Wednesday, February 18, 2009


This year I have read novels by the prize winning authors Stieg Larsson, Asa Larsson, Hakan Nesser and Philippe Claudel. I also read an outstanding debut novel A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell, set in the Berlin of 1931, which more than held its own in that exalted company. Frankly I thought A Trace of Smoke was more a enjoyable read than those other books.

Thanks you very much Rebecca for agreeing to answer some questions about your excellent debut crime thriller, A Trace of Smoke.

Rebecca: Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to answer such thoughtful questions.

1] Your biography says that you have wanted to be a writer since the age of 7. Who or what inspired this ambition?

Books inspired me and my parents encouraged me. I learned to read well before kindergarten and can't remember a life before it. I loved to read and decided at seven that there could be no better job in the world than writing books. I also considered being a librarian on the side.
My original writing plan was to start like S.E.Hinton, who published The Outsiders when she was only 19. Why my parents let me read The Outsiders with all its violence and death when I was only seven is something I never thought about till now, but I did read it and I knew that I had plenty of time to become a published writer.
I am quite a bit older than 19 now, but I am finally there.

2] What writers did you read as a child and did any of them influence your style?

I read everything. My best friends were books. I would prop open the school library door so I could sneak in and read over lunch and before the bus came. I started with fairy tales (Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, Scandinavian folk tales), moved on to action and fantasy (Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Pyrdain) with stops along the way for detective books (Encyclopedia Brown, The Three Investigators with Jupiter Jones) and everything else I could get my hands on (lots of historical novels too, like the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House series, Little women, et al by Louisa May Alcott).
I spent a lot of time on school buses and reading books tucked into my desk when I should have been listening to the teacher. I read a book every day during the school year. During the summer vacation, I read two, sometimes three. Most mornings I'd grab my book, an apple, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and disappear until sunset. I miss those days.

3] Who are your favourite authors? I know you have read Philip Kerr but are there other crime writers that you read and admire?

I have too many favourite authors to list. Right now, I love Michael Chabon and Jonathan Safron Foer. I have just finished reading Jonathan Rabb's Shadow and Light and it very much reminded me of Philip Kerr. His hard-boiled and emotionally detached sleuth walks through a meticulously researched 1927 Berlin. Plus Christopher Isherwood is always wonderful to read and re-read to get a good sense of Berlin.

[to be continued]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely interview, Norman. What a fascinating author. I must put her book on my list, forthwith!

1:03 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

There is a lot more to come Maxine [15 questions] but the content is so interesting I wanted to post it in smaller chunks. I think you will like the heroine.

Best wishes

2:19 PM  
Blogger Peter Plantec said...

Mrs, Cantrell seems like the kind of person who should be an author. I've read snippets of "A Trace of Smoke" and was fascinated. I can't wait for the book to come out. Excellent interview of a fascinating author.

4:23 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

I agree Peter. I will post more of this interview tomorrow. Thanks for commenting the book comes out in May.

4:36 PM  

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