Margie Orford is a South African crime novelist and an award-winning journalist. She was born in London and grew up in Namibia and South Africa. While at the University of Cape Town she was detained during the State of Emergency (see Margie Orford’s Guardian article here). She wrote her final exams in prison. After travelling widely, she studied under JM Coetzee, and worked in Namibia. In 1999 she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship.
And here’s a great interview with Margie Orford, by Sue Lord at SHOTSMAG.CO.UK…
SL: Why crime writing? What started you on that road?
MO: I came back to live in South Africa in 2001. I wanted to write about how contemporary South Africa is, rather than how it was meant to be, or where it went wrong. There seems to me to be equal measures of kindness and cruelty – and crime fiction is a way of writing about both.
SL: Your central character is a woman. What made you decide on her as a character? Is there something of Clare Hart in you?
MO: I didn’t plan to have a woman as my main character. Clare Hart was born fully clad in armour – a bit like Athena, wise and fierce. There is quite a bit that I share with Clare Hart – I’m pissed off with women getting murdered. I don’t like the violence that makes the lives of so many children unbearable. I wanted a bit of vengeance and Clare’s considered determination gets her places. She also knows how to listen to people, and to her own instincts. The more I write Clare Hart, the more I become like her. I thought she would modify a bit, soften at the edges, but no, she’s made me sharper. Which is a good thing, I suppose, the other option was for her to be blunter.
SL: There is a visual quality to your writing – do you see it that way as you write?
MO: I storyboard my books while I am writing – that gives one a clear sense of place and the relationships between people. South Africa is so striking visually – the quality of the light, the drama of mountains and sea and, further inland, of deserts, is impossible to ignore. I want people to see what I see, to understand how full of contrasts this place is.
SL: You use real locations in your books. Do you find it easier to write about real places or the imagined?
MO: I do make up some places – but there is something so specific about South African society – how people talk to each other, what we eat, what the streets look like. It’s been important for me to capture the texture of the place, its detail. That is where the devil is, as you know. The best of American and British crime fiction, and of course our Nordic cousins, gives you an accurate picture of the everyday in those locales.
To read the full interview, click here.
To find out more about Margie Orford’s international events and appearances, check out her website here.
And if you would like another recommendation for what to read next in crime, why not try the critically acclaimed SOMETHING YOU ARE?
Margie Orford's latest novel, Water Music, the fifth in the Clare Hart series, is published on 27 February in both paperback and e-book formats.