When a helicopter crashes off the western coast of Garansay, there is only one survivor; a nineteen year old boy called Cameron Fleming. He is quickly befriended by one of his rescuers, Michael Nichols. But when Michael’s sister and her family come to Garansay for the summer, Imogen Croft soon discovers that the boy is not quite as innocent as he seems…
Following the sudden death of her mother, Imogen Croft returns to her childhood home on the Scottish Island of Garansay. Her brothers have given her the task of deciding what to do with their parents’ farm, which is slowly falling into disrepair. But Imogen will not be rushed into passing judgement on the place and when she starts to carry out some research into the history of Kilduggan Farm, she inadvertently sets off a chain of events that ends in tragedy. Suddenly, Imogen and her psychologist husband, Hugh, find themselves faced with a seemingly insoluble puzzle. How can it be possible that an unexplained death in the present day can match, in every detail, an unsolved case from 40 years ago? As the past begins to catch up with Imogen, she realises that she must strive to discover the truth about her family, even if it means that nothing will ever be the same again…
1. How did you get started writing
I have always loved writing and won school prizes for creative writing a very long time ago! However, I was also very keen on my History and after taking a History Degree I worked in the Book trade in London for a couple of years and then took my teacher training qualification. So I was teaching History for the next decade, but constantly thinking of plot-lines and stories in my head. When I began making up longer and increasingly elaborate bedtime stories for my children I decided to start plotting a proper book. Once I got started, I couldn’t stop. I’ve now given up my teaching job and I’m writing during the daytime; when my two children are at school (Shona aged 8 and Jamie aged 6).
2. What drew you to write a crime novel
I wanted to write a crime novel because those are the books I enjoy reading myself. I like the storytelling and plot twists and turns that you get with crime. I believe that those of us who like to read this genre do so because we want to be actively involved in the book – we want to try and pick up on the clues and guess the conclusion. I also think that the crime genre deals with just about everything – there can be romance, history and family drama – whatever you fancy, really. It gives the writer a great deal of scope.
3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing
I love Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara Vine – her psychological mysteries are beautifully written and extremely clever. I’ve always liked classic crime writers such as Agatha Christie and Josephine Tey, mainly because plot is everything with these authors and they don’t rely on violence or shock tactics to draw you in. The joy of their books is in their exploration of human-nature and what makes people tick. I’ve also always enjoyed the work of the late, great, Iain Banks. ‘The Crow Road’ remains one of my favourite books and no one could combine humour and sublime writing like Banks did. Ian Rankin comes very close, however, and his books are just getting better and better.
4. What was the inspiration behind the Imogen and Hugh Croft Mysteries
The inspiration behind my first novel, ‘Aoife’s Chariot’ was my father’s family. My Dad comes from the Isle of Arran and we holidayed on Arran every year during our childhood. His mother ran a boarding house and his father had fought in the First World War and it was the stories of his parents and cousins which became my starting point.
5. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest
I have never tried to get a traditional publisher for my books. I worked for a couple of book companies myself and I know the trade a little, so I felt I wanted to keep control of my own writing. My sister works in IT and is a painter so she has designed my covers and helped me with formatting. My parents are my historical advisors and editors. We’ve had to teach ourselves all the basics of copy editing and we’re learning as we go. We now even have proper editorial meetings, although the bit I enjoy most is the book design, which sadly doesn’t come until all the hard work is done!
6. There are many interesting characters in your books, do you have a favourite one
I have to confess that Allan is probably my favourite character. He has his many flaws but I enjoy writing his dialogue and I do empathise with him. Allan plays a major part in the third novel, which I’m writing at the moment.
7. Why did you decide to set your books on a fictional Scottish Island
I thought long and hard about whether the island should be fictional. It is based on the Isle of Arran, although certain key changes have been made. The fact that it is fictional allowed me to create the unique landscape of the first novel, where the hills themselves play a central part in the plot. As I live so far away, making the island real would have been very tricky for me to make geographically accurate!
8. Is the Island of Garansay based on a real Island in Scotland
Garansay is very closely based on Arran, my father’s childhood home. I felt that Arran made the perfect location because it is so accessible to mainland Scotland and there is such a strong link to Glasgow and all of the Clyde towns and villages. This connection was key to the plot of both novels.
9. What kind research did you have to undertake for your books
My first port of call for research was to talk to my Dad. He is a great amateur historian and was able to tell me if my ideas were accurate or not. The internet is a wonderful tool for writers! All of my historical research was done through the web, particularly in relation to the naval history of the Clyde in World War One and Two. I also read a few of the more famous autobiographies of life in the Gorbals; Ralph Glasser and Colin MacFarlane’s books and ‘No Mean City’ by McArthur and Long.
10. Are the characters in your books based on any real life people
I would say that my characters are mixed up versions of real-life people. Imogen is probably like me, but I’m not quite as brave as she is! Imogen’s mother, Isabel, is a combination of both of my grandmothers, who ran boarding houses and a Golf Club respectively. They were tough, hardworking and not terribly maternal people.
11. Since you have started writing have any well known authors given you any advice
Sadly, I have not had any advice yet from well-known authors, but I live in hope!
12. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa
I think my personality probably comes out the most in Imogen, whose observations on life are basically the same as mine. Although, I am not as grounded a person as she is. Her brother, Allan, probably reflects the other, more chaotic side of my personality and mirrors the fact that I’ve not always made the right decisions in my life.
13. If you can, would you be able to give us a sneaky peak into your next books
My next book is well underway and should be ready for release in the Spring of this year. It is entitled, ‘The Blackwater Boys’ and this time the novel is set entirely in the coastal towns along the River Blackwater in East Essex (apologies to Garansay fans!). The book begins with a break-in at the Langley’s Farm, in which one of the intruders is shot dead by the old man who lives there. Professor Hugh Croft, having just published a new book on PTSD, is asked to act as an expert witness for Thomas Langley’s legal team. The case has divided the Croft’s local community and Hugh’s decision to get involved puts him and his whole family at the centre of the controversy. But as Hugh and Imogen investigate further, they discover that the Langley Case is far more complicated than it had at first appeared. Garansay as a location will certainly return in future books.
14. You have been compared in your writing to some of the big names in Scottish Crime Fiction already, how does that make you feel
To be compared to the major names in Scottish fiction is absolutely incredible. Scottish crime writers really lead the field, in my opinion, so there is no higher praise!
15. As a blossoming crime writer do you have words of advice you can share
As a new crime writer, my advice to others would be to keep writing the books that you want to write – don’t be swayed by what you think may or may not be popular, because readers are intelligent enough to try something a bit different and if you are free from publisher constraints, then you have the freedom to take a few risks. If you want to go it alone, without a publisher, then I would highly recommend it. You get to control the process and it is easier now to publish yourself than it ever has been. Just be prepared for things to progress slowly – no one ever becomes an overnight success, whatever the media may tell you!
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