1. How did you get started writing?
I’ve always liked writing and making up stories, ever since I was a kid. My school reports always praised my imagination and criticised my habit of daydreaming in class – I think the two were closely related. I told a career advisor at school that the job I wanted was to write Batman. I used to write ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ type books on my parents’ computer, which I would then print out and attempt to sell at school. I also created my own comics, which didn’t turn out so well due to a painful lack of artistic ability. So I guess in a very small way, I got some early experience of self-publishing through those ventures.
2. What drew you to write a crime novel
A couple of things: the first one is the fact I just really love to read crime fiction, from the classics like Chandler and Hammett right up to the present day with people like Connelly, Rankin, Child and Reichs. The second thing is that what I write seems to lend itself to crime and mystery more than any other genre. I enjoy horror and sci fi books and movies, but I’m not sure I would know how to write one. Similarly, I’d have no clue how to write a ‘literary’ novel. The elements I enjoy the most: memorable characters, snappy dialogue, mystery and plot twists, all lead me into the crime section, and you know what? I’m fine with that.
3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?
Stephen King, Ira Levin, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Ian Rankin, John D. Macdonald, Denise Mina, Lee Child, James Ellroy, Elmore Leonard, Raymond Chandler, Kathy Reichs (to name but a few). I don’t consciously try to write like any of them, but I aspire to create work that gives others as much pleasure as the above writers have given me.
4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest?
I didn’t get any publisher interested until I had an agent, but to be fair, I hadn’t submitted work to publishers as often as an aspiring writer probably should do. I tried my luck with various short stories and found it tough to get anything published, but I did have a few successes with small writing magazines and competitions. My biggest early success was to have a story called ‘A Living’ published in one of the Quick Reads books: The Sun Book of Short Stories.
5. There are many interesting characters in your novels, do you have a particular favourite one?
Obviously I have to say Carter Blake is a favourite, because he’s my protagonist, and the only character that’s in all of the novels. Having said that, my favourite characters to write in The Killing Season were Banner, who’s the supporting lead, and Wardell, who’s the villain. Those two are at the two extremes – Banner is a relatively normal person and Wardell is a mass-murdering psychopath. Blake is kind of in the middle.
6. What kind of research have you have to undertake for your novels?
Different types: obviously the internet is an incredible resource, as long as you do a bit of fact checking, but I like to read good old-fashioned books on subjects relevant to what I’m writing. I also incorporate my own personal experiences through travel. One of the biggest helps in writing a US-set thriller series is having American friends I can interrogate to make sure I get the details right as far as possible.
7. Are the characters in your books based on any real life
No. For one thing, that’s a great way to get sued, for another thing, it’s much easier to simply invent a character than to try and fit a real person into a book. I do take elements here and there from people I’ve encountered, or add memorable snippets of dialogue I’ve heard in real life, but mostly the characters are completely imagined.
8. What do you think makes your novels stand out from all the other Scottish Crime Fiction Novels out there
The fact that it’s a very American Scottish crime novel! I think Glasgow (where I’m from) has a particularly pronounced American influence, probably from having been such a big shipping town historically. You can see that influence in a lot of ways, from the fact we love country music to the number of successful writers of American superhero comics from here. Even the grid plan of the city centre feels more like an American city than a British one.
9. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa?
A little bit. Blake likes process – he’s obsessively driven to complete a job once he’s set himself a goal. He’s also a little tunnel-visioned sometimes and has a tendency to infuriate those who spend time with him. My wife will vouch for the fact that that could describe me. He’s much smarter and better in a fight than me, though.
10. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you have planned.
The next one’s called The Samaritan. It’s about a serial killer who prays on drivers who have broken down late at night on deserted roads. Blake realises he may know who’s doing the killing, and gets himself involved in the investigation.
11. Out of all the novels you have written do you have a favourite one that stands out to you?
The most recent one is always a favourite, but I’m excited about the next novel I’m about to start, which is going to be called Winterlong, and should be out in 2016.
12. As a well known crime writer do you have words of advice you can share
I’m certainly not well-known but am flattered by the suggestion! My best advice for writers is the usual: keep writing and don’t give up. Even if you think something’s rubbish, it might turn out not so bad. Remember: there are a thousand ways to fix a rough draft; there’s only one way to fix a blank sheet of paper.
The first thing you should know about me is that my name is not Carter Blake.
That name no more belongs to me than the hotel room I was occupying when the call came in.
When Caleb Wardell, the infamous ‘Chicago Sniper’, escapes from death row two weeks before his execution, the FBI calls on the services of Carter Blake, a man with certain specialised talents whose skills lie in finding those who don’t want to be found. A man to whom Wardell is no stranger.
Along with Elaine Banner, an ambitious special agent juggling life as a single mother with her increasingly high-flying career, Blake must track Wardell down as he cuts a swathe across America, apparently killing at random.
But Blake and Banner soon find themselves sidelined from the case. And as they try desperately to second guess a man who kills purely for the thrill of it, they uncover a hornets’ nest of lies and corruption. Now Blake must break the rules and go head to head with the FBI if he is to stop Wardell and expose a deadly conspiracy that will rock the country.
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