1. How did you get started writing?
I didn’t start writing until I was nearly fifty, when my four sons decided I was no longer cool enough to hang out with and I found myself with a strange thing called free-time.
2. What drew you to write a crime novel
The say write about what you know, and, as I have been a criminal lawyer for around thirty years, crime novels from the point of view of a criminal lawyer seemed the obvious choice. Not only do I have a wealth of material to base the stories on, I don’t need to do research into the criminal law and procedure (some Sheriffs may disagree with that!).
3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?
Four immediately spring to mind, all, sadly, no longer with us. John Mortimer’s Rumpole of the Bailey stories are a favourite of mine. A few people have likened Robbie Munro, the protagonist in the Best Defence Series, to a Scotish Horace Rumpole and I can’t think of any higher praise than that. Other writers I enjoy are Neil M. Gunn for his gentle yet beautifully descriptive and discerning prose and Raymond Chandler who can set a scene or describe a character so perfectly using so few words. William McIllvanney was a genius and while I don’t pretend to come close, his writing was certainly an inspiration. All four to various degrees injected humour into their writing, which is very important in mine.
4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest?
At first, it all seemed so simple. I had a publisher interested almost straight away in my first attempt at a novel entitled ‘The Truth The Whole Truth and Nothing Like the Truth’. It featured an elderly and extremely jaded female criminal defence lawyer, whose idea of justice was blurred to say the least. Things were going well until the commissioning editors realised that the ‘W’ in WHS McIntyre stood for William and not Wilma and decided that, on principle, a man could not write from a female perspective. I had a choice to make, and, while I am prepared to make sacrifices for my art, there is a line in the sand, and so Tina Munro became Robbie Munro. Unfortunately, the change of sex for the main character spoiled the story as many of the scenes no longer worked, and, by the time I’d written a completely new book and re-submitted it, I was told by the publishers that their list for crime fiction was full for the next three years.
That new book ‘Relatively Guilty’ , first in the Best Defence Series, went on to be shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize, which was heartening, and I was advised by well known crime-noir author, Al Guthrie, to self-publish it on AMAZON, which I did. Thereafter I submitted the book to a few publishers. Initially, I was looking for a Scottish publisher, but they are not thick on the ground and many either didn’t respond or thought email some kind of new-fangled frippery. I seem to recall Canongate wanted the manuscript written on velum and delivered by sedan chair. When I had finished the second book and started on number three, I wrote to Sandstone Press as being a Scottish publishing house going somewhere. The book was rejected, in the nicest possible way, as at that time they wouldn’t consider self-published books. Fortunately, three years later that policy changed and I was contacted out of the blue to say Sandstone would be interested in publishing the next in the series.
5. There are many interesting characters in your Novel. Do you have a particular favourite one?
There are so many secondary characters who appear in every book, that with no. 7 now finished and ready for publication, a lot of them feel like old friends. If I had to choose one, it would be Alex Munro, Robbie’s father, who is the archetypal unreconstructed male, often unwittingly, mostly uncaringly, but, (hopefully) always refreshingly politically incorrect.
6. What kind of research have you have to undertake for your Novel.
Other than visiting the places where many of the scenes in the stories are set, and checking the occasional historical fact that I like to throw in, not a lot.
7. Are the characters in your book based on any real life?
Yes. Though which ones and who they are based on must remain top secret.
8. What do you think makes your novels stand out from all the other Crime Fiction Novels out there.
The books are all written in the first-person and, without sounding too much of a luvvie, I hope the ‘voice’ of Robbie Munro and especially his views on the criminal justice system, make him an interesting character who stands out from the crowd.
More generally, and meaning no disrespect to anyone, I have read a huge amount of crime fiction over the years, and a lot of it nowadays seems to be a variation on the maverick police officer tracking down a serial-killer theme. Nothing wrong with that, but not everyone can be Ian Rankin or Val McDermid. The Best Defence Series, like, I suppose, The Rumpole stories and some Michael Connolly books, amongst others, is intended to give the reader a different outlook on things, a view from the other side of the crime fiction fence, emphasising that justice is not only about convicting the guilty, but also about acquitting the innocent. It’s a perspective that is intended to make the reader ask him or herself some fundamental questions like, is it okay to break the law to achieve justice? If you thought the two were one and the same, think again.
9. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa?
My wife would say I can be a dead-ringer for Alex Munro at times!
10. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you have planned.
I am always waiting for the inspiration necessary to write a major blockbuster, but until that comes along it’s going to be the Best Defence Series. Number eight is already well underway. It’s not easy to comment without giving away spoilers.
11.What was your favourite Scene to write and why.
I’m sorry, that’s way too difficult a question (mainly because I’ve forgotten half of them), but the scenes I enjoy writing the most are usually ones involving discourses between Robbie and his father and brother.
12. As an up and coming crime writer do you have words of advice you can share.
I’m not really in a position to give writing advice to anyone… But I will.
Write the sort of story you’d like to read.
Being ‘traditionally published’ is not the be all and end all. If the ink is in your blood you’ll write anyway and so enjoy it.
Take advantage of the self-published opportunities available via eBooks that are sweeping away the old gatekeepers to publishing.
Persevere. I had written six books before I was approached by two publishers in the same week.
Experience. Take time. Live and learn. You’ll find it easier to write about something you know, if you actually know something.
Have an extremely understanding spouse.
Stop watching TV/Facebook/Twitter etc. and write
Best Defence Series of Books
Present Tense (Coming Soon)
Amazon Author Page