Today I am delighted to welcome Susan Moody to my blog.
Susan’s Penny Wanawake series has recently been reissued by Williams and Whiting.
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
My Penny Wanawake series – newly reissued by dynamic new publisher Williams & Whiting – propelled me into the ranks of crime-writing some thirty plus years ago, where I’ve happily remained ever since. In that time, I’ve produced more than thirty-five books, mostly crime, including a second series character called Cassandra Swann (soon to be re-published by W&W), plus many stand-alones and short stories. I’ve served as Chair of the Crime Writers Association, President of the International Association of Crime Writers, Visiting Fellow at the University of Tasmania, Visiting Fellow at the University of Copenhagen, Writing Tutor at HMP Bedford. I recently founded the hugely successful one-day crime fiction event Deal Noir, and will be hosting our third one on March 25th 2017.
Penny Wanawake is tall, feisty, and black. She walks down the mean streets and takes no crap from anyone. I originally intended her to be the female answer to James Bond and other macho heroes, going where she pleased, sleeping with whomsoever she wished, but had to tone that down with the advent of AIDS.
I’m often asked about the genesis of Penelope Wanawake. It began when I found myself living in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in the Sixties. This was at the beginning of the civil rights movement, when at last people were waking up to the unjustices of a system which allowed the rights of the black population to be ignored. These were the years of civil disobedience as exemplified by Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus so a white person could have it. She wasn’t the first to refuse to do so, but she became an important symbol of the movement. Then came the atrocious killing of three young civil rights workers in Mississippi. In Oak Ridge, black people couldn’t buy a house in a ‘white’ area. They couldn’t swim in the same public pools ort sattend the same schools. My husband and I joined the NAACP (the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) and held several meetings in our house. The Klan came into town, their faceless hoods a terrifying sight calculated to strike fear into the heart. We were watched.
Came the day we were sitting – with the blinds down – in our sitting room when we noticed a weird light shining from outside. We drew the blinds aside and discovered that a cross was burning on our front lawn. This was seriously scary stuff. Even more so was the incident when I pulled up at traffic lights, heavily pregnant and with my toddler in the back. Suddenly, a jeep screeched to a halt alongside me and when I looked over at it, there were four grinning rednecks staring at me, each one of them with a rifle across his knees, pointing at me.
When I got back to England, creating the character of Penny seemed almost an obligation.
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
I might use a beard here, a quirky mannerism there, but most often, characters step more or less fully formed into my head.
How do you pick your characters names?
With great difficulty. The name has to be right. I’ve sometimes written as much as a third of a book knowing the character shouldn’t be called Jeremy or Alicia, but unable to fix on the ‘right’ name. It’s like having a stone in your shoe or a crumb in your bed. Only once it’s sorted, does everything fall properly into place.
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
In a nutshell, it’s bum on seat, fingers on keys, as early as possible (sometimes 5 in the morning in summertime), and slogging on until 2 pm or so. I try to write at least 1,000 words a day, but don’t always achieve that. Of course I get up from time to time to make tea and take a break from the screen.
Do you have a favourite author?
I have many. Impossible to come up with just one. Dickens, Austen, Susan Hill, Anita Shreve, Lee Child, Edmund Crispin, Simon Brett (the Charles Paris novels), Harlan Coben. The book I can’t do without is Vanity Fair, by Thackeray. I buy copies all the time, in case I should find myself without one.
If you could meet any author, who would it be? And what would you ask them?
Probably Thackeray. What an achievement, to produce a heroine (or anti-heroine) as feisty and strong as Becky Sharp, the prototype for all the lively spirited protagonists you find in contemporary crime literature. She’s also ruthlessly amoral and manipulative, somewhat over-painted, in my opinion, so that by the end of the book, she has completely lost any sympathy the reader might have for her. But where did she come from? Was her character based on someone he knew? Was dreary little Amelia Sedley intended as a role-model for Thackeray’s female readers? I do hope not. As for Dobbin, no woman should be without a Dobbin in her life.
Were you a big reader as a child?
I did nothing but read, had to be dragged away from the printed page. Used to read walking in the street until the day I hit a lamp-post and nearly concussed myself.
When did you start to write?
Aged 8, I produced an album of stories and pictures and tried to flog it (unsuccessfully) to my family for 3d.
What are you working on right now?
The third book in the Alexandra Quick series
When can we look forward to a new release?
In September the second book in the series Quick Off The Mark comes out.
How can readers keep in touch with you?
Go to my website: http://www.SusanMoody.co.ukPublisher: Williams & Whiting (15th February 2016)
Buy your copy here – Penny Black (The Penny Wanawake Mysteries Book 1)
Many thanks to Susan for joining me on my blog today 🙂