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Interview: Tina Clough talks about Folded

Tina Clough was born in Sweden and lives outside Napier, where she divides her time between writing crime novels, translating and editing medical research papers and looking after an acre of fruit trees, vegetable gardens and hens. Tina talks to NZ Booklovers.

Tell us a little about Folded, the third novel featuring your memorable characters Hunter and Dao.

Over a period of a couple of weeks Grace finds notes asking for help folded into tiny origami shapes outside a city apartment building she passes on her way to work in central Auckland. When Grace suddenly resigns with immediate effect and seemingly disappears, her workmate Linda finds a physics book with tiny writing between the lines in Grace’s desk at work. She asks Hunter and Dao for help to find out what has happened to Grace, and Hunter reluctantly agrees. Shortly after their involvement a high-powered lawyer arrives from the US and after his meeting with Hunter and Dao, they receive a “cease and desist” letter from a law firm in the Cayman Islands. DI Bakker - a woman, who in Hunter’s words “looks as if she would be useful in a brawl, provided she was on your side” - takes instant exception to his involvement and his ex-army pragmatic view of justice and threatens to arrest him for interfering in an investigation. Dao, refusing to be deflected from her compulsive need to find out what happened to the girl who wrote the notes, sets out alone on a dangerous mission, and Hunter looks death in the face when he decides to risk everything to put an end to the Darknet forces that threaten their lives.

Without giving too much away, can you tell us a little about how Hunter and Dao’s relationship has developed in the new book?

A Hunter and Dao have now been together for a couple of years. Their relationship is an intriguing mixture: Dao is finding her feet in society, after having been held captive and isolated for more than half her young life, and Hunter constantly needs to balance his instinct to protect her from harm with his wish to give her freedom to make her own choices. They have reached a place in their relationship where they totally trust the love they have for each other, and Hunter has learnt to read the subtle signals of Dao’s reactions to people and situations – her fine-tuned ability to read tones of voice or body language, which she honed during the years she lived alone with a dangerous and abusive man.

Origami very cleverly features in the book, and of course, refers to the title – can you tell us more about this element?

The person who drops the notes has limited access to paper and needs to avoid her notes floating away into the street and being run over by vehicles, so she folds tight little shapes that land on the pavement, despite being dropped from a great height.

Did you have to do any specific research to write Folded?

I decided to wind a tale around the theme of the so-called darknet and people trafficking. A difficult topic, and it has made this my darkest book so far. I really enjoyed researching hand grenades, and of course, finding solutions to technical IT questions – always fun.

What was your routine or process when writing this book?

I don’t have a routine for writing. I live on a property just outside Napier and one of the things a do is edit medical research studies pre-publication, and sometime doctoral theses, for research teams at two Swedish universities. These jobs land in my Inbox with little warning and always have a deadline, so they take priority. I also look after the inside and outside jobs here: mowing the large field full of fruit trees that I fondly call “the lawn”, clearing the roadside drain, mowing the roadside verge, pruning shelter belts – all kinds of jobs that I do when the weather favours me, and I have no deadlines. So, writing gets done in bits and pieces, but my mind is always on the job, thinking ahead. Driving the ride-on mower around the field is particularly suited to deep thinking.

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

Maybe one of Chris Knox’s intense songs about life and love, or Rod Stewart singing “Sometimes when we touch”. They wouldn’t suit the story as a whole, but they would closely align with the relationship between Dao and Hunter.

What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?

I enjoyed every aspect. I love constructing believable characters with depth, I love the plot aspect and I love researching technical things. Describing Hunter and Dao’s connection with Benson, the detective who has features in all three Hunter Grant books, and how that connection has developed into something personal and deeper over the years – that was a carefully orchestrated build-up in this book that I put a lot of thought into.

What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

I asked my lovely husband to get out a really great wine out for dinner. (Which he did).

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

That’s a hard one! But the covid year seemed to me to be a year for re-reading favourite books – the comfort and security of knowing the story and enjoying it again, very calming and lovely. I re-read all of Jane Austen, and Geraldine Brooks’ “Year of Wonders” about the plague. Topical just now and such a great story. The Time-traveller’s Wife also stands out as a highlight.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

Over the last year I have completed three novels in the “women’s fiction genre”. They are part of a series I am calling The Devon Letters. The stories are stand-alone novels, but they are all set in South Devon in England, which is a favourite area that I know well. And in all the books, the main character (a woman) is given a letter from the past that changes how she sees herself and the world.


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