the darker elements of humanity. This experience infused some of the territory my writing explores.
How have your family reacted?
They have been pleased, probably a little mystified, but have enjoyed and shared in the successes to date. My partner has also been very supportive. Oddly enough, my three older siblings all work in criminal justice, so they’re all looking forward to reading ‘Wimmera’.
What is your writing routine?
Routine and ritual is important. I jealously guard my time – the immersion in my writing is more valuable than any daily word count. I’m also a bit of a night owl, so I tend to do my initial drafting earlier in the day, then return to it late.
I also enjoy running and time outdoors with my dog, Millie. It’s important to have a rounded life that isn’t centred solely on writing.
Tell me more about the award you have won?
The Debut Dagger competition has been running for 15 years through the British Crime Writer’s Association as a means to encourage unpublished writers. The award is judged by a panel of top crime editors and agents.
What are you reading at the moment?
Cormac McCarthy’s ‘No Country For Old Men’. Next up is MJ Hyland’s ‘Carry Me Down’.
A writing career can be fickle – I always hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
That said, I’m cautiously hoping to see ‘Wimmera’ on the shelves one day. But it has to be with the right publisher who is as passionate about the story and characters as I am. Meanwhile, I’m working a new manuscript, and a few shorter works.