Wednesday, October 19, 2011

9mm: An interview with Bev Robitai

The 9mm series has been on a bit of slow burn in the past few months, but don't worry, it will continue to be a regular feature here on Crime Watch (hopefully an increasingly regular feature moving forward, rather than the once every few weeks thing it's become recently).

Today, for the 57th instalment of the popular series, I am sharing my 9mm interview with New Zealand mystery writer Bev Robitai, who lives on Auckland's North Shore. I first came across Robitai's work last year, when I read her theatre-set debut mystery MURDER IN THE SECOND ROW, having purchased the ebook from Smashwords. You can read my review of that novel here, and another well-written review here (Reactions to Reading).

Robitai is a photographer for publications in New Zealand and overseas and a freelance writer for magazines like Next. Born in the United Kingdom, she has lived on Auckland's North Shore for 12 years, and spent the prior two decades in Nelson (my hometown). Although MURDER IN THE SECOND ROW is set in a fictional town, it was inspired by Robitai's experiences in the Nelson theatre community.

Robitai released her second mystery novel, AN EYE FOR AN EYE, in April (read more here), and I understand she is working on more crime novels too. You can read more about her at her website here.

But for now, Robitai stares down the barrel of 9mm.


Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
I’m enjoying the unfolding of Jack Reacher as Lee Child reveals more of his story in each book. He was such an enigma at first. I’m also falling back in love with Ngaio Marsh’s Roderick Alleyn – he’s so intelligent, charming, and funny.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
Hm, I guess you mean something more advanced than Orlando the Marmalade Cat? Then Swallows & Amazons and all Arthur Ransome’s stories. I read them on the sofa with my mum and learned to speed-read so she didn’t turn the page before I’d finished.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Plenty of published non-fiction articles. I’ve attempted a romance or two but got stuck on how to keep two intelligent characters apart until the end. It’s so hard to think of plausible reasons two perfectly sane people couldn’t sort out their differences! Short stories I’ve never liked much because if I enjoy a character I want to live with them for a whole book.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise.
READ! My greatest luxury is pushing everything else aside to dive into a great crime novel. Second choice – photography. At least that gets me out in the fresh air, and has been a secondary career for a good few years. I love theatre production too for the variety of creative skills it uses.

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?
My real hometown is Staines in England and I’d send visitors to the little ‘village green’ beside the Thames on the day the swan-uppers go by. A slice of medieval history in a lovely riverside setting.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
If I pick a young Goldie Hawn because my husband likes her, then can I pick who’d play him…that seems fair, doesn’t it? I’d choose Richard Gere. No wait, Mark Harmon - he’s got more sense of fun. Oh no wait, I want David Tennant. Yes!

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
The one I’m writing at the moment, Body on the Stage, because I love the surprises when the characters become friends and interact. And I get to write all the comedy lines! Eye for an Eye was my first finished book and I’m still excited with it, even though Murder in the Second Row was published first and has had all the attention so far.

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?
My biggest thrill was seeing my book in the library. It’s a proper book when it’s in the library! It’s pretty cool seeing it on the shelves in Borders too, but seeing several copies as ‘out on loan’ in the library catalogue is hugely satisfying. It was a great buzz seeing it mentioned on Crime Watch too, thanks for that! J

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
I launched Murder in the Second Row in Nelson, in the theatre I’d used as the setting. An old boyfriend I hadn’t seen for 30 years drove all the way up from Christchurch to surprise me, and I didn’t even recognise him until my husband brought him over to where I was signing books and introduced him. That felt a bit weird! It’s hard to compete with C.J. Box’s answer to this question though – what a classic.

Thank you Bev Robitai. We really appreciate you taking the time to talk with Crime Watch.


Have you read MURDER IN THE SECOND ROW, or EYE FOR AN EYE? What do you think of Robitai's writing? Do you like crime fiction set in the theatre?

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