Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Hungry Caterpillars and Volcano Views: an interview with Nathan Blackwell

Kia ora and haere mai, welcome to another instalment of 9mm, the 210th overall edition of our popular and long-running author interview series.

Thanks for reading over the years. I've had tonnes of fun chatting to some amazing writers and bringing their thoughts and stories to you.

You can check out the full list of of past interviewees here. If you've got a favourite crime writer who hasn't yet been featured, let me know in the comments or by message, and I'll look to make that happen for you.

Today I'm very pleased to welcome a fresh voice in antipodean noir, Nathan Blackwell, to Crime Watch. A man of mystery, Nathan Blackwell is the pseudonym of a former undercover cop and police detective in New Zealand, who has written an outstanding debut crime novel, THE SOUND OF HER VOICE, which was published by Orion in the UK and beyond last week. It's a masterful tale about Detective Matt Buchanan's descent into the abyss over the course of his twenty-year career, as he's haunted by the disappearance of a young woman from his earliest days as a cop, THE SOUND OF HER VOICE has garnered terrific reviews, and is particularly praised for its authenticity.

It was originally self-published in New Zealand, and garnered great reviews and media coverage due to the quality of the storytelling and its grim look into the realities faced by, and impact on, law enforcement when they're dealing with violent crime and constant stress throughout their careers.

The book went on to become a finalist in two categories of the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards, with the judges saying THE SOUND OF HER VOICE had "everything you want in a book about a cop who realises the system sometimes can't mete out the right justice" and that the book "probes what exposure to violent crime does to those who investigate the worst of human behaviour".

Following the release of THE SOUND OF HER VOICE in the UK, Nathan Blackwell will be appearing onstage at Newcastle Noir on 5 May - a great chance for crime fans to learn more about this mysterious author who's burst onto the crime scene with a really strong, gritty debut.

But for now Nathan Blackwell becomes the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
Batman. Hands down. He's human, he's got a pretty dark backstory, and he doesn't have any super powers. I've enjoyed him since I was a kid through until Christopher Nolan's trilogy and beyond. Always something new, but you know what you're getting.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
The Hungry Caterpillar. Man, that guy could eat! But I think the Famous Five, the Hardy Boys and the Three Investigators were the first books I really got into as a kid. It was the adventure that grabbed me, and the idea of having a mystery to solve. I guess they made an impression!

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) - unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Absolutely nothing ... I nearly failed English at high school. Couldn't write essays or fiction to save myself. But I think my problem was I needed to write about something I was into ... something that I knew a bit about, and a genre I enjoyed.

4. Outside of writing, touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I don't get to do any of these as much as I'd like ... lack of time and money get in the way! But I love getting out into the bush, I love scuba diving (anything on or in the water really), and I have a private pilot's licence so flying would be number one. Aviation has been in the blood since I was a kid, and being up in the air is like nothing else.

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?
It is definitely in the tourist brochures, but c'mon it's Auckland, not Rome! Take the ferry to Rangitoto island and walk to the summit. Do one better and kayak, and include a sunset in your trip. The view of Auckland city and the Hauraki Gulf from the top of the old concrete bunker on the summit is incredible.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Eric Bana or Christian Bale. They're both handsome guys. No seriously ... probably Marlon Brando, Carey Grant, or Humphrey Bogart. Because to be playing me, in a movie about me, things would have to be pretty dire. As in you'd already be dead.

7. Of your writings, which is your favourite or particularly special, and why?
Definitely my fifth form English essay where I misquoted something from King's 'Stand By Me' in a question about Piers Paul Read's 'Alive'. I mean they're pretty similar stories. Same genre. Same everything really.

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 bookseller’s shelf?
When Mary, Sophia and Anna from Mary Egan Publishing took on the project and gave me some great feedback, I was blown away just thinking that other people liked it! Seeing it on the shelves was odd ... I felt like an imposter next to people that could truly write. When the book was picked up by Orion, and Craig phoned me to give me the news ... I think I s**t my pants.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
The time my girlfriend went up to Lee Child at a book signing in Auckland, and said "Hi Lee, enough about you, see that guy in front of me whose book you just signed? He's an author too. You should read his book." How embarrassing.

Thank you Nathan. We appreciate you chatting to Crime Watch

Nathan Blackwell will be appearing on the 'Do You Come From A Land Down Under' panel at Newcastle Noir at 11.30am on Sunday 5 May. His highly acclaimed debut, THE SOUND OF HER VOICE, is now widely available in ebook, audiobook, and trade paperback. Check it out at your favourite bookstore. 

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