Monday, August 15, 2016

Shipwrecked sailors and Buenos Aires theatre: a 9mm interview with Claudia Piñeiro

Welcome to the latest issue of 9mm, the long-running author interview series here on Crime Watch. At the end of May we hit the 150 interviews mark, and I took a moment to reflect on all the authors who have been interviewed thusfar (full list here), and where I could take 9mm in future.

As some of you may have seen on Twitter or Facebook, I conducted several 9mm interviews at the recent Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, so there'll be plenty more instalments being published in the coming weeks. I've really enjoyed interviewing so many fascinating crime writers from all over the world, and hearing their stories about books, writing, and broader life. I hope you have too.

Today I'm very pleased to share an interview with Argentina's bestselling crime writer, Claudia Piñeiro. I briefly met Claudia at Crimefest in Bristol in May (her first trip to the United Kingdom), where she was a star on panels addressing obsession in crime and setting stories in the recent past.

Claudia Piñeiro is an award-winning writer who delves into Argentine society across a number of forms: journalism, plays, television, and her outstanding literary crime novels. The latter have been translated into several languages, and thanks to Bitter Lemon Press (who helped set up this interview after Crimefest - kia ora guys), four of her crime tales are available for English-speakers to enjoy.

As well as being engaging thrillers, Piñeiro's novels are thought-provoking examinations of society and human nature. In Betibú (Betty Boo), a crime journalist partners with a famous writer to uncover the background behind a murder in a gated community, and Piñeiro puts the media under the microscope. In Las grietas de Jara (A Crack in the Wall), a jaded architect has his stagnant life upturned by the arrival of a young woman who has ties to a past crime the architect was involved in. That novel was longlisted for the International Impac Dublin Literary Award 2015.

Piñeiro has won several awards for her writing, at home in Argentina and for the various translations abroad. But for now, she becomes the latest crime writer to stare down the barrel of 9mm.

Claudia Piñeiro at the Crimefest bookstore

1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero, and what do you love about them?
I really like Wallander, the creation of Henning Mankell. I like the imperfections in his character. Things don’t always go well in his world, for example in his love life or with his daughter. And that makes him more human, more credible. I could be friends with Wallander. I also very much like the characters created by Muriel Spark, especially the elderly cast of her novel Memento Mori.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
Leaving aside childhood reading, I think Gabriel García Márquez’s The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor is the book that made me a reader. A teacher in secondary school recommended it to me and at the time I thought ‘how could I be less interested in the account of a man who gets lost at sea?’ But soon after I began it I was hooked and that taught me that it’s not the subject matter that counts but the writing itself and the writer’s skill in telling things, whatever they may be.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything): unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I had written television scripts, plays for theatre, articles and children’s books.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
The pastime that really makes me happiest is going to the theatre. I’m lucky to live in a city, Buenos Aires, where the daily offering of theatre is tremendous, there is always something good to see. I also like singing and dancing - but I seem to be getting worse at that.

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?
Go to the theatre, definitely. And not only to the commercial shows, but to fringe theatre, too. For example in Buenos Aires at the moment there is an excellent show that takes place in a working garage - in the mornings they’re fixing cars there.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Well!! If the budget’s no object, I’d love it to be Julianne Moore.

7. Of your writings, which is your favourite, and why?
I always choose the most recent. Just as, with children, one tries to protect the youngest. In this case it would be Una Suerte Pequeña (A Little Luck)

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?
The first thought that came into my mind was: ‘At last’. Because one doesn’t publish at the first attempt. And sometimes the journey is hard and rather dispiriting. So that ‘at last’ meant, this has been worth all the effort, worth the work, worth waiting.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
After presenting one of my novels (A Crack in the Wall) at a festival, a member of the audience came up to tell me that he had bought a copy. I quipped ‘Well, I hope now you’ve bought it you’ll read it’. He answered: ‘Yes, if I buy, I read. This will be the second novel I’ve read in my life’. I thought, what a shame that this man has read so little, but I didn’t say anything. Then immediately he added: ‘I’d like to ask for your advice: I’ve written ten novels, do you know which publisher I could send them to, to get them published?’ That was the strangest thing that has happened to me at a literary event - to meet someone who had only read one book in his life and might read a second, and yet who had written ten novels that he thought good enough to be published. I don’t think I’m wrong to assume that they couldn’t have been: nobody who hasn’t read much can write well.

Thank you Claudia. We appreciate you chatting to Crime Watch

Read more about Claudia Piñeiro and her books at Bitter Lemon's website, and you can follow her on Twitter.

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