Denise Mina: crown princess of crime
Excerpts from the interview by Pam Lawrence in the August/September 2005 issue of Mystery News
It must be something in the Scottish air, or perhaps it's the whisky, but there's a revolution going on. Not only does the ancient country now have its own Parliament once more, but it also boasts a clutch of world-class crime writers. And the "Crown Princess" (according to fellow Scot, Val McDermid) is the charming Denise Mina. I had the pleasure of interviewing the rising star of the Tartan invasion by email this spring.
One moniker applied to Mina has been "fearless." I wondered if she sees herself that way. "I don't think so. I'm not very self conscious when I write, I don't tend to imagine myself being read by anyone so I just write about the things that really interest me. When the books come out it's a bit like finding myself naked in front of a room of critics: hideous and frightening. Also, I think you always normalize what ever you're interested in. Everyone has dark edges. The painter Francis Bacon once said 'only the edges are interesting'."
Mina burst onto the crime fiction scene in 1998, with her first novel Garnethill, written while she was supposed to be pursuing her PhD in mental illness and female offenders at Strathclyde University. She was lecturing part time in criminology and criminal law when she sent off the first three chapters of her novel. The publishers wanted more, and the academic suddenly found herself a writer. (Reminiscent of fellow Scot, Ian Rankin, also in the throes of his doctorate when he wrote his first Rebus book.)
Seems like a Scottish tradition. "It's a funny thing, but here we get funding to go off and research what you are interested in and the supervision isn't that intrusive. I guess we discovered we were interested in reading crime novels and scribbling rather than negotiating Derrida and statistical methods. The system has changed now though and I understand you're expected to hand something in every year. Nightmare."...
Mina has undergone a radical upheaval at home recently with the birth of her first child, and she has become "much more time efficient now. I haven't played solitaire for two years. I just sit down and work."
If she were adrift on a desert island I wondered what her book choice would be. "A Complete Dostoyevsky collection. I've given up on the Brothers so often I've lost count. I know if I made the effort and concentrated on the changing names, I'd love it but my brain's too racey."
There is no sign of any break in the author's busy schedule. At the moment, in between writing short stories and radio plays, she is "working on the follow up to Field of Blood -- called Dead Hour at the moment. I'm very nearly finished. Also, thrillingly, I've been asked to write Hellblazer comic (the basis for Constantine the Keanu movie) and am doing it for one year. It's such a different form and we have to say where the image is seen from, how many panels on a page etc. Also it's very gothic and strange, all the magic and new rules about hell and heaven and a positively Hellenic cynicism about the capricious use of power." Sounds like a radical departure for an incredibly versatile writer.
Read the complete interview in the August/September 2005 issue of Mystery News