1. How did you get started writing?
It was probably a book that set me off. The Magus, Catch-22, Time’s Arrow, The Wasp Factory? I, Claudius, The Ginger Man, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? Books which moved me or made me laugh would leave me thinking: how cool would it be to do that!
2. What drew you to write a thriller novel?
Hopefully The Last of Us could call itself a thriller – of sorts, though a few good people have said it’s slow to get going. I really admire books which I can’t put down; I guess all fiction should be able to call itself thrilling. Whether the thrills come from elegant writing, or the subtle interplay of characters, or from car chases and zombie apocalypse, they’ve got to grip.
3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?
The first names which come to mind: George MacKay Brown, Gerard Woodward, David Mitchell, Alice Munro, Tim Winton, Aravind Adiga. Can I also mention Rosemary Sutcliff’s Eagle of the Ninth? Amazing book.
4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest?
It’s really hard to get any kind of interest, full stop! I sent out loads of short stories and poems with no reply before my first ones were accepted. Then when it comes to longer works of fiction: most publishers won’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, so getting an agent is crucial… but finding an agent willing to take a punt on your work is probably even harder than finding a publisher!
5. There are many interesting characters in your novel. Do you have a particular favourite one?
I wrote a novel a few years back called Tightlacing, which had a psychopathic Victorian conman in it. He was definitely fun to write, if a little twisted!
6. What kind of research have you had to undertake for your novels?
I used to do loads. In fact early on I tended to over-research: using it to build my story, over and above the interaction of characters. (The geekiest research I ever did was look up which stars were high in the sky on one particular evening for a long-ago book about a couple who happened to like stargazing. Could’ve just made it up, I guess.)
7. Are the characters in your books based on anyone in real life?
No… Yes… er maybe one in the next book…
8. What do you think makes your novel stand out from all the other Scottish novels out there?
There are so many brilliant Scottish novels out there. Can’t speak for my writing, but I can big up Claire Ward’s cover art and endpapers – absolutely fantastic.
9. Do you see any of your characters’ personalities in yourself, and vice versa?
Yes. My rogues have the same cold madman inner voice…
10. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you have planned?
The next is a thriller / crime novel set in Glasgow, about a GP who begins to suspect the senior partner at her practice of being a killer. Nearly completed, though it’s still a mess and needs much rewriting.
11. What was your favourite part of The Last of us to write, and why?
The last chapters. Without giving too much away – a change of voice at the end…
12. As an up and coming writer do you have words of advice you can share?
Write. Read. Keep writing and reading. Short stories are a great way to experiment and learn your craft. And be persistent: don’t give up.
The island is quiet now.
On a remote Scottish island, six children are the only ones left. Since the Last Adult died, sensible Elizabeth has been the group leader, testing for a radio signal, playing teacher and keeping an eye on Alex, the littlest, whose insulin can only last so long.
There is ‘shopping’ to do in the houses they haven’t yet searched and wrong smells to avoid. For eight-year-old Rona each day brings fresh hope that someone will come back for them, tempered by the reality of their dwindling supplies.
With no adults to rebel against, squabbles threaten the fragile family they have formed. And when brothers Calum Ian and Duncan attempt to thwart Elizabeth’s leadership, it prompts a chain of events that will endanger Alex’s life and test them all in unimaginable ways.