Interview by Laura Benson
In 50 words or less, please explain the premise of Nancy Business?
The Nancys are reformed when an early morning explosion kills three people and destroys the town hall. But something’s up with the team. Uncle Pike and Devon can’t seem to agree, and when a truth bomb goes off for Tippy can the Nancys stay together and save the town?
You have a brilliant way of challenging literary conventions, how would you describe the genre your book fits into?
I have been lovingly adopted into the crime fiction community and I love it, they are the kindest, most generous people. For me, I feel like when I’m writing it is ‘come for the mystery, stay for the drama.’ I loved reading Marian Keyes and how she would play with humour and serious issues. When I first came up with the idea for The Nancys, I realised there was a much bigger story at play and that ultimately that story would be a trilogy so there is a lot of growth the characters need to go through to get where they need to end up. But I am very happy for The Nancys & Nancy Business to go anywhere in the bookshops, and I love that they are having broad appeal.
Where did the idea for The Nancys (2019), and now the sequel Nancy Business, originate?
I wanted to try writing a murder mystery, I had always loved them, particularly with amateur detectives. When I started to write the first sentence was a line of internal dialogue which turned out to be Tippy’s voice. It led me to wonder, ‘Why is a child trying to solve a murder?’, this then led to her irresponsible babysitting Uncle Pike, then their shared love of Nancy Drew, and Pike’s boyfriend of three months, Devon. It was a very organic process, more like following a lead which took me along. This was back in 2006, however it was not until 2016 when I attended Faber Academy’s Writing a Novel course that I wrote the first draft of The Nancys but the characters had been in my head all that time!
Can Nancy Business be read as a standalone novel?
Yes, it certainly can. But I do think reading The Nancys first will give you a richer reading experience.
The narrator is a 12 year old girl, called Tippy: Why did you write from her perspective, particularly as this is an adult crime novel?
I liked the optimism of a child narrator, they are not yet cynical or jaded, they want to believe in the best of people and conversely are very hurt when they are let down or see the bad. A child can be very impulsive, determined and resourceful as well. They are often overlooked in group settings, or conversations, and can also be underestimated – all fantastic opportunities for an amateur detective. I also liked the pairing of a child with two people who have had very little to do with children. I am a dad myself and have seen how some of my friends who don’t have children sometimes launch into something adult/ inappropriate forgetting the kids are there …
The book is set in small NZ town called Riverstone: Tell us why you chose that setting?
Riverstone is based on a town near where I grew up and where I still have family, Balclutha in New Zealand. It is a place and setting that I have known all my life and have had many different feelings towards during my life. When I was young I didn’t know any different – like Tippy, when I was a teenager and young adult I couldn’t wait to get away from it. Then over the years I have come to love it again and see the beauty, almost as a tourist – like Devon, really.
What do you hope readers will gain from having read your novels?
As odd as it may sound I hope they find comfort, I hope when they think of the characters they think of them as friends, and I hope they know they can then go back and spend time with them whenever they want.
Which books have you recently read and loved?
2021 Australian & NZ crime fiction debuts have been extraordinary, just to name a few The Silent Listener by Lyn Yeowart, Girl, 11 by Amy Suiter Clarke, Before you Knew my Name by Jacqueline Bublitz