CRIMINALLY GOOD: interview with author Elka Ray

1) So, who are you & what have you written?

I’m Elka Ray. I grew up in Canada and live in Vietnam, where I work as an editor and write crime fiction. My first novel, Hanoi Jane, is a light romantic mystery. My second, Saigon Dark, is psychological suspense. I’m also the author of a collection of short crime stories, titled What You Don’t Know: Obsession, Mystery & Murder in Southeast Asia. One of my short stories was included in an anthology of Southeast Asia’s Best Crime Fiction in 2014. As well as writing for adults, I’m the author and illustrator of a series of kids’ picture books about Vietnam.

2) Why do you write crime fiction?

I’ve always been fascinated by what motivates people, especially if they’re acting in ways that seem irrational, self-destructive or immoral. When a crime’s occurred – both in fiction or real life, people don’t just want to know who did it but why. I enjoy answering that question.

3) What informs your crime writing?

Real life cases can serve as seeds from which characters and stories grow. I listen to a lot of true crime podcasts and justify it as “research” when it really isn’t.

4) What’s your usual writing routine?

I dedicate about half of each month to editing work and half to writing fiction. My workday starts when my kids leave for school at 8am. I usually eat lunch at my desk and work through until 3pm, then go for a swim in the ocean or a walk on the beach. A lot of my pre-writing work – dreaming up the characters and plots – takes place while swimming or walking.

5) Which crime book do you wish YOU’D written, and why?

This one’s easy: Scott Smith’s 1993 thriller A Simple Plan, about three guys who find a bag of cash in the wreck of a small plane and decide to keep it. It’s so well written you don’t just understand the characters’ actions – you become complicit. If you haven’t read it, don’t wait. It was also made into a 1998 movie.

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