Tuesday, February 24, 2015

9mm interview with Jeffrey Siger

Welcome back to 9mm. This week I have another new interview with a great author I met for the first time at the excellent Iceland Noir festival late last year. Two former corporate lawyers, one New Zealander now living in London, one East Coast American now living on the Greek island of Mykonos, meeting in Reykjavik. You've got to love the crime writing and reading community!

Jeff was born in Pittsburgh, and for many years was a Wall Street lawyer (a 'name partner' in his own firm), before migrating to Mykonos and becoming a mystery writer. Huh - I just realised that Jeff is kind of like the 'Robin Masters' character in one of my favourite TV shows growing up, Magnum PI - a popular mystery writer living on a tropical paradise (random note: though we never saw Robin in the series, we did hear him, and he was originally voiced by Orson Welles).

On his website, Jeff says that when he left law he wanted to "write mystery thrillers that tell more than just a fast-paced story" and that his novels "are aimed at exploring serious societal issues confronting modern day Greece in a tell-it-like-it-is style while touching upon the country's ancient roots". His Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series (six novels so far) has been praised for its evocation of both the picture-postcard scenery and political corruption in Greece. It has even been referenced in Fodor's travel guides.

Jeff is also one of ten crime writers from different locales around the world who regularly blog at the popular Murder is Everywhere website, and serves as Chair of Bouchercon, the world's largest mystery convention, as well as Adjunct Professor of English at Washington & Jefferson College, teaching mystery writing.

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

Two lawyers turned writers: Jeffrey Siger
and Craig Sisterson at Iceland Noir

1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective? 
Many decades ago I’d hurt my back, and while laid-up for two months (I’m all better, thank you), I decided to read Victorian prose that came in relatively manageable chunks. Somehow I’d avoided mysteries until then, but settled upon The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes. As the days of reading wore on into weeks, I found myself thinking like Holmes and solving the mysteries along with him. That introduction to the genre is why I write what I do, and since his father’s first name is SIGER, how could I not consider Sherlock Holmes my favorite!

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why? 
Hailing as I do from the American city where the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers forms the mighty Ohio, I received dozens of copies of Huckleberry Finn as birthday and other special occasion gifts. It was a local tradition. And though memory fails me as to what made that book so special to me back then, perhaps it was memories—both real and imagined—of my grandfather’s horse and wagon huckstering days along those same Pittsburgh rivers that captured my heart.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles? 
I’ve always written creatively, though when I did as a lawyer it was stylistically, not factually so - at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Then fifteen years ago, when I decided to take the leap and commit to serious fiction writing efforts, I produced what are called “drawer” novels. Those are the ones in which you immerse your very being, finish with a flourish of pride, and banish to a drawer… while you struggle on to write a book that might actually get published. Thankfully, I had a very big drawer.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise? 
Free diving, working in the woods around my farm, and washing dishes. Not necessarily in that order, but all for the same reason: Each involves mindless physical work with a fixed beginning and end to any project. You catch your fish and you’re done, you clear away the brush and you’re done, you clean that final dirty dish and you’re done. Very little else in life offers such clear-cut conclusions to the tasks we take on each day.

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? 
I’ll assume by “hometown” we’re not talking about the place of my birth (Pittsburgh) or the place of my professional career (New York City), but the place I call home to my writing career, Mykonos. That Aegean Greek island consistently ranks as Europe’s most desired island destination, ahead of such other magical locales as Capri, Ibiza, and St. Tropez (not an island, though it feels like one). On Mykonos what I like doing most is strolling at sunset along a beach and looking across the sea toward the nearby Holy Island of Delos, the birthplace of Apollo, god of light, and his twin sister, Artemis, goddess of the hunt. As I walk where the ancients had once walked, watching the sun set into the sea as they must have done, I wonder how akin their thoughts at such moments might have been to mine.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you? 
Anyone who might win an Oscar qualifies. Second choice would be Cary Grant, in any of his pre-interred states.

7. Of your writings, published and unpublished, which is your favourite, and why?  
As glib as this may sound, the truth is, “The one I just finished.”  I say that because I push myself very hard to make what I’m currently working on better than my last; driven no doubt by fear that if I don’t, instead of hearing, “This is your best one yet,” it’ll be, “Hey, what happened to you?”

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 first reaction on seeing my debut book on a physical bookseller’s shelf was to buy it, so the seller would have to reorder another one. Actually, I was with my daughter in a New York City Barnes & Noble.  She promptly made me pose with a copy of my debut novel, Murder in Mykonos.  It was so obvious what was happening that a kind, thoughtful, elderly lady walked over, smiled, and said that she wanted to buy the one I was holding!  And she wasn’t my mother.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival? 
My most unique experience was at a book signing in Athens for the second novel in my Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series, Assassins of Athens. In it, I depicted violent social unrest and political events that later came to pass in real life. When a reporter from a major Athens newspaper attending the book signing asked me what role I thought my novel had played in precipitating those violent riots, all I could think of to say was, “I think the rioters were more into burning books than reading them.”

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


You can read more about Jeffrey Siger and his crime novels here:

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