As this blog/website grows as a resource, I may look to use guest bloggers more often, to provide you all with a greater range of content, voices, and opinions. Just one of the things I'm looking to do to make Crime Watch the best resouce possible, and provide even more information and insight to those interested in crime and thriller fiction. So please leave some feedback in the comments section both about the concept in general, and the very first guest post.
MURDER THEY WROTE
by Rosemary Brooks (a Commissioning Editor in Wellington)
I have a confession to make. I am a huge crime fiction fan and yet I have read very little New Zealand crime fiction. That itself is a crime as there are some phenomenally talented people writing world-class books right here in New Zealand. I had the pleasure of attending an evening with three such people in Wellington on Thursday 27 May 2010.
Organised by the New Zealand Book Council, Murder They Wrote brought together Vanda Symon, Paul Cleave, and Neil Cross in a question and answer panel session hosted by the New Zealand Book Council’s Chief Executive, Noel Murphy.
With the full force of the “weather bomb” being felt outside, it was fantastic to see around 50 dedicated readers brave the inhospitable elements and venture to Cafe L’Affare to hear these three authors speak on a number of topics related to their writing. The discussion ranged from their thoughts on subjects such as genre classification and character development through to more private aspects of their craft like researching, plotting, and the actual how and when they write.
It was an interesting coincidence to find that none of the three sit down and plot their entire story before they begin writing. Vanda has a beginning and an end and some pivotal scenes in mind when she begins and then sees how she gets there. Paul, on the other hand, has none of it plotted when he begins. While Neil believes that if it still excites the author then it will excite the reader.
Another similarity between the three is how they feel about the genre classification applied to books. Vanda stated that she writes what she would like to read and the fact that this has to be classified into a certain genre “does [her] head in”. Paul, on the other hand, didn’t set out to become a crime writer; he wanted to write horror novels. On top of that, he thought THE CLEANER was more of a thriller/action story. Finally, Neil has been perceived as a literary novelist which was never his intention. He wanted his stories to excite, frighten, and keep readers awake at night which is “not the purview of the literary novelist”.
Following on from this discussion, Neil made the point that genres exist and there is no getting around that fact and that what infuriates him is that the various genres are not seen as morally equivalent – and that crime novels are taken less seriously than novels which fit within other genres.
This is a point that resonated quite strongly with me. A lot of my friends are big readers yet show very little interest in crime fiction. To give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe they don’t like to read about the dark side of humanity; maybe they find books which hinge on crime being committed unpleasant rather than interesting and simply can’t get past the subject matter. But equally maybe they (and many others who have not ever read a crime fiction novel) fail to realise that a good crime novel can be as well plotted and as full of strong characters as any literary novel (or any novel of any genre). A good crime novel will also have you unable to turn the light out at night as you can’t possibly go to sleep until you have read just one more chapter . . .
Those of you who also attended this evening will know that I have only scratched the surface of what was discussed. What I have written about here are the points that I found myself nodding in agreement with or reflecting on in the days since the talk. But they are by no means the only things I found interesting or thought-provoking. In the interests of space, I will leave my thoughts at that but I would love to hear from anyone who attended. Is there anything that I have missed out that particularly spoke to you? Anything you think deserves more attention than I have paid to it? Or any general impressions of the evening that you would like to share?