There’s been a Murder Interview with J D Kirk

JD Kirk lives in the Highlands of Scotland with his wife, two children, and a number of sturdy umbrellas. Despite writing from a young age, ‘A Litter of Bones’ is his first novel, and combines his love of the Highlands, crime thrillers, and cats.

 

Was the biggest case of his career the worst mistake he ever made?

Ten years ago, DCI Jack Logan stopped the serial child-killer dubbed ‘Mister Whisper,’ earning himself a commendation, a drinking problem, and a broken marriage in the process.

Now, he spends his days working in Glasgow’s Major Incident Team, and his nights reliving the horrors of what he saw.

And what he did.

When another child disappears a hundred miles north in the Highlands, Jack is sent to lead the investigation and bring the boy home.

But as similarities between the two cases grow, could it be that Jack caught the wrong man all those years ago?

And, if so, is the real Mister Whisper about to claim his fourth victim?

1. How did you get started writing?
I’ve been writing pretty much for as long as I remember. I used to fill notebooks with short stories and comics, most of them insanely violent and full of gore. ‘Disembowelled’ was my favourite word for a while, and not a story would go by without at least one character having their bowels forcibly removed by something sharp and pointy.
I was nine years old when I decided that I wanted to do it as a career. We’d just done a project in school on Roald Dahl, and that was the first time I found out that being an author was an actual job. I’d written stories all the time for my own amusement before then, so when I found out that I could make ACTUAL MONEY from doing what I loved, I just knew that’s what I wanted to do.
2. What drew you to write a novel
I actually started off by writing screenplays. I wanted to write big cinematic movies that would play in the cinema for a while, then I realised that it was VERY difficult to get something like that made, so then I started writing much smaller, low-budget screenplays. I had a few of those picked up by production companies, but even at the low-budget end of the spectrum, producers have to raise millions to get a movie off the ground, so none of them ever went into production.
I realised that it was much cheaper for a publisher to put out a book than it was for a studio to put out a movie, so I took some of the stories I had planned writing as film scripts and started adapting them into novels. I found I enjoyed the process of writing a novel far more than I liked writing screenplays, and so all my new ideas tended to be for the page, rather than the screen.
I think there’s something about being able to get inside a character’s head that really appeals to me in writing a novel. In a screenplay, you can only really write about what the audience can see and hear. In a novel, you can do anything, go anywhere, and show the thoughts of the characters. There’s also no special effects budget, so you’re only limited by your imagination.
3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?
I don’t think it was any one writer, but more a big amalgamation of all the thousands of books I read growing up, and through my teenage years. After I discovered my local library, I’d go through three or four books a week. I always went against popular advice, and very much judged books by their covers. If the cover grabbed me, I’d have a go, often not paying attention to the author or title.
I tend to gravitate towards anything with humour in it, no matter the genre. I’m not saying everything has to be comedy, but I tend to get through life by laughing and joking, even during the darkest times, and I like a book to reflect that. I think Chris Brookmyre is a great example of that. Often very dark plots, but with a rich seam of humour running through them that just lifts the stories to another level.
4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest?
I think what gave me an advantage is that I wrote every day for about twenty years before I submitted a single novel to a publisher. It wasn’t that I didn’t think the earlier stuff was good enough (although, in hindsight, it probably wasn’t). It was that I enjoyed the writing process so much I didn’t want to get bogged down with the submission process.
When I finally decided to submit a novel I’d written to an agent, she signed me up pretty quickly. She then submitted the book to HarperCollins Children’s Books (it was a horror novel for 9-12 year olds) and they came back soon after to ask if I’d write a series of six. There were no rejections at all, as far as I can recall. I put it down to all those years of practice!
5. There are many interesting characters in your Novel, do you have a particular favourite one?
I enjoyed writing all the characters, and wanted to make sure they were all fleshed out with their own goals, ambitions, flaws, etc. As such, I like pretty much all of them – even the villainous characters – but DCI Jack Logan has to be my favourite. He’s often rude, sometimes harsh, but has that streak of humour running through him like I mentioned earlier.
He’s tormented by things that have happened to him in the past, and things he has done, but he also genuinely cares about people. He just sometimes shows it in a funny way…
6. What kind of research have you have to undertake for your Novel?
Mostly, it was stuff about police procedure. I was fortunate in that I got to know a couple of serving police officers online, and they were happy to give me some advice. I read a lot of police manuals, too, and generally spent a few weeks immersing myself in the intricacies of Police Scotland.
In the end, very little of that actually makes it into the book! For me, the characters and plot come first, and the actual nitty gritty of police procedure is a distant second. I try to sprinkle just enough to make it seem convincing to the reader, but never in a way that sacrifices story or character.
7. Are the characters in your books based on any real life?
Not specifically. I mean, there’s no one character who is based on an individual person I know, but they’re probably all a bit of a mish-mash of characteristics from various people I’ve known over the years. The only exception is DS McQuarrie in A Litter of Bones. She’s what I imagine the policewoman who attended the scene after I’d been involved in a car crash would be like, were she to become a detective. She was fiercely officious to the extent that, after giving me a breath test to make sure I hadn’t been drinking, she made me climb back in through the boot of my upside-down car to retrieve my insurance documents from the glove box. I was literally crawling over broken glass with her standing outside watching me.
I set out to make DS McQuarrie a version of that police officer, but ended up making her a bit nicer somewhere along the way.
8. Do you have a particular favourite scene in the book and why
The opening scene of A Litter of Bones is set in a place called Leanachan Forest, where I often take my dog for a walk. Without giving too much away, the events of this first scene kick off the whole story, and it’s based pretty closely on something that happened when my daughter and I took the dog out at that same spot. She was around seven, and what happens in that opening scene is almost exactly what happened with my daughter and I (only with a happier ending…)
And I shall say no more than that. 🙂
9. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa?
I think DCI Logan is sort of how I can see myself in the future. I think he was probably quite positive and idealistic once, but time, life, and the realisation that there are a lot of horrible people in the world have all conspired to turn him that bit wearier and more cynical. At his core, he still has that hopefully, idealistic spark, but dealing with murderers and psychopaths has buried it deep.
I’m currently still at that mostly-positive stage, but I can feel myself getting increasingly cantankerous and irritable as I get older. I don’t think I’m anywhere near Logan yet, but I suspect it’s just a matter of time.
10. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you might planned.
Sure! The second DCI Logan book, “Thicker than Water” comes out in June. When a mutilated body washes up on the shores of Loch Ness, the media goes into a monster-frenzy. But the real killer is very much human, and it’s up to Logan and the rest of the Major Investigations Team to find them.
11. If you had the opportunity to write a novel with any writer alive or dead, who would it be and why
Hmm. I’m not sure. If it’s a 50/50 royalty split, I’ll go with JK Rowling. 🙂
Seriously, though, one of the things I most enjoy about writing a novel is that it’s solely my vision. When I was writing screenplays, you had to try to second-guess what the budget would allow, then the best case scenario was that a director and producer would come along, take your script, and then stamp their own creative vision all over it.
I like the fact that a novel is just mine. Sure, there’s an editor to think about, but I have final say, no one else. I’m not sure if I’d be able to collaborate on a novel if it meant giving up that control.
That said, I’d love DCI Logan to do a crossover with someone like LJ Ross’s DCI Ryan. Something like that could be a lot of fun.
12.  Do you have words of advice you can share with anyone who is intrested in writing a novel
The obvious one is to write lots. The more you write, the better you get. But we’ve all heard that before.
So, instead, I’ll say: Live. It’s hard to write about being scared if you’ve never done anything scary. It’s hard to write about love if you’ve never experienced it, or about the thrill of driving a fast car around a racing track if you’ve never gone over thirty.
Go out and experience as many things as possible. Travel. Have adventures. Make friends. Laugh, love, experience loss, and all that stuff. The more of life you experience, the richer your writing will become.

Pre Order DCI Logan Novel 2 – Thicker Than Water – Out 30th June 2019

Not all monsters are make-believe.

When a badly mutilated body washes up on the shores of Loch Ness, DCI Jack Logan’s dream of a quiet life in the Highlands is shattered.

While the media speculates wildly about monster attacks, Jack and the Major Investigations Team must act fast to catch the killer before they can strike again.

But with Nessie-hunters descending on the area in their dozens, and an old enemy rearing his ugly head, the case could well turn out to be the most challenging of Jack’s career.

And, if he isn’t careful, the last.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thicker-than-Water-Scottish-Thrillers-ebook/dp/B07R43X1Y3/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=JD+Kirk&qid=1559931004&s=gateway&sr=8-1

Links are:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/JD-Kirk/e/B07Q5KDB1B/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

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There’s Been a Murder Interview with Allan Martin

Allan has worked as a teacher, teacher-trainer and university lecturer.  Itook early retirement and now live in Glasgow.  My wife and I visit the Hebrides and Estonia regularly. Before retirement, his writing was mainly academic work. In 2013 he edited (as well as co-authored) M. Lamb, J. Macmillan, & A. Martin, Bute Connections, Rothesay, Bute Natural History Society(a collection of biographies of historical figures connected to Bute).Since then He has concentrated on writing fiction.

1. How did you get started writing?

I’d written various bits and pieces (e.g. two school pantomimes when I was a teacher) and plenty academic stuff, but it was only when I took early retirement that things took off. Now I could focus on what I really wanted to write. To start with that was history. I did some family history, and then things relating to the history of Bute. Then I thought about fiction.

2. What drew you to write a novel?

We visit Islay regularly, and seeing the remains of the World War Two airbase triggered the idea of a novel related to it. I wrote the first draft of The Peat Dead without any idea of whether it was any good or not. It was only when my wife Vivien, who’s an honest critic, said how impressive she thought it was, that it became real.

I was then lucky enough to have it assessed by a published author through the Xpo North Emergents Programme. That was very encouraging and also gave me some good practical advice, a key point being to cut out 40,000 words! I had to sacrifice some beloved characters and scenes, but I learnt the lesson that you’ve got to focus on the plot and keep it moving. And that the first draft is only the first draft.

3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?

I’ve not consciously modelled my writing on anyone (I don’t think many authors do), but I guesslots of writers I’ve read have shaped my writing in one way or another. As a teenager I read Agatha Christie, Dennis Wheatley and Sax Rohmer, so they may be in there somewhere (though I’ve managed to resist writing about puzzle-solving amateur sleuths and oriental criminal masterminds). Eric Ambler probably influenced my mixing of crime, history and politics in the plot. Ambler’s The Mask of Dimitrios is a brilliant mixture of all three, as well as a powerful evocation of the atmosphere of the late 1930s. Lots of others will be in the mix too, as I do a lot of reading; I think all of your reading shapes what you write. Writers I’ve read more recently and very much admired are Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald and Peter May.

4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest?

I didn’t think seriously about getting The Peat Dead published until I came second in the Bloody Scotland Pitch Perfect event in 2016. Then I wrote to agents and publishers, and got plenty of polite refusals and even more total non-responses (‘If after six months we haven’t responded, please assume we’re not interested’). So you can imagine how excited I was when the lady from ThunderPoint said yes!

5. There are many interesting characters in your Novel, do you have a particular favourite one?

Angus Blue is the lynchpin of the book. He’s the one I started with, and he drives the investigation from start to finish. He has a strong moral sense: he believes in right and wrong rather than law and order. Justice is for him a moral imperative rather than a legal quibble. He has passions, but keeps them below the surface. And there’s a tragedy back there too. He is a team player, and builds a small team, each member of which has a distinctive character. There are lots of other characters in the book too, and I wanted each one to be different, and real. If the next Inspector Blue novel is published, there are characters who will return and who will need to be developed further, starting with Angus Blue himself.

6. What kind of research have you have to undertake for your Novel?

The plot and the characters are all my own. But the action has to take place in a plausible context. The locations on Islay are known from frequent visits. There are some very evocative places too which I wanted to include because they add to the sense of the past never being absent from the present.

One or two little tweaks were necessary in the service of  the plot. I had to add a cafe to the museum, create a fictitious distillery, and transform the police station from a small bungalow into an Edwardian villa.

Distilleries are an important part of Islay’s identity, as well as its economy. Angus Blue tries a different Islay whisky most nights. You can imagine that this necessitated many hours of careful tasting! I had to select the right whiskies, and describe the tastes as I experienced them. There’s only one fictitious whisky in the book, but Blue doesn’t get the opportunity to try it.

The plot hinges on historical events during World War Two. The airbase is real, but the events that happened there in the book are made up. However, some historical research was needed to make sure that the main events might have happened. The level of secrecy was so high during the war that, who knows, maybe they did happen!

Regarding police procedure, we are fortunate to know a retired detective who had worked in, among other things, the Vice Squad, and their advice on the activities of the police officers was very useful.

7. Are the characters in your books based on any real life?

All the characters I create are I guess drawn from my take on real life. However, only three minor characters are based on specific real people, and they are very positive characters. I should stress that no character in the book is based on anyone resident on Islay.

8. Do you have a particular favourite scene in the book and why?

Not one particular scene, but there are several which I particularly enjoyed writing. The car chase (on an island!!) and Blue’s conversation with his reporter friend about the possibility of aliens being involved. I also surprised myself when I read some of the scenes in which older people remembered the distant past and found how moving they were. But I’ve just been reading a recollection of Wilkie Collins that on checking over a manuscript he reached a part so moving that he wept, and had to rewrite the page as his tears had caused the ink to run.

9. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa?

I think it would be a dishonest writer who did not admit that their own personality had been invested somewhere in their books. But we have to look through the eyes of each character, and so I suspect every character has got a tiny bit of us in them. I would of course like to be like Angus Blue. We all have our fantasies!

10. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you might planned.

I’ve written the first draft of a second Angus Blue novel. It’s set on Jura. A cabinet minister is shot outside his mansion. But when Blue and his team try to investigate, they find themselves hampered by political policemen, who want to cover up what’s been going on at the house, and replace the truth with a fake narrative. Blue travels to England, Ireland and Germany before the truth behind the events on Jura emerges. That involved more research, including a visit to a small town on the Polish-German border.

The third one is still in the planning stage, but it will involve an Estonian woman, married to a Scot and living in Oban, who disappears on a visit to family in Estonia, and whose body is then found floating in Lake Peipsi. Blue works with local police to uncover some murky deeds harking back to the country’s communist past, and linked to dodgy goings-on in Scotland.

The reason I chose Estonia is that we go there regularly, so know the country quite well. I’veeven attempted to learn the language. I’ve translated a closed room mystery published in 1937 from the Estonian, and am currently working on a second novel by the same author (Elmar Valmre). It’s hard work, but very satisfying.

Finally, continuing the Estonian theme, I’m working on a crime novel set in 1930s Estonia, a small newly-independent country trying to forge its own identity. A senior policeman falls from a viewpoint in central Tallinn and is impaled on a flagpole. Chief Inspector Hallmets investigates, whilst two journalists develop their own take on events, and get sucked into them. Is this a new genre: retro-Baltic Noir? This book is involving us in some interesting historical research. It was weird to actually stay at the same hotel where DCI Hallmets stayed (in the book) some eighty-odd years ago.

11. If you had the opportunity to write a novel with any writer alive or dead, who would it be and why?

That’s a scary prospect, as I suspect the best writers aren’t good at working together, they’ve got too many of their own ideas, and their own writing style. It would have been interesting though to spend a week observing Raymond Chandler or Ross Macdonald at work.

12.  Do you have words of advice you can share with anyone who is interested in writing a novel?

No published author is short of such advice!

a. Don’t stop reading. It’s what you’ve read that makes you the writer you are.

b. Find the genre you’re happy with. And you own voice. Don’t try to emulate your favourite author.

b. Write regularly. It doesn’t have to be the same hours each day, but writing eighty or ninety thousand words is a big job and you have to keep at it. And even if you just get a few hundred words done in a session, you’re making progress.

c. Find a First Reader: someone you can trust to read your work carefully, and give you honest and constructive feedback.

d. Expect disappointments, setbacks and rejections. But don’t give up.

 

Published Fiction

Novel:

The Peat Dead, published April 2017 by ThunderPoint Publishing

ISBN 978-1-910946-54-1 (paperback); 978-1-910946-55-8 (eBook)

On the Scottish Hebridean Island of Islay, five corpses are dug up by a peat-cutter. All of them have been shot in the back of the head, execution style.

Sent across from the mainland to investigate, Inspector Angus Blue and his team slowly piece together the little evidence they have, and discover the men were killed on a wartime base, over 70 years ago.

But there are still secrets worth protecting, and even killing for.

Who can Inspector Blue trust?

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Peat-Dead-Allan-Martin-ebook/dp/B07NPX8H12

Short Stories:

Magazine

Issue Date

No.

Title

Pages

iScot

December 2017

35

A Place for Inspiration

104-106

iScot

March 2018

38

Across the Bridge

100-103

iScot

April 2018

39

Darkness (as ‘Elspeth Forrest’)

68-73

iScot

April 2018

39

The View from the Balcony

74-78

iScot

May 2018

40

Seen but for a Moment

92-96

iScot

June 2018

41

The Man who hated Pillars

40-43

iScot

June 2018

41

Incident at Dunagoil

94-97

404 Ink

July 2018

4

Letter from America

34-39

iScot

August 2018

44

Out of the Rain

92-97

iScot

September 2018

45

Trouble with Chickens

96-101

iScot

October 2018

46

Somebody trod on your Grave

101-105

iScot

November 2018

47

The 4.30 from Wenbury Junction

103-106

iScot

December 2018

48

The Book of Names

111-119

iScot

January 2019

49

The Bridge at SiebenhÀusern

103-107

iScot

Feb/March 2019

50

The Crypt

105-107

iScot

March/April 2019

51

The Rise and Rise of Carlotta Morazov

85-89

iScot

April/May 2019

52

Death by Chocolate

87-92

 

Website links: http://www.allanmartin.scot

ThunderPoint Publishing: www.thunderpoint.co.uk

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Allan-Martin/e/B001JXKVPQ/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

 

 

Val Penny Hunter’s Force Blog Tour

Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her crime novels, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ Hunter’s Revenge and Hunter’s Force are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Crooked Cat Books. The fourth book in the series, Hunter’s Blood, follows shortly.

Hunter by name – Hunter by nature:

Can DI Hunter Wilson keep Edinburgh safe when he is the hunted?

 

DI Hunter Wilson is woken in the early hours of the morning by a call from his son, Cameron. Who has murdered the young student who shares Cameron’s flat? Why would anybody want to kill a young woman recently arrived in the city?

Now that the united police force, Police Scotland exists, Hunter must call in the new Major Incident Team (MIT) to lead the investigation. Hunter’s ability to investigate anything further is put in severe doubt when someone from his past decides to take revenge on him. He goes missing and his team have no idea where to look for him. Who would want to stop Hunter in his tracks? 

Hunter’s team must work closely with MIT, with or without him, to solve the murder in this taught crime thriller. 

Except from Hunters Force

Chapter 23

Hunter was still hurting in the back of the car. His breath was gone. He tried to stay calm because he remembered that, if he didn’t struggle with it, his breath would come back. Still, he felt as if somebody was holding his head under water.

“Hunter?” John’s voice came from the front of the car.

Hunter could not reply. He had no breath, and Squires kicked him again, this time hard in the side of the head. He rolled onto his back and saw stars. His chest started hitching and his breaths finally started coming in small grateful sips. Squires kicked his head again. Hunter felt blackness seep into the edges of his vision. His eyes rolled back. His stomach clenched and he thought that he might be sick. Hunter was so confused that he actually thought the missing carpet was a good thing. The metal floor would be easier to clean if he vomited.

“How do you like my brand of punishment?” John asked. “I had to leave the force because of you, and you’re lost to the force because of me. Neat, isn’t it?”

Scuttling to the far side of the car, Hunter said, “John, this is madness! We can sort this out and nobody needs to know, I swear!”

Hunter pressed his back against the car wall. The bar with the handcuff was above his left shoulder. Squires kept staring at him. Hunter didn’t move. He was trying to buy time. Catch his breath. Think straight. His head was still sore, making everything hazy, but he found the pain was an efficient way to bring clarity back to his life: the present.

He pulled his knees to his chest. Squires never stopped looking at him. Hunter felt something small and jagged against his foot. Bare feet can be useful. He thought it was probably a shard of glass or a rough pebble, but with mounting dread he saw it was neither. It was a tooth.

His breath caught in his throat. He glanced over at Squires, who continued to stare at him. Then Hunter watched as Squires opened the box he had seen in the corner of the car. Hunter felt sick again when he realised the contents were old rusty tools. He saw a set of pliers, a hacksaw, a hammer, and then he stopped looking. He didn’t like to think about how the tooth came out or who it had belonged to.

“Are we having fun yet, Hunter?” John asked.

“We need to talk this through, John,” Hunter said. “This is crazy.”

“That is a very disappointing attitude,” John said, shaking his head.

Hunter watched Squires. The huge man remained impassive, waiting for his instructions. But now the box was open his attention was distracted from Hunter to the tools.

“Squires, cuff him now. He is getting on my nerves,” John commanded.

Hunters Force Amazon Page

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hunters-Force-Edinburgh-Crime-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B07MCH8KSQ/ref=as_li_ss_tl?keywords=Hunter%27s+Force&qid=1554124040&s=books&sr=1-1&linkCode=sl1&tag=lovboogroblo-21&linkId=2c6093d4cd4aa0f9f2f61ead4beb6296&language=en_GB

Val Penny Website

https://authorvalpenny.com

Val Penny Amazon Author Page

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Val-Penny/e/B07C4725TK/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

Val Penny Twitter

@valeriepenny

There’s been a murder interview with MR Mackenzie

M.R. Mackenzie was born and lives in Glasgow, Scotland. He studied at Glasgow University and has a PhD in Film Studies. In 2016, he contributed a chapter on the Italian giallo film to Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion.

In addition to writing, he works as an independent Blu-ray/DVD producer and has overseen releases of films by a number of acclaimed directors, among them Dario Argento, Joe Dante and Seijun Suzuki.

His debut novel, In the Silence, reached #2 in Amazon UK’s Scottish crime fiction bestsellers chart.

1. How did you get started writing?

I suspect I’d credit my granny with infecting me with the writer’s bug. She was a wonderful storyteller with an incredible memory for events that had taken place eighty years ago or more. A lot of people have fond memories of their grandparents reading books to them as children, but with my granny, she always told her own stories. Unfortunately,when, I told my guidance teacher I wanted to be an author, not long after I started secondary school, she replied that hardly anyone made a living as a writer and that I should aspire to become a vet instead! As a result, I didn’t actually return to writing in any serious way until my mid-twenties
 and have been making up for lost time ever since.

 

2. What drew you to write a novel?

At first, there was an element of expedience involved! When I returned to writing in my mid-twenties, I initially pursued a career screenwriting, seeking to combine my passion for telling stories with my love of film. (In fact, my first novel, In the Silence, was originally written as a screenplay.) Ultimately, though, despite making some promising connections and having some positive feedback from submissions to the likes of Channel 4’s 4Screenwriting and the BBC’s Script Room programmes, my big break never materialised, and I initially turned to novel-writing almost by necessity – concluding that, despite the challenges involved in getting a novel written and published, there are comparatively fewer hurdles to getting it out there than there are to getting your spec script turned into a feature film!

It’s probably somewhat fortuitous, then, that I quickly realised I actually enjoyed writing novels more than scripts. Something about that expanded canvass, that ability to really get inside my characters’ heads without that constant feeling of a need to hit an arbitrary page count, and (perhaps most of all) the lack of a need to satisfy an army of executives, producers and script editors, really clicked with me, to the extent that I’m extremely happy with where I’ve ended up. I certainly don’t miss having to format everything in 12pt Courier!

 

3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?

I read more Enid Blyton than was healthy when I was younger, and I’m inclined to credit her with my fondness for writing about amateur sleuths. I find them so much more interesting than professional detectives, possibly because I can relate to the life of a civilian thrust into unfamiliar circumstances in a way that I can’t an officer of the law.

Denise Mina, with her Garnethill trilogy, shattered my preconceptions about what Glaswegian crime was, eschewing hard-bitten, hard-drinking, middle-aged male policemen in favour of characters who were a whole lot more colourful – and more relatable. Her early novels in particular are chock-full of wonderful observations about the human condition and the weird and wonderful characters that exist in everyday life, and I try to capture some of that in my own writing.

Finally, Tana French showed me that crime can be literary. I’m not nearly as good a writer as she is, but I’m constantly inspired by her command of language and her ability to evoke atmosphere with nothing but text on a page.

 

4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest?

I was actually very fortunate, in that In the Silence was both the first novel I wrote (as an adult – we’ll overlook my no doubt completely embarrassing efforts from when I was younger!) and the first one I ever submitted to any publishers. I spent an inordinate amount of time perfecting it as much as I could, then went through the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbookfrom cover to cover, identifying every publisher who accepted unsolicited submissions in my genre, then fired off a bunch of query letters and sample chapters. Bloodhound Books weren’t the only publisher to express an interest, but they were the first to get back to me and seemed eager to snap me up when they heard I’d submitted to other publishers, so I figured I was onto a good thing with them!

 

5. There are many interesting characters in your Novel, do you have a particular favourite one?

Zoe! It has to be Zoe! When I initially wrote In the Silence as a screenplay, my protagonist, Anna Scavolini, wasn’t all that well defined and it took a number of drafts before I started to get more of a sense of who she was and what made her tick. But Zoe, her red-headed, larger-than-life best friend, sprang off the page fully formed from the very beginning. She’s such a flamboyant and iconically Glaswegian character, and, when the time came for me to write the sequel, Cruel Summer(releasing on 28 May), I knew I wanted to switch gears and tell that particular story through her eyes.

Of course, that’s not so say that I’m not also very fond of Anna, and in fact I’m currently in the early stages of work on a third instalment, in which she once again assumes the role of protagonist. But I’ll always have a soft spot for Zoe and herlack of an internal filter. There’s something incredibly satisfying about writing a character who always says exactly what she thinks!

 

6. What kind of research have you have to undertake for your Novel?

Research is probably my least favourite part of the writing process, as it invariably leads to the realisation that a particular plot development I’m desperate to include would never happen in real life. It’s also why I prefer to write about amateur detectives than the professional kind – because they’re so mired in rules and bureaucracy that I’d have to research and then present accurately in order for my writing to have any pretence of authenticity. But that’s not to say I don’t do any research. Right now, for example, I’m completely immersed in Frank Hagan’s Introduction to Criminology. My character, Anna Scavolini, is a criminology lecturer, and, in the in-development third novel in the series, her job comes to the forefront in a way that it hasn’t in the first two, so I feel it’s incumbent on me to get a decent grounding in the topic before I put pen to paper and completely embarrass myself.

Of course, working in a genre with a higher than average body count, part of the research process also involves figuring out gruesome and inventive ways to kill people and making sure I’m describing the effects as scientifically accurately as possible. I don’t mind THAT kind of research!

 

7. Are the characters in your books based on any real life?

To some extent. I think it’s impossible not to incorporate elements of people you know in real life into your characters, and I think just about everyone has met a Zoe at one point or another! But I try to avoid basing anyone too closely on any single person, not least because a lot of the characters I write about tend not to be particularly nice people, and I don’t want to put anyone’s nose out of joint!

 

8. Do you have a particular favourite scene in the book and why?

There’s a scene, about a third of the way through Cruel Summer, in which Zoe, who has been conducting an unofficial investigation into a high-rising politician accused of assault, is confronted by a tag team consisting of her girlfriend Carol and her best friend Anna, who are trying to dissuade her from her current path. It’s a small scene but I think it captures the individual personalities of the three characters very nicely, and also manages to convey both the inherent absurdity in what, to Zoe, resembles an intervention or laying on of hands,and her burning anger at the sense that these two people are trying to control her life.

 

9. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa?

I reckon Zoe is just about the polar opposite from me in every respect. Honest, if I met her in real life, I’d probably be a bit intimidated by her! But I’ve said before that, while Anna is very different from me in a lot of respects, we actually do have a fair amount in common. We’re both PhD graduates, we’re both introverts, we were both born in Glasgow within a couple of years of each other, and we share many of the same socio-political views, though we disagree on certain key issues I won’t go into here for fear of spoiling too much of the story.

 

10. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you might planned.

Well, I’ve already mentioned the third instalment in the Anna Scavolini series, which I’m in the process of plotting at the moment. My intention is for it to serve as the conclusion of sorts to a loose trilogy that began with In the Silence and continues with Cruel Summer. It’s very likely that I’ll continue the series beyond that – in fact, I already have rough ideas for Books 4 and 5 – but I envisage them being more standalone in nature, whereas In the Silence, Cruel Summerand the as-yet-untitled Book 3 are much more intertwined – though they can, of course, be read independently as well.

I’m also working on a standalone mystery called The Library Murders, which draws on my day job experience and which I hope will see the light of day as some point this year as well. Stay tuned for more info on that one in the not-too-distant future (hopefully)!

 

11. If you had the opportunity to write a novel with any writer alive or dead, who would it be and why?

That’s a tricky one to answer as I’m not, by nature, a particularly collaborative person. On the contrary, I tend to resist any and all attempts to change My Visionℱ, and often have to be dragged kicking and screaming back to my manuscript by admirably patient editors. In contrast to writing for film or television, writing a novel is a very solitary pursuit, and I suspect most authors would probably struggle with the idea of writing with another author, particularly one with their own distinctive style – though I know there have been many successful partnerships, either by established writing teams like Sjöwall & Wahlöö or Nicci French, or one-off pairingslike James Patterson’s recent collaboration with Bill Clinton.

 

12.  Do you have words of advice you can share with anyone who is interested in writing a novel?

I’d definitely encourage anyone thinking about writing a novel to put pen to paper and go for it. The rise of eBooks, self-publishing and independent publishing houses means that the process has been democratised like never before, and while I think that invariably presents challenges of its own when it comes to getting noticed in an increasingly crowded field, I genuinely think this is a really exciting time to be a writer, and that the opportunities are just waiting to be grasped.

I’d also say try not to be too discouraged if you don’t achieveovernight success. Very few authors shoot to the top of the charts and receive critical acclaim right out of the gate. It takes time to build a profile – I’m only in the early stages of it myself – and it can feel like an uphill climb with the summit nowhere in sight. My long-term goal is definitely to be able to make a living doing this full-time, but until then, I would much rather my work was out there and being read by however many people it can reach – whether that’s a bajillion or just a handful – than locked away on my hard drive being read by no one.

In the Silence (2018)

Anna hasn’t set foot in Glasgow for ten years. And for very good reasons


When Anna, a criminology lecturer, does return to Glasgow from Rome, during the coldest winter in memory, tragedy strikes. While out with her best friend from school, Anna has a chance encounter with a former flame, Andrew, and later that night discovers Andrew stabbed and dying on a blanket of snow.

Soon Anna finds herself at the centre of the investigation as the star witness for the police, and embarks on investigating the case herself. But Anna doesn’t realise the danger she is in and soon finds herself in trouble.

When another body shows up, who has links to the first victim, it appears that the motive may lie buried in the past.

As Anna gets closer to the truth, the killer starts closing in.

But can she solve the gruesome mystery before the killer strikes again?

Cruel Summer (2019)

Zoe Callahan is having the summer from hell
 and it’s about to get a whole lot worse.

She’s stuck in a dead-end job, her relationship is going nowhere, and the memory of the Kelvingrove Park Murders three years ago continues to cast a long shadow over every aspect of her life.

When a prostitute is brutally assaulted by Dominic Ryland, a rising political star with a suspiciously spotless personal reputation, Zoe leaps at the chance to distract herself with a noble cause, and sets out on a one-woman crusade to bring Ryland to justice.

But in doing so, she quickly finds herself on the wrong side of some very dangerous people – people who have reputations to protect and who would think nothing of silencing Zoe by any means necessary.

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/M.R.-Mackenzie/e/B07H378NVB/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

Author website: https://www.michaelmackenzie.scot/

Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MRMackenzieAuthor/

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/landofwhimsy/

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/mrmackenzie

About Cruel Summer: https://www.michaelmackenzie.scot/cruelsummer/

Buy Cruel Summer: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07R571VZC

Buy In the Silence: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07H2M912V

Sue Lawerence Down to the Sea Blog Tour

As well as writing three very popular and well-reviewed historical mysteries published in the UK and overseas, Sue Lawrence is one of the UK’s leading cookery writers, with eighteen published cookbooks. Having trained as a journalist in Dundee, she won BBC’s MasterChef in 1991 and became a food writer, regularly contributing to Scotland on Sunday, as well as being the Sunday Times’ food writer for six years. Born in Dundee and raised in Edinburgh, she now lives near Newhaven, Edinburgh – the setting for her latest novel. She has won two Guild of Food Writers Awards and a Glenfiddich Food and Drink Award, and now focuses on researching and writing historical fiction.

When Rona and Craig buy a large Victorian house up from Edinburgh’s Newhaven district – once teeming with fishing boats – they plan to renovate and set it up as a luxury care home. But something is not quite right: disturbing sounds can be heard when the sea mists swirl; their unpredictable neighbour makes it clear that the house was not always a happy family home. And their ‘characterful’ historic pile has a gloomy cellar harbouring relics from days gone by.

Excerpt from Down to the Sea

What d’you mean, they grind up dead babies’ bones?’

Jessie turned to the tall boy who was holding out his tin bowl for porridge. He had just told her he was now old enough to be working with the men, even though he was only fifteen, and their job today was to crush babies’ bones.

The boy leant in towards her. He smelled funny so she wanted to draw back, but he started whispering. Jessie glanced round to where Molly was talking to Matron at the door. They were no doubt discussing whatever delicacy Molly had for Matron and the Governor today. Molly said Matron seemed to take little interest in food, whereas the Governor enjoyed both food and drink. His red nose reminded Jessie of Old Tom who was to be found every day at The Stone Pier Inn opposite the harbour. In summer, he was given a chair outside. He always had a tankard of ale in his hand. Jessie’s mum used to say not to go near him – he would lash out at the children nearby the more he had to drink. The one time she and Dorrie had no choice but to pass close by, the stink of him was enough to make them want to vomit.

‘The dead babies have their bones all hacked up then pounded up into dust and made into porridge.’ The boy nodded at the pot in front of her. ‘That porridge.’

‘That’s not true. It can’t be true.’ Molly waddled back over to the serving table, so Jessie asked, ‘This isn’t made from dead babies’ bones, is it?’

‘Billy, is that you telling tales again? Of course not, Jessie. Now get on with your work. And you, Billy Muir, be on your way.’ Molly thumped down the ladle and said to Jessie, ‘You’ve been here a good few months now. You know that boy’s trouble. Ignore him. Stay clear of all those boys.’

Once the last bowl of porridge had been ladled out, Jessie looked over the dining room where the Governor had finished morning prayers and was sweeping past them with his usual scowl. Squashed side by side on rickety benches at four long tables were the residents, heads bent low over the thin porridge. Two tables were for men and boys, two for women and girls. There was no conversation – no talking was allowed. Everyone had their heads bent low, concentrating on eating. Jessie started clearing the serving table ready to take the pan and ladle back to the kitchen.

Down to the Sea Amazon Book Link

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Down-Sea-Sue-Lawrence-ebook/dp/B07HR52K3G/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&qid=1553083660&sr=8-1&keywords=down+to+the+sea&linkCode=sl1&tag=lovboogroblo-21&linkId=e6d044f3641c61e16171666a7cb34c8b&language=en_GB

Amazon Author Link

https://www.amazon.co.uk/l/B001H6KVB4?_encoding=UTF8&redirectedFromKindleDbs=true&ref_=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1&rfkd=1&shoppingPortalEnabled=true

Twitter

@SueHLawrence

@SarabandBooks

Free Book Giveaway – Lethal Injection

Last week I interviewed the author of Lethal Injection Dave K MacDonald, up for craps is ten free copies of the book for the first ten people to email him on Davidkmacdonaldsty@gmail.com x

It looked like a routine homicide with traceable DNA and a witness that never lies.

However this was a high profile murder and the stakes were equally high.
The death penalty was on the table.
This case would cast serious doubt over the validity of capital punishment.
It would question the infallibility of forensic evidence.
The political fallout would reach the White House.
What nobody realised was that someone had committed the perfect crime not by
planning but by accident.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lethal-Injection-Dave-Macdonald/dp/1527210499/ref=sr_1_15?qid=1556525914&refinements=p_27%3ADave+Macdonald&s=books&sr=1-15&text=Dave+Macdonald

There’s been a murder author interview with Dave K McDonald

1. How did you get started

I started writing books on philosophy and psychology, and some poetry, then wrote this latest crime novel.

It’s best to illustrate why we should all write rather than me individually.

I was at Glasgow airport one day, sitting in the lounge, when this rather brash young girl, 8 or 9, came up to me with a copy of my first book. She boldly said “this is you, isn’t it?” (I could not argue as my picture was on the back). I said yes. “well,” she said, “I want you to sign this for me because my mum is over there, and it’s her birthday next week.” I said ok, and asked “do you write?”. She said “oh yes, every night I got bed and write in my notebook, but not anymore because I want to be rich and famous like you.” (Which I am obviously not!). With a child, you should use an analogy to explain your view. I said, “Well, tonight, when you write in bed, imagine your fingers going all the way down to your heart. You pull a small piece out and you write with that. And if anyone ever says to you they don’t like it, you tell them these words are a piece of you, and when we are all gone, and even the mountains and the sea are gone, these words will remain forever. That’s why we should write – to leave behind a piece of our heart that will always be there.”

That cost me an ice-cream, a copy of my book and a hug. A small price to pay.

2. What drew you to write a novel?

After writing on philosophy and psychology (where my heart lies), I thought maybe I could reach a larger audience to put a message across by writing a crime novel.

3.Which writers influenced you?

I would say writers with intrigue, slightly old-fashioned – the novel has not much sex or violence.

It’s more a plot to make the reader think. With that in mind, Frederick Forsyth (The Day of the Jackal) is our best writer I believe.

4. Hard to get published?

Yes, but you must be persistent, and don’t allow refusals to get you depressed. This is hard because the novel will contain your persona, your heart and soul, and to have it rejected can be devastating. However remember J.K. Rowling was rejected 27 times before she found a publisher.

5. Interesting characters?

Probably the lawyer, because he is the cement that binds the case and without his insight and, in a way, legal deviousness, the twins would not have been able to stay together.

6. Research

Quite complex, I had to firstly research what states had the death penalty, and this changes constantly. I then had to review their judicial and appellate system (even American lawyers don’t fully understand it).

The book had to also not just be proofread, but also “Americanised” i.e. we say pavement, they say “sidewalk.” Readers pick up on these things quickly and are keen to highlight any mistakes.

 

7. Characters focused on real life people

Not particularly,. But there is currently a convict on death row, I think in Texas, where his lawyer has filed for a stay of execution stating that they have found a letter of confession from the accused twin-brother, saying he raped and murdered the victim.

As the evidence was based on DNA (semen), and CCTV, being mitochondrial twins (i.e. from the same egg) this rules this evidence out as inadmissible.

The problem is that this twin brother was killed in a gang fight, so all they have to go on is the written confession. It would be unlikely that they would execute anyone on the strength of a handwriting expert. However this will go to the supreme court.

I would hate to think that this appeal has been lodged because someone has read the novel.

8. Favourite scene

The last one, and that’s because when you write a crime novel you have to write it in reverse. You want to keep an intrigue and spring a surprise at the end, but to do that you must lay the groundwork from the start, trying to leave enough indications of the plot to invite speculation. A classic “who done it” I suppose.

9. Do you see any of the characters personality in yourself, or vice versa?

Strangely enough perhaps with Sandra. She shows a different more caring and more thoughtful insight into her sexuality, and consequently this influences her relationship with the D.A.

10. Sneaky peek into a new novel

I am working on a new crime plot, with a psychological twist. Its got to be different and that’s hard. You must surprise and intrigue the reader.

11. Who would you like to write with, dead or alive?

Probably Frederick Forsyth, Alistair Maclean or Robert Ludlum – all great writers.

For non-fiction, it would be Maslow, Einstein or Allan Turin because of their great insight.

12. Advice to writers

Apart from my reply to question 1, I could add this: someone asked me about a poem I had written and she said “How do you write like that?” I said, “Well first, you buy a big spade because you have to dig deep. Writing is an emotional nakedness so be prepared, because when it’s out there you can’t cover it up.”

An example of this: the poem I treasure the most is one I wrote about the sea. It was also published in our local paper, and one day an old man stopped me in the street and asked if I had written it, and I told him I had. This old man had been at sea all his life, fought in the Second World War, and the sea was everything to him. He never married, and eventually came home to his croft by the sea, However, with the injuries he suffered during the Russian Convoys, the power in his legs was beginning to fail. What he said to me is really the reason we should write. He said “I haven’t read much poetry, but when I read the words you wrote about the sea, I can smell it and taste it, and for that I will always be grateful.”

I think you don’t really read a poem or even contemplate it, it’s the poignancy that counts. A poem is an orchestration of words from your heart that reaches another.

 

It looked like a routine homicide with traceable DNA and a witness that never lies.

However this was a high profile murder and the stakes were equally high.
The death penalty was on the table.
This case would cast serious doubt over the validity of capital punishment.
It would question the infallibility of forensic evidence.
The political fallout would reach the White House.
What nobody realised was that someone had committed the perfect crime not by
planning but by accident.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lethal-Injection-Dave-Macdonald/dp/1527210499/ref=sr_1_15?qid=1556525914&refinements=p_27%3ADave+Macdonald&s=books&sr=1-15&text=Dave+Macdonald

OTHER BOOKS:

A Book of You: Emotional DNA Your Uniqueness Explored

https://www.davidkmacdonaldauthor.co.uk

https://m.facebook.com/David-K-Macdonald-Author-774533459594961/#_=_

Toby Faber Close to the Edge Blog Tour

As the grandson of Faber’s founder, Toby Faber grew up steeped in the company’s books and its stories. He was Faber’s managing director for four years and remains a non-executive director and chairman of sister company Faber Music.

How did you get started writing?

I first wrote two non-fiction books about Stradivarius violins and Faberge Eggs. That was a relatively gentle introduction to writing a full length book because to get a publishing deal I had to plan both out in advance, but the experience showed me that I could sustain a narrative for 80,000 words

What drew you to write a novel

I had an idea that wouldn’t go away about my protagonist witnessing someone fall off a tube platform. After two more non-fiction proposals that didn’t get off the ground, I decided to have a go at turning that idea into a novel.

Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?

That’s hard to say. I’ve always admired PD James for her characters and the sense of place she manages to convey, while obeying what she sees as the rules of detective fiction. My book is not, however, a classic detective book.

When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest?

Each new project has involved going back to square one. My agent for the non-fiction books was not keen on thrillers so I had to move, with two false goes before I was taken on by Peter Straus at Rogers, Coleridge & White. He got me to do quite a bit of work on the book before sending it out to publishers, and there were several refusals and near-misses before it was taken on by Muswell Press.

There are many interesting characters in your Novel, do you have a particular favourite one?

I like Laurie – the main character – for the way she develops her own sense of independence in the course of the novel, but hope readers end feeling that her flatmate and father are just as interesting and important.

What kind of research have you have to undertake for your Novel?

I researched the underground a lot, both online and by exploring physical stations. I did not, however, go down there after hours.

Are the characters in your books based on any real life?

There’s quite a lot of my father in Laurie’s Dad, but bits of a few other people too, including me.

Do you have a particular favourite scene in the book and why

I like the scene towards the end when they meet the voluble neighbour Mrs Shilling. It was a chance to inject a bit of humour, and perhaps let the readers see things that are not yet clear to Laurie, before a moment of real tension.

Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa?

When I first thought about the book (a long time ago), I was a 25-year-old commuting on the underground, a bit like Laurie. I think quite a lot of me got into her in my first draft. There’s probably less of me in her now, and more in her Dad: I’ve grown older.

If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you might planned.

I’m not sure I’m finished with Laurie yet. I think she needs to understand a bit more about her childhood and why they ended up leaving Cambridge.

If you had the opportunity to write a novel with any writer alive or dead, who would it be and why.

George Macdonald Fraser is not a thriller writer but I loved his series of historical novels about Flashman. I’ve got at least two good ideas for other adventures Flashman could have had in the 19th century.

Do you have words of advice you can share with anyone who is intrested in writing a novel

If you want to write it quickly, don’t do what I did, which was to start with an idea and see where it took me. Instead, develop a really good understanding of your characters and plot the book out carefully. You’ll have fewer false starts!

Close to the Edge by Toby Faber is published by Muswell Press on 11th April, priced ÂŁ10.99

Morning rush hour on the London tube. Laurie Bateman witnesses a terrible accident. Life had been looking up – she’s dating a new man and finally getting praise at work. But after the accident everything seems to plummet downhill. In the space of a few days her flat is burgled and her flatmate assaulted – she loses her phone and then her job. Are these events linked?  Perhaps what she had seen was something more sinister?  Compelled to investigate, Laurie finds herself in serious danger and is soon fleeing for her life through tube tunnels in the dead of night – the hunter has become the hunted.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Close-Edge-Toby-Faber/dp/1999613538/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_t_0?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=PSGVATH3SC4EWVMA5B4S

Toby’s previous books are Stradivarius and Faberge’s Eggs, both published by Macmillan.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/l/B001ITYXRS/260-6238247-9238858?_encoding=UTF8&redirectedFromKindleDbs=true&rfkd=1&shoppingPortalEnabled=true

His next non-fiction book, Faber & Faber: The Untold Story, is being published by Faber & Faber in May.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Faber-Untold-Story-Toby/dp/0571339042

Website

http://www.tobyfaber.co.uk

Twitter

@Toby_Faber

 

 

 

 

Ragnar Jónasson The Island Blog Tour

Ragnar Jonasson is the award winning author of the international bestselling Dark Iceland series and the Hidden Iceland series. He has sold over 600,000 books worldwide, thereof over 300,000 thousand books in France in just two years. His books are published in 21 languages in over 30 countries and his debut, Snowblind, went to number one in the Amazon Kindle charts shortly after publication in the UK. The book was also a no. 1 Amazon Kindle bestseller in Australia. The second book in the series, Nightblind, also became a no. 1 Amazon Kindle bestseller in Australia. Ragnar is also a no. 1 Crime Fiction Bestseller in France, with Blackout topping the crime fiction charts in France in 2019. Ragnar is the winner of the Mörda Dead Good Reader Award 2016 for Nightblind. His latest book in the UK, The Darkness, was selected as the Sunday Times Crime Novel of the Month and Snowblind was selected by The Independent as one of the best crime novels of 2015. His books have also won praise from publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. Ragnar is the co-founder of the Reykjavik international crime writing festival Iceland Noir. From the age of 17, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic. Ragnar has appeared on festival panels worldwide, and lives in Reykjavik. Ragnar has a law degree and works as an investment banker in Reykjavik, in addition to teaching law at Reykjavik University.

Four friends visit the island.

But only three return . . .

Detective Inspector Hulda HermannsdĂłttir is sent to the isolated island of ElliĂ°aey to investigate and soon finds haunting similarities with a previous case – a young woman found murdered ten years ago in the equally desolate Westfjords.

Is there a patient killer stalking these barren outposts?

As Hulda navigates a sinister game constructed of smoke and mirrors she is convinced that no one is telling the truth, including those closest to her.

But who will crack first? And what secrets is the island hiding?

Excerpt from The Island

KĂłpavogur, 1988

The babysitter was late.

The couple hardly ever went out in the evening, so they

had been careful to check she was free well in advance. She had babysat for them a few times before and lived in the next street, but apart from that they didn’t know much about her, or her family either, though they knew her mother to speak to when they ran into her in the neigh- bourhood. But their seven-year-old daughter looked up to the girl, who was twenty-one and seemed very grown-up and glamorous to her. She was always talking about how much fun they had together, what pretty clothes she wore and what exciting bedtime stories she told. Their daugh- ter’s eagerness to have her round to babysit made the couple feel less guilty about accepting the invitation; they felt reassured that their little girl would not only be in good hands but would enjoy herself too. They had arranged for the girl to babysit from six until midnight, but it was already past six, getting on for half past, in fact, and the dinner was due to start at seven. The husband wanted to ring and ask what had happened to her, but his wife was reluctant to make a fuss: she’d turn up.

It was a Saturday evening in March and the atmos- phere had been one of happy anticipation until the babysitter failed to turn up. The couple were looking for- ward to an entertaining evening with the wife’s colleagues from the ministry and their daughter was excited about spending the evening watching films with the babysitter. They didn’t own a VCR but, as it was a special occasion, father and daughter had gone down to the local video shop and rented a machine and three tapes, and the little girl had permission to stay up as late as she liked, until she ran out of steam.

It was just after half past six when the doorbell finally rang. The family lived on the second floor of a small block of flats in KĂłpavogur, the town immediately to the south of ReykjavĂ­k. It was a sleepy sort of place, stuck between ReykjavĂ­k and other towns in the metropolitan area, with most of its inhabitants commuting to work in the capital.

The mother picked up the entryphone. It was the baby- sitter at last. She appeared at their door a few moments later, soaked to the skin, and explained that she’d walked over. It was raining so hard it looked like she’d had a bucket of water emptied over her head. She apologized, embarrassed, for being so late.

The couple waved away her apologies, thanked her for standing in for them, reminded her of the main house rules and asked if she knew how to work a video recorder, at which point their daughter broke in to say she didn’t need any help. Clearly, she could hardly wait to bundle her parents out of the door so the video-fest could begin.

In spite of the taxi waiting outside, the mother couldn’t tear herself away. Although they went out from time to time, she wasn’t very used to leaving her daughter. ‘Don’t worry,’ the babysitter said at last. ‘I’ll take good care of her.’ She looked comfortingly reliable as she said this and she’d always done a good job of looking after their daughter in the past. So they finally headed out into the downpour towards the taxi.

As the evening wore on, the mother began to feel increas- ingly anxious about their daughter.

‘Don’t be silly,’ said her husband. ‘I bet she’s having a whale of a time.’ Glancing at his watch, he added: ‘She’ll be on her second or third film by now, and they’ll have polished off all the ice cream.’

‘Do you think they’d let me use the phone at the front desk?’ asked his wife.

‘It’s a bit late to ring them now, isn’t it? I expect they’re asleep in front of the TV.’

In the end, they set off home a little earlier than planned, just after eleven. The three-course dinner was over by then, and, to be honest, it had been a bit under- whelming. The main course, which was lamb, had been bland at best and, after dinner, people had piled on to the crowded dance floor. To begin with, the DJ had played popular oldies, but then he moved on to more recent chart hits, which weren’t really the couple’s sort of thing, although they still liked to think of themselves as young. After all, they weren’t middle-aged yet.

They rode home in silence, the rain streaming down the taxi’s windows. The truth was they weren’t really party people; they were too fond of their creature com- forts at home, and the evening had tired them out, though they hadn’t drunk much, just a glass of red wine with dinner.

As they got out of the taxi, the wife remarked that she hoped their daughter was asleep so they could both crawl straight into bed.

They climbed the stairs without hurrying and opened the door instead of ringing the bell, for fear of disturbing their child. But she wasn’t asleep, as it turned out. She came running to greet them, threw her arms around them and hugged them unusually tightly. To their surprise, she was wide awake.

‘You’re full of beans,’ said her father, smiling at her.

‘I’m so glad you’re home,’ said the little girl. There was an odd look in her eye: something was wrong.

The babysitter emerged from the sitting room and smiled sweetly at them.

‘How did it go?’ asked the mother.

‘Really well,’ the babysitter replied. ‘Your daughter is such a good girl. We watched two videos; a couple of com- edies. She really enjoyed them. And she ate the meatballs you’d prepared – most of them – and a lot of popcorn too.’

‘Thanks so much for coming; I don’t know what we’d have done without you.’

The father took his wallet from his jacket, counted out some notes and handed them to her. ‘Is that right?’

She counted the money herself, then nodded. ‘Yes, perfect.’

After she’d left, the father turned to their daughter. ‘Aren’t you tired, sweetheart?’

‘Yes, maybe a little. But could we watch just a bit more?’ Her father shook his head, saying kindly: ‘Sorry, it’s

awfully late.’

‘Oh, please. I don’t want to go to bed yet,’ said the little

girl, sounding on the verge of tears.

‘OK, OK.’ He ushered her into the sitting room. The

TV schedule was over for the evening but he turned on the video machine and inserted a new cassette.

Then he joined her on the sofa and they waited for the film to begin.

‘It was a nice evening, wasn’t it?’

‘Yes . . . yes, it was fine,’ she said, not very convincingly. ‘She was . . . kind to you, wasn’t she?’

‘Yes,’ answered the child. ‘Yes, they were both kind.’ Her father was puzzled. ‘What do you mean, both?’ he

asked.

‘There were two of them.’

Turning round to look at her, he asked again, gently:

‘What do you mean by them?’

‘There were two of them.’

‘Did one of her friends come round?’

There was a brief pause before the girl answered. Seeing the fear in her eyes, he gave an involuntary shiver. ‘No. But it was kind of weird, Daddy . . .’

Novels

Dark Iceland series

  1. Snowblind (2010; translation of Snjóblinda, 2009)
  2. Blackout (2011; translation of MyrknÊtti, 2011)
  3. Rupture (2012; translation of Rof, 2012)
  4. Whiteout (2013; translation of Andköf, 2013)
  5. Nightblind (2014; translation of Nåttblinda, 2014)

 

Hidden Iceland series

  1. The Darkness (2018; translation of Dimma, 2015)
  2. The Island (2019; translation of Drungi, 2016

The Island Amazon book Page

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Island-Hidden-Iceland-Book-Two-ebook/dp/B01NBI8B4Y

Amazon Author Page

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?i=digital-text&rh=p_27%3ARagnar+JĂłnasson&s=relevancerank&text=Ragnar+JĂłnasson&ref=dp_byline_sr_ebooks_1

Website

http://www.ragnarjonasson.com

Facebook Author Page

https://m.facebook.com/ragnarjonassonwriter/

Twitter

https://mobile.twitter.com/ragnarjo

Claire MacLeary Runaway Blog Tour

 

The third book in the awards-listed Harcus & Laird series

When Aberdeen housewife Debbie Milne abruptly vanishes without trace, leaving behind her two young children, husband Scott is too distraught to sit out the police’s 72-hour window and await developments. He turns to local detective agency Harcus & Laird.

Put off by previous “domestic” cases, Maggie Laird isn’t keen, but is cajoled by partner Wilma Harcus into a covert operation. Together they comb through meagre scraps of information, eventually trawling the city’s women’s refuges and homeless squats, in spite of the deadly danger.

Then a woman’s body is discovered in a Dundee builder’s skip. With the clock ticking and the police struggling to make identification, the race is on. Claire MacLeary fashions a surprising, gritty, fast-paced tale with the warmth and wisdom of ‘women of a certain age’.

 

HARCUS & LAIRD – FINDING THE USP

Claire MacLeary: blog tour for Runaway

Having opted to place Cross Purpose, my debut crime novel, in a domestic setting, it seemed logical to develop themes of particular interest to women readers. My protagonists, Maggie and Wilma, two ordinary suburban housewives, face challenges with global appeal: the push and pull of motherhood. The constant guilt trip: having to make daily choices between prioritising children over partner or parents or one child over another. The sheer drudgery: the relentless round of shopping and cooking, washing and cleaning. For, despite the introduction of internet grocery shopping and labour-saving devices, the burden of running a home still falls heavily on the woman.

But just because my protagonists are ordinary women – and my novels are set in suburbia – doesn’t lead me to write ‘cosy crime’. On the contrary, my Harcus & Laird series tackles not the shallow ‘women’sinterest’ topics we are so often told we want, rather the bigger, harsher issues women have to contend with in their daily lives. In Cross Purpose, these include the lack of affordable childcare, where mothers on the breadline may have to compromise their children’s safety to hold down employment. Then there’s the ease of children’s access to drugs, and the corrupting power of the Internet on young minds. Burnout, launched in tandem with Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement, tackles white collar domestic abuse: the sexual, financial and psychological control to which even affluent, highly educated women are not immune. In Runaway, home and homelessness are the principal themes: both the mindless routine of raising young children and the physical and emotional toll taken from losing one’s home.

Maggie and ‘Big Wilma’ address these social issues with a fierce determination to combat authority and injustice, but also with a sense of humour. Given thedarkness of the subject matter, Wilma’s couthy wit brings colour to the narrative, the Aberdeen Doricinterest to the dialogue. Think Mannofield meets Happy Valley.

So there you have it, a crime series that is different in several respects: protagonists two non-professional women of ‘a certain age’, Aberdeen domestic setting, tackling big social issues, keeping the Doric alive. And readers seem to enjoy this fresh approach, longlisting Cross Purpose for the McIlvanney Prize for Best Scottish Crime Book 2017 and Burnout for Hearst Big Book Awards Crime Novel of the Year 2018.

1. How did you get started writing?

 

I read English at university, and I’ve always written, be it advertising copy, training manuals or short stories. Raising a family and a business career diverted my attention. It was only when my children were at senior school that I returned to writing, first attending P/T classes then pursuing a MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of Dundee.

 

2. What drew you to write a novel?

 

My MLitt studies under novelist Professor Kirsty Gunn, who encouraged me to expand my 17,000-word dissertation into a full length novel.

As to writing crime, the genre featured prominently on the Sunday Times bestseller lists, so seemed a good place to try a follow-up.

 

3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?

 

Chekov, Katherine Mansfield and Lorrie Moore for their short stories, Alice Munro for close observation, Jayne Anne Phillips for dense, lyrical prose.

 

4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest?

 

Surprisingly, no. This was due in part to the literary salons held during my MLitt course, which introduced me to agents and publishers, but principally because I had done extensive research before starting to write.

I submitted my debut novel to two publishers and both made an offer. I opted for a two book deal with Saraband. Sara Hunt ‘got’ Maggie and Wilma, women ‘of a certain age’, straight off, and has been hugely supportive ever since.

 

5. There are many interesting characters in Runaway, do you have a particular favourite one?

 

I love Maggie and Wilma, my two protagonists. They’re an unlikely pair: Maggie petite, conservative, lacking in confidence; Wilma big, bold, brash and a bit dodgy. You can’t help but identify with Maggie’s family problems and Wilma’s yo-yoing weight and faux pas. But I have a soft spot for DI Chisolm. He appears stern and unapproachable, but there’s a back story we haven’t yet been party to, and will he and Maggie ever become an item. Who knows?

 

6. What kind of research have you had to undertake for your novel?

 

Now the third in the Harcus & Laird series is about to launch, I’ve learned to leave much of my research until last. That’s because you can spend time on a plot line which later gets excised. However, I did do extensive research on people trafficking and homelessness for Runawayand spent an instructive morning playing FOTBs in a betting shop when I was appearing at Newcastle Noir.

 

7. Are the characters in your books based on any real life?

 

I think they’re an amalgam of traits from several people, plus others I’ve conjured from my imagination. Maggie Laird started out narrow, judgemental, something of a snob, but her entrenched attitudes are softening. Wilma Harcus is big-hearted, but always looking for shortcuts.I think both change with experience, as often happens in life.

 

8. How did you feel about being longlisted for the 2017 McIlvanney Prize?

 

I was thrilled, of course, to win recognition for my debut novel, Cross Purpose, and grateful that readers saw it as a fresh and different approach to the genre.  But it wasn’t until I was standing on stage with the giants of Scottish crime writing – Val McDermid, Denise Mina, Lin Anderson, Ian Rankin and others – that the significance really sank in.

 

 

9. Do you see any of your character’s personality traits in yourself and vice versa?

 

I think Maggie tends to take a run at things, as do I. Otherwise, no. The backgrounds of all my characters to date are very different from my own.

 

10. If you can, would you give us a sneak peek into any future novels you might have planned?

 

I’m working on the fourth in the crime series.  All I can say is that it is going to be really creepy.

 

11. If you had the opportunity to write a novel with any crime writer alive or dead, who would it be and why?

 

It’s hard to pin down just one individual from the giants of the genre:Conan Doyle through Josephine Tey to Stephen King and the late PD James, whom I greatly admire. I had the privilege of meeting William McIlvanney, godfather of Tartan Noir. But although he has only written one crime novel – Restless, an espionage thriller – I’ll nominate William Boyd who, for me, personifies all that is admirable in a writer: acute observation of the human condition, elegance of style, wry humour, compassion in spades.

 

12.  Do you have words of advice you can share with anyone who is interested in writing a novel?

 

Persevere. When I first produced a short story for a creative writing class, I wouldn’t have believed I could sustain a full-length novel, far less see it in print. I firmly believe getting published is 95% hard slog and 5% luck, so join a writing group or class to give you the support you’ll need to cope with rejection and keep chipping away.

 

Runway Amazon Book Page

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Runaway-Harcus-Laird-Claire-MacLeary-ebook/dp/B07HR5YLKX/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1553245055&sr=1-1

 

Claire MacLeary Amazon Author Page

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_ebooks_1?ie=UTF8&field-author=Claire+MacLeary&search-alias=digital-text&text=Claire+MacLeary&sort=relevancerank

 

Website

https://clairemacleary.com

 

Twitter
@ClaireMacLeary

@SarabandBooks

 

Facebook

https://m.facebook.com/clairemacleary/