Enthralling crime writers’ session
By Roger Childs
Over 60 people turned out to hear three local crime authors at the Paraparaumu Library on Monday evening.
Christopher Abbey, Penelope Haines and David McGill spoke about how they got into crime writing, the research process, how they work, the importance of characters and plot, and the processes of editing, publishing and marketing.
Their latest books couldn’t be more different:
~ Chris’s A Moment’s Silence is set in Britain where there is an IRA killer on the loose.
~ Penelope’s Death on D’Urville features a woman pilot finding a body on the island.
~ David’s The Plot to Kill Peter Fraser involves Nazis out to assassinate the PM.
How David operates
He did plenty of late 1940s research on Soames Island where German prisoners of war were housed, and on Peter Fraser who was a key figure in setting up the United Nations in San Francisco. The prime minister made plenty of enemies and consequently became a target ….
Previously he had written social history, but in his first crime novel he introduced the world to sleuth, Dan Delaney and he was keen to give him a second outing. Dan, in David’s words, is an ordinary bloke in somewhat extraordinary circumstances.
In doing his research his librarian partner fortuitously grabbed 2000 copies of Truth which the Porirua Library was throwing out. This proved to be a gold mine.
David feels that crime novels attract people because of the interest in good combating evil, and age old questions like can evil be caught? and is an evil person totally evil?
Penelope’s experience and patterns
With a background as a flying instructor, she decided to make her heroine a Paraparaumu-based pilot. Penelope has had experience in picking up people and dropping off supplies to residents on D’Urville Island so this was an ideal setting.
An important part of her research was talking to police on what happens when someone discovers a body in a remote place and how the subsequent crime-solving process unfolds.
Flyer Claire Hardcastle will actually be featuring in a trilogy: number two in the series – Straight and Level – come out in July, and number three is just underway.
Penelope writes from 5.00am until she has to go to work: she finds this a magic time. In crafting her books she starts with the story, but finds that her characters progressively bend the plot. She enjoys developing the story which includes a certain amount of cut and paste of life experiences and conversations.
She feels that people like the puzzle element: the who done it? in crime stories and have a curiosity about how stories will unfold.
Chris Abbey: a crime writer come lately
He was brought up in South Africa and never intended to become an author. However in the 1990s his company in New Zealand sent him to a creative writing course with Dame Fiona Kidman. This got him going.
The catalyst for A Moment of Silence was looking out a bus window in the Netherlands in 1990 and seeing two rifles on the back seat of a car.
Chris has found the Encyclopedia Britannica a very good source for basic research. As regards the editing process, he feels it’s essential to use professionals. His book started at 143,000 words and ended up at 93,000!
David and Penelope also emphasized the importance of editing in getting the language right and not leaving loose ends flapping in the breeze: what happened to the cat?
A very satisfying evening
Everyone in the audience thoroughly enjoyed the forum which was well chaired by Nick Ward, and included plenty of humour and anecdotes.