Best-selling Australian author Jane Harper discusses new book ahead of Lawrence visit

photo by: Katsnap Photography

Australian author Jane Harper will visit Lawrence on Friday to discuss her newest novel, "The Lost Man," just released on Tuesday. Harper gained international acclaim with her first novel, "The Dry," which came out in 2017.

Australian author Jane Harper always wanted to be a writer.

But before she decided to put all of her time toward fiction writing, she worked for many years as a journalist.

Harper won’t be going back to journalism anytime soon, though. Her first novel, “The Dry,” a mystery focusing on the death of a farm family amid one of the worst Australian droughts in a century, was released in 2017. In the novel, Harper introduced investigator Aaron Falk, who would also star in her second novel “Force of Nature.”

For a first novel, Harper did extremely well for herself. The book turned out to be an international hit. The novel also caught the eye of American actor and film producer Reese Witherspoon, who bought the film rights.

Harper’s third book, a standalone novel titled “The Lost Man,” was released Tuesday. But the story will no longer follow Falk and will introduce new characters, she said.

As part of her promotion in the United States, Harper will make a stop in Lawrence to discuss the book with Raven Book Store owner Danny Caine. She will appear at 7 p.m. Friday at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St.

Ahead of her visit, Harper talked with the Journal-World about her new book, her writing career and what it’s like to have a famous actor buy the rights to something she wrote.

The following interview has been edited for length.

Journal-World: Can you tell me in your own words what this new book “The Lost Man” is about?

Jane Harper: It’s set on a remote area in the outback (of Australia), so it involves a very isolated community. It follows one family who is thrown into turmoil when the middle brother of the family is found dead in the middle of nowhere.

J-W: This is your third novel, but this is a standalone book. Is there a reason you broke away from the first two books?

Harper: Yes, it’s a standalone and can be enjoyed just by itself. The first two books involved the same character Aaron Falk and he is a financial investigator based in Melbourne, Australia, which is an urban city environment.

This book is set so far in the outback in a far-flung region it just made more sense for me to bring in new characters to tell the story in the best way.

J-W: Prior to your novel-writing career you were a journalist for many years, correct?

Harper: That’s right. I was a journalist of 13 years. I worked for newspapers in the UK and in Australia. I covered a whole range of things, including court, crime, features and health. My most recent job that I left was a business reporter.

J-W: How did you make the transition to full-time novelist?

Harper: I had always been a big reader and I wanted to write a novel for years, but I had never been able to find the time or the motivation to do it. I just felt like it was such a big undertaking.

But finally it just got to the point I realized it was something I really wanted to do. Even if it never got published, it was worth it for me just to try to achieve that for myself.

J-W: “The Dry” was a pretty big hit. How does it feel to see that happen with your first novel?

Harper: It was honestly incredible. I feel so delighted booksellers and readers have embraced it. When I first started writing the book, I would have just been happy to see it published. To actually be picked up and enjoyed by so many people is amazing. It succeeded my expectations on every level.

J-W: You’ve released a book each year since. You’re writing at a pretty high rate now.

Harper: I’m a full-time author now, which helps. I think part of it is the journalist background, which taught me to be very disciplined with my writing and make the time count. For me it’s always more about the quality than the quantity when writing a book, but so far that’s been the pace I’ve been able to maintain and produce books I’m happy with.

J-W: Reese Witherspoon bought the rights to make “The Dry” into a movie. How do you feel about that?

Harper: Yes, filming starts in February here in Victoria, Australia, which is where the book is set. That’s really exciting. It’s starring (Australian actor) Eric Bana as Aaron Falk. I’m really excited to see it come together and I’m happy they have such a great Australian actor and such a great Australian setting to catch the element of the book.

J-W: Are you contributing to the filmmaking?

Harper: I’m not involved. My contribution was writing the book. But they keep in touch and I’ll hopefully be going on set. I wish them well. I hope it’s as successful for them as it has been for me.

J-W: You’ve never been to Lawrence. Have you heard anything or are you excited about anything here?

Harper: I haven’t heard much about it. I’m really excited to come out. It’s always great to meet readers, especially living so far away in Australia. I’m really excited to have the chance to meet U.S. readers and chat about the book with them.


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