FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions
If you have a question that you like to ask me, please use the Contact page below.
1. How old were you when you first wanted to write?
I was always a voracious reader, so with the naivety of a child always assumed I would write. In reality I didn't get the chance until I had children.
2. How many stories had you written before you started Overkill?
Overkill was really my first big story. (I'm not counting the ones I wrote at school)
3. Is Sam Shephard you?
No way! I'm far more polite and well brought up than she is. She is her own person. My Mum say's she can see aspects of me in Sam. If there's any trait I've given Sam it is her optimism and her love of cryptic crosswords.
4. Do you let the truth get in the way of a good story?
One has to be very selective with the truth. If I portrayed detective work the way it is in reality, it would bore readers witless. So I try to stay true the reader's expectation of fictional reality.
5. What's the most fun thing you have done since being published?
Being invited to go on the Words on Wheels tour and being trapped in a mini van with four other writers and our baby sitter for a week touring the Mackenzie Country and Central Otago, escaping only to do talks to schools, libraries and community groups and to beat the guys at pool.
6. What would you say to unpublished writers?
Read, read, read. And read widely, not just within the genre you want to write in. With your writing, keep polishing it and persisting.
7. What's the oddest question you have been asked?
It's not the oddest question, but the oddest thing to happen, which was before I went to do a talk for a group, before I'd even got a chance to speak, one of the audience members took me aside and said how they really didn't like the amount of swearing in the book, and that it wasn't necessary, and why would a young woman like me put so much of that kind of language in. I was thoroughly told off!
8. How does a mother write such chilling fiction?
It is born completely out of paranoia about the dreadful things that could possibly happen to me or my family. The prologue to Overkill was the result of sleep deprived, vaguely hysterical paranoia.
9. Who are your crime writing heros?
I have plenty of crime writers who I enjoy and admire, but the only one who I'd pop up there as a hero would have to be our home grown local girl, Ngaio Marsh, who took the world by storm and was one of the four Queens of Crime Fiction (Ngaio Marsh, Agatha Christie, Margerie Allingham and Dorothy Sayers) in the golden age of crime fiction. Unfortunately she seems to have fallen out of our collective consciousness now, but I'm trying to do something about that.
10. You seem so nice, why do you write crime?
Who says I'm nice?! Writing crime fiction came down to a pragmatic choice. I was advised to write what I love to read. I loved to read crime fiction and historic fiction, but at the time I had young babies, so couldn't do the research required to do historic fiction justice in libraries and museums (which are a little twitchy about squidgy, unpredictable things that might poo and spew in the vicinity of their collections). Researching for crime fiction was far more accessible. Crime is everywhere!
11. Has anyone complained about anything in your stories?
The thing that is complained about the most is the swearing! Yes, I know. No one complains about the fact someone, or several someones have been murdered in a nasty fashion, no, they complain about a tiny bit of swearing. I also got told off about the elephant in The Ringmaster.
12. What's your favourite wine / food / movie / music / book?
Wine: Central Otago reds
Food: Home made pizza with a glass of a Central Otago red.
Movie: Apollo 13
Music: Relaxing by playing my piano or guitar.
Book: Cross Stitch, by Diana Gabaldon.
13. How do you deal with reviews, both good and bad?
Sometimes I cry and then drink Central Otago red wine, and the other time I just drink the wine.
14. Do you do speaking engagements / signings / tours / appearances etc?
I most certainly do – it gets me out of the house. If you require any of those things, see my contact page on this website.
15. Can you autograph my book?
Yup. If you order a book through University Book Shop - Dunedin (see the link below) and request it, I can autograph it for you before they post it out. If you have a specific request to personalise it, let them know.
University Book Shop - Dunedin
Vanda Symon - Overkill
Vanda Symon - Ringmaster
Vanda Symon - Containment
Vanda Symon - Bound
Vanda Symon - The Faceless
16. Which of your three books would you most like to be made into a movie and who would you choose to play who?
All of them! I would be curious to see who the director would cast in the rolls – I don't have any preferences, other than ensuring the actress who plays Sam Shephard is short – she is just over five foot tall. I'd be mortified if they cast some tall actress as it would immediately destroy one of the main obstacles Sam has to overcome in life, and part of who she is.
17. Can you assess my story/ novel and tell me if it's any good.
No, otherwise I'd never have time to write my novels. Also there are plenty of Manuscript Assessors out there who are very, very good at giving you an honest and constructive opinion on your work. Better to leave it to the experts!
18. How do you write?
Straight into my computer. I carry notebooks around for emergency jottings, but the majority of it is straight onto the screen. Quite a few bits get scrawled onto the newspaper page with the cryptic crossword and Sudoku on my bedside table, in the dark from when inspiration strikes in the middle of the night. They're often very hard to decipher in the morning.
19. How many words do you do per day?
My goal is to write a thousand words per day. But real life and mood swings come into play, so some days I might write two thousand, and other days I might struggle to string one sentence together! Ultimately I treat writing as my career, so I have to sit my butt down in the chair and get going.
20. Some would say that crime writing is the closet bound step-child of the literary arts, what would you say to that?
Even sporting my best tiara and waving my most powerful wand I don't think I could change the attitudes of some people towards crime and genre fiction. There seems to be this obsession with 'literature' being the only true writing; I don't know why. Ultimately it's the readers who count though. There's some great crime writing coming out of New Zealand and there are many people who love to read it, so we shall conquer the hearts of the nation, one reader at a time.
That's it for now! If you have any questions that would like answered, please send them to me via my Contact page. They may even get added to this list.