Theresa Schwegel: chick noir
Excerpt from the interview by Lynn Kaczmarek in the December/January 2008 issue of Mystery News
Theresa Schwegel was sitting at the dining room table on the 34th floor of a Chicago high-rise, looking out over the skyline when she and I talked on the phone. The view was fantastic and from there the city looked "shiny and bright." But Theresa Schwegel knows better.
Chicago is the setting for all three of Schwegel's books--Officer Down, Probable Cause and the recently released Person of Interest. All three are cop stories, but the only series character here is the city itself. These are tough, gritty books that explore the dark underbelly of crime and and the cop culture. There is corruption, torture, and deceit here, but finally, in Person of Interest, there is also a glimmer of hope.
And Schwegel seemed to be such a nice, young, softspoken thing...perhaps more suited to a traditional police procedural, if anything. But, like the city of Chicago, there is darkness beneath the shiny and bright. I wondered how she managed to find herself writing such tough stuff.
"I've always been a fan of noir, even in film school--the blacker the better for me. I just really am more interested in the underbelly, the underside of things. And it's especially interesting being back here in Chicago. The city is just growing so tremendously. I see out the window right now about eight different buildings that are under construction. And everything is so shiny and bright. And I just know there's another side to it. You know, read the Sun-Times--it's no question that there's corruption...
With an Edgar and Anthony for Officer Down, a New York Times Editors Choice and Publishers Weekly Best of the Year for Probable Cause, it seems like Theresa Schwegel is off to a promising start. "The most important thing to me, ultimately, is that I write honestly and I hope that is what comes through when people are reading. I think, and I hate to say it, that a lot of new stuff that's coming up is all gimmicky with this layer of cool over and some snarky attitude. I just try to divorce myself from any of that...I'm just trying to write honest characters and it that's a trend, then I hope to be in it."
Schwegel may well be at the forefront of new wave of tough-writing women that includes Megan Abbott and Karin Slaughter. If so, she doesn't seem to notice, nor is that likely to define her. She's a young writer who has found her voice and has a promising career ahead of her. As for me, I'll be happy to sit back and watch her grow--the future surely looks shiny and bright.
Read the complete interview in the December/January 2008 issue of Mystery News