1. How did you get started
I started writing books on philosophy and psychology, and some poetry, then wrote this latest crime novel.
It’s best to illustrate why we should all write rather than me individually.
I was at Glasgow airport one day, sitting in the lounge, when this rather brash young girl, 8 or 9, came up to me with a copy of my first book. She boldly said “this is you, isn’t it?” (I could not argue as my picture was on the back). I said yes. “well,” she said, “I want you to sign this for me because my mum is over there, and it’s her birthday next week.” I said ok, and asked “do you write?”. She said “oh yes, every night I got bed and write in my notebook, but not anymore because I want to be rich and famous like you.” (Which I am obviously not!). With a child, you should use an analogy to explain your view. I said, “Well, tonight, when you write in bed, imagine your fingers going all the way down to your heart. You pull a small piece out and you write with that. And if anyone ever says to you they don’t like it, you tell them these words are a piece of you, and when we are all gone, and even the mountains and the sea are gone, these words will remain forever. That’s why we should write – to leave behind a piece of our heart that will always be there.”
That cost me an ice-cream, a copy of my book and a hug. A small price to pay.
2. What drew you to write a novel?
After writing on philosophy and psychology (where my heart lies), I thought maybe I could reach a larger audience to put a message across by writing a crime novel.
3.Which writers influenced you?
I would say writers with intrigue, slightly old-fashioned – the novel has not much sex or violence.
It’s more a plot to make the reader think. With that in mind, Frederick Forsyth (The Day of the Jackal) is our best writer I believe.
4. Hard to get published?
Yes, but you must be persistent, and don’t allow refusals to get you depressed. This is hard because the novel will contain your persona, your heart and soul, and to have it rejected can be devastating. However remember J.K. Rowling was rejected 27 times before she found a publisher.
5. Interesting characters?
Probably the lawyer, because he is the cement that binds the case and without his insight and, in a way, legal deviousness, the twins would not have been able to stay together.
Quite complex, I had to firstly research what states had the death penalty, and this changes constantly. I then had to review their judicial and appellate system (even American lawyers don’t fully understand it).
The book had to also not just be proofread, but also “Americanised” i.e. we say pavement, they say “sidewalk.” Readers pick up on these things quickly and are keen to highlight any mistakes.
7. Characters focused on real life people
Not particularly,. But there is currently a convict on death row, I think in Texas, where his lawyer has filed for a stay of execution stating that they have found a letter of confession from the accused twin-brother, saying he raped and murdered the victim.
As the evidence was based on DNA (semen), and CCTV, being mitochondrial twins (i.e. from the same egg) this rules this evidence out as inadmissible.
The problem is that this twin brother was killed in a gang fight, so all they have to go on is the written confession. It would be unlikely that they would execute anyone on the strength of a handwriting expert. However this will go to the supreme court.
I would hate to think that this appeal has been lodged because someone has read the novel.
8. Favourite scene
The last one, and that’s because when you write a crime novel you have to write it in reverse. You want to keep an intrigue and spring a surprise at the end, but to do that you must lay the groundwork from the start, trying to leave enough indications of the plot to invite speculation. A classic “who done it” I suppose.
9. Do you see any of the characters personality in yourself, or vice versa?
Strangely enough perhaps with Sandra. She shows a different more caring and more thoughtful insight into her sexuality, and consequently this influences her relationship with the D.A.
10. Sneaky peek into a new novel
I am working on a new crime plot, with a psychological twist. Its got to be different and that’s hard. You must surprise and intrigue the reader.
11. Who would you like to write with, dead or alive?
Probably Frederick Forsyth, Alistair Maclean or Robert Ludlum – all great writers.
For non-fiction, it would be Maslow, Einstein or Allan Turin because of their great insight.
12. Advice to writers
Apart from my reply to question 1, I could add this: someone asked me about a poem I had written and she said “How do you write like that?” I said, “Well first, you buy a big spade because you have to dig deep. Writing is an emotional nakedness so be prepared, because when it’s out there you can’t cover it up.”
An example of this: the poem I treasure the most is one I wrote about the sea. It was also published in our local paper, and one day an old man stopped me in the street and asked if I had written it, and I told him I had. This old man had been at sea all his life, fought in the Second World War, and the sea was everything to him. He never married, and eventually came home to his croft by the sea, However, with the injuries he suffered during the Russian Convoys, the power in his legs was beginning to fail. What he said to me is really the reason we should write. He said “I haven’t read much poetry, but when I read the words you wrote about the sea, I can smell it and taste it, and for that I will always be grateful.”
I think you don’t really read a poem or even contemplate it, it’s the poignancy that counts. A poem is an orchestration of words from your heart that reaches another.
It looked like a routine homicide with traceable DNA and a witness that never lies.