After a short hiatus, here is the tenth in this blog's (ir)regular series of author introductions on Kiwi crime, mystery, and thriller writers. Today I'm taking a look at Dunedin-based author Paddy Richardson, who released her first thriller, A YEAR TO LEARN A WOMAN, in late 2008.
59-year old Richardson, now a full-time writer living in Broad Bay, a beach settlement on the Otago Peninsula, says in a Q&A with her publisher Penguin NZ that she started writing seriously after going to an Otago University Summer School in Creative Writing.
She began with short stories, with which she has had much success, including being published in iconic literary journals Landfall and Takahe, and having her work be highly commended in several writing competitions, including the Katherine Mansfield Short Story Awards. She had also published a short story collection, CHOICES, in 1986.
Richardson won a prestigious Burns Fellowship in 1997, which gave her a full year with an office at the University of Otago to work on her writing. During this time she spent time on what would become her first published novel, THE COMPANY OF A DAUGHTER (Steele Roberts, 2000).
Although she has turned to thriller writing more recently, her first novel was squarely in the 'general fiction' category - a saga of five generations of New Zealand women, described as a "lyrical, slow-moving, meditative kind of novel".
Following THE COMPANY OF A DAUGHTER, Richardson continued to write short stories, as well as beginning work on what would later become her first thriller, A YEAR TO LEARN A WOMAN, while working fulltime teaching English at the Univeristy of Otago. She also taught fiction writing at the Otago Polytechnic, and published a second short story collection, IF WE WERE LEBANESE, in 2003.
The writing of her darker second novel, a thriller centred on a freelance journalist and an incarcerated serial rapist, progressed more rapidly when she won the Foxton Fellowship (now known as the Beatson Fellowhip), which let her take time out of her teaching job to write full-time for a month in a cottage at Foxton Beach on the Kapiti Coast, on the banks of the Manawatu River. She told the Otago Daily Times in a 2008 interview that not only did living at the cottage provide her with more time for writing, it also helped her with experiencing some of the creepy, isolated atmosphere she was trying to create in the novel: "I was writing an intense and frightening book at a beach where I knew no-one. I got that feeling of being threatened and isolated. I think it was a very good thing to happen while I was writing that novel."
Richardson also decided to give up full-time teaching to write full-time, around the same time.
Her second novel, and debut crime thriller, A YEAR TO LEARN A WOMAN features freelance writer Claire, who is hired by a dodgy lawyer to write a biography of an imprisoned serial rapist.
Wary but in financial need, she accepts the unclear assignment, and finds herself face-to-face with the chillingly charming Travis Crill - someone who seems completely unlike any 'rapist' images Claire had held. As Claire delves into how Crill came to be who he is, paranoia and fear begin affecting her, and unseen dangers have her spooked. Are they real, or in her mind?
I read A YEAR TO LEARN A WOMAN a few months after it was published, giving it a mixed grade for Good Reading magazine (2.5 out of 5) - there were some good things I really liked, and some flaws that somewhat bothered me. I am looking forward to Richardson's next thriller however, which is due out in soon.
HUNTING BLIND, released 1 February 2010, is reportedly a thriller focused on missing child. The publisher's blurb states: "On a perfect summer's day, at a school picnic beside a lake, a little girl goes missing, leaving a family devastated and a community asking questions. Seventeen years later her sister, Stephanie, is practising as a psychiatrist. A new patient's revelations force her to re-examine her sister's disappearance. Why are their stories so similar? Unable to let the matter rest, Stephanie embarks on a journey to find out what happened to her sister..."It is great to see another New Zealand author putting out multiple crime/thriller novels - Richardson joins a pleasing recent wave including Paul Cleave, Vanda Symon, Joan Druett, Andrea Jutson, and Michael Green, Hopefully Alix Bosco, Lindy Kelly, and Dorothy Fowler will all similarly follow suit, and continue in the crime/thriller genre beyond their debuts (adult fiction thriller debut in Kelly's case).
It would be fantastic to have a growing canon of Kiwi crime and thriller writing, fuelled and increasingly bolstered by several writers regularly putting out multiple books.
Have you read Paddy Richardson? Either her literary fiction or her thriller A YEAR TO LEARN A WOMAN? Does she sound like a writer that might interest you?