PM Newton is the author of the wonderful crime novel The Old School (Penguin 2010) and its forthcoming sequel. She is also part of the When Genres Attack team – but we figured she could still be subjected to this interview. You can find her online at her website and on Twitter.
1. Can you remember the first story you ever wrote and, if so, what was it?
I wrote non-fiction first, CD liner notes for the African music label Sterns. I guess the first “story” was for one of those albums, where I pretty much painted the picture of what it was ike to go to a small recording studio in Bamako, on a hot, wet night and listen to Aminata Kamissoko sing.
2. How many novels did you write before your ‘first novel’ was published?
There’s 80,000 words of a novel, with the same character Nhu “Ned” Kelly, which is in a computer file, with a title, and no ending. In it Ned’s a hard-bitten Detective Sergeant who has just landed a promotion in the Homicide Squad. I got 80,000 words in before I realised that the “back story” in that story was actually where I should have started Ned’s story. On a positive note, I wrote my first short story, The Mango Tree, based on 800 words from that “novel” which made it in the UTS Anthology “Making Tracks.”
3. What sorts of books do you love to read?
A mix of new voices and old favourites. I love to read crime that inspires me by demonstrating just what the genre can achieve in telling stories that are multi-layered and moving and troubling; so that would include a contemporary writer like Malla Nunn whose books peel back the skin of history and take you to South Africa in the 1950s, as well as some of the classics from Swedish crime writers, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. And Graham Greene’s, The Quiet American bears reading and rereading, a perfect crime story.
4. If you were forced to co-write a novel with someone (as we’re not presuming that you’d want to co-write with anyone necessarily) who would it be?
I’d love to co-write a spec-fic novel. Something big and fat and juicy, that spins out over multiple volumes. A great big grand space opera. If Jane Espenson could be convinced (or, you know, drugged and kidnapped) to write it with me – I’d be one very happy woman.
5. What are you working on now and next?
Now, waiting on edits to come through on the second book, a sequel to The Old School. Mind is very busy at the moment, imagining what needs to be done to make this draft better, to make it more like the book in my head and imagination. There are some vague flittering thoughts about the book that could follow on from that one; I have an opening scene, I have a closing scene, I have ideas about what will come between them, and where it will happen. And even vaguer flittering thoughts about a completely different book. Oh, and a mad idea that may or may not happen for something even more different.