Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Globetrotting adventures and gruesome romance: an interview with CJ Carver

Kia ora and haere mai, welcome to the sixth instalment of 9mm for 2018, and the 178th overall edition of our long-running author interview series!

Thanks for reading over the years. I've had a lot of fun talking to some amazing crime writers and bringing their thoughts and stories to you. You can check out the full list of of past interviewees here. What a line-up. Thanks everyone.

If you've got a favourite crime writer who hasn't yet been part of the 9mm series, please do let me know in the comments or by message, and I'll look to make that happen for you. We've got a few more interviews with cool writers 'already in the can' that will be published soon, so lots to look forward to over the coming weeks and months.

Today I'm very pleased to welcome one of the 2017 Ngaio Marsh Award finalists, CJ Carver, to Crime Watch. CJ is based in Bath, but spent ten years of her life in Australia and has antipodean roots (she calls herself a 'half-Kiwi'). Her book SPARE ME THE TRUTH, which introduced amnesiac former government operative Dan Forrester, was a finalist in last year's Ngaios. She has since published two further Dan Forrester books, bring her total output to 10 thrillers so far (she previously published three books featuring Australian journalist India Kane, and another three starring ex-British paratrooper Jay McCauley, along with the Alaska-set standalone BENEATH THE SNOW).

CJ won the CWA Debut Dagger in 1999 for her unpublished manuscript that would become BLOOD JUNCTION, the first India Kane tale. Set in the Australian Outback, after publication that book was shortlisted for the Barry Award in the United States, and named one of the best mysteries of the year by Publisher's Weekly. Among her other outdoors pursuits, CJ has been a long-distance rally driver, including driving from London to Saigon, London to Cape Town, and 14,000 miles on the Inca Trail.

But for now, CJ Carver becomes the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
Yikes, that’s a toughie . . . there are so many!  However, having had a think, I do find if I’m hesitating at all in a bookshop and am after a rollicking good read, I’ll go for the latest Jack Reacher. I know I won’t be disappointed as not only do I love Reacher’s quiet calm and strong morals, but I’m guaranteed a tight plot and a fast read.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
When I was a kid, I read all my Dad’s books and since he was addicted to thrillers and adventure stories, I guess it was inevitable I followed suit. Eric Ambler, John le CarrĂ©, Ken FolletT, I gobbled them up, but when I fell on Wilbur Smith they almost paled into insignificance. I didn’t think I’d read such a gripping story. Rampaging through the jungles of East Africa, vanquishing lion and crocodile, falling in love and out was the Courtney family and I loved them all. This trilogy didn’t just get me to Africa, it had a major effect on what I write today.  I love writing action scenes and exploring family conflicts.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I started off by writing travel articles, and because I enjoyed writing so much, I ended up writing a romantic novel, which I sent to the RNA - the Romantic Novelists Association - under their new writer’s scheme. I was thrilled to bits when they told me I had talent and to keep writing, but the downside was I hadn’t apparently quite mastered my genre. I had a car chase scene and a bit of a gruesome scene with a pretty gruesome character that would put most romantic novel readers off. So I went back to the drawing board and wrote a thriller, and since that wasn’t good enough, I then wrote another.

4. Outside of writing, touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I am addicted to travel.  Ethiopia, Mongolia, Peru, Japan . . . I’ve backpacked and rallied cars around the world but the best thing ever was when my husband and I bought a camper van.  This is now my mobile office and library - I love it!  So far, we’ve toured Europe and Norway, heading up through the Arctic Circle and beyond.  There’s nothing I love more than hitting the open road with the luxury of having a bed, bathroom and fridge on board.

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?
Walk to the top of Little Solsbury Hill, an old Iron Age fort that overlooks Bath.  You get the most fantastic views and if it’s a good day, you can watch people flying their kites.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Good grief, what a question!  I’d love to say Angelina Jolie in her Lara Croft role, beautiful and brainy and totally kick ass, and since that’s a total fantasy I’ll stick with it.

7. Of your books, which is your favourite, and why (not which you think is best, but has a special meaning, for whatever reason)? 
I’ll always have a soft spot for my first, BLOOD JUNCTION, not just because it got my writing career launched but when I wrote it, I was missing Australia like mad (I lived there for 10 years) and by setting the story in the baking Aussie outback, it helped me get over my homesickness.

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?
I had to read the message from my agent twice. And then read it again. I can remember feeling disbelief and amazement, followed by the sudden urge to share the good news with someone who knew the long struggle I’d had to get there, so I rang my best friend in Sydney and we shrieked down the phone together.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?

Ages ago, when I was on a panel at Bouchercon in Toronto, a woman in the audience asked me if I’d attended AA - Alcoholics Anonymous. Baffled, I said no, whereupon she proceeded to give me a lecture about denial and that I really MUST go. It transpired she assumed I was an alcoholic because my main character’s parents were alcoholics in BLOOD JUNCTION and she was convinced in order to write about it so believably, that I was one myself.  It was rather disconcerting, I have to admit.

Thank you CJ. We appreciate you chatting to Crime Watch. 

You can learn more about CJ Carver and her thrilling tales at her website, or follow her on Twitter

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