We're on the cusp of something historic here, as we rapidly approach 100 editions of this quickfire interview series. It's been an absolute privilege to bring you these interviews, since they kickstarted with Lee Child in Crime Watch's first year. I sincerely hope that even though the same nine questions are asked of each author who has kindly participated, that you're enjoying reading the different answers and insights given. I'll take a look at some trends and high points once we pass the century mark later this month.
But today I'm very pleased to kick-off 9mm in 2015 by bringing you my recent interview with the wonderful Alexandra Sokoloff, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at Bloody Scotland last September, then again at Iceland Noir in November. Alex is a queen of the macabre, described by the New York Times as a "daughter of Mary Shelley". First specialising in horror and thriller screenplays, Californian Alex then turned her pen towards critically acclaimed supernatural and serial killer thriller novels - of which she has written eight, including the bestselling Huntress/FBI series (HUNTRESS MOON, BLOOD MOON, COLD MOON). She has also written screenwriting textbooks and contributed to dark fantasy anthology RAGE AGAINST THE NIGHT alongside horror fiction superstars including Stephen King and Peter Straub.
But for now, Alexandra Sokoloff faces down the barrel of 9mm.
1.Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
I have a terrible time choosing just one! Male hero/detectives – Lee Child’s Reacher and Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch. Female ones – Denise Mina’s Paddy Meehan and Val McDermid’s Carol Jordan (Carol plus Tony, actually…)
2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
The very first book? That’s going back a bit! I kind of learned to read on the Tintin series. I loved the investigations, the travel and exotic locations and adventure, and the wildly eccentric characters. So I guess that does count as a VERY early influence. The first book I was completely obsessed with was A Wrinkle in Time, a brilliant young adult thriller that’s also deeply spiritual. Still one of my favorite books.
3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) - unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I started out writing plays (when I was ten we were putting on plays in a neighbor’s garage!). I did theater throughout school and college, including some playwriting, and then moved to Los Angeles to pursue screenwriting. I was a professional screenwriter for eleven years - I sold quite a few original scripts and was hired to do novel adaptations for various Hollywood studios, before I snapped and wrote my first novel.
4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
The touring and promotional commitments satisfy one of my huge passions, which is travel. It’s fantastic to have a profession that takes me on the road so much! I’m also an avid dancer: swing, salsa, jazz, ballet. I really like hiking and walking tours. And I still perform fairly regularly: my author friend Heather Graham has a troupe of authors who are also actors and musicians and we do shows at various writing conventions as The Slush Pile Players.
5. 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?
Well, I have several hometowns, but if we’re talking about Los Angeles, my advice is – get out of it! One of the really great things about L.A. is its proximity to so many stunning natural settings. Drive out to the desert – Joshua Tree or Death Valley; take a drive up or down the stunning Pacific coast, take the ferry to Catalina Island, go hiking in the Angeles Forest (or Griffith Park). The city is great, but you have no idea what you’re missing that’s just outside of it.
6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Hah. Since I was in my 20’s I’ve frequently been mistaken for Kyra Sedgwick, so of course I have to say her. I wouldn’t mind sharing Kevin Bacon, either! I’ve also always been quite partial to Natasha Lyonne – I’m so glad to see she’s conquered her teenage demons and is absolutely shining as an adult actress in Orange is the New Black.
My Huntress Moon series. It’s a series that was a long time coming; I’d been doing research into serial killers for years, and I’ve always wanted to explore that subject in a way that might illuminate something about the nature of crime and evil and the justice system - from a specifically feminine point of view. In the context of a really gripping suspense read, of course! I finally hit on the plot of a male FBI agent on the hunt for what he thinks may be a female serial killer – which arguably doesn’t exist in real life. What she is becomes part of the mystery, and it forces my agent/detective and the reader to challenge their own ideas about evil and justice.
8. 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 an online or physical bookseller’s shelf?
It wasn’t celebration so much as a profound relief that I’d made the right decision in turning away from screenwriting and toward writing books. I think it was a much more quiet, internal reaction for me because I’d already had my huge breakthrough into professional writing years ago, when I sold my first screenplay. It was a bidding war situation and about as surreal an experience as I’d ever had. I celebrated that one by going to London and Amsterdam! These days I’ll just have a glass of champagne and go back to work.
9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
At the Left Coast Crime mystery convention in 2013 in Colorado, I met the Scottish crime author Craig Robertson. One month and about ten thousand transatlantic emails later, I was living with him in Scotland. That’s pretty unusual, but you know, you have to watch yourself around those writers! Now we’re going back and forth between Scotland and California, and touring together. Not bad, considering we never really had a first date!
Thank you Alex. We appreciate you talking with Crime Watch
You can read more about Alexandra Sokoloff and her novels here:
- Author website
- Alex talks to Female First
- US television interview for The Artist's Craft programme (video interview in three parts)
- Review of THE HARROWING on Crime Watch
- A 2006 interview in Spinetingler magazine
What do you think of mixing some supernatural into crime thrillers? Have you read any of Sokoloff's supernatural or serial killer thrillers? Comments welcome.