Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Musical pilgrimages and sexy Daleks: an interview with Marnie Riches

Kia ora and haere mai, welcome to the 18th instalment of 9mm for 2018, and the 190th 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 several further 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 edgy British crime writer Marnie Riches to Crime Watch. I've met Marnie at several crime fiction festivals since I moved to the UK, and we actually did the 9mm interview in 'the big red chair' at Harrogate in 2016. Unfortunately I misplaced a couple of notebooks soon after that, including the one with Marnie's interview. Earlier in May, while doing house renovations, I found them. So here we are, almost two years later, finally sharing our interview. Marnie and I have gone over it all again, with a few minor updates, but most of it is original.

Marnie grew up on a 'rough estate' in Manchester, and had a diverse resume before becoming a published author: "a punk, a trainee rock star, a pretend artist, and professional fundraiser". She wrote books for children before delving deep into the darker side with her award-winning Georgina McKenzie series, starring a black criminologist battling all sorts of nastiness in Amsterdam. Why Amsterdam? Marnie earned a Masters degree in Modern & Medieval Dutch and German while at Cambridge University, and spent time in The Netherlands as a student. More recently Marnie has also added a new series, set deep in the gangland life and criminal empires of her home city.

But for now Marnie Riches becomes the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm (well, she first did much of it a couple of years ago, but you know what I mean... )


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
I’d have to say Lisbeth Salander. Stieg Larsson’s books were the reason I got into crime fiction. My favourite book had been SILENCE OF THE LAMBS because of Hannibal Lecter - I like the baddies. There was a dearth of kickass female characters, but I’m a linguist and was married to a Scandinavian so was interested in Larsson’s books (from quite early).

Eventually I felt Lisbeth was a bit too much of a victim for my liking, but I did like her punk attitude. Though at times she feels like a boy’s fantasy of a tough woman. She was the reason I turned from children’s writing to writing crime.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
I guess the first books that really meant anything to me were the CS Lewis Narnia books. Maybe that’s why as an adult I like high concept books – they’re full of action but underpinned by a message. They may be old-fashioned nowadays, and I cannot really get into the religious stuff, but they’re just good storytelling.

For me there has to be action, a lot going on, a great story, really strong story. I can’t do quiet books. CS Lewis was also great at describing location. His backgrounds were vivid. I think in crime fiction you mustn’t undervalue your locations.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Well, THE GIRL WHO WOULDN’T DIE was about my fourteenth manuscript. I’d had six children’s books (7+ years old) published - the “Time-Hunters” series, historical fiction and fantasy for kids. The rest I’d written was practice really. Years ago, I used to be in a band, so I wrote some shit lyrics (laughing).

4. Outside of writing, touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
Oh Jesus, I don’t really … um… when I can afford it, I like to travel, go to faraway destinations and sit on a beach or look at archaeological things. I like to go out with friends and have a drink and a laugh. Go see some comedy or bands. Though I don’t see bands as much nowadays because I don’t like standing up for two hours.

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 wandering around the Northern Quarter and go to Affleck’s Palace, which is a cool thing for music lovers. It’s a big building with lots of vintage stalls. Part of the Manchester experience is to go to all the independent music stores. You’ve got the history of all the Smiths, the Stone Roses, the Happy Mondays … go get some lunch in Chinatown. It’s generally a place of musical pilgrimage. You can go out a drink and see people like Johnny Marr, Shaun Ryder... These are living legends.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
I don’t know, because you know what, a lot of the British actresses on TV are a bit anodyne. They’re all skinny waifs. It’s hard to think of someone mouthy and with an edge. I can’t think of anyone. I guess when God made me they broke the mold! It would have to be an unknown. My humour is not particularly shy or retiring.

7. Of your books, which is your favourite or a bit special, and why?
THE GIRL WHO BROKE ALL THE RULES, my second of the Georgina McKenzie books. There’s an awful lot of reasons. I plotted it really tightly. There’s a lot of layers – I think that’s my gold standard of writing a clever page-turner. It is quite violent. It has my homage to Hannibal Lecter in it - Silas Holm - who does terrible things to people. I suppose that book was me showing off. I've just published THE GIRL WHO GOT REVENGE and of course, my Manchester series came out in the last 18 months. I often think the thing I've most recently written is my favourite story!

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?
It was difficult because I have a black criminologist as a main character. It took a long time to get agent representation, then to get a deal. By the time it all got signed, I was like “thank fuck for that!” It was like doing a really difficult poo. My agent and I went out and celebrated, had champagne. It felt like I’d legitimately arrived as an author, getting a three-book deal, as I’d been writing for nearly ten years and had paid my dues. I'm seven adult thrillers in, now but signing a new contract still feels like something to celebrate in style!

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
I think… I always have some kind of tale to tell, but often ones that can’t be repeated. One I can tell you is where I was told by Carnegie medal winning children's author, Melvin Burgess, that I was like a sexy Dalek in my platform stilettos because like the Daleks, I couldn't get up stairs! There’s always great hilarity that goes on at these events.

Thank you Marnie, we appreciate you chatting to Crime Watch. 

You can discover more about Marnie and her books at her website. You can also follow her on Twitter.

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