Meg Gardiner

Meg Gardiner, author of the Evan Delaney series has been the AbeBooks number one bestselling author for the month of February 2007 with her debut China Lake. We got a chance to talk to her about what it’s like to not be published in your native country, Stephen King, and her international smuggling habits.

Have you always known you wanted to be a writer?

Since before I learned the alphabet. I drew stories as soon as I could hold a pencil, and wrote my first novel at sixteen – a hideous romance that I unwisely loaned to a high school friend. She’s still holding it as blackmail material. I was in law school when I got my first short story published. Writing novels is probably my oldest desire. Being able to do it for a living is a tremendous privilege.

Who are your greatest influences?

I have to credit the authors who turned me into a crime-lover. Elmore Leonard tops that list. Glitz was the first crime novel that really gripped me. It was so tense and cool that it seemed electrically charged. Later I gobbled up Sue Grafton’s books, adored Kinsey Millhone, and saw how a female series heroine could work. Then I picked up Carl Hiaasen’s Stormy Weather and realized that with enough nerve and brio, a crime author can get away with anything.

Above all my father, Frank Gardiner, taught me that whether we write thrillers or academic books (his are about Chaucer) we should strive for excellence. He also taught me to keep my eye on the ball, even better advice.

When you heard that Stephen King held you in such high regard how did that make you feel?

Gobsmacked, as the Brits say. Blown away, in California terms. I’ve been a fan of King’s books since page one of The Stand, so it’s been a welcome surprise and a true pleasure.

Can you describe your books for people who haven’t read them yet?

California thrillers with an edge of humor. They’re fast-paced, with plenty of action, and have a love story running underneath. Evan Delaney is a freelance journalist from Santa Barbara. She’s spirited, quick on her feet and prone to trouble – brave but sometimes too much of a smartass for her own good. The novels deal with stolen identity, a high school reunion killer, revenge killings, redemption, and rock’n'roll.

Why do you think you have not been picked up by a publisher in the US yet?

Sunspots? The fact that I’m an American currently living in the UK? I truly have no idea, and I hope it will be a moot point very soon.

It sounds like you quite liked living in California, so what made you decide to leave for London?

Work. My husband was offered a job with an Internet technology company, based in London and building computer networks in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It was a great opportunity for our family in terms of both career and adventure. California is paradise, but we knew that if we didn’t grab the chance, we’d kick ourselves. Now we’ve seen more of the world than we ever dared dream, and our kids are equally at home on California’s beaches and the London Underground. And living in the UK hasn’t just taught us about Britain, but America. There are few better ways to understand your own country than to experience life somewhere else.

Since everyone in the States is having problems finding your books, are there any great American writers that you love but can’t find published in the UK?

People in the States can find my books – it just takes a few clicks, and AbeBooks.com has handled quite a few of those lately. Thank you, by the way. As for finding my favorite American authors, I’m lucky that Britain is a nation of voracious readers, because it means that British publishers generally have the books I’m looking for. If they don’t, online booksellers – or my mom – are there to save me. What I really have trouble finding is good Mexican food. Whenever I’m in California I stuff my suitcase with corn tortillas and tomatillo salsa. I also smuggle Junior Mints.

Do you draw much on your knowledge of law when writing your books?

Definitely, though my books aren’t legal thrillers. My background as a lawyer provides fodder for highlighting the strengths, cruelties, and absurdities of the justice system – the books have their share of preposterous lawsuits, greedy plaintiffs, and ambitious attorneys trying to steamroll the underdog. And it helps to know the California murder statute, and what it feels like to be in court for a criminal arraignment. More generally, my books explore the territory where law separates from morality. They ask: how far can you go to protect the people you love? When your options are bad and desperate, where do you draw the line between right and wrong? Do you lie? Run? Break the law? Do you let people die?

Do you mostly read thrillers? Favorite authors to read?

I read so many thrillers that being near my bookshelves during an earthquake would be dangerous. I can only list some of my favorite authors and hope, as with an Academy Award speech, that I don’t overlook too many people. James Lee Burke, Martin Cruz Smith, Janet Evanovich, Michael Connelly, Jeffery Deaver, Elizabeth George… plus non-thriller authors: Wallace Stegner, Annie Proulx, William Faulkner and yes, Stephen King.

I binge on books. It’s a vice.

Working on anything new you can tell us about?

A novel. I’ll stop there, because leaving people in suspense is part of my job.

Find copies of China Lake