There’s been a murder author interview with Dave K McDonald

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.

6. Research

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.

However this was a high profile murder and the stakes were equally high.
The death penalty was on the table.
This case would cast serious doubt over the validity of capital punishment.
It would question the infallibility of forensic evidence.
The political fallout would reach the White House.
What nobody realised was that someone had committed the perfect crime not by
planning but by accident.


A Book of YouEmotional DNA Your Uniqueness Explored

Toby Faber Close to the Edge Blog Tour

As the grandson of Faber’s founder, Toby Faber grew up steeped in the company’s books and its stories. He was Faber’s managing director for four years and remains a non-executive director and chairman of sister company Faber Music.

How did you get started writing?

I first wrote two non-fiction books about Stradivarius violins and Faberge Eggs. That was a relatively gentle introduction to writing a full length book because to get a publishing deal I had to plan both out in advance, but the experience showed me that I could sustain a narrative for 80,000 words

What drew you to write a novel

I had an idea that wouldn’t go away about my protagonist witnessing someone fall off a tube platform. After two more non-fiction proposals that didn’t get off the ground, I decided to have a go at turning that idea into a novel.

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

That’s hard to say. I’ve always admired PD James for her characters and the sense of place she manages to convey, while obeying what she sees as the rules of detective fiction. My book is not, however, a classic detective book.

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

Each new project has involved going back to square one. My agent for the non-fiction books was not keen on thrillers so I had to move, with two false goes before I was taken on by Peter Straus at Rogers, Coleridge & White. He got me to do quite a bit of work on the book before sending it out to publishers, and there were several refusals and near-misses before it was taken on by Muswell Press.

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

I like Laurie – the main character – for the way she develops her own sense of independence in the course of the novel, but hope readers end feeling that her flatmate and father are just as interesting and important.

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

I researched the underground a lot, both online and by exploring physical stations. I did not, however, go down there after hours.

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

There’s quite a lot of my father in Laurie’s Dad, but bits of a few other people too, including me.

Do you have a particular favourite scene in the book and why

I like the scene towards the end when they meet the voluble neighbour Mrs Shilling. It was a chance to inject a bit of humour, and perhaps let the readers see things that are not yet clear to Laurie, before a moment of real tension.

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

When I first thought about the book (a long time ago), I was a 25-year-old commuting on the underground, a bit like Laurie. I think quite a lot of me got into her in my first draft. There’s probably less of me in her now, and more in her Dad: I’ve grown older.

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

I’m not sure I’m finished with Laurie yet. I think she needs to understand a bit more about her childhood and why they ended up leaving Cambridge.

If you had the opportunity to write a novel with any writer alive or dead, who would it be and why.

George Macdonald Fraser is not a thriller writer but I loved his series of historical novels about Flashman. I’ve got at least two good ideas for other adventures Flashman could have had in the 19th century.

Do you have words of advice you can share with anyone who is intrested in writing a novel

If you want to write it quickly, don’t do what I did, which was to start with an idea and see where it took me. Instead, develop a really good understanding of your characters and plot the book out carefully. You’ll have fewer false starts!

Close to the Edge by Toby Faber is published by Muswell Press on 11th April, priced £10.99

Morning rush hour on the London tube. Laurie Bateman witnesses a terrible accident. Life had been looking up – she’s dating a new man and finally getting praise at work. But after the accident everything seems to plummet downhill. In the space of a few days her flat is burgled and her flatmate assaulted – she loses her phone and then her job. Are these events linked?  Perhaps what she had seen was something more sinister?  Compelled to investigate, Laurie finds herself in serious danger and is soon fleeing for her life through tube tunnels in the dead of night – the hunter has become the hunted.

Toby’s previous books are Stradivarius and Faberge’s Eggs, both published by Macmillan.

His next non-fiction book, Faber & Faber: The Untold Story, is being published by Faber & Faber in May.








Ragnar Jónasson The Island Blog Tour

Ragnar Jonasson is the award winning author of the international bestselling Dark Iceland series and the Hidden Iceland series. He has sold over 600,000 books worldwide, thereof over 300,000 thousand books in France in just two years. His books are published in 21 languages in over 30 countries and his debut, Snowblind, went to number one in the Amazon Kindle charts shortly after publication in the UK. The book was also a no. 1 Amazon Kindle bestseller in Australia. The second book in the series, Nightblind, also became a no. 1 Amazon Kindle bestseller in Australia. Ragnar is also a no. 1 Crime Fiction Bestseller in France, with Blackout topping the crime fiction charts in France in 2019. Ragnar is the winner of the Mörda Dead Good Reader Award 2016 for Nightblind. His latest book in the UK, The Darkness, was selected as the Sunday Times Crime Novel of the Month and Snowblind was selected by The Independent as one of the best crime novels of 2015. His books have also won praise from publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. Ragnar is the co-founder of the Reykjavik international crime writing festival Iceland Noir. From the age of 17, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic. Ragnar has appeared on festival panels worldwide, and lives in Reykjavik. Ragnar has a law degree and works as an investment banker in Reykjavik, in addition to teaching law at Reykjavik University.

Four friends visit the island.

But only three return . . .

Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir is sent to the isolated island of Elliðaey to investigate and soon finds haunting similarities with a previous case – a young woman found murdered ten years ago in the equally desolate Westfjords.

Is there a patient killer stalking these barren outposts?

As Hulda navigates a sinister game constructed of smoke and mirrors she is convinced that no one is telling the truth, including those closest to her.

But who will crack first? And what secrets is the island hiding?

Excerpt from The Island

Kópavogur, 1988

The babysitter was late.

The couple hardly ever went out in the evening, so they

had been careful to check she was free well in advance. She had babysat for them a few times before and lived in the next street, but apart from that they didn’t know much about her, or her family either, though they knew her mother to speak to when they ran into her in the neigh- bourhood. But their seven-year-old daughter looked up to the girl, who was twenty-one and seemed very grown-up and glamorous to her. She was always talking about how much fun they had together, what pretty clothes she wore and what exciting bedtime stories she told. Their daugh- ter’s eagerness to have her round to babysit made the couple feel less guilty about accepting the invitation; they felt reassured that their little girl would not only be in good hands but would enjoy herself too. They had arranged for the girl to babysit from six until midnight, but it was already past six, getting on for half past, in fact, and the dinner was due to start at seven. The husband wanted to ring and ask what had happened to her, but his wife was reluctant to make a fuss: she’d turn up.

It was a Saturday evening in March and the atmos- phere had been one of happy anticipation until the babysitter failed to turn up. The couple were looking for- ward to an entertaining evening with the wife’s colleagues from the ministry and their daughter was excited about spending the evening watching films with the babysitter. They didn’t own a VCR but, as it was a special occasion, father and daughter had gone down to the local video shop and rented a machine and three tapes, and the little girl had permission to stay up as late as she liked, until she ran out of steam.

It was just after half past six when the doorbell finally rang. The family lived on the second floor of a small block of flats in Kópavogur, the town immediately to the south of Reykjavík. It was a sleepy sort of place, stuck between Reykjavík and other towns in the metropolitan area, with most of its inhabitants commuting to work in the capital.

The mother picked up the entryphone. It was the baby- sitter at last. She appeared at their door a few moments later, soaked to the skin, and explained that she’d walked over. It was raining so hard it looked like she’d had a bucket of water emptied over her head. She apologized, embarrassed, for being so late.

The couple waved away her apologies, thanked her for standing in for them, reminded her of the main house rules and asked if she knew how to work a video recorder, at which point their daughter broke in to say she didn’t need any help. Clearly, she could hardly wait to bundle her parents out of the door so the video-fest could begin.

In spite of the taxi waiting outside, the mother couldn’t tear herself away. Although they went out from time to time, she wasn’t very used to leaving her daughter. ‘Don’t worry,’ the babysitter said at last. ‘I’ll take good care of her.’ She looked comfortingly reliable as she said this and she’d always done a good job of looking after their daughter in the past. So they finally headed out into the downpour towards the taxi.

As the evening wore on, the mother began to feel increas- ingly anxious about their daughter.

‘Don’t be silly,’ said her husband. ‘I bet she’s having a whale of a time.’ Glancing at his watch, he added: ‘She’ll be on her second or third film by now, and they’ll have polished off all the ice cream.’

‘Do you think they’d let me use the phone at the front desk?’ asked his wife.

‘It’s a bit late to ring them now, isn’t it? I expect they’re asleep in front of the TV.’

In the end, they set off home a little earlier than planned, just after eleven. The three-course dinner was over by then, and, to be honest, it had been a bit under- whelming. The main course, which was lamb, had been bland at best and, after dinner, people had piled on to the crowded dance floor. To begin with, the DJ had played popular oldies, but then he moved on to more recent chart hits, which weren’t really the couple’s sort of thing, although they still liked to think of themselves as young. After all, they weren’t middle-aged yet.

They rode home in silence, the rain streaming down the taxi’s windows. The truth was they weren’t really party people; they were too fond of their creature com- forts at home, and the evening had tired them out, though they hadn’t drunk much, just a glass of red wine with dinner.

As they got out of the taxi, the wife remarked that she hoped their daughter was asleep so they could both crawl straight into bed.

They climbed the stairs without hurrying and opened the door instead of ringing the bell, for fear of disturbing their child. But she wasn’t asleep, as it turned out. She came running to greet them, threw her arms around them and hugged them unusually tightly. To their surprise, she was wide awake.

‘You’re full of beans,’ said her father, smiling at her.

‘I’m so glad you’re home,’ said the little girl. There was an odd look in her eye: something was wrong.

The babysitter emerged from the sitting room and smiled sweetly at them.

‘How did it go?’ asked the mother.

‘Really well,’ the babysitter replied. ‘Your daughter is such a good girl. We watched two videos; a couple of com- edies. She really enjoyed them. And she ate the meatballs you’d prepared – most of them – and a lot of popcorn too.’

‘Thanks so much for coming; I don’t know what we’d have done without you.’

The father took his wallet from his jacket, counted out some notes and handed them to her. ‘Is that right?’

She counted the money herself, then nodded. ‘Yes, perfect.’

After she’d left, the father turned to their daughter. ‘Aren’t you tired, sweetheart?’

‘Yes, maybe a little. But could we watch just a bit more?’ Her father shook his head, saying kindly: ‘Sorry, it’s

awfully late.’

‘Oh, please. I don’t want to go to bed yet,’ said the little

girl, sounding on the verge of tears.

‘OK, OK.’ He ushered her into the sitting room. The

TV schedule was over for the evening but he turned on the video machine and inserted a new cassette.

Then he joined her on the sofa and they waited for the film to begin.

‘It was a nice evening, wasn’t it?’

‘Yes . . . yes, it was fine,’ she said, not very convincingly. ‘She was . . . kind to you, wasn’t she?’

‘Yes,’ answered the child. ‘Yes, they were both kind.’ Her father was puzzled. ‘What do you mean, both?’ he


‘There were two of them.’

Turning round to look at her, he asked again, gently:

‘What do you mean by them?’

‘There were two of them.’

‘Did one of her friends come round?’

There was a brief pause before the girl answered. Seeing the fear in her eyes, he gave an involuntary shiver. ‘No. But it was kind of weird, Daddy . . .’


Dark Iceland series

  1. Snowblind (2010; translation of Snjóblinda, 2009)
  2. Blackout (2011; translation of Myrknætti, 2011)
  3. Rupture (2012; translation of Rof, 2012)
  4. Whiteout (2013; translation of Andköf, 2013)
  5. Nightblind (2014; translation of Náttblinda, 2014)


Hidden Iceland series

  1. The Darkness (2018; translation of Dimma, 2015)
  2. The Island (2019; translation of Drungi, 2016

The Island Amazon book Page

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