We have an international line-up for you on Tuesday 7th May. As well as our two UK authors, Mark Billingham and Deborah O’Connor, Chris Carter will be flying in from the other side of the Pond. But Vanda Symon is coming from the other side of the world, all the way from NZ! Vanda writes the Sam Shepherd police procedural series and Orenda Books has published the first two here in the UK – Overkill and The Ringmaster. I was fortunate to take part in the blog tour for The Ringmaster and you can read my review here.
Since Vanda is making such a long journey to be with us, I thought it would be good to find out a bit more about her and her books.
So Vanda, how did you get into this Crime writing business?
My children drove me to a life of crime. Seriously! I embarked upon my dream of writing when I had a six month-old and a two year-old. I knew I wanted to write but was not sure what to write, as I loved historic fiction as well as crime fiction. In the end it came down to a pragmatic decision on how practical it was going to be to do the research. Researching historic fiction required going to libraries, museums and archives, which were not fond of babies and their abilities to make noise, poo and spew. Researching crime fiction was far more accessible, so crime won. And I have absolutely no regrets!
Why did you decide to write police procedurals and how did you create Sam Shepherd?
Police procedurals seemed like the natural thing to do at the time. My husband’s step-dad was a retired police detective and he had some pretty interesting stories, and I also loved to read detective fiction. Sam Shephard originally started out as a man, yep, can you imagine? I had started writing Overkill from the perspective of a male detective, and I admit I was struggling to find his voice. Then one day my husband did something completely dumb-nut, and I thought – I don’t even understand the man I married, how the hell do I think I can write from the viewpoint of a man. So, I thought bugger this, and changed him to a her, and lo and behold, Sam Shephard (the woman) arrived fully formed and full of the insecurities and sass that we love.
In Overkill, you had a small town setting but you’ve moved to the big city for The Ringmaster. What have been the pros and cons for the location change?
I do miss the small town setting of Mataura, and the intensity of the relationships between people that small town claustrophobia brings. But Sam did need to move on from being a small town girl, to finding her way in a larger pond. This stretches and develops her as a character, and also the city setting brings a different range of crime when taking the long term view across a series. Dunedin for me is the perfect location, as it is not a big city by any international standards, but it is for her. It combines the scale needed for her to feel slightly adrift, but still has the friendliness and that ‘everyone knows everyone’ vibe.
Are there any differences between New Zealand Crime books and British ones?
At the heart of all crime fiction is human drama, and human drama is universal, so there will always be commonalities. Where the differences come in are in the physical locations (and I love that my publisher Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books has given me carte blanche to go for broke on the “Kiwiness” of a New Zealand setting) and the cultural psyche of a country. New Zealanders have a particular way of approaching life that is low key and doesn’t take itself too seriously. We embrace our Maori culture, as well as the vast array of cultures that make up our people. We try to be as inclusive as possible, even if we don’t always succeed, and I think on the whole we are an optimistic nation. Hopefully this comes through in the novels.
On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you about appearing at First Monday Crime?
A thermo-nuclear 10!
Thanks Vanda for answering my questions!
If you haven’t yet booked, it’s not too late to reserve your seat! Just click here.
And remember it’s a Tuesday and not a Monday!
About The Author
Vanda Symon is a crime writer, TV presenter and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. The Sam Shepherd series has hit number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best crime novel. She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.