Tuesday, August 4, 2015

9mm interview: Denise Mina

The crime writing community is a fun one, filled with cool people. Today I get to host one of the coolest: modern-day Scottish crime queen Denise Mina. Though maybe knave or joker is more accurate than queen. 

I started reading Denise's crime tales several years ago, then got to meet her when we both appeared at the New Zealand International Arts Festival in 2012. Aotearoa and Scotland may be at opposite ends of the earth, but there are plenty of commonalities, and she had our Kiwi crowd in stitches with her combo of irreverence and insight.

She's a damned fine writer too, if a wee bit greedy. Not satisfied with writing one acclaimed crime series, Denise has created three recurring characters that've each enthralled readers and award judges alike. First there was ex-psychiatric patient Maureen O'Donnell in the fabulous, Dagger-winning, Garnethill Trilogy. The came Glaswegian journo Paddy Meehan in an Edgar-shortlisted trilogy that's also been adapted for television audiences (Field of Blood, etc).

Lately, it's her Detective Alex Morrow tales that have been entrancing readers and scooping awards in several countries. A cracking series: the fifth, BLOOD SALT WATER, was just released last week. A body that floats up from Loch Lomond cracks open the idyllic veneer of a quaint and well-heeled village.

I could mention Mina's stage plays and graphic novels (including comic adaptations of The Millennium Trilogy), but let's be honest, you want to hear from Denise, not me. You can do so in person at the day-long crime writing masterclass at Bloody Scotland, or her Saturday event with Belinda Bauer.

But for now, on Day Two of the Bloody Scotland Blog Tour (#BloodyBlogTour on Twitter), Denise Mina becomes the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective, and what is it you love about them?
Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder, largely because he's an extraordinary cypher. Beyond the alcoholism and the personal ticks - tax evasion neatly resolved by tithing, each book feels like a stand-alone because he is so unintrusive to the story, a really genuine investigator. I think it's that lack of judgementalism that makes the books such an easy read.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg. I was far too young to read it but snuck off to a corner and did. I loved the noir setting and the change of tone half way through and the jokes were great too.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) - unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Couple of articles, one for a law school magazine, one for a civil rights magazine. A bit wee bit of a book, abandoned. Really very little indeed.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
Cycling, gorging on box sets and incompetent sewing.

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?
A walk through the lanes of Glasgow. They are behind the buildings full of chain stores and coffee shops, are totally undeveloped and authentic Georgian architecture and smells. I's like lifting the city's vest and hearing it's heart beat. Also, eat a Scotch pie. Then you'll know why we all dies at fifty.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
I'd like Demi Moore but think Dudley would do a better job. If he weren't so dead.

7. Of your writings, which is your favourite, and why?
The next one. Always the next one.

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?
I celebrated by not sleeping for a week and then getting quite ill. It was a shock and I don't know if anyone ever really recovers from it.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
Speaking after Al Gore in Marin County. He's a great warm up act, if you ever get the chance to book him.

I was in Dundee last week and they told me that the last time I was there they drove me to the station because a terrifying looking guy was following me and wouldn't let me go. I have no memory of that at all. Now I'm wondering if that is happening all the time.

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

1 comment:

  1. Great interview ... I love Denise's books and have seen her talk a couple of times, she is such a generous writer and totally charming. Somehow relieved to hear she relaxes sometimes and loves gorging on box sets too ;o) Thanks again.