23 January 2024

There's no place like home as author immerses South Coast in latest killer plot

| Claire Sams
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A white woman with blonde hair and a red scarf

Tracey Lee’s latest book in the Lily O’Hara series takes readers to the NSW South Coast – and provides a new mystery to solve. Photo: Greg Lee.

For Malua Bay-based author Tracey Lee, writing has long been a part of her life.

“I’d always wanted to write and I had been a big advocate for writing – particularly as an English teacher, I was always trying to get kids to get their thoughts down on paper,” she said.

When Ms Lee sat down to pen her first book, in 2015, she didn’t just write down her thoughts, she wrote stories.

“I’d written lots of stuff – notebooks worth of stuff that never saw the light of day – when I decided to challenge myself to write a novel,” she said.

“I developed this character called Lily O’Hara, and I wanted to write something that was set locally.

“It’s just developed into a trilogy, which will become possibly a four- or five-book series by the time I finish with her.”

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What Remains was the result, which was followed by Wither – and now the former teacher-turned-author’s latest book sees the return of Lily O’Hara in Welter.

“It is a further development of the character, and it focuses more on the unknotting of the mystery,” Ms Lee said.

Released in late 2023, the book sees Lily investigate the death of a young woman with Mick Flynn, her friend and “sort of sidekick”.

“She speaks to all the people involved, and takes all their puzzle pieces and tries to put together a story,” Ms Lee said.

“She tries to work out what actually happened – the mystery is not that the girl died, it is how she got to the place where she died.

“The official story is only one small part of the puzzle.”

Three books on a shelf

Ms Lee said Australia’s “extraordinarily diverse environment” could be a source of inspiration for authors’ stories. Photo: Tracey Lee.

As with the previous books in the Lily O’Hara series, Welter is set in real-life places in Australia.

“In the third book, she’s living on the South Coast,” Ms Lee said.

“People who have read [Welter] already have just loved the fact they can recognise the places where the story takes place.”

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Ms Lee said real-world places were a common part of her creative works.

“Australians deserve to have stories told about their own homes and their own places,” she said.

“I could make up names of towns – and a lot of people do – but this means you create a story in a place someone recognises.”

When authors used towns and cities in Australia as the settings for their works, readers could recognise themselves, Ms Lee said.

“Australia has this extraordinarily diverse environment,” she said.

“You can be in the mountains in Tasmania, in Canberra, in the isolated towns of Western Australia or on the beaches on the NSW South Coast, and there’s stories to tell.

“Wherever you find yourself is ripe for storytelling and is a profound character, almost, in my writing.”

For more information about Tracy, the Lily O’Hara series and her newest book, head to her website.

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