Monday, March 21, 2011

9mm: An interview with Victoria Houston

Welcome to the fourth instalment this year of Crime Watch's exclusive 9mm author interviews, and the 48th instalment overall. You can check out some of the previous author interviews by clicking on an author's name on the sidebar to the right, on '9mm' on the header bar above, or you can see the first 44 instaments here.

But for now it is time to once again polish off the gun and point it towards a creator of tales mysterious and thrilling. Thanks to everyone for their comments and feedback on the series so far - I really appreciate it, as I know many of the participating authors do as well.

For those new to this rodeo, 9mm consists of the same 9 Murder Mystery questions put to a variety of New Zealand and international crime, thriller, and mystery authors. I hope you have all been enjoying the series as much as I (and the authors) have been. Suggestions are always welcome as to who else you'd like to see interviewed. Upcoming interviews include the likes of Kathy Reichs, Robert Crais, and CJ Box, amongst others.

Today I am very pleased to interview a 'new-to-me' mystery writer, Victoria Houston, author of the 'Loon Lake Fishing Mysteries'. I was introduced to Houston's work when I stumbled across a copy of DEAD ANGLER in a local bookstore. The first novel in Houston's long-running Loon Lake mystery series, the book has introduced me to Houston's intriguing protagonists, retired dentist Paul Osbourne and Chief of Police Lewellyn (Lew) Ferris, both avid fly fishermen (fisherpeople, given Lew's a woman?) I am enjoying it thusfar, particularly the way Houston evokes the rural Wisconsin setting. As much as I enjoy crime fiction set on the mean streets of a grimy city, it's also nice to read a well-written mystery set in more outdoorsy places.

Houston's eleventh Loon Lake Fishing Mystery, DEAD RECEIVER, will be released this year. Houston is herself a keen fly fisher, and lives once again in Wisconsin, where she was raised. You can read more about here at her website here.

But for now the author of the Loon Lake Fishing Mysteries stares down the barrel of 9mm.

9MM: AN INTERVIEW WITH VICTORIA HOUSTON

Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
I have a couple. Long before the current rage for Scandinavian crime fiction (i.e. 30 years ago!), I got hooked on the Martin Beck detective series from Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo followed (about 15 years ago) Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander (the first six books are the ones I like best). But my absolute favorite crime/mystery writer (his main character's name changes though the gestalt remains the same) is Ross Thomas. Genius -- great plotting, great humor, great dialogue and a wonderful eye for the grim detail. I read and re-read his books.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
"Gone With The Wind." Terrific characters, steamy, heart-wrenching story. I grew up in the far north and this was set in the Deep South. Wonderful escapism. As a kid, I was a fanatic reader and devoured Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, all the dog and horse stories -- before moving on to Agatha Christie, G.K. Chesterton and...Mickey Spillane! Rarely met a book I didn't enjoy.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Try ten years of freelance magazine and newspaper feature writing; art critic for a major American newspaper and correspondent for a major American art magazine (ARTNEWS); editor for a wire service (pre-computers) for the futures markets; six non-fiction titles (one ghosted and two co-authored with experts in their fields. My "Loving A Younger Man: How Women Are Finding and Enjoying A Better Relationship" was modest bestseller and put my three kids through private colleges.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
First of all, I have - and have had for 30-plus years - a day job in Public Relations, which is a terrific counter-balance to the mystery writing. I am very outdoors-oriented: both fly fishing and bait fishing, tennis, running, windsurfing, downhill and cross-country skiing. I love the outdoors. Also movies, books and really good TV like The Sopranos and The Wire.

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?
Hang out for a couple hours at Jonny & Billy's Birchwood Lodge & Rustic Bar. Great location on a wonderful chain of lakes, good intro to the tourists and the locals in this region. Excellent pizza, good beer. Live music on the weekends. This is the neighborhood where I grew up and the lake, the trees, the owls, the fishing, the moon, the wind - all inspire my books.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Are you kidding me? Yikes. How about Annette Benning with Helen Mirren's hair? (Mine is silver white.)

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
The one I just managed to finish! Aside from that, I thoroughly enjoyed researching illegal traffic in human tissue (not organs) for DEAD HOT MAMA. Books are like your children - each one is different and you enjoy each for their own peculiar attributes.

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?
I burst into tears. It was news that I had a three-book deal and I was overwhelmed because it had taken me nearly ten years to make the change from writing non-fiction to fiction. Quite a struggle.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
It was awful. A poor guy who had attempted suicide ripped open his shirt to show me what a shotgun does to your body. This was during a book club presentation at a Barnes & Noble. Fortunately, another man in the audience was able to handle the guy without hurting his feelings.


Thank you Victoria Houston. We really appreciate you taking the time to talk to Crime Watch.

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Have you read any of the Loon Lake fishing mysteries? Do you like the sound of mystery fiction set in rural, outdoorsy areas? Have you been to Wisconsin? Do you like to fly fish? Comments welcome.

2 comments:

  1. I love reading mystery fiction. So it doesn't really matter if it's an international setting, a city setting or a rural set.

    Wisconsin to me is just on a map and information about it is from Google only!

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  2. Victoria gets the prize for the most awful thing to happen at a book signing! That would have been hard for all concerned.

    I'm intrigued by Ross Thomas - hadn't heard of him before - might have to track one of his books down.

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