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Interview: Tina Clough talks about One Single Thing


Tina Clough divides her time between writing crime novels, and translating and editing medical research papers. Tina was born in Sweden and lives outside Napier, where she grows organic vegetables, looks after her free-range hens and makes jam. Reading, photography and kayaking rate high on the list of interests.


Tina is the author of the previous novels The Girl Who Lived Twice, Running Towards Danger and The Chinese Proverb. Tina talks to NZ Booklovers about One Single Thing.


Tell us a little about One Single Thing.

It is a book in two layers, so to speak. Present events are an indirect result of something that happened earlier and in another country. Details of the earlier situation were documented in the form of short diary-type stories and only come to light by degrees. The person who wrote these stories is a photo-journalist who disappeared shortly after returning from a trip to Pakistan, where she was researching 'dishonour' women - those whose families would rather kill them than let them 'dishonour' the family. What inspired you to write this book?

I have read quite a bit about the 'honour killings' and the subject has always struck me as one of heart-breaking cruelty. I wanted to highlight it, along with aspects of modern life where surveillance can change somebody's life without that person being aware of what is going on. One part of this story is set in a very old culture and one part takes place in New Zealand; the combination might seem odd, but it demonstrates that cruelty can be found in all cultures, as can love. I like to think that my books are just like life – a bit of everything. What research was involved?

Quite a bit about Pakistan and a huge lot about surveillance, intelligence services and tracking devices. I have a long-distance friend who runs a big security company, who helped me with some of the tech details. I like to get my facts right, be it about the weight of an armour-plated Mercedes car, re-locking gun safes or helicopters and guns. What was your routine or process when writing this book?

I do so many different things all the time that a routine is impossible. I mow our field, prune shelter belts and fruit trees, spray the drains, look after my hens and make jam, but my ‘real’ job is editing medical research papers for a European university – and somehow or other I always find an hour or two to write. I am very lucky to have the freedom to function like this; I can do whatever seems best at any given time, depending on the weather, my mood and any deadlines looming! If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

Rod Stewart’s Broken Arrow. If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?

Bradley Cooper as Hunter Grant and a younger Donna Bae as Dao.

What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?

I enjoy writing in general, every book I have written has been a joy. In The Chinese Proverb (where we first meet Hunter Grant) I wrote for the first time as a male in the first person. In One Single Thing I took it one step further and wrote in the present tense. Both these things present certain challenges, but I think the combination is very ‘real-time’ and immediate.


I have enjoyed exploring the developing relationship between two very different, damaged people: a white male, damaged by army experiences in the Middle East and a young half-Vietnamese woman traumatised by having been kept enslaved for ten years of her childhood. The inter-dependant relationship that has evolved between them, is strong and very important to the story. What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

I started working on a new book.

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

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak - the story is wonderful and the way he tells it is pure genius.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

I have finished a political corruption/crime novel which I am editing at the moment, and at the same time I'm writing another crime novel which includes origami – another learning experience for me.

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