Steven Veerapen was born in Glasgow and raised in Paisley. Pursuing an interest in the sixteenth century, he was awarded a first-class Honours degree in English, focussing his dissertation on representations of Henry VIII’s six wives. He then received a Masters in Renaissance studies, and a Ph.D. investigating Elizabethan slander. Steven is fascinated by the glamour and ghastliness of life in the 1500s, and has a penchant for myths, mysteries and murders in an age in which the law was as slippery as those who defied it.
1. How did you get started writing?
I applied for a funding opportunity to write a nonfiction biography of Lord Darnley. I wasn’t successful, but I didn’t want to let the idea go, so I thought I might see if I had it in me to novelise the story. I was used to writing from studying English, so I knew I could do it at length – but it had always been academic stuff.
2. What drew you to write a novel?
I guess it was a lifetime of reading novels and a career teaching. I mainly reach Renaissance literature, and I think everyone who studies history would like to go back and see what it was really like to live then. Without time portals, novels are the only way of doing that.
3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?
Daphne du Maurier is my favourite writer. I learned a lot from her work about zooming in and out of perspectives until I found a style that worked for me. Robert Harris is also very good in illustrating how to do this well.
4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest?
Yes – my agent approached two publishers and received polite rejections. The trick is to persevere, even in the face of rejection. When I found a publisher, they were keen to accept the whole backlog I’d written.
5. There are many interesting characters in your novel – do you have a particular favourite one?
I think Simon Danforth, the detective character, is my favourite. He’s pompous and has some ugly sixteenth-century views, but he still tries to be a decent person.
6. What kind of research have did you have to undertake for your novel?
A lot of reading up on sixteenth-century Scottish history: politics, culture, and law. I’m lucky in that my PhD thesis was on Elizabethan law, speech, and writing – but Scotland was a different country. They did things differently there.
7. Are the characters in your books based on any in real life?
No. However, some quirks and behaviours I’ve seen in other people make their way in. Of course, those quirks only come from my perceptions of those people.
8. If you could set a series of novels in any decade, which would you choose and why?
I would consider looking at crime in the American gilded age or the British Edwardian period. The sixteenth century is where I’m comfortable, though!
9. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa?
Simon Danforth is very superstitious – I have a phobia of looking at a clock directly at 12:00 as I was once told it brings bad luck!
10. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you might planned?
At the moment I’m writing a nonfiction study of the relationship between Mary Queen of Scots and her brother. After that I’d like to try a spy thriller set in England and Scotland when Mary was a captive.
11. If you had the opportunity to write a novel with any crime writer alive or dead, who would it be and why?
Agatha Christie. I’d like to ask her directly about her eleven-day disappearance and get guidance on how to write a crime-solving couple, like Tommy and Tuppence. I prefer historical crime novels to current stuff – probably because when I was wee my mum kept books on Jack the Ripper all over the house!
12. Do you have words of advice you can share with anyone who is interested in writing a novel?
Edit. I’m terrible at editing my own work, as I make lots of changes when I’m trying to sweep through for typos. I write so quickly I often miss out words, so if you’re not great at editing, try and get someone else to do it. In terms of writing, be clear on your narrative perspective. I struggled with this at first but have learned that I cope best following one character’s thoughts rather than being omniscient. If you want to leap into someone else’s head and let the reader know what they’re thinking, start a new chapter!
A new historical crime series, featuring Simon Danforth.
The Abbey Close
As the armies of Henry VIII and James V prepare for battle, Catholic exile Simon Danforth must decide his loyalties.
Cast out of England, he is drawn by private grief to a secretive Scottish Abbey, and the mystery of a missing girl who worked there.
Though Paisley and its Abbey refuse to give up their secrets, they do give up their dead.
In the tense and suspicious atmosphere of a nation at war, Danforth, in an uneasy alliance with his dogged colleague, Arnaud Martin, uncovers murder, madness, and sexual desire infecting the sacred house and its neighbouring town.
With the fate of his adoptive country hanging in the balance, does he dare to uncover the unimaginable truth?
Some secrets may be better left buried.
The Royal Burgh
King James V is dead, and Scotland is thrown into turmoil.
As the country is torn asunder the nation’s criminals flourish.
Out of favour with their master, Simon Danforth and Arnaud Martin escape the discontent in Edinburgh and travel to Stirling, hoping to find peace.
Instead they find murder, and must pit themselves against a shadowy killer.
Investigating the brutal death of a mysterious, beautiful woman, Danforth finds himself locking horns with a master criminal whose identity is shrouded in secrecy, but who has his own private army of enforcers.
With Martin bent on revenge against the doctor who let his sister die, can Danforth unmask the killer and stop his friend turning his own hand to murder, or will the flames of vengeance consume them both?
The Cradle Queen
Linlithgow Palace, 1543.
As Henry VIII turns greedy eyes northwards towards the baby Queen of Scots, the ghosts of Scotland’s bloody past rise from the grave. With the queen a child, her mother a captive, and the governor a puppet, the future of the realm hangs in the balance.
Commanded by their master, Simon Danforth and his friend, Arnaud Martin, join the household of Queen Marie of Guise.
But the glories of royal service are quickly tarnished for the loyal Danforth and lovelorn Martin.
Marie’s glittering household hides a deadly secret. When a series of murders takes place, recreating grisly deaths caused by Scotland’s kings, Danforth is compelled to take to the political stage. What he finds makes it clear that the crown itself is under threat.
Faced with a seemingly invisible murderer and drawn to a strange young woman, Danforth must decide where his own future lies: in loyal service or in marriage – duty or love.
Caught in a web of deception, Danforth must unmask the assassin before the crown is stolen – or will chasing ghosts lead him to the grave?
The Abbey Close – Simon Danforth #1 (2018, Sharpe Books)
The Royal Burgh – Simon Danforth #2 (2018, Sharpe Books)
The Cradle Queen – Simon Danforth #3 (2018, Sharpe Books)
Fire and Faith – Simon Danforth Omnibus (2018, Sharpe Books)
The Queen’s Consort: The Story of Mary Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley (Sharpe Books, 2018)
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