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One To Watch December crime author of the month – Heather Atkinson


1. How did you get started writing

I have loved to read since being small and I’ve written little snippets of stories my whole life but it was only when my children started nursery and I had a bit of free time that I began to think of it as a serious career option. Dividing Line was my very first novel and it still amazes me that its taken off as well as it has. Writing is something I have to do, it’s an obsession.

2. What drew you to start writing crime fiction

I’ve always been intrigued by the darker side of human nature, what drives people to do bad things and I love to read crime fiction. Plus it’s a very versatile genre, you can write from the police’s perspective or the criminal’s or the victims’. You can make the story action-packed or you can create something purely psychological. Neither do you have to write about murder. The story doesn’t have to be about a serial killer to make it a crime book. The possibilities are endless.

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

Martina Cole has to be one of my strongest influences, particularly with regards to my Dividing Line series. Karen Rose, Ann Cleeves, Agatha Christie and Stuart MacBride have all influenced my work too. I also enjoy reading the Brontes, Daphne Du Maurier and Edgar Allan Poe, who are wonderful at exploring the really dark side of ourselves.

4. You have written many different books, do you have a favourite one so far

I’m very fond of all my books but I think the Dividing Line series is my favourite. I know the characters so well that it’s no effort writing them. Do You See Me? Is also one of my favourites. This is one of my lesser known works but I really love the story and the characters.

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

It’s very difficult to get publisher and agent attention in such a competitive market. There are only so many rejections one person can take, which is why I turned to self-publishing and it was the best move I ever made. Finally I’m carving out a career doing what I love, I’m getting my name out there and I get messages from people telling me how much they love my work, which really does mean the world to me. I couldn’t ask for more.

6. You have just started writing a new series of books the Blair Dubh Trilogy, what was the inspiration behind these books

The beautiful country of Scotland itself was my inspiration for the new Blair Dubh trilogy. Blair Dubh is fictional but the village I live in sits on the edge of the Firth of Clyde and the main road has a tendency to flood in the winter and the road occasionally gets closed off. It isn’t anywhere near as isolated as the village in my book but that’s what gave me the idea. I thought the isolation, the sense of being completely cut off from humanity, would be very evocative and what better backdrop for a serial killer than the brooding hills and mountains of the stunning Scottish countryside.

7. You have set your novels in many different cities in the UK, do you have a favourite you like to use

I have set many of my books in Manchester because it’s a city I’m very familiar with and that I’m fond of. I like to write about places I know and where I feel comfortable because I think it gives the book more authenticity. However now I’ve lived in Scotland for a few years I’m setting more of my books here because I love it so much.

8. Your books have also featured many memorable characters, do you have one that is your favourite

I’m fond of most of my characters, but Rachel and Ryan Law have to be my absolute favourites. I think of them as one entity rather than two indiviual characters because they’re so close. I like how at heart they’re good but they can easily be bad. It lets me really push them to their limits, which makes them fun to write.

9. What kind of research have you had to undertake for your book

I’ve had to do a lot of research into police procedure, court procedure and major incident procedure. A lot of this information is freely available on the internet but I have also asked a police officer and people I know with expertise in these areas. I spent quite a few years working as a medical secretary in several different surgical departments so I have quite a good background as to how a hospital works and a very basic medical knowledge, which helped me write Above Reproach. As most of my main characters inevitably experience a sourjourn in hospital my previous career has helped me write a lot of those scenes too. I love history, so my bookcase is stuffed full of books on the Victorian era, the nineteen twenties, Scottish history and the first and second world wars, which helped me no end writing Bleed Through, Grave Memories and Listen for the Rain, all set in eras I love. I’m a firm believer that if you set a book in a specific historical period it’s important to get the details as accurate as you can.

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

I do base some of my characters on actors. For example, Frank in Dividing Line was based on Ray Winstone, Terry on Reece Dinsdale and Frankie McVay on Frankie Boyle. Martina Maguire was a dedication to Martina Cole. Ash Winters in Winter’s Sun was inspired by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Andrew in Lady Maskery on Jason Isaacs and Peter in Do You See Me? was based on Tom Hiddleston, all actors I greatly admire. I’ve never seen anyone in real life to match the Ryan Law in my head though, unfortunately!

11. Since you have started writing have any well known authors given you any advice

In September this year I attended the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festial in Stirling. At the Masterclass the wonderful Alex Gray gave me some very helpful advice about how to hook a reader at the start of a book. The truly fabulous Val McDermid also gave a fantastic speech packed full of helpful tips.

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

I think every writer puts a little of themselves into their characters and makes them do things we don’t have the nerve to do ourselves. Like a lot of my female leads I can be stubborn and I’m not afraid to say what I think but, like them, my family is the most important thing in the world to me.

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

I’m currently working on the fourth Dividing Line book, which involves major turmoil in the lives of the Maguires and the Laws. In fact the events are so big that they’re going to cover two books, the ending of the fourth running straight into the fifth. There will be many more books in this series, I want the characters to grow with me in the years to come. The fourth Dividing Line book will be available on Amazon by the New Year.

I am also working on the final two books in the Blair Dubh Trilogy as well as a novel set in the Victorian Era about a serial killer, plus two more brand new contemporary crime novels, so there’s plenty more to come. I would also like to write the sequel to Bleed Through, but as yet that’s a way in the future.

Your writing has been compared to some of the great female crime writers, how does that make you feel

I regularly get compared to Martina Cole, as well as other female crime authors and it’s an honour because they are truly great writers. Martina Cole’s Dangerous Lady and Maura’s Game are two of my favourite all-time books and the inspiration for Dividing Line.

15. As a blossoming crime writer do you have words of advice you can share

The most important thing is to read as much as you can and learn from the greats but also find your own style, That will give you your own voice and make you stand out from the crowd. It’s a vastly competitive market so you’ve got to do all you can to get noticed. Set up your own website and regularly blog. It’s not as scary as it sounds! Get a Twitter or Facebook account. If you publish on Amazon use the Author Page facility so people can learn more about you and interact with you. Do your research too. If you’re not a police officer then there will probably be inconsistencies but try to be as accurate as you can. Also try to put an unusual spin on the book, you don’t have to write a police procedural. Stories told from the criminal’s point of view are popular and put a twist in your novel, a shocker that no one sees coming. The main thing is that your reader keeps turning the page and wants to get to the end of the book. One last thing, write more than one book. Show everyone you’re not a one-trick pony. A series of books will be much more popular than a stand-alone novel. When I write a book, in my head I’m writing the sequel. This helps you set the next novel up so they run into each other seamlessly.

Dividing Line
1 Divided Loyalties
2 A Family Divided
3 Breaking Away

1 Dead Eyed Dad
2 End Game
3 Cold to the Core
4 Do You See Me?
Winter’s Sun
Listen for the Rain
Grave Memories
Above Reproach
The Elemental (Blair Dubh Trilogy #1)
Bleed Through
Lady Maskery
Half Life

The A-List:
Shadow Lives #1
Shadows Darken #2
Shadows Deepen #3
Shadows Rise #4

Amazon Author Page


One response to “One To Watch December crime author of the month – Heather Atkinson

  1. Pingback: Heather Atkinson, Scottish Writer | Peggy's Porch

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