Castlecraig is an award winning Scottish primary school with a developing international reputation. A change in management brings hidden tensions and long standing feuds to the surface – leading to murder.
Ex New Zealand rugby player DCI Nathan Quintus and his team from Mid Scotland Police arrive to investigate. Supported by the unassuming but intuitive teacher Cate Morgan, they untangle a tangle of hatred and repression. But can the team discover the murderer’s identity before they kill again?
Cate Morgan has left her old life to set up home with her family in the attractive rural village of Craighill. She and estranged husband Evan find themselves entangled in the affairs of a disparate group of friends led by the glamorous Mhairi Murchison. But Cate’s proximity to the friends leads to danger and distress which turns deadly when one of the group is murdered.
Returning from absence, Quintus and his team find themselves tested by a menacing foe intent on hiding the truth. As Cate lurches deeper into danger, for Quintus the situation becomes personal.
How did you get started writing
1. I think I’ve always had stories running in my head but it wasn’t until I had a period of absence from work that I actually had time to carry things through and write a story from beginning to end. Before that I had never written things down but had mentally explored characters and scenarios. I’ve always loved words and playing with the differences that changing a few words can make to the overall flow of writing. Writing a full novel gave me the chance to indulge myself.
What drew you to crime fiction
2. I love crime fiction and it’s the one genre I would return to reading again and again. I like the element of working out whodunnit but also in looking for the clues left by writers in the text. I enjoy pitting myself against the writer in trying to solve the crime before the protagonist gets there first.
Which crime writers past or present have influenced your style of writing
3. My favourite crime writers include Reginald Hill – I love his wit and the fact that in his books often there are words I’m not familiar with and have to look them up. I also love Tess Gerritsen, Minette Walters – who has deliciously dark plots, Ian Rankin, P.D James and in my teenage years Agatha Christie. There are others – as I say, this is my own favourite genre.
What was the inspiration behind the Cate and Quintus Mystery Series
4. I originally wrote about things I know – working in schools, being a mum and the interactions between different parts of life that often don’t gel. I put in Quintus as a kind of ideal man who comes along and adds mystery and intrigue to initially quite ordinary situations. I also like the way that people change directions through their lives and come into professions that they never initially saw themselves doing. Cate and Quintus are both like that.
Did you find it hard to get publisher interest for a Primary Killing
5. Finding a publisher is a nightmare and still hasn’t happened. I sent drafts and first chapters to everyone I could find on the internet – both big and small publishers along with some who would charge handsomely for putting your work in print. It became very disheartening and hearing the good fortune stories of others made it worse, knowing that some people could find interest and I couldn’t. It makes you doubt yourself. But I eventually published myself online in e-book form and I’m happy with that for now.
How did you find the experience of writing your Second novel compared to your first one
6. To be honest I didn’t find it any harder or easier than the first book to write the second. There were still issues I had to resolve with plot and dialogue but the story was already in my head so I didn’t feel I had to work harder to create it.
Why did you decide to set your books in Central Scotland
7. The books are set in Central Scotland as that is where I’m from. I could draw on local knowledge to add authenticity and it’s fun to imagine places – some real, some created – as the backdrop for a book.
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
8. I’m currently writing book number 3 and I’m taking note of changes to the police service and trying to incorporate the feeling of uncertainty and reorganization that this brings to people’s working lives. I’ve done a bit of online reading to try and get a feel for what the change actually means for my local police area and once I am secure in my own mind about how this looks I’ll be confident to include it in my book.
What kind of research did you have to undertake for your book
9. I wrote about things I knew about – teaching, friendships, family dynamics and so on so that part of the story was familiar. Things like police processes after a sudden death I drew on writing from other authors as well as a lot of reading online from things like the Procurator Fiscal, the Court Service and such like. I wouldn’t say I’ve researched extensively like some authors of techno thrillers might, but I have a surface knowledge that adds realism to the plot without going into minute detail.
Are the characters in your books based on any real life people
10. Most of my characters are composites of a range of people rather than a direct translation of one specific person. People reading the books might think they recognize characteristics rather than individuals. At least I hope so.
Since you have started writing crime novels have any known authors given you any advice
11. I can honestly say no. Everything I’ve done has been personal and individual. I saw a documentary about Ian Rankin where he discussed his approach and I drew some inspiration from that but I’ve never contacted any other author directly for advice. Maybe I should.
Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa
12. I’d like to hope that Cate reflects my own integrity and also the importance to her of her family. Beyond that we are very different people.
What do you see for the future of Cate Morgan and D.C.I Nathan Quintus in your books
13. I think Cate and Quintus will become closer – although their friendship is not without its tensions. As a New Zealander of course there is always the potential for Quintus to head away from Scotland but who knows?
In a lot of reviews for your books you have been compared to a lot of other great female crime writers, does this comparison make writing your next novel difficult for you
14. Was that the review my husband did???? Seriously I just write stories that I would like to read. I’m not aware of any comparisons of that nature, nor would I take them seriously if I saw them. My writing is developing and I hope it will continue to do so.
As a blossoming crime writer do you have words of advice you can share
15. As the detectives in so many crime novels say – “Know where you go and go where you know.” I’d say write about something that interests and enthuses you, hope that others will like it too but don’t give up the day job – at least not initially.
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