Monday, May 25, 2015

The Guernsey Girl


Award-winning author Jill Downie has written non-fiction and plays over the course of many years. Since 2011, she has concentrated on fiction with the Moretti and Falla series set in Guernsey.  



             
If you’re not familiar with this beautiful location, Guernsey is one of the Channel Islands between France and England.


London has Holmes and Watson, Sweden Blomkvist and Salander, and Yorkshire Dalziel and Pascoe.  And now Guernsey has its very own literary detective duo, Moretti and Falla.


Shaun Shackleton.  The Guernsey Press.

Jamie:

Welcome, to Jamie Tremain’s blog. You have a fascinating location in Guernsey for your detective series. Tell us about your memories of the time you lived there.

Jill:

Thank you, Jamie Tremain, for the invitation!  Living in Guernsey was the happiest period of an unsettled childhood, so the memories are vivid and precious.  I found myself on a beautiful island with a gorgeous coastline, and a relaxed pace of life – we never had to lock our doors.  I was born in the tropics, so the mild climate was a particular pleasure.  There were spectacular winter storms, but there were palm trees, and flowers bloomed all year round.  I made lasting friendships with girls with their wonderful island names – Bisson, Le Couteur, Falla.  Although I was an outsider, I was given a sense of belonging.  And yet there was also in that picture-book setting the dark backdrop of the war years when the Channel Islands were occupied.  The remnants of that terrible time were still very much present, from the wired-off sections of the cliffs where the mines had not yet been cleared, to the barred entrance of the vast underground hospital, built by the Nazis for their wounded troops returning from France and the planned invasion of Britain.  An island of striking contrasts.       


Jamie:
Pam admits to reading your latest novel in this series, Blood Will Out (released Sept 2014), before reading the first two. Is that a problem or are the stories stand alone?

Jill:
That is no problem at all, and I am so glad you asked.  Although this is my first mystery series, I have always been a lover of mysteries, and I know from my reading experience that it is great to be able to dip into a discovery in the genre and pick up the essentials.  Then, if I liked the book, I will go on and read the earlier ones.


Jamie:
Detective Inspector Moretti and Detective Sergeant Falla are equally strong characters yet they work well together.  Along with their job, they also share a love of music. Shall we see them sailing off into the sunset in a future book?

Jill:
Jamie, I smiled when I read this question!  I have been asked this so many times, by both men and women readers.  It is a question that delights me because I think it means that the reader has believed in both the characters and felt them as living, breathing, human beings.  And – you know what?  I cannot answer it.  I have it in my mind, but I’ll hold on to the suspense a bit longer!

Jamie:
Your published works over the years include both non-fiction and plays - what do you feel is the reason for your success as a crime/mystery writer?

Jill:
I think that any success I have had is because I know the genre so well.  I look back at the books I read as a child, and I realise that many of the classic children’s books  involve mystery and suspense, even though they are not, strictly speaking, in the crime/mystery genre.  So, perhaps subconsciously, I was always absorbing the elements that make up a good and gripping mystery.
Jamie:
What is your take on the publishing world today? Looking into your crystal ball do you predict the demise of paper books or a resurgence of readers interested in all things written?
Jill:
I do so hope I am right but, peering through the mist into my crystal ball, I believe that paper books will be with us for quite a while.  When the internet first got underway, I used to wonder what it would do to reading.  Now I think the so-called smartphone is a greater threat to the love of reading actual fully-formed words, complete sentences, and entire paragraphs.

Jamie: 
Just for fun, if you could – which current fictional detective would you bring to Guernsey to assist your intrepid investigators on a case?

Jill:
Thinking about the answer to this question was really entertaining.  There are so many great current fictional detectives, so I tried to imagine the dynamics between Moretti and Falla, and my choice. Can I choose two?  Ian Hamilton’s Ava Lee would get on really well with Liz Falla, I think.  Ava is gay, cosmopolitan and tough; Liz is straight, an island-girl, and tough.   Ava would probably baffle Ed Moretti, which would be fun to watch – and write about.  And I’d love to parachute Barbara Fradkin’s Inspector Michael Green on to the island to work with Moretti on a case. They are different in many ways, which would cause sparks, but both men are dedicated to the pursuit of justice, and both often have difficulty toeing the official line.     

Jamie:
All the books in this series hit on interesting topics. For a small island, Guernsey has plenty to write about.

The Nazi Occupation of Guernsey is the subject in
Daggers and Men's Smiles.

















A Grave Waiting deals with Guernsey's role as an offshore tax haven.  

Our question is this - for an island of sixty-five thousand inhabitants, will you have enough stories and mysteries for Moretti and Falla to investigate?

Jill:


Yes, it is a small island, but it encompasses so many story possibilities.  The financial aspect of the island brings in a wide variety of people who live there for extended periods of time, and who are both outsiders and yet very much part of the island life.  Guernsey’s proximity to Europe is something I hope to explore in future books, and also the links to the United Kingdom.  I touched on the UK/Guernsey link in A Grave Waiting, and the link with Italy was crucial to the plot of Daggers and Men’s Smiles.

Jamie:
We met at two different functions last month. One a panel discussion at the library and the other the Arthur Ellis short list event at the Indigo Store in downtown Toronto. May 2nd you were busy schmoozing with customers at two local Independent Bookstores. How do you feel about the amount of promotion and marketing an author has to do today?

Jill:
As you know from your own experience, Jamie, promotion and marketing are necessary for writers today – and it is time-consuming!   But it is the reality of our world, and there are, for me, two aspects I enjoy, both of which you bring up in your question.  I get away from my desk and get to meet fellow writers, like yourself, and also make contact with our readers – and, hopefully, potential readers.  There is no alternative to that part of our writing life, so I’ll take from it the pleasure it gives and deal with the rest.  

Jamie:
Is it true, an author’s work is never done? If you have a work in progress can you tell us about it?

Jill:
Perfectly true, we are always planning and writing, aren’t we.  Yes, I have the fourth in the series underway, and it involves what has been left behind after those dark war years, the tunnels and underground structures built by slave labour when Hitler was turning Guernsey into his island fortress.  There have always been rumours about what could be hidden in that labyrinth of tunnels, including the possibility of looted Nazi gold.  One of the pleasures of writing fiction is that you are free to take a rumour and turn it into reality!  

Thanks Jill for making the time out of your busy schedule and speaking with us today. We wish you continued success with this exciting series. We look forward to the next book featuring Moretti and Falla.


To contact ,Jill check out her website
http://www.jilldownie.com/
Her Twitter handle is @Jillauthor, and she is on LinkedIn.
Jill Downie was born in Guyana, lived in England, on the Channel Island of Guernsey, studied in Paris, before settling in Canada.  She is the author of plays, short stories, historical fiction, biographies, and currently writes the Guernsey-based mystery series starring Detective Inspector Ed Moretti and his partner, Detective Sergeant Liz Falla.  The third in the series, Blood Will Out, was published in September, 2014.  She lives in Ancaster, with her actor husband, Ian.