Wednesday, June 16, 2010

9mm interview with John Connolly

Welcome to the latest instalment in Crime Watch's ongoing series of quickfire author interviews; 9mm - 9 MurderMystery questions put to a variety of New Zealand and international crime, thriller, and mystery authors. I hope you're enjoying the series - it hasn't even been going for three months yet, but we've been building up a remarkable list of participants.

And there are plenty more to come, with 9mm interviews with the likes of Michael Koryta, Mark Gimenez, Roy Vaughn, and PD James all completed and scheduled for publication in the coming days and weeks, and other great authors on the near horizon too. Please let me know if you have a particular favourite author or authors whom you'd really like to see interviewed in this way.

Today, for the 19th in this regular series of quickfire author interviews I fired the 9mm questions at bestselling Irish crime writer John Connolly following his Auckland City Library event earlier this month. Connolly is a very funny, fascinating, and down-to-earth guy. I really enjoyed meeting him (and sharing a drink or two afterwards while we chatted about life, the universe, and crime fiction for a couple of hours).

Connolly is of course the author of the acclaimed and award-winning Charlie Parker series of novels, as well as the young adult/teen/kids' books THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS and THE GATES. He was touring Australia and New Zealand to promote his latest Parker novel, THE WHISPERERS, which was recently released in the Australia, NZ and the UK, and will be coming out in the USA on 13 July. You can read the prologue to THE WHISPERERS here.

For those of you in Ireland, Connolly is appearing alongside Declan Hughes on Saturday (19 June) at the Dalkey Book Festival in Dublin, at an event entitled "10 Crime Novels to Read Before You Die".

But for now, John Connolly stares down the barrel of 9mm...
The Crime Watch 9mm Author Interview: John Connolly

Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?

Ah, probably it’s a tie between Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer - because of that capacity for empathy, that’s important to me - and James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux, who taught me that writing can be very poetic, I think.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
It was a Secret Seven book by Enid Blyton, which I remember reading at the dining table in our sitting room, and I remember struggling because I hadn’t been reading for very long, and I struggled through with words phonetically, and for years afterwards I thought the word ‘cupboard’ was pronounced ‘cup board’ - and my mother must have thought I was like little Lord Fauntleroy, “can we get something from the cup board?”

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Nothing. I’d written for the Irish Times, so I’d been a journalist, but I’d not written fiction. Lots of articles but nothing in terms of fiction, no.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
It doesn’t leave a whole lot of time, to be perfectly honest (chuckling). Ah, I go to the gym because it’s good to get out of the house and to do something so I don’t turn into some kind of vegetable. I actually find - somebody once said that the secret to happiness is to find something you would do as a hobby, and convince somebody to pay you to do it. And given that I’m doing what I probably would have done as a hobby had I been given the opportunity, and had I had ‘a proper job’, I actually don’t begrudge the time I spend doing it. So most of my time, it’s a bit like that Raymond Chandler thing - he was asked what was his writing day like, and he said he spent 6-7 hours a day sleeping, 3 hours a day eating, 4 hours a day writing, and the rest of it thinking about writing. And that’s kind of what my day has become.

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?
They should go to the crypt of St Michan’s Church on the north side of Dublin, where there’s these preserved bodies of these nuns, but also this huge Crusader Knight - they had to break his legs to get him in the coffin - and you can touch his finger. Touching his finger is supposed to be good luck, so you can touch the finger of this mummified Knight... Don’t go kissing rocks...

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Um... my girlfriend is convinced I look like Colin Firth, and I’ve met Colin Firth, and I really don’t, you know (chuckling). So I don’t know - I suspect that they’d pick somebody bug-eyed like Steve Buscemi, you know, “we’re trying to capturing your character not so much your looks” - and I’d think “no, not Steve Buscemi...”

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS, simply because it was very personal, and also because I finished it and thought “that was a good day’s work”. And if you’re - I hate people who separate art and craft, any kind of art, you’re not going to get to judge it, but art comes out of craft. And as a craftsman, sometimes you put the finish, and think “that’s as good as I can do”, and you sleep well after doing that.

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?
I did really mundane things... I paid off my credit card bill. That was how I celebrated, I paid off my credit card bill. I was so fearful that it was all going to be taken away from me, that I think I was afraid to spend any of the money. So I paid it off, and I got an apartment that I could live in and work in. Very mundane things - I don’t think I ever ... now when I send off a book I take my family out to dinner, we’ll do something really simple. It was funny, there was no great splurge of buying things. No Ferrari, I’ve got a second-hand Ford Mondeo.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
I had a woman come up to me once at a signing at a festival, saying ‘I love, I just love your books - I’ve been looking for you all weekend and if you’d please just stay there, I will come back and get my book signed. And she did, and she came back and handed me a copy of Ian Rankin’s BLACK AND BLUE, and said “there you go Mr Rankin, will you sign that for me please?”

Thank you John Connolly. We appreciate you taking the time to talk with Crime Watch.

So what do you think of this 9mm interview? Have you read Connolly’s Charlie Parker books? Or his other novels like THE GATES? Have you met him at author events? What do you think? Thoughts and comments welcome.


  1. Great interview. I want to go to that church in Dublin now.

    Also, I'm dying to know, did John put on a Scottish accent and forge Ian Rankin's autograph!

  2. One thing I always wondered about John was whether he has had a great tragedy in his life. His Charlie Parker novels are so full of sadness that I feel he is writing from some sad personal could be of course that he is just a brilliant writer!