Gordon Aalborg began his writing career as a reporter, columnist and bureau chief at The Edmonton Journal in his native Alberta, Canada. In the 1970s, he followed his muse to Australia where he spent many years as a freelance journalist, radio and television broadcaster, ultimately reinventing himself as bestselling romance author, Victoria Gordon.
Though Aalborg is back to writing under his own name, Victoria Gordon survives 20 books in. The most recent novel to be published under that name, 2004’s Finding Bess, was co-written by Aalborg and the author who is now his wife, Denise Dietz (Strangle A Loaf of Italian Bread), before they married. Aalborg and Dietz wrote the book via e-mail when he was still living in Tasmania and she was living in Colorado. “What a hoot — she kept wanting to kill people off and I kept wanting to get them into bed together.”
While Aalborg became what may have been the first man to write serious category romance, I would suspect that the Victoria Gordon novels were not the books of his heart, romance or no. Aalborg’s own passion seems closer to the surface in books like the newly published Dining With Devils (Five Star). “Thriller writing is much, much more difficult,” than writing romances he has said.
Though Dining With Devils stands alone, it follows up 2004’s The Specialist, a novel Booklist said hit “the creepy jackpot with his villain, a transcontinental Hannibal Lector wannabe with an appetite for the well-muscled thighs of comely female cyclists.”
The protagonist in that book, Tasmanian Police Sergeant Charlie Banes, is back again in Dining With Devils. “Don’t start it at night,” warns author Jeffrey Cohen (It Happened One Knife), in a blurb for Aalborg’s book. “You won’t get much sleep!”
A Snapshot of Gordon Aalborg…
Most recent book: Dining with Devils
Born: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Resides: Sidney, British Columbia, Canada.
Birthday: February 5th
Web site: gordonaalborg.com
What’s your favorite city?
I am not a city person, but if I had to choose: Hobart, Tasmania. I spent half my adult life in Australia and most of that in Tasmania, which I still think of as my spiritual home. Good people, good climate, spectacular scenery and world-class trout fishing.
You only have six hours to spend there. What do you do?
Go bush. With fly rod.
What food do you love?
I am a dedicated carnivore.
What food have you vowed never to touch again?
Various and sundry TV dinners.
What’s on your nightstand?
I have no such animal.
What inspires you?
The work of other writers, usually much better than I am. And of course my esteemed wife, Denise Dietz, who is also a mystery writer. I was forced into the genre in self-defense after multi discussions about which was easier/harder to write, mystery or romance.
What are you working on now?
The third and perhaps last in my Tasmanian mystery/thriller series. I’ve been back in Canada nearly ten years now, and it’s time for a change. Might try fantasy if I live long enough.
Tell us about your process.
Get up, have morning coffee, indulge in evasive strategies such as checking news, weather, crossword puzzle, etc. Having exhausted all possible excuses not to write, I eventually confront my computer, review the last efforts, usually rewrite some part of that, and then carry on bravely.
Cannot plot as such. I begin with a vague concept and let the story (hopefully) tell itself. If I plot at all, it is more a matter of searching for ways to link individual episodes in my characters’ journeys.
Lift your head and look around. What do you see?
Books, more books, still more books, some pictures, in a messy office with a computer that rules my life when Deni isn’t doing that.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’m not sure I ever wanted to be a writer. I fell into journalism at a tender age (long before there were computers), and it was downhill all the way after that. I woke up one morning and realized I was a storyteller. Once you realize that there is no going back — you are doomed.
If you couldn’t write books, what would you be doing?
Tell stories in hell, probably to people who’ve heard them before. Or write the stories — I’m positive computers were invented by the devil. Or not be able to tell stories — that would be hell!
To date, what moment in your career has made you happiest?
Going over the page proofs of Dining With Devils and finding myself generally pleased with it. Realizing I’ve actually learned something about story-telling, even if I won’t live long enough to learn it all.
The worst, strangely enough, was during my romance-writing heyday, when I got a huge royalty check one day, having done little for the previous six months, and found myself wondering: Is this all there Is to being a writer? Lots of money — but no satisfaction!
In those days, Harlequin didn’t acknowledge that any man could write category romance. I went to [a Romance Writers of America] conference back in the 1980s with the admonition: “Keep your head down and your mouth shut and remember you don’t exist.” That is an awful situation for a writer. We all crave attention, recognition, balm for our fragile but outsized egos.
And in recent years I’ve been doing a lot of freelance editing, which gives me immense satisfaction along with equal frustration. But when it’s good, there is no greater joy than finding and helping to shape raw, genuine talent in someone who’ll be a significant writer, if they work at it hard enough, long after I’m dead.
I was — just for the record — Kelli Stanley’s editor for her Nox Dormienda (A Long Night for Sleeping) Bruce Alexander Memorial Mystery Award Winner at Left Coast Crime just recently. I bathe in her reflected glory and thank my lucky stars for having had the sense to recognize a damned good book in its infancy. Some of my other authors have gained crash-hot reviews, but this is the first to actually get an award … and for a first book, too!
For you, what is the easiest thing about being a writer?
You get to be your own boss — and everyone else’s.
What’s the most difficult?
You get to be your own boss.
About once a year I would sell my soul just to have somebody else make the decisions for a change. Thankfully, that doesn’t last more than about half a day. More seriously, I believe writing is something that gets more and more difficult the better you become at it, because the challenges never stop — they run right over you without even slowing down.
What question do you get asked about your writing most often?
Deni often asks why I’m pestering her instead of doing my own work.
What’s the question you’d like to be asked?
“If we offer to pay you enough, will you come to ??? and address/teach/discuss….?”
What question would you like never to be asked again?
“You’re a writer? Have I ever read your books?”
Please tell us about Dining With Devils.
As I said earlier, Dining With Devils is the second in what might or might not end as a trilogy. The book is a standalone, but follows on from my earlier book, The Specialist.
On a remote Tasmanian grazing property, a gundog judge is murdered, at first glance by a blind man shooting blanks at a dead pigeon in an incident seen but not understood by Police Sergeant Charlie Banes and his close friend, visiting Canadian author Teague Kendall. Kendall’s almost-lover, Kirsten Knelsen, an ardent caving enthusiast, is kidnapped elsewhere in Tasmania, with nothing to even suggest the two incidents might be related. Then Kendall himself goes missing.
It takes all of Charlie’s “country cop” skills to discover the links, which involve Kendall’s vengeful Tasmanian ex-wife, a psychotic, American-hating ex-Viet Nam sniper, and a killer believed to have been dead for more than a year.
The killer everyone thinks perished in a Canadian cave is seeking revenge on Kirsten, the woman who trapped him there and left him to die. This time — as before — he intends to have Kirsten for dinner, and when Kendall’s ex-wife contributes Kendall to the menu, the killer fairly drools with anticipation.
Charlie’s rush to save his friends and end the killing spree is a race against time through the eucalypt forests of Tasmania’s east-coast highlands. Aided by a cranky old bushman and his Jack Russell terrier, Charlie also has help from the ubiquitous Tasmanian devils … world-class scavengers with their own ideas about appropriate table manners.
Tell us something about yourself that no one knows.
I’ll pass on that. If two people know something it isn’t a secret anymore.