Thursday, February 18, 2016

9mm interview: Helen Fitzgerald

Welcome to this week's issue of 9mm, the 139th instalment in the series. A big thanks to everyone involved over the years, from the authors who've kindly given their time to answer the questions, to publishers, readers, and fellow bloggers who've helped set things up, made suggestions of who they'd like to see interviewed, and left comments and feedback. I appreciate all of you. Who would have thought we'd ever be approaching 150 editions of 9mm? Crazy! So many fantastic crime writers.

For a little flashback, if you'd like to read the very first 9mm interview, with the gracious and always entertaining Lee Child, you can do so here.

Today, I'm very pleased to share my recent interview with Helen Fitzgerald, the Aussie-Scot behind what's undoubtedly the most memorable opening line in a long time: "I sucked twelve cocks in Magaluf".

That line has caused a stir, and raised questions relating to the stocking of book, VIRAL, in certain outlets (who incidentally don't have any issue with graphic violence against women in other books, but hey, that's a whole 'nother debate). Having recently read VIRAL, I can say that the line is as appropriate as it is blunt. It sets up a thought-provoking and engaging tale about the Internet's ability to spread raw moments that years ago would have only been witnessed by those present, all across the world, how everyday people judge and respond to images of strangers, and the effect it could have on those involved, and those close to them.

VIRAL is a very good read, one I'd heartily recommend. It's the eleventh book from Fitzgerald, who is also a criminal justice social worker in Glasgow, and originally hails from a small rural town a little north of Melbourne in Australia. She has worked with sex offenders in Barlinnie Prison, and also produced children's educational dramas for BBC Scotland. Those threads of darkness and family weave into her thrillers, which have been described as genre-bending, hard to classify, and more 'Domestic Noir' than classic crime fiction.

Fitzgerald has been praised for her ability to mix the ribald with sociological insights. Her novel THE CRY, longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, was described in the Independent as "Astonishingly good ... utterly harrowing, completely plausible, constantly nerve-shredding ... It plays on the deepest, darkest fears of all parents about their children, and embeds that everyday terror in a plot so up-to-the-minute that you'll swear it's been lifted from the pages of a newspaper".

But for now Fitzgerald becomes the latest crime writer to stare down the barrel of 9mm.

Credit: Ria Fitzgerald

1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
Is it okay if I leave this one? I’m not a series reader…

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. I’m from a huge family, and sibling issues were resolved using biting wit and/or Chinese burns, so I retreated into the happy, kind innocence of the relationships between siblings Jo, Beth, and Frannie. Being constantly hungry, I loved the picnics they made for their trips into the enchanted forest. I wished I could go with them to the Land of Treats or the Land of Take What You Want. I was really disappointed when I watched the movie, Enid, and realised Ms Blyton was pretty awful.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories articles?
I wrote diaries from the age of 14 and only stopped after I had children.  I have about ten of them hidden in a box in the office, filled with shallow bitching and bad poems.

I started writing screenplays when I was pregnant with my second child, and wrote several short films as well as three feature length films. They’re in a box beside the diaries, and will stay there.

4. Outside of writing and touring and promotional commitments what do you really like to do, leisure and activity wise?
I work part time as well as writing, so I’m pretty busy, but I love long walks, eating out, dancing in the kitchen before dinner, dancing at least once a month at a bar with friends, and going away for long weekends with my husband.

5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn’t in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t possibly consider?
Always use taxis in Glasgow. Each trip is a trip to the theatre. Last night I was heading into town with a friend when the back section of our black cab suddenly lit up and we realised the interior was decorated with poetry. The driver turned bagpipe music on and began reciting his odes to Glasgow. He gave me his card afterwards – Poetry in Motion, The Glasgow Cabbie. It’s true that people make Glasgow.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Cate Blanchett, because then I could introduce her to my pal, who has an unhealthy obsession. Also, Cate looks very like me - it’s uncanny.

7. Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
My favourites are the ones I enjoyed writing the most. Equal first would go to The Cry and. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun, or felt so happy, as when I was writing the first drafts of those two.

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 in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
I raced into Waterstones, expecting to feel euphoric to see Dead Lovely on display. But I couldn’t find it anywhere, and eventually mustered the courage to ask the bookseller. I was too embarrassed to tell him I was the author. He hadn’t heard of the book, and looked it up on the computer as a queue of actual customers gathered behind me. I skulked after him to the second floor, where he dug out the only copy in the superstore. I had no option but to buy it.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival? 
(Will book group do?) A friend asked me to come to her book group when she heard Dead Lovely was being published. Weeks after its release, she phoned to say: “The women have said they did not like your book at all – they find it quite crude. We no longer want you to come.”  

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

You can read more about Helen Fitzgerald here. Have you read VIRAL or any of Fitzgerald's other books? What are some of your favourite-ever opening lines? Please share your views. 

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