Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Carol Burnett and desert hiking: an interview with TJ Newman

Kia ora and haere mai, welcome to the latest instalment of our 9mm interview series, back in 2021 after a hiatus last year. This author interview series has now been running for over a decade, on and off, and today marks the 230th overall edition. 

Thanks for reading over the years. I've had tonnes of fun chatting to some amazing writers and bringing their thoughts and stories to you. 

My plan is to to publish a few dozen new 9mm author interviews this year. You can check out the full list of of past interviewees here. Some amazing writers.

If you've got a favourite crime writer who hasn't yet been featured, let me know in the comments or by sending me a message, and I'll look to make that happen for you. Even as things with this blog may evolve moving forward, I'll continue to interview crime writers and review crime novels.

Today I'm very pleased to welcome to Crime Watch an author you're going to be hearing a lot about in the coming weeks and months. Why? Well, because both the story she's written and the story behind the story are deeply compelling. Arizona booklover TJ Newman worked as a flight attendant for a decade, criss-crossing the United States on red-eye routes for Virgin America and Alaska Airlines. 

She'd harboured dreams of being a writer since she was a kid, and had started and not finished novels plenty in the past. Then one day at 35,000 feet a thought struck her. TJ was blocking the cockpit door – a safety precaution whenever it has to be opened – and looking out over the passengers in the cabin.

"That’s when I had the idle thought of like, ‘all these people, their lives, my life, the crews lives, all of these lives are in the hands of the pilot’," said TJ in a recent interview we did for an upcoming large feature in Good Reading magazine in Australia. "And with that much power and responsibility, how vulnerable does that make a commercial pilot?"

TJ just couldn’t shake the idea, which evolved over several days to a specific ‘what if?’ scenario. So, she posed the central question to a captain she was flying with: what would he do if his family was taken and he was told mid-flight that if he didn’t crash, they’d be killed?

The look on his face terrified TJ, she told me, because she knew he didn't have an answer. He didn't know what he would do. "In that moment, I knew I had the makings of my first novel."

After plenty of hard work crafting her manuscript, TJ has become THE hottest author of the northern hemisphere summer. FALLING has been getting rave reviews from some of the very biggest names in the business, the screen rights have already sold, and readers around the world are hanging out to have a read themselves. They're in for a treat. While too many much-hyped books can sometimes be a bit 'meh', this one is not. As I've said for an upcoming review for a magazine Downunder: 

"FALLING is terrifically tense and action-packed. It’s a rip-snorting read where TJ delivers seat-edge excitement that goes beyond her book’s high-concept hook. There are some lovely character touches and insights into the inner workings of the aviation industry, textured with broader socio-political issues."

FALLING is released in Australia and New Zealand today, and will be out in the UK and the United States in the next few weeks. If you like white-knuckle thrillers, this is a must-read. 

But for now, TJ Newman becomes the latest crime writer to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


1. Who is your favorite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
Nancy Drew. Reading those books as a little girl made a bigger impression on me than I think I ever realized. 

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?  
There's a stack of picture books at my parent's house that were mine when I was a child. Books that they used to read aloud to me. And any time I pick one up now, I feel the sensation of being loved. I think I equated reading as an act of love since before I could even read. 

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
My hard drive is full of short stories and unfinished novels - most of which no one else has laid eyes on - but FALLING is my first published work. 

4. Outside of writing and writing-related activities (book events, publicity), what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I love to travel. Watch and attend sporting events (especially baseball). Patron the theatre or the movie theatre. Hike and camp. And eat good food and drink good wine with those I love. 

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?
Hike. Desert hiking is a unique experience. (Although it's probably written in all the travel brochures, too.) 

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Carol Burnett. But I only say that because I would give anything to be like Carol Burnett. 

7. Of your writings, which is your favourite or a bit special to you for some particular reason, and why?
I think no matter where my career goes from here, FALLING will always hold a tremendously special spot in my heart. "Firsts" tend to have that effect. 

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?
I drove to my parent's house and we stood in the kitchen and stared at each other in total disbelief. Then I started crying, we opened a bottle of champagne...and then sat down in the living room and continued to stare at each other in disbelief. 

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival? 
The fact that I have my first book signing on the calendar coming up is the most strange and unusual experience! I still can't get over the fact that people will want me to sign a book...a book that I wrote! It's just wild. 

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

You can follow TJ Newman on Twitter. Here's bit more of a look at FALLING: 

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