1. How did you get started writing
I began writing at quite a young age – I even had a go at a novel when I was 8, however it never saw the light of day. From there on in, I wrote pieces for the local newspaper and the school magazine.
2. What drew you to crime fiction
I’ve always enjoyed crime fiction as a reader, so I suppose it came naturally to write about it. Also, I am an ex-police officer, so that helps with experience, context and detail. Originally, I intended to write historical fiction, however, realising that a huge amount of research is required in order to write successfully in that genre, it was better to follow the old cliché and write what you know. I didn’t want to find myself lacking in the discipline required to write a book, after completing my research. Such has been the success of Whisky From Small Glasses, I haven’t regretted my decision.
3. Which crime writers past or present have influenced your style of writing
Clearly, being a Scottish writer in the crime genre, Rankin, MacIlvanny et al. have been most influential; though, going back to the birth of the genre, I’ve loved the work of Wilkie Collins and Marcel Proust – so much so, that there is a little nod to the latter in Whisky From Small Glasses.
4. What was the inspiration behind the storyline of whiskey from small glasses
I wanted to take the detective out of the urban setting and place him rurally, where crime is often less frequent, however has a wider and more long-lasting effect on the whole community when it does occur. Once DCI Daley was in Kinloch, it was quite easy to weave a web of intrigue around him and his situation. Now that I am nearing the completion of the next ‘Daley’ novel, I hope that I’m on my way to giving every book in the series a slightly different emphasis. The last thing I want is for Kinloch to be another Midsommer, statistically the murder capital of the UK.
5. Did you find it hard to get publisher interest for whiskey from small glasses
As a first-time writer, the apocryphal tales about myriad rejections are at the forefront of one’s mind when it comes to sending out a début MSS. In all honesty, I expected to have to self-publish my first book, in the hope it would attract interest from publishers once it had gained some traction. I was amazed when, only a few weeks after I began the process of finding a publisher, I was signed up by Ringwood.
6. Did you find the experience of writing your first novel an easy task or a quite daunting one
At first, when you try to imagine the enormity of making 100k words into a coherent work of fiction, it appears a most daunting task. However, once I got down to it, I was pleasantly surprised how quickly the word count mounted up, and the story progressed. I think momentum is really important when writing -every little step takes you further along the way.
7. Why did you decide to set your books in rural south west scotland
I based Whisky From Small Glasses in Kintyre, quite simply because it’s where I’m originally from, so I know the area really well. Add to this, the warmth and humour of the people, plus the beauty of the setting, I’m surprised that it has been so long since the peninsula was used as a setting for fiction.
8. Do you think that with the amalgamation in April of the Scottish police force in to one organization could effect your books in the future
The reorganisation of the police in Scotland, has already had an influence on my writing. When I began writing Whisky, it wasn’t obvious what was going to happen, so I had to tread carefully. In my next book, The Death of Remembrance, Police Scotland is a reality, so I’m on firmer ground. Ultimately, I’m sure that this new dynamic will prove a treasure trove of new fictional possibilities for Scottish crime writers.
9. What kind of research did you have to undertake for your books
Thankfully, being an ex-police officer, I had a reasonably firm grip on procedure etc. I have even used elements of crimes I had encountered as the inspiration for parts of the story. So, my main concern is more with the minutia of the novel – what makes it tick, if you like. I hope it’s convincing.
10. Are the characters in your books based on any real life people
Haha, the fifty billion dollar question! As most reader’s will have spotted, Kinloch is a fictional Campbeltown; and, being a small community, speculation has been rife as to who that character, or this, really are. In fact, though I have used aspects of people I have known throughout my life within the characterisation in my books, only one individual in Whisky From Small Glasses, is as they appear in real life, and they know who they are. The rest are composites, part real at times, though mostly imaginary, in the way many write, I presume.
11. Since you have started writing crime novels have any known authors given you any advice
Many people have been kind enough to offer me advice as I’ve struggled away. I keep going back to Angus MacVicar, the late Kintyre author, who gave me such sound advice, as a boy. I think the most important lesson was ‘be yourself, don’t try to copy someone else’ – I hope I’ve managed to do that. Each individual’s method, experience and outlook on life are their own. At the end of the day, it is how advice is assimilated that matters.
12. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa
I often get asked that, and I suppose the only correct answer is all of them, and none of them. My family tell me I have a similar temper to Jim Daley, but I think they’re wrong, as I’m a pussy cat, really. They all come out of my fevered imaginings, so good, or bad, I’m to blame!
13. What do you see for the future of Jim Daley in your books
Like many fictional detectives, my intention is for Jim Daley – and the rest of my main characters, come to that – to have multi-layers. I am a huge fan of some of the latest drama from the USA, especially shows like The Soporanos, or Boardwalk Empire; art should reflect life, and nobody is all good or all bad. Life throws curved balls at us all of the time, so I think it is important that my work reflects the full spectrum of a personality.
14. Where you surprised when the Scots Magazine wanted to interview and review your book
I was flattered to be featured in The Scots Magazine, and to be in receipt of such a good review. I have been contacted by media outlets from all over the world since the publication of Whisky From Small Glasses, and the media, in all of its forms, play a huge role in getting books noticed. I’ve been very fortunate to have appeared in the national press on a number of occasions, as well as TV and radio. Shortly after publication, I was lucky, when Whisky was named ‘Book of the Week’ in The Herald Magazine; that gave me a great launchpad.
15. As a blossoming crime writer do you have words of advice you can share
I always hesitate to offer advice, however, from my meagre experience as a published crime writer, I would say, never give up, is the most important lesson. Remember, not everyone will like your work – if we all liked the same things it would be a very sad, one-dimensional world, indeed, so take criticism with that in mind. My step-daughter, Rachel Margaret Kennedy, is well on the way to finishing her first novel, provisionally entitled I Know You, an atmospheric YA chiller. I’m astonished by how well she writes, so instead of me handing out advice, maybe I should be taking some, if I’m to stay ahead of the game!
WHISKY FROM SMALL GLASSES