Donna Moore, pensions consultant by day and crime fiction satirist at all other times, kindly took some time out from her hectic schedule to be probed on what lies behind her journey into the world of comic crime fiction, starting with her debut novel Go to Helena Handbasket.
Going back to when you first had the thought that you wanted to write a novel and be published, was a comic crime novel what you wanted to do then?
I’ve always really loved humorous crime novels, but I’d never actually thought of writing a novel at all. It sort of happened by accident. I’ve always written, and I’ve always loved writing silly stuff to amuse people on an internet crime fiction list I’m on, but I don’t really consider myself a writer. On the internet mailing list (4_Mystery_Addicts) we’d been discussing clichés in crime fiction – the heroine who goes down into the basement without a torch, the prologue written in italics from the point of view of the serial killer, the grumpy, divorced, alcoholic co, the crime solving cat…that sort of thing – and I decided to put them all together in a story. The wonderful Al Guthrie – commissioning editor for Point Blank Press – saw the story and sent me an e-mail basically saying "If you’d consider expanding this, we’d consider publishing it." My first response was to send him an e-mail saying "Don’t be stupid", but then I decided to give it a go. The rest, as they say, is history.
What was the inspiration for Helena Handbasket & why comic crime?
Comic crime because I really can’t write anything else. I love reading noir books. But if I try to write serious, dark stuff it just ends up sounding ridiculous. I’ve tried my hand at a couple of more serious short stories but they either ended up sounding either melodramatic or warped.
You have to be an avid reader of the crime genre to be able to turn it on its head with such blissful ease and satire, so which authors have been an inspiration to you over the years and why do you enjoy their work?
Thank you for saying so – I’m glad you enjoyed it. I do love crime fiction, and I meant GTHH as an affectionate spoof, and I hope it comes across that way. I actually really love some of those cliches. Although I can do without recipes in my crime fiction. There you are, getting engrossed reading a scene where the hero is being stalked by a Vicious Serial Killer when, just as the VSK is lifting his ivory handled knife to remove the victim’s spleen and carve it into a model of the Leaning Tower of Pisa while humming That’s Amore because he was scared by a piece of pizza when he was 5 and hasn’t got over the trauma…where was I? Oh yes, just as you’re getting engrossed in that scene and your heart is beating faster with anticipation, suddenly there’s a recipe for tagliatelli a la milanese.
What was the question again? Writers who have inspired me, ah yes. Well, I love dark, I love warped, and I love funny. If I can get a combination of those then so much the better. Authors whose books I love include Ken Bruen, Daniel Woodrell, Eddie Muller, Joe Lansdale, Raymond Chandler, Barbara Seranella, Bill Fitzhugh, Mark Haskell Smith, Al Guthrie, Ray Banks, Duane Swierczynski, Megan Abbott, Steve Brewer, Stuart Pawson…you probably want me to stop now don’t you? I can’t… Victor Gischler, Sean Doolittle, Christopher Brookmyre, John Baker, Declan Burke, Colin Cotterill….
How did it feel to get the Lefty?
I was completely and utterly stunned. I still hadn’t got over the fact that there was actually a book out there with my name on the cover. When I think back to that evening I still get this huge smile on my face. There’s a 10 minute period where I got up and walked to the stage to accept the award and sit back at the table that is a complete blank. I only know I cried and embarrassed myself. It just doesn’t seem real that I won an award and I am so very grateful to everyone who voted for me. I wish I could give every single one of them a hug. Some of my favourite authors have won the Lefty and even being nominated in such great company was a real thrill.
Do you have a bigger market in the US (as opposed to the UK) as a result?
I don’t think so. I don’t think I have a big market ANY where. I still can’t get my head around the fact that people will buy it!
What’s coming up next and when might it be published?
I have a short story coming out in the anthology HELL OF A WOMAN edited by Megan Abbott published by the excellent Busted Flush Press in December. I’m currently working on a humorous (hopefully!) caper novel set in Glasgow featuring two elderly ex-hookers turned con artists who set out to steal two gold dogs from a Glasgow museum. Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones after the dogs and, just to complicate things still further, there’s a hitman after their wrinkled hides.
And finally, would you hire Helena Handbasket?
Only if I wanted to annoy the authorities, for the crime to remain unsolved, and to extend my cocktail repertoire.
You can follow this link to purchase a copy of Donna’s debut novel Go to Helena Handbasket.