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Interview: Riley Chance talks about Weeping Angels

Riley Chance, whose first novel – Surveillance – was short-listed for the Ngaio Marsh Awards, is passionate about giving readers fast-paced, page-turning novels that also provide a window into societal issues. Riley has had a myriad of jobs – computer programmer, IT manager, consultant, project manager, mentor, senior lecturer and, of course, writer. When headspace allows, Riley follows politics keenly, often visiting parliament to watch question time. It is within the political sphere where society can be changed for the better (or worse) and fiction can be a catalyst for change. Riley talks to NZ Booklovers.

Tell us a little about Weeping Angels.

Weeping Angels is the third book in the series featuring journalist Grace ‘Ace’ Marks. Grace is working with Lauren Brown, the owner of a company that helps victims of family violence obtain protection orders. Grace is about to write a series of stories to pressure the government to improve New Zealand’s poor family violence record when Lauren goes missing. As the police list her as ‘just another’ missing person, Grace decides to investigate.


The book is a thriller, written to entertain and engage, that takes readers into the world of family violence, a world most New Zealanders know little about. I walk a tightrope when I write, making sure the book is a pure thriller while leading (most) readers into unfamiliar parts of society.

What inspired you to write this book?

This is a book I was always going to write but it took time for the right plot to emerge. Ultimately, it was when I witnessed and experienced family violence that I realised the impact it has on people and society. New Zealand has the highest rates of intimate partner violence in the OECD yet it is a subject that is seldom discussed. Family violence is something that we, society, conspire to sweep under the carpet.


What research was involved?

I read media articles about the subject and spoke to the few people I knew who had experienced family violence, including family court lawyers. Also, I drew heavily on my experiences with family violence that I mentioned (not as an offender I add).


I provided an advance copy of the novel to Women’s Refuge who are keen to help promote it through their networks as it helps raise awareness of family violence in Aotearoa New Zealand.


What was your routine or process when writing this book?

I’m an unstructured writer. Apart from the overall plot concept, which had been bouncing around in my head for years, I wrote every day for three months, aiming for 800 words. I only worry about getting the words out of my head and into the manuscript, allowing the story to evolve as I write.


I love writing in this way as it becomes a journey rather than a task. It’s an approach that suits me perfectly though it does mean I take tangents, writing chapters and scenes I don’t use. For Weeping Angels, I wrote an epilogue that my editor, the wonderful Geoff Walker, did not like! Nothing is ever wasted, I will publish that epilogue on my website for those interested in how Marla Simmons (one of my lead characters) tidies up a loose end.


If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

I’m always hopeful of a call from someone in the movie industry – I think my books would transition well to the screen. Weeping Angels would need a soundtrack comprised of upbeat music alongside scenes with melancholy classical music.


The upbeat music should include Marianne Faithfull’s The Ballard of Lucy Jordan and Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots Are Made For Walkin'.


If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?

I think, and I have always thought, Robyn Malcolm would make an excellent Grace Marks. An over fifties journalist who is a single mother to two adult children, Grace is a determined Kiwi on the political left. Although I don’t know Robyn, she strikes me as perfect for the role.


Small in stature, my other major protagonist Marla, is a thirty-something ex-US agent who can handle herself in any situation. Able to sport a buzz cut or long blonde hair, I’d be interested in people’s views on who would make a memorable Marla.


What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?

Great question! For this novel, the most satisfying moment was near the end when I realised that I had already written the ending months ago. That is a brilliant aspect of modern word processing applications, I can’t imagine how I would go about the task of writing if I had to use a typewriter!


What did you do to celebrate finishing Weeping Angels?

It could just be me, or it could be an author trait, but I never feel like I’ve ‘finished’. The hardest part of the process is telling my publisher that this is my last change/edit – it’s finished.


When the launch is completed (a meet-the-author event involving the Palmerston North library and Bruce Mckenzie Booksellers) and the major marketing events are over, I think I’ll take a well-deserved break for a few days. I love staying close to the beach, the sound of waves crashing I find therapeutic.


What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

There hasn’t been a favourite book so far this year. That’s partly due to me not reading much while I write; it’s hard enough to keep my own story in focus. An old movie resonated when I rewatched it recently – Blade Runner (the original version). It’s always been a favourite and, as I’m about to embark on setting a novel in 2058, I have started reading the book on which it was based – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?


What’s next on the agenda for you?

Marketing! To borrow from Winston Churchill, having a book published is not the end, or even the beginning of the end. But it is, happily, the end of the beginning!


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