Monday, June 14, 2010

9mm: An interview with C.George Muller

Welcome to the latest instalment in Crime Watch's ongoing series of quickfire author interviews; 9mm - 9 MurderMystery questions put to a variety of New Zealand and international crime, thriller, and mystery authors.

After a bit of a run of international crime writers, for the 18th in this regular series of quickfire author interviews I thought I would feature another Kiwi writer who perhaps deserves a little more attention - wildlife biologist C. George Muller, author of eco-thriller ECHOES IN THE BLUE (2007). I recently purchased a copy of Muller's thriller, and am very much looking forward to reading it - particularly as it is rather newsworthy at the moment, with its Japanese whalers vs environmental activists backdrop (see the current Pete Bethune trial in Japan). There are still copies available brand new from online bookstores like Amazon.com, Fishpond, Wheeler's Books, and Trade Me, amongst others. ECHOES IN THE BLUE was a finalist (Silver Medal) in the 2007 Nautilus Book Awards, and was criticised as "terrorism" by the Japan Institute of Cetacean Research, the organisation responsible for Japan's whaling programme. You can read more about C. George Muller at his website here.

But for now, he sits in the 9mm hotseat.


The Crime Watch 9mm Author Interview: C. George Muller

Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
There are a lot of great detective characters to choose from these days, but Sherlock Holmes was always a favourite of mine from a very young age. For me he works brilliantly as a hero; always calm, confident, and with a mind like a steel trap – but he is also slightly mysterious as viewed through Watson’s eyes. A little bit of mystery never hurt a detective novel!

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
I remember really enjoying Jack London’s Call of the Wild when I was about 7 or 8. It was one of the first full length books I read, and it definitely cemented my love of reading. It was the first time I remember being transported to another world through the pages of a book.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I won the 2005 Richard Webster Popular Fiction Award for my first novel, an unpublished thriller manuscript. That was the first full-length book I ever wrote. It was about a Kiwi ex-SAS soldier who had to investigate the mysterious disappearance of his brother in Indonesia, and he rapidly got mixed up in all kinds of corrupt and shady goings-on, including international terrorism. It was inspired by the real life struggle against Indonesian rule in West Papua.
Before that my fiction writing was limited to the odd short story, since it was difficult to find enough time to write a novel while I was working full time at a corporate job. Over the years I have also co-authored a number of scientific papers in various academic journals.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I do like to read and write, both of which I think are important pastimes for an author, but when I am not at my desk I like to get as far away from it as possible. I still do contract work as a marine biologist and find that spending several weeks or months away and working outdoors is not only great for recharging my batteries, but it also provides lots of ideas and motivation for future books.

When looking for ideas for a book, particularly crimes and criminals, often the inspiration from real life examples I discover can be far more nefarious than anything I could ever dream up.

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 have lived in a lot of different places around NZ, so can’t really claim any particular town as my home. I prefer to think of the whole country as my “home town”. With that said though, I would encourage locals and visitors alike to go past the towns and get out into the great outdoors. As the Lord of the Rings movies showed the world, New Zealand has some beautiful and awe-inspiring scenery. However, there are also plenty of undiscovered gems out there; lesser known spots or those a bit off the beaten track. The more people are aware of and appreciate these wild places, the better sense of pride we can have in our land.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
My initial reaction is “who would want to make a movie about my life?” but I suppose my books are inspired by my real life experiences so I guess a movie version of one of my books would be near enough. And who wouldn’t want to see a movie version of their book? As to who would play the main character, well, I guess that would depend on which story. I wouldn’t want to step on any casting agent’s toes!

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
Echoes in the Blue would have to be my favourite, since as well as being the most successful for me it also highlights an important real life problem. Most Kiwis are aware that “scientific whaling” is just a cover for illegal hunting of protected species, but I wanted to reveal the true extent of the corruption and criminal behaviour behind the scenes. What better way than through an eco-thriller novel?

Despite presenting it as fiction I did get a reaction from the whalers though, a nasty letter (published on my website) attacking the book and accusing me of promoting terrorism!

I still receive a lot of emails from readers about Echoes in the Blue too, including one from a young student who said he wanted to study marine biology after reading my book. For a writer, it doesn’t get any better than knowing your book has helped inspire someone!

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?
After all the effort to write the book, my initial reaction to getting it published was just one of relief, and a little disbelief. After working towards that goal for so long I guess I didn’t really think I could believe it until I saw my book on the shelves.

I still find it gratifying and a little surreal to see my name on the bookshelves when I walk into a book shop though. I was tempted to frame the first cheque I ever received, but after taking a year and a half off to write the book I badly needed to cash it to pay the rent!

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
One time I was at a book signing when a woman came up and accosted me. She accused me of hypocrisy for writing a book highlighting whaling when “so many children in NZ are starving”. I don’t think she had actually read my book but apparently I represented the institution of ‘science’ to her, which I gather she thought was in opposition to her strong religious beliefs. It was an interesting – if one-sided – conversation, but I did come away from it with an insight on how not to bring people around to your way of thinking. Aggression and accusations will only turn people away, even if they are initially sympathetic to your message!


Thank you C. George Muller. We appreciate you taking the time to talk with Crime Watch.

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So what do you think of this 9mm interview? Does an eco-thriller set on the high seas and in the complicated world of 'scientific whaling' intrigue you? What do you think of crime thrillers with an environmental theme or setting? Thoughts and comments welcome.

3 comments:

  1. Craig - Thanks for this interesting interview!

    C. George - I loved Call of the Wild, too! And I've always liked Sherlock Holmes stories as well. Thanks for sharing some of yourself with us.

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  2. Thanks for the interview which gave us a little insight into the author of Echoes in the Blue. I greatly enjoyed his book and admired his aim in telling the truth about illegal whaling

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  3. Great interview, Craig, and very interesting to hear/learn more about C George Muller and his writing.

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