1. How did you get started writing?
My very first attempt was at writing a series of adventures of a triceratops and a stegosaurus and their turbulent relationship with a t-rex. However, I knew I wanted to become a writer when I read Jurassic Park (there is a pattern emerging here…). I still go back to Michael Crichton when I think my action scenes are slacking off.
2. What drew you to write a crime novel
I am a huge fan of detective and mystery fiction (Agatha Christie, Conan Doyle, Ian Rankin, and in fact Isaac Asimov wrote some of my favourite mystery stories), but just as important as the cases themselves I wanted to create a detective duo and follow their lives across a long story arc.
3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?
Of course Arthur Conan Doyle. I read my first Holmes story as a young boy, and I’ve been a fan ever since. The Hound of the Baskervilles is a personal favourite, and you can tell it had a deep influence on the Frey & McGray stories.
More recently I drew a lot of inspiration from C.J. Sansom’s very atmospheric descriptions of Tudor London. Even though we work with different periods and places, I wanted to produce a similar effect: make people feel like they were really there in the action, with the temperatures, the noises and the smells.
I also read a lot of 19th century Gothic novels to develop the right voice. Dracula is a favourite, still frightening despite being more than 100 years old (watch out for book 3: Bram Stoker might have an important role)
4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest?
Extremely. Sorry to say so! It took a lot of perseverance (borderline sheer stubbornness) to get first an agent and then a publisher, but when it happened it was just right.
5. There are many interesting characters in your Novels, do you have a particular favourite one?
I of course love Frey and McGray, but there are also some secondary characters I particularly enjoy writing. Lady Glass and Madame Katerina always steal the scene.
6. What kind of research have you have to undertake for your Novels?
Loads, loads, and then some. I have a pile of books next to my desk devoted only to research: history, chemistry, medicine, dialect, music, folklore, fashion, horse breeding… But I enjoy the process, especially when you find some cool detail you never knew existed and it fits your story perfectly. That happened more than once for the third book (coming out next year! See below).
7. Are the characters in your books based on any real life?
Very rarely do I base a character entirely on a real person, but I do borrow bits from here and there. I also look at people on the street/office/bus and pick physical traits or voices or attitudes I can use. For historical fiction I also like to look at old photos and portraits and think what that person would have been like.
8. What do you think makes your novels stand out from all the other Scottish Crime Fiction Novels out there
I hope it is the very eclectic nature of the books. They’re a bit of crime, a bit of gothic,, a bit of horror and a bit of slapstick comedy. I also want each book in the series to be very different from the rest, so expect some surprises.
9. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa?
People who know me say that Frey sounds exactly like me, which is a wee bit scary! Having said that, his sweet tooth and foodie/winey tastes are definitely me.
McGray, I must admit, usually says the things I wish I could if I had the guts to (and the muscle, of course!)
10. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you have planned.
The current plan is for 9 books, but things might change!
I have just finished the first draft of book 3, which I’m really, really excited about. Think Macbeth, Bram Stoker, and the most famous actors of the time coming all together. It’s the most complex plot I’ve written so far and it’s full of historical facts that just intermingle incredibly well (I hope it’s not just me!).
11. Out of all the Novels you have written do you have a favourite one that stands out to you?
Mmmm, difficult one! I’m actually very proud of certain aspects of each book. The Strings of Murder has two scenes I still re-read with a grin on my face, and I really like how A Fever of The Blood flows kind of breathlessly. However, I this third book is coming out really well, and I think will be very hard to beat (again, I hope it’s not just me!).
12. As an up and coming crime writer do you have words of advice you can share
Writing-wise: create something you enjoy yourself. Love your characters, laugh with them and cry with them, and entertain yourself. Not only to engage your readers, but you’ll thank yourself when you’re on the 20th round of edits/proof-reads (when you want the darn thing to go away) and suddenly you find a joke you didn’t remember, or an exciting scene, and you remember why you’re putting yourself through all this.
Getting published-wise, some tough love: If you want a writing career, really think of it as a career. Not only will it include all the mundane aspects of a day job (things taking longer than you expect, having to make yourself a name, dealing with admin/tax, etc.) but it will also demand just as much (or more!) hard work. However, if you love your craft, it is definitely worth it.
FREY AND McGRAY NOVELS
1. The Strings of Murder
2. Fever of the Blood
The Hunt (Short Story)
Amazon Author Page