September 2016 Bloody Scotland Special Crime author of the month interview with Sara Bailey

Sara Bailey is writer and lecturer for the UHI (University of the Highlands and Islands). Her first book was published by Bloomsbury in 2013 ‘Writing the Horror Movie’ which was co-authored with Marc Blake. 

She has recently returned to the Orkney Islands, after 37 years. Her first novel, ‘Dark Water’, is set in Orkney.
1. How did you get started writing? 


I’ve been writing poems and stories since I was little. We were all encouraged to read a lot as children and to use our imaginations. But I think that I started writing seriously when I got accepted on to the MA at Bath Spa. It was at that point I thought, ‘yeah, this is what I’m doing.’


2. What drew you to write a crime novel 


I don’t know that this is a crime novel. Without wanting to give anything away, I think it’s ambiguous as to whether a crime has been committed or not. I think that is up to the reader to decide.


3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing? 


So many. I read across different styles and genres, so it is hard to say. But I admire the writing of people like Joanne Harris, Helen Dunmore and Michèle Roberts.


4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest? 


Yes. I have a wonderful collection of rejections. They don’t get any easier to receive, but in the last year they did get nicer and more encouraging. I would say persistence is a writer’s greatest requirement. I was very lucky with Nightingale Editions. I had heard that Blackbird-Digital were looking for fiction and sent the book to them. They turned it down but then came back to me to say that they had a new imprint starting and would I like to be the debut novelist for them? Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity.


5. There are many interesting characters in your Novel, do you have a particular favourite one?


I love Phil, he just made me happy when I wrote him, he’s a bit of a lovable rogue but also quite heroic. He plays a pivatol part in Helena’s life but his role in the book is fairly minor overall. I think he’s the sort of boy I’d have been drawn to when I was younger. But I like the way he is as an adult in the book too – he might be a bit of a lad, but he’s kind too.


6. What kind of research have you had to undertake for your Novel? 


Lots of people watching and observation for characterization. I did change some of the geographical layout of Orkney to fit with the story, for instance the cemetery isn’t where I’ve written it and some of the distances aren’t accurate. But it isn’t supposed to be a travel guide, I hope that there is enough that is right for a true sense of the place to come through. I also spoke to divers and did some on line research into the wrecks in the area, particularly those that were sunk next to the Churchill barriers.


7. Are the characters in your books based on any real life? 


No. Not really. There are elements of people I’ve known and met, but no one person is drawn directly from life. The lads I hung around with as a teenager, shall we say, informed the writing of certain characters. The dad in the book isn’t my dad, but there’s an emotional truth in the relationship Helena has with him that came from my own relationship with my father.


8. What do you think makes your novel stand out from all the other Crime Fiction Novel out there 


Perhaps because the crime is ambiguous – you have to decide for yourself at the end if a crime has been committed and what that crime is.


9. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa? 


I sincerely hope not! Although I’m sure there are parts of Helena that come from me. The nice bits, obviously.


10. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you have planned.


I’m working on the next book now. It is also set in Orkney and so far there’s one dead body and one missing body. This one is more of a crime novel in that the police are obviously involved right from the beginning.


11. In your novel is there a favourite part of the book that stands out for you and why.


The ending. It was hard getting it right, but once I did, I loved it.


12. As a up and coming crime writer do you have words of advice you can share


Don’t give up. Keep writing and keep sending your work out there. I think it is easy to just give up and tell yourself you are writing for yourself. Which is nonsense – we write to be read. At the end of the day a story is a way of speaking to people – we just have to keep practicing until they hear us.


Friendship doesn’t die, it waits…
A haunting and lyrical novel, Dark Water is a psychologically intense portrait of adolescent yearning and obsession.
When Helena returns to her childhood home in Orkney to care for her father after a heart attack, she is forced to face memories that she has spent half a lifetime running from. 
Still haunted by the disappearance of her best friend, the charismatic Anastasia – who vanished during a daredevil swimming incident – Helena must navigate her way though the prisms of memory and encounter not only her ghosts but also her first love, Dylan, the only one who can help her unravel the past and find her way back to the truth of what really happened that night.

Twitter: @baileysara

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September 2016 Bloody Scotland Special Crime author of the month interview with Graham Smith

Graham Smith is married with a young son. A time served joiner he has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since Christmas 2000 he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland. 

An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well-respected website since 2009


He is the author of four books featuring DI harry Evans and the Cumbrian Major Crimes Team.
1. How did you get started writing?

After tossing the umpteenth book across the room complaining that I could write a better book myself it became time to put my money where my mouth is. The first attempt was so bad I realised I had better get good quick or stop tossing books across the room.

2. What drew you to write a crime novel?

They say write what you know and I have been reading crime and thrillers for the best part of thirty years. Not having read other genres, there’s no way I could have begun to write anything other than a crime novel.

3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?

Every author I’ve ever read has influenced me by showing me good or bad writing, but specific influences are Craig Russell and Matt Hilton. They are both excellent authors and I’m proud to call them my friends.

4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest?

I was very lucky because I’d been reviewing for for four years before I took to writing. During those four years, I attended events, interviewed star names and basically got my name out there. When my own writing ambitions surfaced I was lucky enough to have enough contacts to put together my own weekend of crime writing master-classes where industry experts taught wannabe authors such as myself. The weekend is called Crime and Publishment and to date six attendees, including myself, have signed publishing contracts.

5. There are many interesting characters in your Novels, do you have a particular favourite one?

That’s like asking which is my favourite child as I love them all. If pushed, I would have to say DI Harry Evans as he’s the alter ego for me and gets to do and say all the things manners and consideration for others prevent me from doing.

6. What kind of research have you have to undertake for your Novels?

I have had to do quite a bit of research on various topics and specifically the areas where I set elements of the story. Fortunately I have police, lawyer and probation friends who are fonts of knowledge. I did however manage to once get myself ejected from a church while researching I Know Your Secret

7. Are the characters in your books based on any real life?

Every character I’ve ever written has elements of someone or some people I’ve met or know well. However, no character is a complete copy of the real person, rather they are a melange of different people.

8. What do you think makes your novels stand out from all the other Crime Fiction Novels out there?

I’d like to think it is my plots and plotting. I love to mess with readers’ heads and confound them by shifting plotlines in unforeseen directions while also trying to tell unique stories in a way that keeps the reader turning pages.

9. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa?

DI Harry Evans is hard-drinking, fast-driving, bad-tempered and incredibly intelligent. I can only claim three of these qualities.

10. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you have planned?

I’m currently writing the third novel in the series and it sees a headless body found in the boot of a car towed out of floodwater.

11. Out of all the Novels you have written do you have a favourite one that stands out to you?

I cannot choose between any of my novels as they all hold a special place in my heart for different reasons. Snatched from Home was my first, I Know Your Secret is my next release and When the Waters Recede (working title) is the one I’m currently immersed in.

12. As an up and coming crime writer do you have words of advice you can share?

I would always always always recommend that new writers read several books in their chosen genre and then write a 500 word review. When you know you have to write a review, critical or otherwise, you read novels in a slightly different way.

Middle-class parents Victoria and Nicholas Foulkes are distraught when their children are kidnapped against Nicholas’ gambling debts. Penniless and desperate the couple turn to crime as a way to raise the ransom. 
Hot on their heels is recently bereaved DI Harry Evans and his Major Crimes team. Evans is fighting against enforced retirement and his replacement – DI John Campbell – is foisted upon him along with other cases. If he must leave the police then he wants one last big case before he goes. 
In a race against time Victoria and Nicholas must evade the police while continuing to add to the ransom fund. If they don’t pay up on time the kidnappers have threatened to amputate their children’s limbs with an oxy-acetylene torch. 
Can they save their children before time runs out? 

Carlisle United are playing Millwall and the Major Crimes Team are assigned to crowd control as punishment for their renegade ways. Typically, DI Harry Evans has other ideas and tries to thwart the local firm’s plans to teach Millwall’s notorious Bushwhackers an unforgettable lesson.

Meanwhile an undercover cop is travelling north with some of the Millwall contingent. His mission is to identify the ringleaders and gather evidence against them.

Three illegal immigrants have been transported to Carlisle and are about to meet their new employers.

Nothing is as it seems for Evans and his Major Crimes Team as they battle to avoid a bloodbath while also uncovering a far more heinous crime. 

The Cumbria Major Crimes team is under immense pressure to 

get results. DCI Harry Evans and his subordinates, DS Neil 

Chisholm, DC Lauren Phillips and DC Amir Bhaki must juggle cases 

while tragedy stalks them. Up in Glasgow, DI John Campbell is 

preparing to replace Evans, whose renegade ways have brought 

enforced retirement. 

Together they must investigate a man killed in his own home, a 

vigilante group chasing a suspected paedophile, a river dammed 

for no obvious reason and a woman whose cries of ‘wolf’ turn to

‘rape’. Meanwhile DC Phillips goes undercover off the books. 

Set in modern day Cumbria, I Know Your Secret is a police thriller in which a priest is found crucified to the stone floor of his church. Fearing more attacks on the clergy, DI John Campbell and his team of misfits race to find the killer before he strikes again.
Meanwhile, DI Harry Evans, spends his days attending the trial of his wife’s rapist and his nights interfering in the investigation. 
Can they catch the killer before he strikes again? 





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Jackie Baldwin guest post: The Long and winding Road to Publication

Ex-priest DI Frank Farrell has returned to his roots in Dumfries, only to be landed with a disturbing murder case. Even worse, Farrell knows the victim: Father Boyd, the man who forced him out of the priesthood fifteen years ago.

With no leads, Farrell must delve into the old priest’s past, one that is inextricably linked with his own. But his attention is diverted when twin boys go missing. One twin is recovered in an abandoned church. But where is his brother?
Are the two cases linked or is the church just a coincidence? It’s clear someone is playing a sinister game and Farrell can’t help but feel it is directed at him. Either way, it’s a game he needs to win before someone else turns up dead

Even I was shocked when I looked back on my computer and realised that I started writing this novel with a two line blurb back in 2005. Jules Horne, our local writer in residence, decided to be my cheerleader for the next 12 months and mentor me through a first draft. One of my early tasks was to crystallise an image of my main character so I went on the hunt for someone who bore Farrell’s face. I remember ‘casually’ following a German tourist around our holiday resort and standing the kids in front of him as an excuse to take his photo. Poor man must have thought he had a stalker.

Eventually, I lurched to the end of that first draft and typed The End. If anyone had dared to say to me at that stage that it was really only the beginning, I would not have believed them. From then on I drafted and redrafted until I was sure it was as was as good as I could get it, (it wasn’t!) Armed with a copy of The Writers and Artists Yearbook, I wrote off to some agents and waited…and waited. Every morning the postman was greeted with the same mixture of fear and excitement with which I remember waiting for my exam results. I soon learned to hate the sound of my SAE thumping on to the floor. A few agents requested the full MS. Cue much ungraceful leaping for joy and excited screams which usually caused the kids to run in thinking I’d seen a spider. One agent thought it might be a good idea if I did X. Another thought it might be a rather good idea if I did Y. I did both X+Y, (this is starting to sound like algebra). This went on for some time. Eventually my book was in bits and scattered across my computer files like confetti. The ones that had expressed interest didn’t take me on.

Life got in the way and for a few years I was flat out at work and constantly dashing around with the kids. But writing was like a growing itch and eventually I had to scratch it again. This is where ‘Crime and Publishment’ came in, an annual weekend of masterclasses in crime writing at Gretna. On the final morning, we had an opportunity to pitch to an agent. He made such an insightful comment that I could almost see the cartoon lightbulb switch on above my head. That comment triggered a massive re-write. I had just finished that when it was nearly time to go back to Crime and Publishment. One of the writers posted in our Facebook page that Killer Reads, Harper Collins were open for submissions. An old hand at this submission malarkey by now, I fired everything off expecting precisely nothing. Two weeks later I received a publishing contract through the post. I didn’t stop shaking until lunchtime the following day!

Twitter: JackieMBaldwin1
Facebook Page: Jackie Baldwin Author