A grisly suicide in the heart of tourist Edinburgh piques the curiosity of local journalist Doug McGregor, who’s always had a good nose for a story. When his police colleague and occasional drinking partner DS Susie Drummond reveals that the victim is connected to a prominent Scottish politician, Doug finds himself unravelling a story of secrets, drug abuse, violence, murder… and the ultimate taboo. Action-packed from the very start, and with enough twists and turns to shock and surprise even the most hard-bitten crime fan, ‘Falling Fast’ is the first of a trilogy.
1. How did you get started writing
I’ve always been a writer, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. I remember the notebooks we were given for writing stories at primary school- cheap things with pink covers, but I loved opening them up and writing another adventure. I always knew I wanted to make a living from writing, which is why I got into journalism. It was a way to have a career with words while waiting to get a book deal.
2. What drew you to write a crime novel
I suppose it was natural given my reading tastes; I’m a huge fan of crime fiction, from Conan Doyle through MacBride, Rankin, Winslow and everyone else. I always wanted to write a book that drew readers in the way that crime novels have hooked me, but I wanted to shoot it through with some of the visceral horror that Stephen King is so good at, which is why Falling Fast gets a little graphic at times.
3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing
I guess the biggest single influence on my writing was Stephen King. I grew up reading and writing horror stories -and trying to scare the hell out of my friends doing it! But there was something about the drive of King’s works that I loved, you could almost feel the heat from the pages as he wrote to get the story out in books like Misery and The Dead Zone. That was something I wanted to emulate in my own writing, to keep the story moving and the reader hooked.
4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest
Undoubtedly. Val McDermid recently said that, if she was starting out now, she would be a failed author as publishers want an instant hit. So I was getting all the usual rejection letters saying that my work was good, but wasn’t what they were looking for. My lucky break was the Dundee International Book Festival. I was encouraged to enter it, got shortlisted, and that got the interest of my publisher. From there it kind of snowballed, and here I am with a book on the shelf and more on the way!
5. What was the inspiration behind Falling Fast
It’s difficult to pin down a specific “a-ha” moment of inspiration. I was, and you’ll excuse the pun with this, looking for an opening to a novel that would make enough of a splash to grab the attention of agents and publishers and get me a deal. Working in Edinburgh, I was walking along Princes St and saw the Monument, the people sitting below, and the thought of something happening there – something bad –occurred to me. After that, it was a chain of questions – who, why, how etc that led me into the book.
6. There are many interesting characters in your Novels, do you have a particular favourite one
Good question! It’s difficult to play favourites with my characters, but I will admit I’ve got a soft spot for Hal [Damon, the high-flying PR expert brought in by the Tories to handle the story]. Hal wasn’t in the first draft of the book, he came in during the second, and there was something about his voice that I liked writing. And yes, you’ll see more of him in subsequent books!
7. Why did you choose to set your novels in Edinburgh
I grew up just outside Edinburgh, in a place called Eskbank, so I know the city well. I’ve lived there and I’ve worked there, so it was only natural that I would write about the city. The next book isn’t exclusively Edinburgh-based, but for this one, it was a case of write what you know- and I know that city well.
8. With the amalgamation of the Scottish Police Force last year, how will it effect your future Novels
I don’t imagine it will have a big effect on the books going forward. Sure, there’s been a change of name, L&B police doesn’t exist any more and certain ranks and titles have changed, but the police are still the police, doing the same job.
9. What kind of research have you have to undertake for your Novel
I suppose a lot if it was on-the-job research – I worked in newspapers for 15 years so I knew Doug’s world and how that side of the story would work. That also helped with the procedural side of an investigation and what happens when. That, and some chats with some friendly contacts, and I was there.
10. Are the characters in your books based on any real life
It’s inevitable that parts of your life and the people you meet bleed into your work, but there’s no-one I’ve consciously based on any one person that I know
11. Since you have started writing have any well known authors given you any advice
Just before I was shortlisted for the Dundee prize, James Oswald made it big after self-publishing as an ebook. I was banging my head off the wall at that time looking for another way to get published, so I found his website and emailed him asking him how he did it. I didn’t expect him to reply to a request from a complete stranger, but I got a brilliant email back from him that was very detailed and hugely supportive. I couldn’t follow his advice because Dundee happened just after that, but I got the chance to thanks James when I met him at Crimefest in Bristol earlier this year. Other than that, Craig Robertson, Tony Black, Doug Johnstone, Michael Malone and Douglas Skelton, who I’ve all met at events and festivals, have been utterly fantastic in welcoming me to the club.
12. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa
To an extent, yes. I love telling stories and getting to them first like Doug, I enjoy keeping fit like Susie. As I said, it’s inevitable that bits of your life and experience bleed into your work, so yeah, there are things I see and recognise.
13. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you have planned
No! Hah, only kidding. It’s a trilogy at the moment, but who knows where the story of Doug and Susie will lead? Their relationship is changing and evolving, but into what? And what would happen if their roles are reversed? For Doug personally, the world of journalism is changing rapidly and he’s going to have to face up to that. He is, as Susie says, “a story-hungry idealist” but what happens when that idealism is challenged by a life-changing situation that has intimate links to Doug’s past?
14. Falling Fast has already been given favourable reviews and your writing has been compared to some of the well known crime writers, how does that make you feel
Embarrassed! Joking aside, it’s hugely humbling and a little surreal to be compared to some of the big names that I enjoy reading myself. Seeing good reviews of the book is always great- it’s a bit of validation for all the years that I was getting rejection letters, and it’s nice to hear that readers are enjoying the book which, after all, is the number one aim.
15. As a up and coming crime writer do you have words of advice you can share
Keep going. It’s a cliché, but it’s true. It took years for me to get a book deal, and I wouldn’t have got to where I am now if it wasn’t for a great group of people telling me to keep moving forward. So make sure you’ve got that support. Keep reading, keep writing and keep going. Take risks and long shots, get your name known but, most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy the work – that’s why you’re here in the first place
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