- Diane Robinson CA wrote a novel “Hive of Lies” in March 2020 during Auckland’s lockdown.
- The whodunnit depicts a fictional accountant investigating the mysterious deaths of her two colleagues.
- When not writing, Robinson specialises in the not-for-profit sector and currently chairs the Auckland NFP Special Interest Group.
As told to Hannah Tattersall
Picture: Diane Robinson CA. Image credit: Adam Firth.
What made you want to write a modern-day whodunnit?
Whodunnits are my favourite read, so that is what I wanted to write. My current favourite crime series is the Agatha Raisin novels by M.C. Beaton. I remember working my way through the Agatha Christie books in my secondary school library, but I suspect I started to read them around age 11 (Mum had quite a collection). After a day of accounting, sitting down with an entertaining read is a great way to relax.
Why set it in the world of chartered accounting?
It is rare for accountants to be portrayed in fiction. When we do, we are usually a minor character with an exceedingly dull personality. I wanted to have a fun accountant with plenty of personality in the lead role, so that’s what I’ve done. Tell us what the book is about. An auditor uncovers fraud in a honey company. Two of her colleagues die in mysterious circumstances and she sorts it all out (in the end). Along the way, there’s intentional humour, a 1955 Chevy and possibly the outcome of auditing appearing more interesting than it usually is! One of my readers said the novel was “an ode to auditing” and portrayed it as she’d imagined it might be when she was a student, before the reality of invoice vouching took hold.
How did you find the self-publishing process?
I knew the chances of being picked up by a mainstream publisher were low. I had fellow auditors and mystery enthusiasts critique it, which led to some amendments. I had to wait four months until my chosen professional editor was available, then there was back and forth with her. She cut out 2500 words, mainly scenes describing the auditing process that she said “did not move the plot along”. I was a bit disappointed to edit out my carefully worded dialogues about materiality and beehive valuations!
You’re involved with CA ANZ’s Auckland Not-for-Profit Accounting Special Interest Group. Tell us about that work.
I’ve been a sole practitioner specialising in the audit of not-for-profits since 2010. In 2015, I moved from being a convenor to my current role as chair of the Auckland NFP Special Interest Group. All my clients have less than NZ$2 million expenses per year. Often I find that I can really add value by pointing out things they were unaware of. One charity had never calculated the holiday leave due to their staff. When they did, their $10K surplus became a $10K deficit. A few years later when they had to wind up, I was glad they knew how much they owed the staff and had made provision for it.
Are there any similarities between accounting and writing a novel?
I think there is perhaps more crossover with auditing rather than accounting. With auditing you need to have some imagination if you are really going to make sure you have thought about ways the client could commit fraud. Otherwise, I think it’s classic right brain versus left brain hemisphere.
Can we look forward to more books?
Definitely. I’m researching an idea for a follow-up with the same key characters. I also have a book aimed at 11-year-olds sitting in a drawer. As a child I dreamed of being the next Enid Blyton. Somehow, I wound up being an accountant. Writing about a fictional accountant is fun.
“As a child I dreamed of being the next Enid Blyton. Somehow, I wound up being an accountant. Writing about a fictional accountant is fun.”