Monday 29 September 2008

An Interview - Arlene Hunt

Arlene Hunt is 35 and the author of five novels. She lives in Dublin with her daughter, her husband, three cats and her beloved basset Opus. Her latest novel Undertow is in shops now so you should really go and buy it right away.

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

I’m writing my sixth novel Blood Money. Well, I say writing, in reality I’m doing a lot of glaring at the computer and finding other things to do, other vital things, like cleaning out the garage and staring into space.

Q2. Can you give us an idea of Arlene Hunt’s typical up-to-the-armpits-in-ideas-and-time writing day?

I get up in the morning, check my mail, surf on line for a while, read the papers on line, glance over my notes, make tea, open Word and then, finally-depending on where I am in a book- I work flat out for about four hours or so. I have a daily word minimum and I’m quite disciplined about it. I won’t quit until it has been reached. Anything over it I consider a bonus. I edit my work for about an hour in the evening.

Q3. What do you do when you’re not writing?

If I don’t have my nose buried in a book, I’m pretty active. I like running, going to the gym, kick boxing, walking the dog, faffing about basically. A good friend of mine is a cinema buff, so we usually go to the cinema together twice a month to see the most appalling films.

Q4. Any advice for a greenhorn trying to break into the crime fiction scene?

Keep at it. Write what you want and what you enjoy. Develop a thick skin, but not so thick that you can’t take good advice if you’re lucky enough to be presented with some.

Q5. Which crime writers have impressed you this year?

Brian McGilloway, David Simon and James Lee Burke.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

The Lucifer Effect- How Good People Turn Evil and it’s by Phillip Zimbardo. I’ve read it before, but it’s such interesting book about human nature. It’s based on the Standford University experiment and a real eye opener to discover how quickly humans can switch off humanity when it suits them.

Q7. Plans for the future?

Professionally, much the same as I’m doing now I’d imagine. Writing, talking about writing and being ridiculously pleased to have a job I love so much. Personally, my husband and I have just bought a house so I envisage many Saturdays traipsing around DIY stores discussing dowels and extolling the virtues of quick drying varnish.

Q8. With regards to your writing career to date, would you do anything differently?

Nope, it’s been a pretty decent learning curve. The mistakes I’ve made are mine and I wouldn’t have learned Jack if I hadn’t made them.

Q9. Do you fancy sharing your worst writing experience?

When I was writing my first novel, Vicious Circle, I was sharing a computer with my husband and I somehow managed to lose the blasted file. I spent a number of hours pacing around saying’ Oh Jesus, oh Jesus oh Jesus’ while he searched for it. Eventually he found it and that’s when he introduced me to the concept of ‘back-up’. I’m not joking when I say that for those few hours I nearly had to be sedated.

Q10. Anything you want to say that I haven’t asked you about?

Yes, advice for people who work from home and own pets. Never build your office on the ground floor. Never have access to the garden from your office, at least not if you have cats. Cats are annoying creatures and expect you to immediately open doors. A cat will invariably need to come in and go out approximately one hundred and sixty times a day. If you own three of the buggers that becomes lot of opening and closing of doors. Bassets are excellent creatures and like to sleep for eight hour stretches at a time. The moral of the story is thus- get a basset.

Thank you, Arlene Hunt!


Brian McGilloway said...

I had the pleasure of meeting Arlene at the Books 2008 Festival a few weeks ago and she's as nice in real life as she appears here.She's spot on about bassett hounds by the way.
Thanks too for the mention here Arlene - I'm honoured to be named in the company of the writers you mention - especially as I'm nearing Season 4 in my The Wire Marathon.
Wishing you continued success with Undertow.

Gerard Brennan said...

Brian - Well, I did think of Devlin's one-eared family pet when I read Arlene's praise of the basset. I guess you have one too?


Anonymous said...

Heee, terrific. Thanks Gerard.

Evening Brian, I hope you and the newest baby are sleeping soundly and at the same time.

Stuart Neville said...

I also had the great pleasuer of meeting Arlene (and Brian) in Dun Laoghaire, and can confirm she is one of the most charming people you could ever hope to meet.

I picked up a copy of Undertow while I was there, and I gave my mum a lend of it rather than it lying in my TBR pile for the next couple of weeks. She told me over the weekend how much she was enjoying it, so Arlene, I think you have a new fan.

Gerard Brennan said...

Arlene - No worries. Thank you for taking the time.

Stuart - Dagnammit! I wish I'd made it to that weekend. Maybe Books 2009.


Brian McGilloway said...

Ger - we had two but sadly had to part with them a few years ago. They live on in the Devlin books though...

Thanks Arlene - though unfortunately it's neither soundly nor at the same time! Still, what else have you to be doing at 4 in the morning?

Stuart - It was good to meet you too - looking forward to Ghosts of Belfast very much.

Anonymous said...

Ah thanks Stuart, you're too bloomin' kind. I second what Brian said, can't wait for your novel in my hands. Do you think you might have a launch?

Brian, think of all the extra time you have on your hands now.
Sleep is over rated anyway.*


* absolute total and utter lie.

Gerard Brennan said...

Arlene poses a good question, Stuart. Think you'll be launching it from the ever-popular No Alibis?

Brian - So the basset hounds and the old smoking habit live on through Devlin? I think you're on to something there.

Right, I need to write a character who doesn't exercise enough and enjoys Chinese takeaway too much. He never remembers birthdays and can't pass up a bogof offer on any brand of beer. Oh, and he looks way older than 29 because nobody thought to introduce him to the concept of men's skin products...

Actually, no. I'll keep that last one for me.


adrian mckinty said...

worst writing is a killer question, loving it.

Gerard Brennan said...

Adrian - Yeah, John McAllister added that question to his interview and I've been using it ever since. Wish I'd thought of it sooner though. Maybe I should revisit all the previous interviewees and make a collective post out of it.


Stuart Neville said...

To Arlene & Ger: July 2009 has been mentioned. I've no idea about a launch venue yet, I imagine that'll have to be sussed out with the marketing bods at Random House. There will be requests going out for blurbs/reviews before then, though.

Gerard Brennan said...

Stuart - Put me down for a review, sir! I'm dying to read it.