1. How did you get started writing?
I worked as a bus driver in Edinburgh, and always carried a book with me, and back then, I was into horror, reading James Herbert, Clive Barker and one of my favourites, Shaun Hutson. So I decided to write a horror novel. That didn’t get picked up, and neither did the follow up, but I learned how to shape a book with them both.
2. What drew you to write a crime novel?
I was reading all sorts of books, and I enjoyed crime novels, and I was always thinking about plots, and I came up with the idea for my own detective and it started from there. I was thinking about a name for him, and at the time, I was sitting at my computer drinking a can of Miller’s, and I thought, Okay, why not? And Frank Miller was born.
3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?
I discovered a new writer back in 1993, called Quintin Jardine. I loved the way that Bob Skinner didn’t take any nonsense from anybody, and he was a tough guy. I am also a fan of Ian Rankin, but I didn’t want my books to be the new Rebus, or new Skinner. Frank Miller is set in Edinburgh, and he’s a different character, but I think readers of Quintin Jardine and Ian Rankin would like my books. Same locale, different writing style.
4. When you first starting writing, did you find it easy to get a publisher intrested?
Yes. A few agents wanted to read my first two crime novels, but none picked me up. One lady in particular gave me great encouragement, but I was working long hours and couldn’t churn the books out. Fast forward a few years, and I sent my third crime novel to an agent and got representation. He loved my book, and was getting good feedback from some editors he spoke to, but he left the agency and the publishing world before the revised book made it to his desk. After reading about many success stories in the self-publishing world, I decided that Amazon’s KDP was the way I wanted to go forward.
5. There are many interesting characters in your novels, do you have a particularly favourite one?
My favourite character is Neil McGovern. He mushroomed into something completely different altogether after having just a short role to play in the beginning. My agent liked him a lot, and wanted him to play a bigger part, and we came up with his new role. Now he’s going to be in at least the next three books.
6.What research have you had to undertake for your novels?
Years ago, I wrote to what was then Lothian & Borders Police and asked if I could talk to a police officer. They invited me along to their HQ at Fettes, and I sat with an officer in the canteen for an hour or so taking notes. I also called the city mortuary, and the man I spoke to was a mortuary assistant, and he invited me along, and gave me a tour – though I didn’t see any dead bodies! My late mother was a police officer with Fife Constabulary, then with the MOD Police at Rosyth naval yard, and she told me many stories. And lastly, I emailed the L&B press office, and a press officer there answered my many emails, and she gave me some great insight into the day-to-day life of a detective. I took many liberties with reality though! This isn’t a manual on how to be a Police Scotland detective, and if a real cop reads this and thinks, “That’s not how it’s done!” then I will have achieved what I set out to do. These are my detectives, my Edinburgh, and it’s my job to make stuff up!
7. Are the characters in your novels based on any real life?
When I was on the buses, I tore my shoulder rotator cuff, and was put on light duties for 9 months, and this was in an office that made up the information boards that went into panels at bus stops. Suddenly, instead of being on my own all day driving, I was working with a group of people for 8 hours. Although there were a few permanent men there, this was the place where you went on light duties, and it was like a revolving door for bus drivers with injuries and illnesses, so I met a lot of men and women from other depots, people I didn’t know, as well as people I did know, and some of them were such a laugh. We worked hard but there was a great camaraderie. This was one of the best places I’ve ever worked in. Some of the character traits I used in the book, but none of my characters are based on any one person.
8. What do you think makes your novels stand out from all the other Scottish Crime Fiction Novels out there?
A very long time ago, Edinburgh Council had a weekend writing course at Craigmount High School in Edinburgh, and the tutor was none other than Ian Rankin. So Friday evening, all day Saturday and all day Sunday, we had the undivided attention of this famous writer, who was teaching us how to structure our novels. He gave us one piece of advice that I will never forget: make your Edinburgh novel your own. So when I set out to create Miller, I didn’t want him to be a drunk, or a divorcee, but when I was thinking about what his wife should do for a living, I decided that she should be a detective, like him. I wanted readers to feel emotion too, so when you first meet Miller, his wife has been dead for over two years, and I wanted her to have been a good cop, but she was killed on duty, and I wanted to make that part of the story. He has flaws of course, but he’s a normal guy, and although he is partnered with an older detective of a lower rank in the first book, I introduce him to Kim who works for the Procurator Fiscal’s office. He works with her on this case, and she is in the second book, again partnered with him. With L&B Police morphing into Police Scotland, the PF wants Kim to be a part of the team, so she is out and about with Miller. Not a detective, but an investigator. Miller’s father – himself a retired detective – currently lives in Miller’s apartment. So right away, I think the mix of characters is interesting and added to that a good plot, short chapters and you have what I hope is a fast-paced novel.
9. Do you see any characters personality in yourself and vice versa?
Miller is witty, charming and handsome, so yes! Seriously, I am stubborn and like details to be right, so I think Miller is like this too. I like people to call when they say they’re going to call, and I will do anything to protect my daughters, who tell me they’re old enough to look after themselves! (They never will be, in my mind!) Miller doesn’t have kids yet, but Kim does, and she is going to be his romantic interest, so there’s time yet to be an over-protective dad!
10. If you can, could you give us a sneaky peck into any books you have planned for the future?
Book 2, SILENT MARKER, will be out in Spring 2015. In book 1, we see in flashback that Miller’s wife was killed when a kidnap ransom drop went bad. In book 2, the young kidnap victim is discovered when the burnt-out caretaker’s house in an old cemetery is being demolished, sending Miller and his team on the hunt for the kidnappers again. This time, whoever is behind the kidnapping is getting rid of evidence from the kidnapping, including people they think might bring them down. They have a job in mind, a job that’s been years in the planning, and the kidnap was just a small part of that plan. Now the job is nearly at hand, and they will let nobody get in their way.
Book 3 is RAIN TOWN. Who’s the most dangerous? The killer your hunting now…or the one you didn’t know existed? For years, a killer has been silently stalking the streets of Edinburgh, making his victims disappear. None of them were locals, they were just tourists, passing through. Despite families making enquiries and filing missing persons reports, none of them were ever found. Case closed. Now he’s made a mistake. And he has to rectify it to carry on with his obsession. Only now the people being murdered are locals, and Frank Miller and his team are going to hunt him down. The killer just made the biggest mistake of his life…
11. What was your favourite scene to write in your novel and why ?
I liked writing the scenes where Miller and Kim Smith were in the catacombs of Warriston Cemetery, recounting the night they were each there, nine weeks earlier, when Miller’s boss was attacked and killed. I grew up in Warriston Road, opposite the cemetery, and this was our playground. My friends and I would play football in there, ride our bikes in there and smack the giant hogweeds with sticks! One day, we decided to go into the old catacombs. It was very dark and creepy, and writing those scenes brought back a lot of good memories. Although I used literary license to make them much bigger inside than I remember!
12. As a up and coming crime writer do you have any words of wisdom you can share with us
Don’t ever give up! If writing is your passion, then keep at it. Read lots of books in the genre you want to write in. And write. Don’t spend hours on the internet, except to do research! Spend those precious few hours writing. I worked long hours, six days a week, but I spent my spare time writing. And lastly, if you want somebody else to believe in you, you have to believe in yourself.
While investigating the murder of a former detective, DI Frank Miller begins to see the connection between this and the murder of the head of Edinburgh’s Serious Crime Unit. As the investigation unfolds, a 25 year-old murder case is re-opened, and when Miller delves into the past, he finds that somebody had a secret that is costing people their lives. He also discovers the awful truth of who really killed his wife in a hit-and-run two years ago, and how his wife’s killer is coming after him…