1. How did you get started writing?
As a former journalist (commercial radio and BBC Scotland) and currently working in PR I write all day every day. That includes everything from press releases, statements, and blogs. But I’d never written anything specifically for myself. I tried (once) about 14 years ago but didn’t get far and gave up. My ‘big break’ came three years ago. Between jobs and with nothing to do I decided to realise my long held ambition and write the book I’d always talked about.
2. What drew you to write a crime novel?
I love reading crime novels and having worked as a journalist I had plenty of experience to draw from for ideas. The inspiration came when I was reading Jo Nesbo’s Redbreast – I thought ‘you know I could do something like this’ and I did. Some people look down on the genre but I think it’s a great medium for commenting on the world around us. Why wouldn’t you want to write a crime novel?
3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?
My old favourite has to be Raymond Chandler. I love the ordinary man in extraordinary situations that make up Marlowe’s world. That strand continues with Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole books, while perhaps an under-appreciated talent is Iceland’s Arnaldur Indridason – his sparse descriptions leave a lot to the imagination and I love the barren landscapes and disconnected characters he plays with – if you haven’t read the Reykjavík murder mysteries – get to the shops!
4 .Did you find it hard to get publisher interest for your first novel Wilderness?
Like most people I thought I had to have an agent to get a publisher. I tried a few different avenues at first but wasn’t having much joy. I wasn’t really writing to make the fortune people seem to assume writers are paid and really just wanted to get my work out in print. In the end I decided to pursue the DIY option and went for self publishing via KDP and Createspace and I’m really happy with the results.
5. When you first starting writing wilderness, what was your inspirations for it?
Primarily it was my experience working as a journalist in Lanarkshire. The story was inspired by a blizzard which engulfed Lanarkshire in 2001. A bus had got stuck in a snowdrift near Shotts prison. Two guards used a snowplough and shovels to rescue three people on board. When they arrived the driver had given his jacket to a young girl who was travelling with her mother. After 10 hours stuck on a freezing bus the story had a happy ending. But the circumstances inspired a ‘what if’ starting point for the book, where the rescuers find the woman alone and handcuffed while the girl and the driver are missing. The public’s reaction to a suspected paedophile on the run opens out to up to include the international sex trafficking trade and organised crime.
6. There are many interesting characters in your Novels, do you have a particular favourite one?
I suppose I’d have to go for my protagonist, DI John J Arbogast. I chose the name as one that was not typically Scottish – to fit someone that would stand out as a bit of a loner. We meet him when he’s living in his own wilderness. With a mother with dementia, he’s lost in his own world with few friends and no great direction. Over the course of three books I want to restore him to life, with the first novel ‘Wilderness’ really only setting the scene for the next two.
7. Why did you decide to set your novel in Glasgow?
The novel’s based in Glasgow but it’s not tied to the city. Arbogast is a DI with the Major Crime and Terrorist Squad at Strathclyde Police meaning he is free to work cases across the Strathclyde force area. Wilderness is based in Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, and Glasgow so he’s able to get out of the big smoked. With the advent of Police Scotland this will change again, allowing the character to become further travelled in future.
8. Wilderness is an action packed novel, do you have a favourite scene that you wrote?
Ah well my favourite scene is probably towards the end of the book and I wouldn’t want to give anything away. You’ll just have to read it.
9. What kind of research have you had to undertake for your Novel?
Early on I managed to get in touch with a retired DCI who helped me with some of the detail used in the book which was a great start. Other than that Google was my friend. You’d be amazed the amount of information you can get – from autopsies on YouTube through to street scenes on Google Earth (which I used to write several sections based in Istanbul). The kind of insight you can get from simple desk research was invaluable in helping shape my narrative.
10. Are the characters in your books based on any real life? It’s probably inevitable that the characteristics of some of the people you know will seep into your novel’s ensemble cast (although none of my characters are entirely based on a single person).
11. Since you have started writing have any well known authors given you any advice?
Only one and that was my favourite author, Jo Nesbo. He appeared at Aye Write a couple of years ago and I was lucky enough to get the chance to speak to him. I told him he’d inspired me to write my first book and asked him for tips. As a former footballer he said this reminded him of the press conference where the journalist asks the star striker to assess the performance of the rookie substitute. He said this was like asking someone to recommend their own replacement and told me to ‘stay out of crime fiction’. I didn’t listen.
12. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa?
Arbogast is roughly the same age as me so in some respects we have a similar world view. However I haven’t written him as a version of myself so wouldn’t want you to read too much into that!
13. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you have planned?
I’m planning a trilogy with this character and I’m about to start on book two. ‘The Nationalist’ will explore different points of view around nationalism, terrorism, political wrangling, and the internal strife that the creation of a new national police force has on my main characters. I would hope to have this ready towards the end of the year.
14. Your first novel Wilderness has already been compared to some of the well known crime author, how does that make you feel?
Surprised I’d say given the book has just been released but any kind comparisons would be most welcome.
15. As an up and coming crime writer do you have words of advice you can share?
If you want to write then just do it. One of the big fears to overcome is getting people to read what you do. Inevitably not everyone will like your style but if you’re willing to listen to constructive criticism and keep going you’ll end up producing work that you’re happy with and hopefully an audience will follow.
The bus is stranded, stuck fast in a snowdrift. The driver is missing along with a young girl. A half naked woman is left behind, handcuffed and freezing on board. Who she is and where the girl has gone unravels into a web of sexual abuse, mental torture and deeply laid family rivalries, spanning from Istanbul to Glasgow.
Newly appointed to the Major Crime and Terrorism Squad at Strathclyde Police, DI John J. Arbogast is tasked with tracking down a suspected paedophile as part of a national manhunt. Haunted by a failed case in the past he’s determined to find the girl before it’s too late. But as the case unravels to unveil an international sex trafficking ring it becomes clear that all is not what it seems.
Secrets will surface.
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