Monday, 4 April 2011

Dancing With Myself: CHARLIE FOX interviews ZOE SHARP

2011 has been pretty amazing for me already. I've been lucky enough to be nominated for the Spinetingler Best Story On The Web category, I've put out Dirty Old Town and I'm soon to be in the Mammoth Book Of British Crime Stories very soon.

As exciting as all the above is a project I'm working on with the wonderful Chris Rhatigan. It's so hot I need to wear special gloves and googles every time I go near it. I'll not say more, but you can catch the announcement over at:

The name of the project? PULP TONES

And now an interview I've been looking forward to posting for a while. Please welcome Zoe Sharp.

Zoë Sharp interviewed by Charlie Fox

Charlie Fox: “Are you sitting comfortably?”

Zoë Sharp: “Erm, not bad, thanks. But is the gun really necessary?”

CF: “I just want to make sure I get some straight answers out of you, so let’s get on with it. Remind me again – where did we first meet?”

ZS: “Don’t you remember? We met in a northern UK city – Lancaster. You’d been thrown out of the Women’s Royal Army Corps for—”

CF: “Hey, they don’t need to know the reasons. And talking about it tends to leave a bad taste in my mouth. Just cut to the chase, will you?”

ZS: “All right, all right. You do have the safety-catch on, I hope? Of course – SIGs don’t have one. Well, let’s just say you were thrown out of the Special Forces training course you were on for reasons you prefer not to go into, shall we? You were estranged from your parents, you never wanted you to join the army in the first place, and you were living in a rented flat that used to be a gym down by the quay. You were teaching self-defence to women and ended up working security for a local nightclub owner. That was in KILLER INSTINCT, but even back then I knew you weren’t going to stay drifting for long. You had some pretty unusual skills that just cried out to be put to better use.”

CF: “I said I wanted straight answers. We both know that wasn’t the start of it. Don’t hold out on me, Sharp.”

ZS: “OK! OK, you got me. The first time we ever met was on an ambush exercise at a close-protection training school. I saw the whole scene in one hit. One guy on the floor pretending to be your injured principal, another lurking in the shadows with a gun, ready to pounce when you went to deal with the situation. The guy with the gun overstepped the mark, rough-handled you, and you over-reacted with automatic violence. That was the first time we met. I saw it as a character sketch, but the scene was so vivid it eventually found its way into the third book, HARD KNOCKS. It told me what I needed to know about your character – the fact that you had the ability to take someone apart but were almost afraid of what you might do. I found your internal conflicts fascinating.”

CF: “Yeah, and flattery will get you everywhere. Got a thing for violence, have you?”

ZS: “Don’t get me wrong – I don’t simply write you as a shoot ’em up ‘guy in nylons’ kind of girl. How a person reacts under extreme circumstances defines them. And with a female protagonist rather than the traditional male hero, that reaction becomes ever more complex and interesting. Women with the ability to kill are often portrayed as ice-cold assassins or psychos. I wanted to make you more human than that. Besides, with you, Charlie, the way you react is a product both of your underlying nature and of your life experiences.”

CF: “Yeah, experiences you’re largely responsible for. It’s your world, right?”

ZS: “Only to a certain extent. I created the framework, that’s all. I make the overall decisions, but as the series has gone on, how you deal with the day-to-day stuff is more down to you. I know, when I put you in certain situations, there’s only so many ways you’re going to respond and still be true to yourself and what you believe in. But my job, as I see it, is to keep putting you under pressure so I can watch what happens next. You constantly surprise me.”

CF: “Right, so that’s why you’ve shot me, cut my throat, beat me up too many times to count, and had me kill … how many people is it now?”

ZS: “Erm, OK, I’d have to go away and do a body-count, but you have to admit that they all had it coming. It’s one of the things people tell me they love about you – your kick-arse ability to do what’s necessary, however unpleasant, and however much grief it might give you later. And there have been some high points – you were given a brand new Honda FireBlade motorbike for helping rescue a kidnapping victim, and then you got to move to New York to join Parker Armstrong’s top close-protection agency – that can’t be bad, can it?”

CF: “Hmm. You know what they call bodyguards, don’t you? Of course you do – bullet-catchers. We’re there to put ourselves between the principal and the threat, and die in the process if we have to. It hasn’t exactly all been a bed of roses. And things have been getting pretty bloody dark lately. You seem to have developed a very nasty habit of leaving me in a right mess at the end of each book. What’s that all about?”

ZS: “Not a mess, exactly, no. Just an interesting ongoing situation. In the past I’ve tried to write the books so the series could be read out of sequence, but with the last few there have been repercussions that stretched further than the end of the story. I always wrap up the actual job – it’s your personal life that’s been a continuing thread. And particularly the relationship between you and Sean Meyer – and Parker Armstrong, your boss.”

CF: “I wondered when you were going to bring that up. You really know how to kick a girl when she’s down, don’t you? You give me lots of grief, and now you’re trying to make me choose between two good men. Where’s it going to end?”

ZS: “Well, not for a while yet, I hope. Last year the rights to the series were optioned by Twentieth Century Fox TV. Seeing you on the small screen would be a whole new experience for both of us, wouldn’t it?”

CF: “Hey, my job is looking after celebrities, not becoming one. I do my best work when I’m blending into the background. What’s next?”

ZS: “Well, I’m into the new book at the moment. You and Sean have a lot of things to work out, and I have it in mind that you’ll end up doing quite a lot of that under pressure and under fire. You stepped over a line at the end of the latest book (FIFTH VICTIM) and I want to see how you balance the scales.”

CF: “You and me both. You’d better get on with it, then. Oh, I suppose I ought to congratulate you, though. That thing you wrote about me going undercover into the Fourth Day cult in California—”

ZS: “You mean FOURTH DAY?”

CF: Don’t get smart. That’s the one. I hear it’s just been nominated for the Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel. I suppose you’ll be taking all the credit for that.”

ZS: “I thought you liked to stay in the background?”

CF: “Hey who’s asking the questions here?”

ZS: “Well, Charlie, you’re the one with the gun …”


  1. Nice work, ladies.

    I hope you're not offended that I'm speaking to you through a loud hailer from inside this concrete bunker. It's just that Charlie still has that gun ... ;p

  2. This was very entertaining and sounds like it's my kind of stories. Congrats on the new gig Nigel!

  3. Hi Julie

    Don't worry, I haven't bitten anybody for WEEKS, and Charlie's a very good shot - if she's not aiming for you, there's no need to be worried ;-]

  4. Hi Sean

    Glad it sounds like something you might like. And big congrats to Nigel, too.

    I just got my contributor copy of the MAMMOTH BOOK OF BRITISH CRIME - I'll be heading to Nigel's story first ;-]

  5. Any friend of Nigel's is worth a read. He don't hang with amateurs. And, besides, you had me at Sigs don't have one.

  6. Hi AJ

    Well, they have a slide-lock, but that doesn't really count ;-]

    It's been a pleasure to be here.