1. How did you get started writing? I’ve always enjoyed writing – I wrote stories when I was young, (and made comics like the one in the book) and I wrote articles for professional journals during my teaching career. The story of Sewing the Shadows Together was forming in my mind for more than thirty years, but it was only when I retired that I had the time and the freedom to actually write it.
2. What drew you to write a crime novel? I read crime novels myself and although I wasn’t sure if I could ever actually write a novel, the genre was never in doubt.
3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing? Over the years I devoured Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Reginald Hill, Henning Mankell, Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson and I’m sure that they’ve all influenced my writing to some extent. Now I find that I read almost exclusively Scottish and Scandinavian crime, with the occasional foray into the north of England. I’m sure that everything I read influences me in some way and I hope that I can approach the standards of the many brilliant authors who are writing in these countries today.
4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest? I have self-published. I approached a few agents and didn’t get any interest – and I’m easily discouraged! Actually, now that I’ve published the book and have got to know more people through crime-writing festivals and social media I’ve had interest in my next book. I think it is true that having a social media presence before you begin to approach agents is helpful (something I’d read before and hadn’t really believed).
5. There are many interesting characters in your novel, do you have a particular favourite one? I must admit I liked writing Flora, the mother, because she has such a distinctive voice that she really wrote herself – and she is so awful. I also have a soft spot for Nick, the son, because he is loveable without being too saccharine and Archie the journalist is someone I’d like to have a drink with in real life (but unfortunately he isn’t based on anyone I know!)
6. What kind of research have you have to undertake for your Novel? I became very interested in miscarriages of justice and did quite a lot of internet research and read a couple of books. I was really horrified by the injustices that had taken place. I also researched the use of DNA and organ donation for parts of the book. I didn’t really have to research the settings – I lived in Portobello and Edinburgh, and I’ve visited the Outer Hebrides and Plettenberg Bay in South Africa. I mention in my acknowledgements that I have changed some things in all these places but I hope I have remained true to the atmosphere of these places I love.
7. Are the characters in your books based on any real life? Some of the characters in the novel share features with people I know in real life, but there is nobody who is exactly the same. For example, I had a wonderful charismatic young English teacher when I was at school, and I can remember reading the poem Bat with him, but his resemblance to HJ Kidd ends there!
8. What do you think makes your novels stand out from all the other Crime Fiction Novels out there? There are so many excellent crime novels I feel hesitant to say anything, but my characters became very real to me – and readers have also commented on how they were drawn into their world, felt they knew them as people and cared what happened to them.
9. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa? All my characters possibly have a little of me in them, but I suppose people would think the one who is most similar to me is Sarah, because she is a female of about my age. We do share some characteristics, but her family situation is very different. She has also been scarred by the trauma of her youth, which has affected her personality and the way she relates to other people.
10. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you have planned. I have got an idea for a second novel which is set in Scotland and Switzerland. It is also a stand-alone and at first I thought it was very different, but I realised as it formed in my mind that it shared several themes with Sewing the Shadows Together – secrets from the past, family relationships and ordinary people being confronted with the effects of crime.
11. In your novel which scene was your favourite to write and why? I enjoyed the funeral scene. It had been in my mind from the beginning and I was almost impatient to get to it as it brings several strands of the story together. It is dramatic and I could almost see it being filmed as I wrote it.
12. As a up and coming crime writer, do you have words of advice you can share? The most important thing is to read as much as possible and also to believe in yourself. I never thought I would be able to write a novel, but once I was writing it and realised that the story was taking shape, it was the most wonderful feeling.
Can you ever get over the death of your sister? Or of your best friend?
More than 30 years after 13-year-old Shona McIver was raped and murdered in Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh, the crime still casts a shadow over the lives of her brother Tom and her best friend Sarah.
“Shona had been gone for so long but the memories still came unexpectedly, sometimes like a video from the past, sometimes distorted dreams, but she was always there.”
When modern DNA evidence shows that the wrong man was convicted of the crime, the case is reopened. So who did kill Shona? Sarah and Tom are caught up in the search for Shona’s murderer, and suspicions fall on family and friends. The foundations of Sarah’s perfect family life begin to crumble as she realises that nothing is as it appears. Dark secrets from the past are uncovered, and there is another death, before the identity of the real killer is finally revealed…
Set in Edinburgh, the Outer Hebrides and South Africa, Sewing the Shadows Together is a thoroughly modern murder mystery that keeps the reader guessing to the end. Filled with characters who could easily be friends, family or people we work with, it asks the question:
Do we ever really know the people closest to us?
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