Atlantic Records; Tom Doherty Associates

When an author meets her book's voice... backstage at Hamilton

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Even now, in January 2018, more than two years after it took Broadway by storm, seeing a performance of Hamilton still feels like a marquee event. The show on Jan. 11 had even more significance for bestselling Australian author Candice Fox. Not only was she seeing Lin-Manuel Miranda’s acclaimed musical for the first time; Fox was also getting to see the voice of her own art in person. Her latest novel, Crimson Lake, was recorded as an audiobook by Euan Morton, who currently plays King George in Hamilton. EW accompanied her to the show, and then followed her backstage to meet her book’s voice.

Crimson Lake is a crime novel, set in Fox’s home country of Australia. Both of its main characters (disgraced detective Ted Conkaffey and private investigator and Amanda Pharrell) are violent criminals. Amanda stabbed someone to death, while Ted is an accused rapist after briefly parking his car by the side of a road where a young girl went missing. But as Miranda’s musical does with Aaron Burr (“the villain in your history”), Fox turns both these fallen souls into sympathetic characters; in the book’s first few pages, Ted rescues a family of geese from crocodiles in the Cairns marshlands, spending the last of his money to get the mother medical attention before building the animals a makeshift cardboard-box home in his backyard.

After the show ended, Fox was escorted onto the stage to meet Morton. The actor was immediately complimentary, telling her that he found the book “smartly sympathetic: it makes you ask larger questions.” Both agreed that Crimson Lake makes a particularly interesting read in the current zeitgeist, where every week seems to bring new disturbing allegations against another famous celebrity or artist. Certainly, Ted’s arc in the book demonstrates that sometimes crimes aren’t what they seem — in Fox’s words, “looking creepy is not enough” to determine guilt in every case. Then the conversation turned to Morton’s performance, which once again turned the King into one of the more colorful characters on stage. Morton himself was a little disappointed because he had forgotten his crown during his final song, resulting in a few moments of nervous silence before the backup mic in his wig came online. 

Fox came to the show with early preview copies of Crimson Lake (whose American release is set for March 6) to gift Morton. In order to give her space to make out a personal inscription, Morton led her backstage. On the way to his dressing room is, of course, the wall of signatures, where so many of Hamilton’s celebrity attendees have signed their names next to a figure of the man himself. “No words, just exultation,” reads Oprah’s message. Shaquille O’Neal’s signature, a more recent addition, towers above the rest. Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders signed his name as well, though as Morton explained, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did not get the chance before being whisked away by Secret Service at their viewings.

Morton’s dressing room begins with a colorful emblem of his Scottish heritage. In lieu of a door, the room is bordered by a giant shower curtain featuring an illustration of a redheaded man playing bagpipes, much to the consternation of a nearby Loch Ness Monster. The reason there isn’t a door, Morton says, is that “Jonathan Groff felt very lonely in the role. So he had the door removed, and would have ‘tea with the King,’ where people could come up and visit.”

As Fox inscribed his copy of Crimson Lake, Morton explained that he had always been fascinated by Australia.

“I’ve never been, but when I was very young, I used to go to the library and take out the picture books of Australia and sit in the bedroom and look at Australia and imagine what it would be like to be there,” Morton told her. “I never imagined America, this place used to freak me out. But I thought Australia would be so good, and kangaroos were so weird!”

Fox certainly knows a thing or two about kangaroos. During her childhood, her mother worked as a rescuer, fostering over 150 kids in their house over the years, as well as a bevy of animals — including kangaroos! Young Candice would try to take care of the injured birds her mother found. Though they often died from their injuries, decades later the birds would go on to inspire the creation of Ted’s geese in Crimson Lake.

“I wanted people to like Ted immediately so that they’d question whether he did it or not for the whole book and they’d feel really uncomfortable,” Fox told Morton. “I was like, he’s gotta rescue an animal, so you know he’s a good guy. So I thought geese, and it worked! I’ve had people write to me and say ‘if anything happens to the geese in the subsequent books, I’m never gonna read you again.’”

“You should kill the geese just to show them,” Morton said.

“Well I’m writing book 3 now, and I’ve threatened them,” Fox said (the first sequel to Crimson Lake, Redemption Point, will be published in Australia in February). “On page one, one of the geese is already missing. I just like to mess with people. You can’t threaten me!”

Crimson Lake will be published in America on March 6 from Forge Books. The audiobook version, read by Morton, will be available from Macmillan Audio at the same time.

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