When washed up journalist Harry Hendrick wakes with a hangover and a strange symbol tattooed on his neck, he shrugs it off as a bad night out.
When more tattoos appear " accompanied by visions of war-torn Afghanistan, bikies, boat people, murder, bar fights and a mysterious woman " he begins to dig a little deeper.
Harry's search leads him to Jess McGrath. She's successful, married; they are drawn to each other though they have nothing in common but unwanted tattoos and high definition nightmares. Together, they edge closer to unearthing the truth behind the sinister disappearance of an SAS hero and his girlfriend Kyla.
There's a federal election looming, with pundits tipping a landslide win for opposition leader Andrew Cardinal. Harry knows there's a link between these disturbing visions and Cardinal's shadowy past, and is compelled to right wrongs, one way or another.
Gary Kemble's award-winning short fiction has been published in magazines and anthologies in Australia and abroad, and several of his stories have been republished in -best of' collections including Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror. In 2011 he received an Australia Council New Work grant to write his debut novel, the supernatural thriller Skin Deep. His journalistic career has included stints with local newspapers, national magazines and online publications in Australia and the UK. He is currently the Social Media Coordinator for ABC News.
Author: Gary Kemble
Question: What inspired the story of Skin Deep?
Gary Kemble: It was a combination of things. I've always wanted to write a series of books about a journalist investigating paranormal events. I'm fascinated by people who live lives so different to my own (for example, special forces soldiers, members of outlaw motorcycle gangs). It all crystallised with the idea of a ghost story where the ghost manifests as tattoos.
Question: How does it feel to be the first Australian crime fiction released by Echo Publishing?
Gary Kemble: I'm extremely humbled and honoured. It's funny because although I've read plenty of crime fiction, I didn't think I'd end up writing crime fiction (and Skin Deep isn't really a straight crime novel). It's fantastic that there are Australian publishers who are willing to take a punt on new authors.
Question: What was the best thing about creating the character of Harry Hendrick?
Gary Kemble: The best thing about creating Harry and Harry's world was blending truth and fiction. There are elements of me in Harry, as well as bits and pieces of people I know or have read about. And this sounds awful but it was fun putting him through hell. :) When I sat down to write the Skin Deep follow-up it was like meeting up with an old friend.
Question: How did you ensure the reader was kept in suspense throughout Skin Deep?
Gary Kemble: I plotted out the book fairly thoroughly. I had some help from my friend Claudine Ryan, who worked with me on an initial structural edit on what was a very rough first draft. And then I had feedback from beta readers, my agent and the Echo Publishing team. So it was very much a team effort and I learnt a lot!
Question: There are several issues raised in this book. Was this deliberate or did the story evolve this way?
Gary Kemble: I mostly just wanted to write a cracking story. Because Harry's world is pretty much our world, I drew on real-world events as much as possible. I started plotting out Skin Deep in 2010. I can remember worrying that storylines about asylum seekers and the SAS in Afghanistan and bikies running riot might be out of date by the time the book was published.
Interview by Brooke Hunter