Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Interview with noir/crime author Julia Madeleine

One thing I've learned about the writing community as I've taken this journey to publication is that it's filled with some very cool, interesting people. The stories of some of these authors would rival the stories in their books, and over the past couple of years I have made connections and struck up friendships with people I would never have imagined.

One of those people is noir/crime author Julia Madeleine. A tattoo artist from north of the border, Madeleine owns a small business with her husband, and in her down time writes some of the most dark and disturbing fiction you will find this side of your trusty Edgar Allan Poe collection.

Julia Madeleine was a finalist for a 2011 Derringer Award this past spring, and her second novel, NO ONE TO HEAR YOU SCREAM, is available now. She has very bravely agreed to join me for an interview, despite my well-known penchant for putting authors through the ringer. Or at least asking them a few questions.

You are the Canadian daughter of Irish immigrant parents, and the plot of NO ONE TO HEAR YOU SCREAM is driven by Irish expatriate gang member Rory Madden. How much of your real-life upbringing is reflected in your work?

As a kid I heard (and overheard) a great deal about the Troubles in Belfast from my parents, and Grandparents when they visited from Ireland. So that, and listening to my parents Irish lingo all my life, making my bad guy from over there was quite instinctive I think. I’d wanted to make the antagonist a foreigner and what better foreigner than one you’re familiar with. At least the Irish part. Unfortunately there were no actual gang members in my family or I’d have moved in with them and taken over their sofa while writing this manuscript.

Your first book, SCARLET ROSE, was published by Black Heart Books in 2008. How long have you known you wanted to write crime fiction, and what prompted you to finally try?

You know I never set out to try and write in that thriller/crime-fiction genre. In my teens and my early twenties I was into horror; Anne Rice, Stephen King, Koontz. I wrote a lot of supernatural type stories at the time. Then in college my tastes in fiction evolved. When I got the idea for Scarlet Rose, about fifteen years ago, I was more into reading literary fiction. Yet here I was creating these really dark characters and writing about murders. I just didn’t realize it was crime fiction until much later when someone actually pointed it out to me.

There are some outstanding female crime fiction writers, but as a woman writing in this field, you are definitely in the minority. Who are some of the writers you consider role models?

My writing role models are not so much in the crime fiction genre. I’m sure my greatest influences have been Mary Gaitskill, Heather O’Neill, Janet Fitch, Evelyn Lau, Joyce Carol Oates. Wow, those are all women. Ok, well I did read a lot of Poe and King growing up. So I’m sure they’ve been an influence on me as they have with a lot of writers.

What is your favorite part of the writing process? What is your least-favorite?

Creating the story, when ideas just flow with ease. That’s really exciting. My least favourite aspect of writing would be reading and re-reading the same passages over and over looking for type-os. It’s maddening. I have nightmares about misspelled words hiding in my sentences. I swear they crop overnight like weeds.

Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what would be a couple of typical songs you might have playing in the background while penning stories of murder and mayhem?

I listen to classical music when I write because it’s unobtrusive. I love the cello and in particular Yo-Yo Ma. He’s an amazing musician. I also love listening to Andrea Bocelli. It sets the perfect mood for me.

As a 2011 Derringer Award Finalist for excellence in short mystery fiction, you obviously write a mean short story. Which gives you greater satisfaction, writing novels or short stories?

Short stories are like instant gratification. I really enjoy writing flash fiction. It appeals to my short attention span. But I think writing novel length manuscripts are far more rewarding. I enjoy character development and it’s difficult to get deep into a character in a short piece the way you can with full length novels. Sometimes I like writing short stories as a distraction from working on my manuscript because, quite frankly, it’s a hell of a lot of work. Having said that, the manuscript I’m currently working on is all consuming and it’s got me really fired up so I’m trying hard not to take any time away from it to write short stories. But those flash pieces are like chocolate brownies when you’re on a diet; hard to resist.

What’s next in the pipeline for Julia Madeleine?

This would be the manuscript that’s got me all fired up like nothing else I’ve written. Recently I had this crazy dream—a nightmare that woke me up in the middle of the night. My first thought was, wow that would make a great story! And then my next thought was no, it’s way too scary for me to write. Like Silence Of The Lambs scary. When I told my husband about the dream, he said it was such a great idea I’d be crazy not to write it. So with a little push from him, I’m now writing that story and it’s scaring the hell out of me. So much so that one afternoon I spotted the same kind of vehicle that the bad guy in my story drives around in, parked outside my work and I actually gasped. My husband laughs at me. But it’s cool when I tell people the premise and they get these physical reactions of revulsion, it’s like a compass that shows me I’m on the right track. I’m having a lot of fun with it.

Hypothetical situation #1: You are marooned on a desert island but before your ship sinks, you’re allowed to grab one book of your choosing. What book would that be?

A thesaurus. I couldn’t live without one.

Hypothetical situation #2: You are given a choice by the Gods of Publishing. Your books can either bring you tremendous monetary wealth or they can be universally acclaimed as outstanding by the critics. Which do you choose, and why?

I’d definitely choose wealth over fame. While receiving critical acclaim would of course be fantastic and I would certainly be honoured if my writing ever received awards, greatness in the publishing industry has never been my ambition. Farley Mowat, who’s an icon of Canadian literature, recently said in an interview that he’s given up writing to paint houses because there’s more money in it. He’s 89. And he said he figures he can make more money painting three houses a year than if he wrote three best sellers. Now, while I do find that statement astonishing given the success some authors are having with eBooks., it’s an interesting example of how being an award winning author (he’s received the Governor General’s Award and a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame), doesn’t necessarily equate with book sales. Maybe Farley Mowat would have had more monetary success writing crime fiction.

So, yeah, give me the money. Because when I’m 89 I plan on chilling on a cruise ship sucking back Margaritas while Speedo-wearing Pool Boy dances for me between foot massages. The only paint brush I’ll be picking up will be to polish my nails.

What are you reading right now? What’s next on your “To Be Read” list?

Currently I’m reading Diane Fanning’s true crime book Mommy’s Little Girl, about the Caylee Anthony case. I’ve also just started reading Frank Duffy’s Mountains Of Smoke and it’s awesome. And I’m just about to start reading Jenn Ashworth’s new book Cold Light. I read her debut A Kind Of Intimacy last year and loved it. I’d like to read more Andrew Vachss. I just recently discovered him and I really like his style. I’ve also got Final Vector on my to-read list.

Thanks for taking the time to visit A Thrill a Minute. Any last words of wisdom you’d like to share with my thousands hundreds dozens handful of readers?

Thanks for having me, Allan. I’d like everyone to know what a great writer and a really cool guy you are.

I'd like to point out, I didn't ask beg Julia for that compliment at the end of the interview and I don't have any evidence of some deep, dark secret from her past that I threatened to go public with. She's just that nice. Or that warped, I'll leave it up to you to decide.
I'm in the middle of reading NO ONE TO HEAR YOU SCREAM right now, and I will be posting a review when I've finished, but it's fair to say that Julia Madeleine has crafted a pulse-pounding book, with multi-layered characters and non-stop suspense. It's well worth your time and money.


Paul D. Brazill said...

Smashing interview with a smashing writer.

Al Leverone said...

She's very cool, and not just because she's Canadian, although that in itself adds to the cool factor...