Friday, January 23, 2015

9mm interview with Zoe Sharp

It's amazing to think we're on the cusp of 100 instalments of 9mm, a series I began as something of a lark back in March 2010 after interviewing Lee Child for a magazine article in New Zealand. It has truly been a blessing to get to meet and interview so many amazing crime writers from all around the world over the past few years. I feel like I learn something from each of them, as well as being inspired by their creativity and drive, and entertained by their storytelling.

Thank you to everyone who has read these interviews over the years. I appreciate all the comments, messages, and suggestions. Feel free to keep sharing your thoughts - it's great to hear from y'all.

Today I have the pleasure of sharing my recent 9mm interview with Zoe Sharp, author of the acclaimed 'Charlie Fox' series. Sharp's all-action heroine Charlie, an intriguing Special Forces flameout turned personal security hotshot, has been described by reviewers as a female Jack Reacher, only with more depth.

Before breaking through in 2001 with KILLER INSTINCT, the debut of Charlotte 'Charlie' Fox, Sharp worked as a motoring writer and photojournalist. Sharp has now written ten books in the Charlie Fox series, along with a novella and a standalone thriller, THE BLOOD WHISPERER. She has also contributed to crime fiction anthologies, has a short story collection of Charlie Fox stories, FOX FIVE, and is a regular contributor to the blog, "Murder is Everywhere", where 10 crime writers blog from around the world.

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

9MM: An interview with Zoe Sharp

1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective? 
Difficult one because there are so many terrific characters out there. I love Lee Child's classic loner Jack Reacher, and Robert B Parker's Boston PI, Spenser, as well as JD Robb's futuristic NYPSD detective Eve Dallas, and I grew up with Sherlock Holmes and Dorothy L Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey. Then there's John Lawton's wartime detective, Frederick Troy, Clive Cussler's indestructible hero, Dirk Pitt, and, of course, Leslie Charteris's wonderful Simon Templar, The Saint. Erm, how many am I allowed?

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why? 
Probably Anna Sewell's BLACK BEAUTY. The book worked on so many levels, not least because for what appeared on the surface to be a children's story about the eponymous horse of the title it also affected the social conscience of the time. Horses in the late 1800s were very much working animals and were often worked until they dropped. Anna Sewell's book actually brought about changes in both laws and attitude in Victorian society for the more humane treatment of animals.

The first crime book I ever read was a copy of THE MISFORTUNES OF MR TEAL by Leslie Charteris, which contained three novellas featuring Simon Templar, The Saint. This was given to me by my grandmother, having been given to her in the 1940s, and is one of my treasured possessions.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I wrote my first proper novel when I was fifteen. (Don't know what I did before then -- just loafed, I guess.) My father, bless him, typed it up for me and it did the rounds of publishers were it received what are known in the trade as 'rave rejections'. I believe I still have that typescript sitting in a storage box somewhere. My father keeps threatening to get it out and put it on eBay. (I remind him at this point that one day I could be choosing his nursing home for him ...)

After a break from writing during which time I did all kinds of weird stuff for a living, I then started producing magazine feature articles based around classic cars -- I had an old Triumph Spitfire which I'd rebuilt and played with. I took up photography so I could offer a words-and-pictures package, and that grew into a twenty-five-year career as a photojournalist specialising in the motoring industry. After my first novel came out in 2001 I gradually throttled back on the articles to concentrate on the books, but still kept up the photography, mainly because hanging out of moving cars on racetracks, photographing other moving cars, was a nice contrast to sitting at my desk all day. I finally hung up my Canon in 2013.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
'Leisure' ...? No, don't tell me ... the meaning of that will come to me in a minute ... Hmm, I'm in the very fortunate position that I am able to combine most of the elements that interest me into my job. My bodyguard heroine, Charlie Fox, rides a motorcycle for example so of course I *have* to do so as well, purely for authenticity's sake, you understand ... Same goes for many other activities.

Also, I love to do house construction, having helped self-build my last house. Last summer I ripped out and completely refitted a kitchen, replaced an old dormer window with a Velux roof light and stone mullion window, and I've been repairing sheds, tiling, and plastering walls. Doing something physical is very therapeutic when my normal work is all carried out inside my head. Occupying the practical half of my brain also allows the creative half to freewheel, which is really helpful.

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? 
That's a good question, because I'm currently of No Fixed Abode. I sold my last house in the English Lake District at the end of 2013 and have only just reached the stage where I'm ready to look for somewhere else. Trouble is, I have no idea where I'd like to live and because being a writer means I can work any place there's a power socket and an internet connection, that gives me almost too much choice! As I write this, for instance, I'm holed up in a friend-of-a-friend's villa in Tuscany looking after a rather beautiful white cat. However, I was born in Nottingham in the UK, and I was reading an online news article only this morning that Nottingham's railway station has just been voted the worst in the country. So, it might be worth making a quick visit to see if it really is as bad as everyone makes out!

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Tom Cruise.

7. Of your writings, published and unpublished, which is your favourite, and why?
My favourite piece of work is always the *next* one. Writing for me is a craft rather than an art, and I strive constantly to improve my craft. Therefore I always hope my next book will be better than the last.

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 a online or physical bookseller’s shelf?
My initial reaction when I saw my debut novel for the first time was to wonder how I could make the next one better. This is the reason I always listen to my audiobooks, just once through, when they arrive. Nothing shows up the clunky bits and the passages that really don't flow like hearing your work read out loud.

Apart from that I didn't celebrate much. Looking back, I wish I'd gone out and bought a memento of some description to mark the occasion, but at the time it didn't occur to me. As for my first published article, when I realised that people were not only willing, but eager, to pay me to write on a monthly basis, I gave up my day-job and jumped in with both feet and a cry of, "Hurrah!"

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
I have frequently put lots into the charity auctions at the big mystery conventions like Bouchercon. Often these are character names, which is how I've managed to share two characters -- Frances L Neagley and Tom O'Day -- with Lee Child. Other lots regularly include joining the author for breakfast or lunch. Just to be different I put up a 'Have Breakfast With Zoƫ Sharp ... and Then Go To The Gun Range!' And the lady who made the winning bid had been blind since birth. That was a challenge, but since all you need in order to be able to shoot is a good grip and steady hands, she did brilliantly. So well, in fact, that the owners of the range brought out an H&K MP5 submachine gun for her to try. What interested me most was the attitude of others -- that I would surely cry off. But my outlook has always been that you achieve what you set out to achieve and you should not let the limited vision of others -- and I'm not talking physical here -- hold you back.

Thank you Zoe. We appreciate you taking the time to chat to Crime Watch


You can read more about Zoe Sharp and Charlie Fox here: 


Comments welcome.

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