Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Dashing musketeers and deadly kindergartens: an interview with Aoife Clifford

Kia ora and haere mai, welcome to the 25th instalment of 9mm for 2018, and the 197th overall edition of our long-running author interview series!

I've recently returned from the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, which was a wonderful weekend bringing together some of the crime and thriller writing 'tribe' from all over the world. I even did some new 9mm interviews in the 'Big Green Chair', which I'll be sharing with you soon.

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. If you've got a favourite writer who hasn't yet been featured yet, 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 Australian author Aoife Clifford to Crime Watch. As you might guess from the name, Aoife was born to Irish parents (in London, actually), but she grew up in Australia, doing her schooling there in New South Wales and the capital Canberra. She now lives in Melbourne, which is becoming a spring tide for the modern Australian crime wave, with the likes of Jane Harper, Emma Viskic, and Sarah Bailey all hailing from that city too. New queens of crime.

Clifford is the author of the bestselling literary crime debut ALL THESE PERFECT STRANGERS, which was published internationally and longlisted for the ABIA General Fiction Book of the Year and the Voss Literary Prize. Clifford has also won both the two premier short story prizes for crime writing in Australia: the Scarlet Stiletto and S.D. Harvey Ned Kelly Award, among other prizes.

Her second crime novel, SECOND SIGHT, is now out. Here's the blurb:
Eliza Carmody has returned home from the city to work on the biggest law case of her career. The only problem is this time she’s on the ‘wrong side’ – defending a large corporation against a bushfire class action being brought by her former hometown of Kinsale. 
Returning to Kinsale for her case, she witnesses an old friend, Luke Tyrell, commit an act of lethal violence. As the police investigate that crime and hunt for Luke, they uncover bones at ‘The Castle’, a historic homestead in the district. Eliza is convinced that they belong to someone from her past.  
As she is entangled in the investigation, and  is pulled back into youthful friendships and loss, she will question everyone she knows … and everything she thought was true.

Sounds great eh? Well worth grabbing for the TBR pile. But for now, Aoife Clifford becomes the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
I am very fond of the German gumshoe, Bernie Gunther. The author, Philip Kerr, died earlier this year and I’m finding it hard to pick up the current book knowing that there may not be another (rumours are he had finished the next book). If you haven’t met Bernie then there’s an excellent omnibus of the first three books – Berlin Noir – that I highly recommend.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
I’ll go for my first real grownup book rather than a picture book and say Alexander Dumas’s The Three Musketeers. I was given it in fourth grade and read it over and over. It’s a tale of swashbuckling adventure, political intrigue and floppy hats. It also has Milady as the super villain. I still think she is fabulous.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) - unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Twelve years ago, I set myself the New Year’s Resolution of writing a short story. I knew it would be a crime story but also wanted to ‘write what you know’, so I set a murder in the preschool my kids attended. From then I wrote short stories for years and when I finally got my kids to school, started on novels.

4. Outside of writing, touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
Very predictably I am going to say reading – but it’s true. I’m only in this gig for the books.

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?
Melbourne is great so it’s hard to narrow that down to just one thing. Instead I will give you the itinerary I followed on my first night in this city over twenty-five years ago. Have a fabulous meal at Tiamo 2 on Lygon Street, then a scoop of bacio ice-cream (I suggest Pidapipo only a couple of doors up) and finally drop into Readings Carlton to find a good book. Perfect.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Phoebe Waller-Bridge because she has the dark hair and big mouth and I think she’d be a hoot to meet.

7. Of your writings, which is your favourite or particularly special, and why?
That’s hard to choose and you do tend to love the one you’re with so it’s a toss up between the current book I’m writing and the first short story I wrote (as mentioned earlier), "Kill-Dead-Garten". I won the Scarlett Stiletto with that story so it got the whole writing career off to a great start and I still have people tell me they enjoyed it.

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 you get published there are a lot of things outside of your control so I celebrate the milestones where I’ve actually done something e.g. finished a first draft or handed in the novel. It usually involves food and wine.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
My favourite part of any appearance is question time. You never know what’s going to happen next.

One of the best was being on a panel at the Sydney Writers Festival for my first novel All These Perfect Strangers when an older lady from the back of the room got up and berated us vociferously for the last few thrillers she had read (none of them ours) because she had thought the endings were very disappointing. She then asked other audience members to raise their hands if they agreed with her and she got a few supporters. The rebellion was on.

The lovely man, a fellow author, who was running the session turned to me and said, ‘Aoife, maybe you would like to respond to that?’

I still laugh whenever I think about it.

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

You can learn more about Aoife Clifford and her books at her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter

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