Welcome to the latest instalment in Crime Watch's ongoing series of author interviews; 9mm - 9 Murder Mystery questions put to a variety of New Zealand and international crime, thriller, and mystery authors.
When I started this series earlier this year, one of my aims was to provide a series of interesting author interviews with a diverse array of crime writers; Kiwi and international, nascent to longstanding, award-winning to lesser-known. Hopefully you've been enjoying the mix - finding both some new authors to try, and some new things about authors you've already read.
For the 37th instalment in the rapidly growing 9mm series, Crime Watch is talking to New York-born, Seattle-based crime writer Joyce Yarrow, who has led an intriguing creative life away from the crime writing page as well; she's been a screenwriter, a multimedia performance artist, a poet, a singer-songwriter, a member of a vocal ensemble, and a teacher of workshops on 'The Place of Place in Mystery Writing'. She is a Pushcart Nominee whose short stories have appeared in Inkwell Journal, Whistling Shade, Descant 2007, Arabesques, and Weber: The Contemporary West.
Her debut 'Bronx Noir' crime novel ASK THE DEAD was published in 2005, and introduced poet and private detective Jo Epstein. Next month Epstein returns in THE LAST MATRYOSHKA. I have a review copy of this new book, which is set in Brooklyn and Russia, and am very much looking forward to reading it. I will post a review as the book becomes available. You can see a short 'preview trailer' for the book on YouTube:
You can read more about Yarrow and her writing at her website here, or at her blog Travels with the Muse, here. But for now, Joyce Yarrow stares down the barrel of 9mm.
The Crime Watch 9mm Author Interview: Joyce Yarrow
Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
My favourite recurring crime fiction hero is John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee. He is an environmentalist in an era when the term has yet to be coined and he lives the life he loves, on board The Busted Flush. As a Salvage Consultant, McGee often recovers more than the goods – he salvages the self respect of his clients.
What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
I vividly remember reading The Little Princess at the age of eight. Growing up in the Southeast Bronx, it was easy to relate to someone who survived by living entirely in her imagination.
Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Before my debut mystery novel, Ask the Dead, I published a series of poems and four or five short stories in literary magazines, such as Whistling Shade and Inkwell. One story was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, which was a tremendous encouragement. I try to blur the line between literary and “genre” writing in my books—one of the reasons that Jo Epstein is a dedicated performance poet as well as a highly competent private investigator.
Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I love to travel and journeying to Russia to research The Last Matryoshka was the epitome of mind-expanding adventure. My son and I stayed in what was once a communal apartment in Moscow and when we toured Vladimir Central Prison, he said, “Mom, this is not the usual tourist experience, is it?” In Seattle, we live near Lake Washington and canoeing is another favorite activity, along with pitch ‘n putt golf. I also have a lot of fun singing with a world vocal and percussion ensemble, Abráce.
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?
Take the light rail south from downtown to Columbia City, an historical district that is located in the most diverse zip code in the nation—98118.
If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
I can imagine Jodie Foster playing me as a wide-eye child in New York City – after that it’s anybody’s guess.
Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
My favourite book is always the one I’m currently writing—how else could I muster the energy to go the distance?
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?
When Ask the Dead was accepted for publication, I was elated and at the same time, humbled. As Ernest Hemingway said, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
I perform with a world vocal and percussion group and it’s always strange when someone mentions my life as an author to the audience at a festival or in a club. For a moment I feel like I’ve wandered onstage by mistake and then I remember that it’s alright to do more than one thing!
Thank you Joyce Yarrow. We really appreciate you taking the time to talk with Crime Watch.
So what do you think of this 9mm interview? Have you read any of Joyce Yarrow's books, short stories or poems? Or listened to any of her music? Do you like the sound of the Jo Epstein series? Of crime novels set in Russia? I'd love to read your comments. Please share your thoughts.