More MS news articles for April 2002

Violent femme

Nicola Griffith spills the beans about Stay, her new novel starring kick-ass lesbian crime fighter Aud Torvingen

April 16, 2002
Book review From The Advocate
By Etelka Lehoczky

Sleek, sexy, and decidedly dangerous, Aud (rhymes with “shroud”) Torvingen is everything a suspense novel heroine should be. Despite—or perhaps because of—her lust for violence, the freelance crime fighter won over readers of Nicola Griffith’s The Blue Place in 1998. Now Aud’s back, and she’s as feral as ever.

“She has ice around her,” her creator admits, speaking to The Advocate from her home in Seattle. “She was never designed as a figure that you look up to. She’s this close to being a sociopath. [In The Blue Place] she’s one of those scary people, like religious zealots, who believe they’re absolutely right. She really believes that other people are imperfect copies of herself.”

The ice cracks and melts in Griffith’s latest novel, Stay, out in April from Doubleday. It finds Aud hiding from the world in an Appalachian cabin, still tormented by the death of her lover, which closed The Blue Place. She dwells endlessly on the issues other action heroes always seem to skip over—self-hate, recrimination, and moral questioning. It takes a vanished acquaintance, a sociopathic department store designer, and a child-trafficking ring to bring Aud back into the world.

“I realized about halfway through The Blue Place that I was going to have to write more about this woman. It was clear to me all of a sudden that she was beginning on this huge journey—basically, the journey we all make growing up,” Griffith says. “And I knew I couldn’t leave her the way I’d left her. It was a brutal thing I’d done to her, taking her sweetie and her whole vision of herself away at once. I really needed to see where she went.”

Griffith says she had no trouble imagining a heroine who loves killing; she’s always had an innate sense of her own capacity for violence. Though she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the early ’90s, her characters retain all the physical toughness she has lost.

“What I’m learning just in the last 10 years is that other girls grew up thinking, Oh, God, I feel so small and vulnerable. I just didn’t think that,” she says. “At school I was always the person they came to and said, ‘So-and-so is beating up so-and-so.’ I would walk up [to bullies] and say, ‘Oi! Stop that right now,’ and they’d go, ‘Oh, OK.’ It was this innate conviction that I was invulnerable that I think I projected and people believed.”

Readers are still eager to believe in Griffith’s formidable, undeniably sexy heroine. Aud’s powder-keg eagerness to make bad guys regret they were ever born does nothing to detract from her charisma.

“My agent, who’s straight, phoned me up after she read the first draft of The Blue Place and said, ‘Oh, my God, Nicola, this is it. I’m married, but I would throw my knickers at this woman,’ ” Griffith recalls with a laugh. “It seems to do something to straight women. It puffs them up in some way.”

Fortunately for Aud’s fans—straight and gay—her adventures will continue beyond Stay. Griffith plans to feature her in at least two more books. Aud will be getting readers “puffed up” for some time to come.

Lehoczky writes regularly for the Chicago Tribune. © 2002 by Liberation Publications Inc.