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October 2016 crime author of the month interview with Les Wood 

1. How did you get started writing? I’d always been interested in writing creatively – in my job as a science lecturer in a university I have written for textbooks and academic papers, but these can be as dry as dust and so I looked for a way to express myself in a more imaginative, creative way. I started writing short stories and some poems, mainly just for my own pleasure at first but then began to take it a bit more seriously. I enrolled on some part-time Continuing Education courses on Creative Writing at Glasgow University and was lucky to have some superb tutors taking those classes. Later, I applied for the MPhil in Creative Writing at Glasgow – a difficult course to get on to, but highly prestigious. Again, I was lucky enough to be offered a place. I found the atmosphere on this programme to be tremendously supportive and encouraging. Also, around about this time I started submitting stories to competitions and anthologies and some of these were picked up and published, including one story which was one of the winners of the (now defunct) Canongate Prize for New Writing.



2. What drew you to write a crime novel? 

I suppose this novel is actually an ‘accidental’ crime novel. It started life as a very short flash-fiction piece about a bunch of disparate guys who have assembled in a derelict bingo hall, waiting for someone to arrive. I quite liked this story and began to wonder a bit more about who these guys were, why they were together in this place, who they were waiting for and what it was they were going to do. From there, I constructed their back-stories and worked out a detailed plot about them doing something dangerous and exciting – in this case setting up a heist to steal the world’s most famous diamond when it is exhibited in Glasgow. That’s when it became a crime novel! I had great fun inventing all sorts of obstacles for them to overcome and, importantly, given their complete ineptitude, how they overcame them. Whether they succeeded or not, you’ll have to read the book to find out!



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

I’m a great admirer of Iain Banks, both in his ‘straight’ fiction and in his (Iain M Banks) science fiction. He has a fantastic way of manipulating plot and detail across sometimes huge canvasses. I also love Stephen King, for the way he can completely suck you into a story within two pages. He’s sometimes sniffily dismissed as “just a horror writer”, but this is grossly unfair; his best stuff stands with any other great writing. In terms of crime fiction, I like James Ellroy – such intricate, convoluted plots – Val McDermid, Christopher Brookmyre and Peter May. I also devour short stories (particularly American short fiction). Whether any of these has specifically influenced my own style of writing is hard to say, but I’m sure I’ve absorbed something from all of them (as well as others).




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

I did send early versions of the manuscript to a few publishers and had a couple of rejections but I just kept at it. I was lucky that someone at Freight Books took a chance and sent the manuscript to a specific crime editor for review, who said that they should go for it.



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

I think it would have to be two favourite characters – there are a pair of identical twins in the book, one of whom is a bit more dim-witted than the other. They run a tattoo parlor, but have become embroiled in the heist to steal the diamond where they both will play a pivotal role by having to pretend to be each other. I had a lot of fun playing these two off against each other – gave lots of opportunities for comic relief.



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

Not very much to be honest – I did find out a wee bit about how tattoos are done (though not to the extent of actually getting one for myself!), and I discovered a little about rare, coloured diamonds. There is a big set-piece in the book which takes place in what is probably an architecturally-impossible building – I didn’t research whether such a structure could really be built, but I just had a great time using it in the story (plus part of me would really like to see it if it did exist!)



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

Absolutely not – I’m not sure I would want to know any of them in real life!



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

I think Dark Side of the Moon plays with convention a wee bit – it is essentially a high-concept Hollywood blockbuster storyline, but set in Glasgow, using real Glasgow voices and characteristics. I like the idea of having ordinary Glaswegian guys in such a high-stakes situation and seeing how they cope with it. They are not your Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis-type heroes!


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

I hope not! See answer to question 7!


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

I’m just about halfway through my next book. While Dark Side of the Moon is a heist story, this one is a chase story, starting in Manchester before moving to Glasgow and then the Scottish Highlands. Not quite The 39 Steps though! There may be one character from Dark Side of the Moon who makes an appearance in this one.



11. What was your favourite scene to write in your novel and why?

The book is made up of mainly quite short chapters, but there is one long, extended chapter (which takes up about a quarter of the book) where the characters are all in different locations and the action jumps to and fro between each of them, gradually building tension and excitement as things come together. I loved writing this section – I rattled through it and hopefully that is reflected in the pace of the story as it builds towards the climax.


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

I guess, just to keep writing – try out those short stories, send them in to anthologies and magazines and see if there are any that are perhaps worth expanding into something bigger. I’d also advise joining a writing group – one where you can get good feedback with honest, but fair criticism.

Boddice, a crime lord looking over his shoulder for good reason, has assembled an unlikely band of misfit crooks. Their job is to steal a famous diamond worth millions, known as The Dark Side of the Moon. Despite the odds, the crew’s self-serving squabbles and natural incompetence, the plan progresses.

As events build to an explosive climax no one really knows who is playing who. Full of twists and turns and laugh-out-loud moments, this is a hugely enjoyable romp from entirely the criminal’s point-of-view, with not a single cop in sight.

Twitter: @leswoodwriting


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