Margaret Hickey believes there are endless places she can hide a body in the country. That’s a real gift for a bush noir crime writer. CARLY MARRIOTT tells the story.

Margaret Hickey grew up in country towns all over Victoria.

“My dad was a [school] principal so we moved a lot and were able to live in all sorts of places — the Wimmera, Mallee, Upper Murray, the Otways,” she said.

These days Margaret is based in Beechworth in north-east Victoria, and is using her love of rural life and landscapes to pave a career as an award-winning author with a five-book rural crime contract with Penguin Random House.

Her third book in the Detective Mark Ariti trilogy, Broken Bay, is due for release in June and is based on the Limestone Coast in South Australia.

The first two books, Cutters End and Stone Town, explore the Sturt Hwy and the historic town of Burra in South Australia.

“I am so lucky to be a rural person writing about country people and places,” Margaret told an International Women’s Day event at Berrigan, in southern NSW, in March.

“Working in the arts, it is really hard to find security, so I am thrilled to be in this position.”

She said it hadn’t always been book deals and speaking gigs.

“I started writing short stories. I failed. They weren’t short-listed and they didn’t win awards.

“Then I wrote a play and it got performed at La Mama. I had a taste of success and I became confident.

“Despite the fact I only made $2.68 in royalties, I kept writing plays and they were all performed, which was intoxicating.”

When Margaret returned to short story writing she did not fail. Her stories all won awards and she was given the chance to publish her stories as a collection titled Rural Dreams.

Margaret’s fascination with the bush was formalised when she pursued a PhD in Creative Writing and researched depictions of landscape in Australian literature.

“While I was reading all this work as part of my research I thought, I can do stuff like this, so I just quietly started writing. Then I got published,” she said.

Speaking to the 130-strong audience of rural women about her career, Margaret found common ground and inspiration at every turn.

“I feel like I know the women here today. I’ve grown up with versions of you all and you bring this warmth with you.

“What a great way to spend International Women’s Day.”

Many in the room shared Margaret’s love of landscape and climate and were excited to hear about the endless potential for (fictitious) rural crime.

“Writing rural crime is a no brainer for me,” Margaret said.

“You can put your characters under real climatic stress, there’s fire, there’s dust storms, floods, snakes, there’s no phone service, no CCTV.

“And don’t get me started on the million different ways someone can be killed and buried out in the bush.”