1. How did you get started writing?
The first thing I ever did that could be considered creative writing for a wide audience (hah!) was a cartoon my best friend and I did for the back cover of our high school magazine in Brechin back in the mid-80s. Not so much writing as drawing a cat and a rat based heavily on love of the Garfield cartoons, but there was always a plot. Does that count?
As an adult I messed around with a story based, again, on animals. My wife’s family live in the country here in Kentucky and had several cats and dogs running around. I heard stories of ducks and snapping turtles and thought it would make a great children’s story. I never did finish it, but still have the story in my head. Perhaps one day.
2. What drew you to write a crime novel?
I have been a fan of crime fiction for several years. My dad got me started on Ian Rankin and from there I stuck to Scottish authors or stories set in Scotland. Living in Kentucky I tend to be way more patriotic than when I lived in the UK. It’s those rose-colo(u)red glasses, you know.
3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?
I’ve already mentioned the master (bows low), Ian Rankin. Other crime fiction authors include Val McDermid, Stuart MacBride, Allan Guthrie, Quintin Jardine and Ed James. I love the humor and imagination of Terry Pratchett. Like many people, Colin Dexter’s Morse was probably the first fictional detective I paid any notice of. Growing up, the TV show was a “must watch.” Note to self: Read all the Morse books again.
4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest?
I have to say that from the outset I have never tried to win the interest of a publisher. I have chosen, like one or two others, to go the route of self-publishing and put all my eggs in the Amazon basket. For now. I’d rather win the interest of readers than publishers and that’s where I concentrate all of my non-writing efforts.
5. There are many interesting characters in your Novel, do you have a particular favourite one?
Perhaps this question for me should be: “You have many interesting characters in your head…” I think Tom Guthrie will turn out to be a fun character to develop. He has already taken me down paths I had not planned to go. He’s likable but can be completely clueless. The supporting characters in TOOLS OF THE TRADE, the first full-length Guthrie novel also excite me. There’s tension, but the chemistry seems to be working.
6. What kind of research have you had to undertake for your Novels?
I suppose my answer is that I grew up with a dad who was a police officer in Tayside and I heard all the stories. He has helped give me an understanding of what it was like being a copper. We also were fortunate to live beside some characters through the years, none of whom will show up in my stories. That’s my official line anyway.
I have been able to make good use of social media. I have connected with retired forensic specialists and others in the business of crime that can bring a little more factual reality to the stories.
A great source of information have been the free courses offered by universities through a program called FutureLearn (www.futurelearn.com). You can take a classes in forensic science or creative writing. These are not in-depth forays into a subject and you’re not coming out the other end with a degree, but the information is good enough to put to use in creating your story.
The most important thing to me, however, is not to get bogged down with procedure. I want to keep the stories loose enough that they don’t depend on me nailing down how the SOCO team would go about recording evidence at the scene, or how blood spatter can be used to triangulate a gunshot victim’s position at the time he was shot. The characters and their path through the story is more important.
Hopefully I get the big things fairly close and I reserve the right to make stuff up.
7. Are the characters in your books based on any real life?
Many of the characters in MURDER IN THE SMA’ GLEN (release date: February 19th, 2015) are based on real people because the story is based on an actual murder. Their characteristics, however, are completely fictional, so it was fun to create fiction out of that story.
8. What do you think makes your novels stand out from all the other Scottish Crime Fiction Novels out there?
The Scottish crime fiction scene has become a crowded one so you have to write something pretty special to be noticed by the book-buying public. I think my characters will be able to stand up for themselves. I know the countryside in which the stories are set and the scenery will be a character too. Although I have chosen to write about some nasty things – let’s face it, murders are not pleasant – I’m not a big fan of foul language for the sake of “realism.” The language I use is mild. The descriptions of nasty events doesn’t go overboard on gore, so I think more people will find my stories easier to digest, yet still experience solid crime fiction.
9. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa?
Some of Tom Guthrie’s traits, not the best ones, are probably mine. The reason I published WRUNG OUT was to develop Guthrie as a character in my head, help me develop him as his own person. Subconsciously, perhaps, he is a combination of Rebus, Lewis, Morse and every other detective I’ve read, but I’ve also consciously given him some of my habits, likes and dislikes.
10. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you have planned.
Since the two short stories are finished, it’s back to completing the Tom Guthrie novel, TOOLS OF THE TRADE. I already have the next two books outlined and the story arc will see the development of one of the other characters into a more prominent role.
All three books will take place in the county of Angus and we’ll experience the cliffs at Arbroath, the wilds of Glen Esk and the big city of Dundee!
11.What was your favourite scene to write in your Novel and why?
I don’t have one particular scene, but the scenes that inject a little comedy are fun. Not the writing so much, but the feedback. My wife, Christy is my editor and critic. She reads the first draft and provides me with all the stuff I need to correct, or change because it didn’t make sense or could be confusing. When she giggles at the parts I thought were funny when I was writing them, I know I nailed it. When we’re watching TV and a character does something dumb and she says, “That’s just the kind of thing Guthrie would have done. It makes me so mad,” I know I’ve created something out of thin air (and a little gray matter) that has connected with someone else. That’s quite satisfying.
12. As an up and coming crime writer do you have words of advice you can share?
Every independent author should read “Write. Publish. Repeat” by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant. Their advice is to do just that. Don’t sell yourself out to make money by jumping on any old bandwagon, but do the thing you love to do, write, get it in front of people who might buy it, then do it again.
One of the reasons I published WRUNG OUT and wrote MURDER IN THE SMA’ GLEN before finishing TOOLS OF THE TRADE was to have a couple of stories out there, hopefully creating a bit of a buzz and catching the eye of future fans of my work.
Another piece of writing advice I like is “enter a scene late and get out early.” This keeps the momentum going and the pace high which, for me, is important in a crime fiction novel.
So write and keep on writing.
Tom Guthrie has retired from Tayside Police in eastern Scotland. While spending a weekend at an isolated hotel in the Sma’ Glen he is suddenly plunged into the middle of a mysterious death.
Used to leading the investigation can he just sit back and watch?
Murder in the Sma’ Glen is the second of two short story prequels leading to the publication of the first full-length Tom Guthrie novel in early 2015.
Scottish Detective Sergeant Tom Guthrie gets results the old-fashioned way. He’s not one for being politically correct and doesn’t like the direction the force is taking.
Jock Bishop is attacked after walking his girlfriend home from a night out. He dies from the beating in the early hours of the morning. His girlfriend is the ex of a local thug. Is there a connection? Guthrie thinks so and uses old school methods to get the information he needs, but goes too far when using the same tactics with another witness.
Wrung Out is a short story prequel to the Tom Guthrie Trilogy which takes place in the county of Angus in eastern Scotland and set to debut later in the year.
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