(As noted last week, due to Black Friday here in the States—an orgy of shopping where Americans give thanks for what they have in life by pushing, pulling screaming, cajoling, occasionally injuring, and sometimes killing others in the spirit of Christmas—this week’s interview with Zoë Sharp has been posted early. Charlie Fox is badass, but not even I would send her into Black Friday alone.)
Zoë Sharp was born in Nottinghamshire, England. She wrote her first novel at fifteen, but success came in 2001 with the publication of Killer Instinct − the first book to feature her ex-Special Forces heroine, Charlotte “Charlie” Fox. The character evolved after Zoë received death-threat letters in the course of her photo-journalism work.
Later Charlie Fox novels – First Drop and Fourth Day − were finalists for the Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel. The Charlie Fox series has also been optioned for TV. Zoë's short stories have been published in anthologies and magazines, and have been shortlisted for the Short Story Dagger by the UK Crime Writers' Association. Her other writing has been nominated for the coveted Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America, the Anthony Award presented by the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention, the Macavity Award, and the Benjamin Franklin Award from the Independent Book Publishers' Association.
I can honestly say her Charlie Fox tales are among the few modern thrillers I read. The characters are people, the situations are not too over the top, and Charlie is badass enough to be entertaining, but not so much as to strain believability. It was a real treat when she agreed to answer some Bouchercon questions for us.
One Bite at a Time: What made you decide to come to Albany?
Zoë Sharp: I try not to miss a Bouchercon if I can help it, and this year I had both a novella in my Charlie Fox series, Absence of Light, and a new standalone mystery thriller, The Blood Whisperer fresh out, so I wanted to spread the word about those two new books.
OBAAT: What’s the most important aspect of Bouchercon for you? (This year, or any year?)
ZS: Catching up with author friends, meeting readers old and new, and getting the chance to chat to people in the industry — agents, editors, reviewers, bloggers, etc.
OBAAT: Were you on any panels?
ZS: I was lucky enough to be on two panels — one as a panelist and one as moderator. The delightful Jen Forbus of Jen’s Book Thoughts was moderating my first panel called “You’re Only Human: secret powers and other little-known talents that would make us great Super Heroes or Villains” at which we just had to be as funny and inventive as possible. And I was moderating the panel entitled “Running On Ice: adrenaline-driven stories.”
OBAAT: To you, what makes a good panel, from a panelist’s perspective?
ZS: A moderator who’s done their homework and asks interesting and imaginative questions designed to draw out the very best from their panelists. Fellow panelists who like to keep things short, sweet and moving along, good interplay between the panelists.
OBAAT: What do you look for when deciding which panels to attend?
ZS: An author with an opinion or specialist knowledge I particularly want to hear and/or learn from; an author I know will be witty and entertaining; a fun topic — something a little out of the ordinary like Jen Forbus’s panel at Albany.
OBAAT: What makes a panel good for you when you’re in the audience?
ZS: Same as when I’m on a panel. A moderator who (even if participating) doesn’t make it all about them; short and sweet answers that keep things moving without letting the energy in the room dissipate; exploring the topic and not wandering too far down blind alleyways; imaginative questions that show the moderator has done their research and prepared well; not going into politics — particularly when they’re not relevant to overseas visitors; humour; something a bit different.
OBAAT: Would you like to see more or fewer questions from the audience?
ZS: That depends. I’d almost say that if the moderator has done their job correctly there shouldn’t be too many questions needed, but at the same time I hate it when people disguise a statement as a question simply by coming out with a long-winded opinion and then just adding, “don’t you agree?” to the end of it. Or questions that are very specific to one author rather than the topic under discussion, and exclude all the other panelists while that author enters into a dialogue with the questioner. You have individual questions? Great. Save them for afterwards.
OBAAT: What’s your favorite Bouchercon story, from this year or any past years?
ZS: Every year Bouchercon holds a charity auction usually in aid of a local literacy charity. Quite often at these auctions someone will offer ‘have breakfast/lunch with the author’. I decided to go a little further and once put ‘have breakfast … and go to the gun range with the author’. The lady who made the winning bid had been blind since birth. She went to Radio Shack and bought some cheap transistor radios which we could hang over the target to give her something to aim for, and she did so well with a handgun that the people at the range brought out an MP5 submachine gun for her to try. Afterwards we packaged up the bits and suggested she took them back to the store to see if they would give her a refund. The most interesting thing about this, from my point of view, was the attitude of other people. They expected that I would either refuse to take her shooting, or that it would not be feasible for her to hit the target but she proved them wrong. I’ve always played with preconceptions in my work. It was great to be able to do it in real life too.
Many thanks to Zoë for taking the time to share her Bouchercon thoughts. As these answers imply, should you have a chance to catch on a panel or a personal appearance, by all means, do so.
Bouchercon Interviews Schedule
November 27 – Zoe Sharp (author)
December 6 – Jack Getze (author)
December 13 – Walter Colby (reader)
December 20 – Michelle Turlock Isler (reader)