Tuesday, October 21, 2014

9mm: An interview with Tina Shaw

Now we're rolling! After an extended hiatus with few new interviews in 2013 and early 2014, the momentum is building again with weekly 9mm interviews over the past four months with terrific crime writers from all over the globe. I have some absolutely fantastic authors lined up for you over the next few months, as we plough onwards towards the magical 100 interviews mark. Keep those suggestions for who you'd like to see interviewed rolling in. I'm listening.

Today, for the 92nd instalment in 9mm, I'm sharing my recent interview with Tina Shaw, an acclaimed and well-established author from New Zealand who has turned towards mystery and crime with her seventh and latest book, THE CHILDREN'S POND. Shaw previous novels include BIRDIE, THE BLACK MADONNA, and ABOUT GRIFFEN'S HEART, which was a Storylines Notable Book in 2010. She has held the Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellowship, the Creative NZ Berlin Writers' Residency, and been a Writer in Residence at the University of Waikato. An icon of New Zealand literature, Dame Fiona Kidman, called THE CHILDREN'S POND "a brilliant psychological thriller", and the book will be eligible for the 2015 Ngaio Marsh Award.

But for now, Tina Shaw stares down the barrel of 9mm.

9MM: An interview with Tina Shaw

1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective? 
It varies, depending on what book/s I'm currently fixated on - at the moment I really like missing persons expert Paula Maguire. She's the creation of Claire McGowan and her crime novels set in the wee Northern Ireland town of Ballyterrin.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why? 
The first book I remember being really moved by was the 1968 nonfiction book To Be a Slave by Julius Lester. I think it made such an impact because it was the first introduction I had to the social injustice of the lives of black people in Southern America, and is told via the voices of black men and women.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles? 
I've published heaps of stuff - my first novel, Birdie, was published in 1996 and since then there have been novels for both adults and kids, non-fiction collections, stories, and even a ghostwritten 'autobiography' of Sheila Laxon, the Waikato horsewoman. Birdie is actually also a crime novel, even though we didn't really have a crime genre in NZ back in those days.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise? 
What I most like to do is read. As this involves far too much time spent on the couch, I also drag myself off to swim every now and then, and walk my dog. Sometimes I do some really bad art painting, or try to catch an invariably elusive trout.

5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider? 
My hometown used to be Auckland and now it's Taupo; I tell people to go and sit in the hot mineral waters at the Wairakei Terraces - it's all outdoors and there's a fake 'pink and white terraces' over which gushes gorgeous searing-hot water.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you? 
Helena Bonham-Carter.

7. Of your writings, published and unpublished, which is your favourite, and why? 
To tell the truth, my favourite is always the one I've just finished! I guess it's because it's still fresh in my mind, so the characters are still with me, so to speak.

8. What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a online or physical bookseller’s shelf? 
My first real publication was a short story that won the Dominion Post Short Story Awards Novice Award (it no longer exists) and I got a big cheque ... I went out and bought a rustic dining room table.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
The experience that stands out in my mind was when I met Tim Winton at a book panel I was chairing for the Auckland Readers and Writers Festival. It wasn't that it was strange or unusual, but because Winton is one of my favourite authors and he was a very humble person to speak with.


Thank you Tina. We appreciate you taking the time to chat to Crime Watch

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You can read more about Tina Shaw and her books here:



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Comments welcome.

Friday, October 17, 2014

9mm: An interview with Peter Robinson (the lost files)

Going back through some old archived computer files recently I not only found the recordings of several author interviews from my Harrogate visit in 2012, but also crime fiction interviews and draft feature articles for a variety of New Zealand and international magazines and newspapers from 2009-2012.

It's a bit of a treasure trove, with transcripts of hour-long interviews, where only about 15-25% of the interview gets used in the eventual 800 to 2,000-word feature. So there's some great stuff that was never published that I'll be combing through, and then sharing some further interesting tidbits with you here. At the time I used to incorporate the 9mm questions into all the longer interviews I did, so that Crime Watch readers could learn more about the fantastic authors, along with print readers.

One terrific author I interviewed during that period was Peter Robinson, the Yorkshire-born crime writer who moved to Canada as a university student, but sets his acclaimed Inspector Banks series in his birthplace. I really enjoyed talking to Robinson for a piece in the Weekend Herald (read that article here) that looked at both him and Peter James. Leaving aside 'overview-style' pieces on Scandinavian, Scottish, and New Zealand crime writing, it's one of only two times I've written an interview-based feature about more than one author in the same article (the other being a piece on the Kellerman family, based on separate interviews with Faye and Jonathan, published in Good Reading magazine).

At the time I didn't publish a 9mm interview for Robinson because we didn't address one question (what was his favourite amongst his novels). However, as I look back now, it seems silly for y'all to miss out on the rest of his thoughts on the other eight questions. So, somewhat belatedly, and with a wee misfire in one chamber, here is Peter Robinson, the 91st author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.

9MM: An interview with Peter Robinson

Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective? 
I would probably say Sherlock Holmes. He’s just so idiosyncratic, he’s just so out there. Not at all like Banks, just the complete opposite.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why did you love it? 
It would have been one of the Enid Blyton ‘Famous Five’ books, I can’t remember a specific title - I read them all very quickly within a very short time. We didn’t get the Hardy Boys in England - that was mostly in America.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles? 
I have about three unpublished manuscripts that I should find and burn. I didn’t realise that they were really bad at the time I wrote them of course, but I realised pretty soon afterwards. You know, it was good apprentice work - you’ve got to practice somewhat...  I had a sort of Leeds-based private eye character, which was my first mistake I think. But mostly I wrote poetry, I think from my early years, from the age of about 16 until my early 30s, I wrote almost exclusively poetry. Now most of the writing energy goes into the prose. I still read poetry, but apart from the occasional fragment, I don’t get much done these days.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise? 
I don’t have any leisure. What’s a leisure activity? I love walking. I have a place in Richmond in Yorkshire and I like to walk in the Yorkshire countryside, and go travelling. So even if I wasn’t going to Australia and New Zealand on tour, I’d probably be going to the South China Sea or somewhere just for fun.

What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider? 
Well, Toronto I think one of the things they should do is go for a walk along the boardwalk, which is not right downtown, it’s the eastern end down where I live. It’s probably not the kind of thing you see in most tourist brochures.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you? 
Playing me? Oh my God. That’s a tough one. I’ll come back to that - I’ll be thinking about it while we’re talking about other stuff, running faces through my mind... The only one that comes to mind is Richard E. Grant. He doesn’t look like me at all. Ben Kingsley maybe, he can do the hair (chuckle). I think we should go for Ben Kingsley, or even Patrick Stewart, you know Jean-Luc Picard.

What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf? 
The first thing of course was receiving the pre-publication box of books from the publisher, and the first thing I did then was open one of them up and sniff it, you know, there’s nothing like the smell of a new book. And the smell of your first book, you only ever get that once. And then I think we had a bottle of cheap champagne, because we couldn’t afford real champagne at the time. And of course the first bookshop I went into, if the book wasn’t face-out, I made sure it was face-out.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival? 
I suppose it could have been the one where nobody turned up, not even the writer I was supposed to be sharing the reader with. It was supposed to be a reading, and it was in Los Angeles, I won’t say the exact place, and I was there on time, and there was nobody except the bookshop people. And I was supposed to be doing it with another author, who it turned out was in Texas or somewhere that night.


Thank you Peter. We appreciate you taking the time to chat to Crime Watch

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You can read more about Peter Robinson here:


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Comments welcome.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Paul Thomas's new novel, FALLOUT, to be published in UK and North America

Unfortunately New Zealand crime novels aren't always easy to find in the northern hemisphere. Despite the great reviews, high quality storytelling, and award wins, there are many terrific Kiwi crime writers whose work isn't readily available in the UK and US. Which is a real shame.

Every year the international judges on the Ngaio Marsh Award judging panel rave about the range and quality of New Zealand crime writing. A repeated refrain is "I wish we could get this over here".

Fortunately, some contemporary Kiwi crime writers have been picked up by UK/US publishers, including 2013 Ngaio Marsh Award winner Paul Thomas. After publishing the book that won that award, DEATH ON DEMAND, Bitter Lemon Press is set to publish the follow-up (and fifth in the Ihaka series), FALLOUT - which has recently been released in New Zealand.

I read the latest Ihaka before coming to Europe, and really enjoyed it. I actually think it may be better than DEATH ON DEMAND, which was very well received. According to the Bitter Lemon website, their version will be released in the US in April 2015 and the UK in September 2015.

An excellent cover too. Here's the blurb for the new Ihaka:

Tito Ihaka, the unkempt, overweight Maori cop was demoted to Sergeant due to insubordination and pigheadedness. He investigates the unsolved killing of 17 year old girl at an election night party in a ritzy villa near Auckland. Ihaka is also embroiled in a very personal mystery. A freelance journalist has stumbled across information that Ihaka's father Jimmy, a trade union firebrand and renegade Marxist, didn't die of natural causes. The stories weave themselves into an exciting climax in an atmosphere of political manoeuvring and intrigue surrounding the USA's confrontation with New Zealand over its anti-nuclear stance.

You can read an extract here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

9mm: An interview with successful indie author Ed James

One of the goals of Crime Watch is to highlight a broad variety of interesting crime and thriller authors, from all around the globe. Given that, I've always tried to include lesser-known, up-and-coming, and overlooked authors in some of the news, stories, and interviews here, not concentrating primarily on big, brand-name bestsellers (And when I interview the latter, I hope I'm bringing you something a little different to what you've seen elsewhere.)

In keeping with that motivation, today I'm pleased to share with you my recent interview with bestselling Scottish crime writer Ed James, whose story underlines some of the shifts in the modern publishing world. James is the author of the DC Scott Cullen series, which he started self-publishing after having his stories roundly rejected by literary agents and the traditional publishing houses. His self-published debut, GHOST IN THE MACHINE, earned him comparisons with Ian Rankin, Mark Billingham, Stuart MacBride, and Chris Brookmyre, has been downloaded almost 300,000 times, and James has now left his well-paying corporate job and long commute for life as a full-time author.

But for now, he becomes the 90th author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.

9MM: AN INTERVIEW WITH ED JAMES

1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
It's got to Ian Rankin's John Rebus. He's such a fascination character with real depth and some cutting dialogue. Over the years, he's become the archetypal 'cowboy cop', rushing off doing things his own way but still getting results. These books got me into crime fiction.

For reality, Stuart MacBride's Logan McRae is a very well-conceived character. You can almost smell the sweat of the research undertaken to make it as plausible as possible. Honourable mentions go to Mark Billingham's Thorne (less of a cowboy than Rebus) and James Ellroy's Dudley Smith, as pure an embodiment of evil you're likely to get possessing a badge.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
I was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to reading, to be honest. I read a lot of American comics and played a lot of computer games (yeah, I'm of that generation) so books were those boring things you got force-fed in English classes at school. I think it was when I was heading to the local library in my home town to get the latest volume of SANDMAN or something, I bumped into a friend who was just returning THE CROW ROAD by Iain Banks and was raving about it. I snatched it off him and took it out. That was really the start. I loved that book. It opened my eyes to the whole world of literature, which wasn't stuffy as all the books we read at school.

The only other thing I can remember fairly early was being seriously bored one summer at university (think it was 1998 when I was 20) and leafing through my mum's to-read pile, finding Rankin's BLACK AND BLUE (Rebus 8) in there. I had a go at that and just could not put it down. It was astonishingly good and showed literature could be as electric as the best of film and TV. And computer games and comics, ahem.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Before GHOST IN THE MACHINE, I wrote two novels. The first, BECOMING VISIBLE, was pretty awful. I just wrote and wrote, discovering my story as I went. I came across a notebook with some revision notes on it last spring and it formed the basis of the crime in the sixth CULLEN novel, BOTTLENECK, so it's been recycled quite well.

The second was more of a crime thing, BEFORE THE FALL. I'm actually planning on revising that as one of my next projects. It wasn't that bad but my storytelling skills were a bit raw - the first 40% of the book were backstory and needed to be cut, plus it had lots of stuff I just didn't know enough about. Nowadays, I've experience a lot more of that world and I'll pouring that into the revised version.

Other than that, it's more ideas than manuscripts. I've got some good short ideas, but they tend to be more in the sci-fi vein. Yeah, I'm a geek and I've got Iain M Banks to thank for that. I tend to look to the stuff for ideas for future crime novels - BOTTLENECK, for another example, grabbed a protagonist from an aborted novel and turned him into a minor antagonist.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I've only been doing this full-time since January and my touring/promotional commitments have been fairly minimal, though they're starting to get more hectic. I like to read a lot and I'm a voracious watcher of football. I've just started back at the gym now I've got more time in my life - writing kind of took a lot of my free time when I was working - and I've started getting back into playing computer games.

5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
I'm a big fan of walking around cities to get to know them. When I moved to Edinburgh sixteen years ago, I used to love just wandering round other bits of the city, places like Leith, Gorgie, etc, that people wouldn't recommend you go. When I worked in London over the last few years, I spent time walking the city instead of jumping on a sweaty tube. It let me connect the city up and see the bits you'd miss out otherwise.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Someone overweight, tall and dour!

7. Of your writings, published and unpublished, which is your favourite, and why?
I'm most pleased with SNARED, currently unpublished, which is a police procedural set in Dundee, near where I grew up. I love it because it's a culmination of everything I've learnt trying to write over the last nine years, and the first one I think I got really nailed on with the first draft.

8. What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a online or physical bookseller’s shelf?
Sadly, I've not had the big publisher's advance thing, but I've had my books out there in a kind of word-of-mouth way for the last two and a bit years. When things started kicking off with my books last September is probably the closest I can think of - my first book was in the top 100 free on Amazon and the others started shifting serious volume. I treated my other half to a nice drive down the Northumbrian coast and a nice meal, I think.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
Not really had much, I'm afraid.


Thank you Ed James. We appreciate you taking the time to chat to Crime Watch

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You can read more about Ed James and his books here:

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Have you read any of Ed James' books? Have you tried many self-published authors? Comments welcome. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

New BBC crime drama to be set in heartland New Zealand

Neil Cross won the 2012 Ngaio Marsh Award 
Libertine Pictures teams up with Downton Abbey producers for major New Zealand crime series for BBC

Libertine Pictures and writer Neil Cross have teamed up with leading international TV producer Carnival Films to develop a major new crime series set in Rotorua.
Libertine will develop the contemporary drama series with Carnival, producer of internationally-acclaimed British period drama Downton Abbey, for the BBC.
Provisionally titled Bay of Plenty, the series is a darkly eccentric crime drama set in Rotorua, created by Libertine’s Creative Director and multi-award winning film and TV writer Neil Cross.
Richard Fletcher, Joint Managing Director of Libertine, said the series would be shot primarily in Rotorua and the Bay of Plenty with a New Zealand crew and a New Zealand and international cast.
“Neil is British but has lived here for a number of years and is passionate about doing a New Zealand project,” said Fletcher.
“A London police detective relocates to Rotorua with her husband and children with the notion she is moving to paradise. In the tradition of shows like Twin Peaks and Fargo the series explores the beauty, eeriness and dark underbelly of this small city at the end of the earth.
"Viewers can expect the kind of darkness that characterises Neil's work but with a quirky humour too."
Gareth Neame, Executive Producer, Carnival Films, said: “We love Neil's take on this story and believe that audiences will be intrigued by the environment and the atmosphere he will create. We're excited to be partnering with the BBC which has had such a successful relationship with Neil and we're also looking forward to embarking on our first project in New Zealand.”
Filming is expected to get underway during the second half of 2015. The project will be financed by international licence fees and the Government’s New Zealand Screen Production Grant (NZSPG). It is the first major New Zealand-originated TV production to be announced since the launch of the incentive scheme in April.
Fletcher said: “The NZSPG aims to move production companies away from the service model to an intellectual property creation model with long-term benefits realised from a production. This project is a direct example of how that is working in practice.
“It will bring significant investment to the local and national economy. The vast majority of the cast will be New Zealanders and it will employ many people from the New Zealand television and film industry and from the Bay of Plenty region. The initial production is being developed as eight one-hour episodes but our vision is for it to become a long-running series.”
The project offers opportunities for creatives in the New Zealand television industry to work on a world-class project destined for international audiences.
“Libertine was set up with the aim of actively working in the international market. The NZSPG and this series provided us with that opportunity,” said Fletcher.
“We are very pleased to be working with producers of the calibre of Carnival and to have the support of the BBC and NBCUniversal. We could not wish for better partners. Their expertise and market strength are a huge asset to the series.
“This will give a team of New Zealand writers the chance to work with some of the world's best in television development and will provide exciting opportunities for New Zealand behind the camera talent.”
Cross, who will also be showrunner for the project, is creator and sole writer of the multi-award winning BBC crime thriller Luther, for which he has been twice nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing and which screens in more than 160 countries. His many film and TV projects also include writing the 2013 international hit film Mama, he was lead scriptwriter for the acclaimed Series 6 and Series 7 of BBC spy drama Spooks and recently scripted two episodes of Dr Who.
The series will be executive produced by Richard Fletcher, Paul Davis and Neil Cross for Libertine and Gareth Neame and Nigel Marchant for Carnival. NBCUniversal will handle international sales and will launch the series at MIPCOM, the upcoming television market in Cannes from13-16 October 2014. The deal was brokered by Carnival Films’ Chief Operating Officer David O’Donoghue and Libertine Pictures’ Richard Fletcher. Phil Temple is the Development Producer for Carnival Films. Neil Cross is represented by Michael McCoy of Independent Talent.