“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Anna Smith

Yep, it’s rubber-hose time, folks: a rapid-fire Q&A for those shifty-looking usual suspects ...

What crime novel would you most like to have written?
I don’t have one particular crime novel I wish I’d written, because I enjoy a variety of crime – particularly American crime. But anything by Harlan Coben, as I like the way his character Myron Bolitar gets involved in all sorts of scrapes, plus the kind of attitude the character has. I like that style. And I also like anything by Tom Clancy, and the late, great James Crumley.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Impossible to answer that because there are so many brilliant female fictional characters down the years. But the ones who spring to mind as having left a lasting impression are, Sophie Zawistowski, the Polish prisoner in the Nazi concentration camp in SOPHIE’S CHOICE, by William Styron. Incredible character, and when I read that novel for the first time the Sophie character blew me away. Also, the bold Scarlett O’Hara from GONE WITH THE WIND – one of the first women to kick down all the barriers and still be the most amazing woman. And JANE EYRE – all the strength and vulnerability that Charlotte Bronte put into creating that character always makes me feel unworthy, no matter how many times I read the novel or listen to the audio version in the car!

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Any kind of pulp fiction. I would read Jilly Cooper or Jackie Collins – anything that’s a bit of escapism and takes me into a world that’s well outside of mine. Or something that would be make me laugh!

Most satisfying writing moment?
For me, the most satisfying writing moment is while I’m revising my script and I read back a chapter I’ve written, and find myself surprised at how it’s ended. That means when I wrote it I was so absorbed in the characters that it almost wrote itself, and I feel like I’m reading it for the first time. Spooky feeling, but I love it.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
I haven’t read a lot of Irish crime, but I’m enjoying Stuart Neville’s latest novel STOLEN SOULS. I like his style – very pacy and kind of in-your-face. He can paint a character very quickly in few short sentences.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
I think Stuart Neville’s novels with the Lennon detective character would make a great movie.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Best thing about being a writer is freedom to express yourself once you’ve got a character up and running and finding that it’s caught fire with the reader. And when you’re writing a novel, you sit down and look at the blank page of the next chapter and it feels as though these characters you’ve created are waiting to see what they’re going to do next. My characters are very real to me and I love living with them! I don’t have a worst thing about being a writer. I love everything about it, because creating characters and storylines is what makes me tick. I’d have nowhere to go in my life if I didn’t write. Sad, but true!

The pitch for your next book is …?
My next book is called REFUGE and is about refugees in Glasgow who are going missing under very mysterious circumstances, and the journalist character Rosie Gilmour is getting stuck into the investigation. I’m using my experience as a frontline reporter in troublespots all over the world to make the story feel real, and to help create characters with big backstories, who find themselves in Glasgow during a time when the city seems to have refugee fatigue. A lot of the novel is set in Glasgow as I like to retain that with all my novels as it’s my stomping ground. But it’s important to me to take Rosie out of the city and give her big stories all over the world, which is what I did. This investigation takes her to Bosnia, Belgrade and Kosovo, and it’s a ripping story that moves at such an incredible pace it was even hard for me to keep up with it!

Who are you reading right now?
Right now I’m reading a book by Natasha Cooper, called OUT OF THE DARK – very classy and a gripping story.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
If God appeared and says I can only write or read – it would be write. Every time. Writing is about more than putting words on the screen. I write in my head all the time, because I live in my imagination, and so much of what I see I always look further at it, creating characters and stories all the time. If I couldn’t write, I couldn’t think. I’m very lucky.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Compelling. Moving. Tense.

Anna Smith’s TO TELL THE TRUTH is published by Quercus.

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