Friday, October 15, 2010

9mm interview with Donna Malane

Welcome to the latest instalment in Crime Watch's ongoing series of author interviews; 9mm - 9 Murder Mystery questions put to a variety of New Zealand and international crime, thriller, and mystery authors.

We've had a bit of a run of international authors in the 9mm series lately, so I thought that today I would share another New Zealand writer with you. So, for the the 39th instalment in the 9mm series, Crime Watch is talking to Donna Malane, the author behind SURRENDER, which won the inaugural NZSA-Pindar Publishing Prize, and was released last month.

Although SURRENDER (read my review for the New Zealand Herald here) is Malane's first foray into book-based crime fiction, she does have quite a true crime and crime fiction pedigree on the small screen. During her years researching and writing re-enactments for television’s Crimewatch series, Donna had unprecedented access to police files and cases. During that time she formed enduring relationships with police, forensic scientists, lawyers, victims and their families, as well as with the odd (and some not so odd) criminal.

Then, while continuing to write and produce a wide variety of prime-time television dramas and documentaries, Donna continued her interest in and enjoyment of writing crime drama. She wrote for the television police drama series Shark in the Park, the international doco-drama series Indelible Evidence, crime drama series Duggan (for which she won Best Drama Script at the New Zealand Film and Television Awards in 2000) and in 2008 co-wrote and produced the film for television Until Proven Innocent, the story of the wrongful conviction of David Dougherty for the rape and abduction of his 11 year old neighbour. Until Proven Innocent won seven major awards at the 2009 Film and Television Awards, including Best Drama. You can read my review of that telemovie here.

I understand SURRENDER is intended to be the first of a series featuring heroine Dianne Rowe. For those of you in the Wellington area, Malane will be signing copies of SURRENDER at the Whitcoulls Lambton Quay store at 12:30pm.

But for now, Donna Malane stares down the barrel of 9mm.

The Crime Watch 9mm Author Interview: Donna Malane

Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?Kinsey Millhone because she’s so resilient. Kurt Wallander because he’s so bleak. Taggart because he was so grumpy. DCI Jane Tennison because she was so flawed.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
Black Beauty. The chapter in which Ginger dies had me howling for weeks. Actually, the very first book I remember reading was a little ‘first reader’ of Chicken Little. I must have been five I guess. I distinctly remember the first time I read a sentence and I realised that those black squiggles on the page had meaning. That words had the power to make things appear in my imagination. To be honest, the realisation terrified me.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Heaps of television: In the crime genre, Until proven Innocent (90 minute drama). Bloodlines (90 min drama). Duggan (2 x 90 min dramas and 2 x 1hr), Indelible Evidence (2x 1hr doco-dramas). I also wrote the re-enactments for television’s Crime Watch for years. Books; A GIRL'S GUIDE TO RUGBY (humour/sports), ALIENTIME (young adult fiction).

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
Swim. It’s become an unhealthy obsession.

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 visit the dog beach at the airport end of Lyall Bay. At times there’s around 50 or so dogs there having a great time. It’s definitely where dogs go to have fun. But actually, Wellington is my adopted home town. Dunedin is my real home town. It’s where I was born and where my family live. The creepy kelp at St Clair is really worth a look.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Any answer to that question is way too revealing! Okay, well, I identified with Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect but that was probably more to do with Lynda LaPlante’s writing as Helen’s acting. Still, I’d be pretty happy to have Helen play me.

Of your writings, which is your favourite, and why?
That would have to be Surrender. It’s only been on the shelves for a [couple of weeks] so I think it deserves to be my favourite.

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 felt it didn’t belong to me anymore. While I was writing Surrender, I kept it very private. Hardly anyone knew I was writing it and I didn’t ask anyone to read the manuscript until it was finished. Even then I didn’t really want to share it. When I saw the published book in the shops I thought it belongs to readers now, not me. It is a bit like watching your child head off into the school playgrounds for the first time. You know they’ve gone off into the world and you hope like hell people like and are nice to them. And you hope they don’t get run over by a bus or picked on by bullies...

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
When I was signing books at the launch in Auckland this week, someone asked me to write ‘thanks for the great shag’ in their copy.

Thank you Donna Malane We really appreciate you taking the time to talk with Crime Watch.


So what do you think of this 9mm interview? Have you read SURRENDER? Or seen any of Malane's TV projects? Do you like the sound of crime fiction set in the seedier side of Wellington? I'd love to read your comments. Please share your thoughts.


  1. Craig - Thanks for this interview. I really have been enjoying learning about crime fiction authors this way. I had to laugh when I read Donna's answer to your question about where tourists should go. We've got two dog beaches in our area, and they are fantastic places for those of who love dogs. And everyone keeps telling me how great Dunedin is; I hope to visit sometimes.

  2. Great interview. I read Surrender last week and loved it. I was even inspired to blog a review of it although I'm far from a confident or practised reviewer.

    I'm thrilled to hear that there's more Diane Rowe books planned for the future. I hope Surrender is the big success it deserves to be both in NZ and overseas.