1. How did you get started writing?
I’m not one of those folk who has always wanted to write a book. I never expected to be a writer. Then I found a discarded book with a wad of cash and a letter tucked in the flyleaf. ‘What if something awful happened to the owner of this book?’ I thought, and I was off. I used to think my constant ‘what iffing’ was a curse as I fretted about my children. Now I regard it as a blessing. ‘What if’ is the start of a story.
I knew nothing about writing when I started. In fact, I tried to find someone to write that first story for me. A friend told me to write it myself and when I tried I realized that I knew a thing or two about books, if not about writing them. Having studied English, French and German at university, I’d read a fair few and had learned much along the way, it seems. And so, I gave it a go. After that, there was simply no turning back, I was hooked. I had other plans, none of which included sitting at a desk from daybreak till dusk. But some days I just have to. Because there’s a story to be told.
2. What drew you to write a novel?
Finding that book. Trying to work out what might have happened to the young man who owned it. I’m a runner and every morning during my run, I thought about it, couldn’t get it out of my head, in fact. Pretty soon I had a story. I tried to find someone to write it and a friend said, ‘Write it yourself.’ So I did. Although it has been changed a lot from its first draft, that story became my third to be published, last week. I originally wrote it about France because that’s where I got the inspiration but it’s now set in Scotland and it’s called One Perfect Witness.
3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?
I’ve always had a hyperactive imagination. As a child, I devoured books. Depending on what I was reading, usually under the bedcovers, I’d believe I was Heidi. Or that I owned magical ballet shoes, or led secret clubs at boarding school. A far cry from my life in a small village on the Ayrshire coalfields.
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield is my favourite, I think. And I loved The Borrowers.
As a teenager I was really into Catherine Cookson. Much to the chagrin of my English teacher, I even answered the literature question in my O Grade (O Level) English exam on a Catherine Cookson novel. I also adored The Catcher in the Rye.
By sixth form my tastes had matured and I loved DH Lawrence. Sons and Lovers probably was, and still is, my favourite.
Since I write crime, my style isn’t like any of the above, but being an avid reader all my life I guess I’ve picked up lots of influences along the way. I write as if I’m watching a movie in my head and I’m describing it. When I’m ‘in the zone’ I feel like I’m just the typist, if that doesn’t sound too trite to be true.
4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest?
My first book won a Literary Agent in a competition. He was sure Till the Dust Settles would sell to one of the big international publishing houses. They all read the full manuscript (a compliment in itself, apparently) and no one hated it, but no one was prepared to take a chance on it, or me. The backdrop of 9/11 made it a hard sell to some. I made some changes and it was snapped up by Bloodhound Books.
5. There are many interesting characters in your novels, do you have a particular favourite one?
I like all my characters, even the horrible ones like Gus! And I’m particularly fond of Seb as he was the first character I ever created. I like writing children. Wee Ethan, the little boy who is abducted in I know where you live has touched many a reader’s heart and I confess to loving him as if he was my own. Wait a minute – what am I talking about – he is my own. I made him up!
6. What kind of research do you have to undertake?
If researching a novel meant spending hours poring over tomes in libraries, I couldn’t do it. My research tool is Google and it is wonderful. It’s immediate – I can check something and get straight back into the story. Sometimes it throws up ideas I’d never thought of. When I tried to find out what was in the dust that settled on Manhattan, I uncovered conspiracy theories that shook me but also inspired me as I wrote Till the Dust Settles. And I’ll let you into a secret. Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve never been to New York! I did it all with the aid of Google maps and the internet. I’m delighted when readers gasp at that fact, or tell me they know New York and I’ve captured it perfectly.
7. Are any of the characters in your books based on someone in real life?
That’s best answered by what I wrote at the end of One Perfect Witness in Author’s note and Acknowledgements
‘One character in this book is based on a real person, although I never met him. In the summer of 2010, a young man left a book on a French campsite, which I found. There was a letter inside and an envelope of money. I was intrigued! Had I not found that book, I would not have written this story or any other. Whoever you are and wherever you are, ‘Sebastien’, I hope you’re safe and happy.’
8. How do u feel about your latest book being on the top 10 Scottish crime books list on Amazon?
I’m over the moon. Rubbing shoulders with the great and the good – wow, what can I say? Just thanks, readers.
9. Do you see any of your character’s personality in yourself and vice versa?
I really don’t know the answer to that question. You’d have to ask someone else, I think. Or I’ll cheat and say, ‘Only in the nice ones!’
10. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you might planned.
All I can say is that the two I’m working on have vastly different plots and settings from each other and from the three you already know but they do have the same theme. I’m fascinated by the idea of the missing person, someone who just disappears, for whatever reason. That’s back to my ‘What if?’ obsession, isn’t it?
11. If you had the opportunity to write a novel with any crime writer alive or dead, who would it be and why?
This one is easy to answer. While I loved meeting Willie Mc Ilvanney (such a gentleman) and I like acting in Douglas Skelton’s crazy murder mystery plays with Caro Ramsay, Michael J Malone, Theresa Talbot, Lucy Cameron and the great author himself, and while it’s great to be amongst other crime writers at festivals like Bloody Scotland, I have to be honest here. I’m a lone wolf. Or maybe just too much of a control freak. I’ve been asked to co-write a couple of times and my answer has been, ‘Thank you but I’m more flattered than tempted.’ For me writing is a solitary pastime. I like it that way.
12. Do you have words of advice you can share with anyone who is interested in writing a novel?
Yes, to quote the mighty Nike, Just Do It! Get sat at the computer and get started. Doesn’t matter how awful it is to begin with, at least you’ll have something to work with. Work is the right word, by the way. It’s hard work and it needs dedication and commitment, but the feeling of satisfaction when you produce a story that will take someone out of their world for a few hours is unbelievable.
A great way to get started, and what got me going, is coming up very soon. Every November is National Novel Writing Month. You can write a novel in a month. Track your progress. Get pep talks and support. Meet fellow writers online and in person.
I had a go in 2018 and now I’ve got three books published.
Check it out – http://nanowrimo.org
Two women will never meet, but their lives are about to collide.
Lucie married young. Her husband has become abusive, controlling and violent. Having lost everything as a result of the marriage, Lucie decides it is time to walk away.
As she leaves the house on the morning of September 11th, heading to a job interview at the World Trade Centre and the promise of a new life, the unthinkable happens.
On a street in New York, choking on the dust, Lucie stumbles upon an opportunity to start again.
She thought the grass would be greener but starting again is never that simple. And sometimes, what lies ahead is even more deadly.
Penny believes she’s being watched. Yet no one should know where she lives.
Penny seizes the chance of a new life for her family when her husband is offered a job in Europe.
At the airport, they meet charming Sophie, fluent in French and looking for work as an au pair. Penny, struggling to cope in France, offers Sophie a job and she soon becomes an important part of the family’s life. But Sophie is hiding something.
Then Penny’s toddler son, Ethan, is abducted and an international hunt for the child
begins. The police beg Penny and her husband to take part in a television appeal but the couple refuse. Unknown to the police, Penny and Seth have new identities and are determined to lay low and protect them. But it may be too late for that.
Who has taken Ethan and why?
Are the couple’s true identities linked to the abduction?
And who has been watching them?
To save her son Penny may have to put her own life on the line.
Three young men
One day in ScotlandLives changed forever
Young Frenchman wanting a summer away from home so heads out with backpack and walking stick to see some of the world before taking a job at a camping spot.
Wannabe soccer/football star in Scotland to take on a new job but has anger issues that seem to land him in trouble.
Younger than the above young men and silent for five years after a traumatic event – an event that he has told nobody about since he went silent.
This is a story of bullying, abuse, death, family, priorities, lies and overcoming issues that hold a person back. It is also a story of choices made that can impact a person for years. It is about love and what one might be willing to do for a person loved…or a person feared. It is a slow building story with an ending that was unexpected and yet a finale that made me think Karma is indeed something to be reckoned with.
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