JD Kirk lives in the Highlands of Scotland with his wife, two children, and a number of sturdy umbrellas. Despite writing from a young age, ‘A Litter of Bones’ is his first novel, and combines his love of the Highlands, crime thrillers, and cats.
Was the biggest case of his career the worst mistake he ever made?
Ten years ago, DCI Jack Logan stopped the serial child-killer dubbed ‘Mister Whisper,’ earning himself a commendation, a drinking problem, and a broken marriage in the process.
Now, he spends his days working in Glasgow’s Major Incident Team, and his nights reliving the horrors of what he saw.
And what he did.
When another child disappears a hundred miles north in the Highlands, Jack is sent to lead the investigation and bring the boy home.
But as similarities between the two cases grow, could it be that Jack caught the wrong man all those years ago?
And, if so, is the real Mister Whisper about to claim his fourth victim?
1. How did you get started writing?
I’ve been writing pretty much for as long as I remember. I used to fill notebooks with short stories and comics, most of them insanely violent and full of gore. ‘Disembowelled’ was my favourite word for a while, and not a story would go by without at least one character having their bowels forcibly removed by something sharp and pointy.
I was nine years old when I decided that I wanted to do it as a career. We’d just done a project in school on Roald Dahl, and that was the first time I found out that being an author was an actual job. I’d written stories all the time for my own amusement before then, so when I found out that I could make ACTUAL MONEY from doing what I loved, I just knew that’s what I wanted to do.
2. What drew you to write a novel
I actually started off by writing screenplays. I wanted to write big cinematic movies that would play in the cinema for a while, then I realised that it was VERY difficult to get something like that made, so then I started writing much smaller, low-budget screenplays. I had a few of those picked up by production companies, but even at the low-budget end of the spectrum, producers have to raise millions to get a movie off the ground, so none of them ever went into production.
I realised that it was much cheaper for a publisher to put out a book than it was for a studio to put out a movie, so I took some of the stories I had planned writing as film scripts and started adapting them into novels. I found I enjoyed the process of writing a novel far more than I liked writing screenplays, and so all my new ideas tended to be for the page, rather than the screen.
I think there’s something about being able to get inside a character’s head that really appeals to me in writing a novel. In a screenplay, you can only really write about what the audience can see and hear. In a novel, you can do anything, go anywhere, and show the thoughts of the characters. There’s also no special effects budget, so you’re only limited by your imagination.
3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?
I don’t think it was any one writer, but more a big amalgamation of all the thousands of books I read growing up, and through my teenage years. After I discovered my local library, I’d go through three or four books a week. I always went against popular advice, and very much judged books by their covers. If the cover grabbed me, I’d have a go, often not paying attention to the author or title.
I tend to gravitate towards anything with humour in it, no matter the genre. I’m not saying everything has to be comedy, but I tend to get through life by laughing and joking, even during the darkest times, and I like a book to reflect that. I think Chris Brookmyre is a great example of that. Often very dark plots, but with a rich seam of humour running through them that just lifts the stories to another level.
4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest?
I think what gave me an advantage is that I wrote every day for about twenty years before I submitted a single novel to a publisher. It wasn’t that I didn’t think the earlier stuff was good enough (although, in hindsight, it probably wasn’t). It was that I enjoyed the writing process so much I didn’t want to get bogged down with the submission process.
When I finally decided to submit a novel I’d written to an agent, she signed me up pretty quickly. She then submitted the book to HarperCollins Children’s Books (it was a horror novel for 9-12 year olds) and they came back soon after to ask if I’d write a series of six. There were no rejections at all, as far as I can recall. I put it down to all those years of practice!
5. There are many interesting characters in your Novel, do you have a particular favourite one?
I enjoyed writing all the characters, and wanted to make sure they were all fleshed out with their own goals, ambitions, flaws, etc. As such, I like pretty much all of them – even the villainous characters – but DCI Jack Logan has to be my favourite. He’s often rude, sometimes harsh, but has that streak of humour running through him like I mentioned earlier.
He’s tormented by things that have happened to him in the past, and things he has done, but he also genuinely cares about people. He just sometimes shows it in a funny way…
6. What kind of research have you have to undertake for your Novel?
Mostly, it was stuff about police procedure. I was fortunate in that I got to know a couple of serving police officers online, and they were happy to give me some advice. I read a lot of police manuals, too, and generally spent a few weeks immersing myself in the intricacies of Police Scotland.
In the end, very little of that actually makes it into the book! For me, the characters and plot come first, and the actual nitty gritty of police procedure is a distant second. I try to sprinkle just enough to make it seem convincing to the reader, but never in a way that sacrifices story or character.
7. Are the characters in your books based on any real life?
Not specifically. I mean, there’s no one character who is based on an individual person I know, but they’re probably all a bit of a mish-mash of characteristics from various people I’ve known over the years. The only exception is DS McQuarrie in A Litter of Bones. She’s what I imagine the policewoman who attended the scene after I’d been involved in a car crash would be like, were she to become a detective. She was fiercely officious to the extent that, after giving me a breath test to make sure I hadn’t been drinking, she made me climb back in through the boot of my upside-down car to retrieve my insurance documents from the glove box. I was literally crawling over broken glass with her standing outside watching me.
I set out to make DS McQuarrie a version of that police officer, but ended up making her a bit nicer somewhere along the way.
8. Do you have a particular favourite scene in the book and why
The opening scene of A Litter of Bones is set in a place called Leanachan Forest, where I often take my dog for a walk. Without giving too much away, the events of this first scene kick off the whole story, and it’s based pretty closely on something that happened when my daughter and I took the dog out at that same spot. She was around seven, and what happens in that opening scene is almost exactly what happened with my daughter and I (only with a happier ending…)
And I shall say no more than that. 🙂
9. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa?
I think DCI Logan is sort of how I can see myself in the future. I think he was probably quite positive and idealistic once, but time, life, and the realisation that there are a lot of horrible people in the world have all conspired to turn him that bit wearier and more cynical. At his core, he still has that hopefully, idealistic spark, but dealing with murderers and psychopaths has buried it deep.
I’m currently still at that mostly-positive stage, but I can feel myself getting increasingly cantankerous and irritable as I get older. I don’t think I’m anywhere near Logan yet, but I suspect it’s just a matter of time.
10. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you might planned.
Sure! The second DCI Logan book, “Thicker than Water” comes out in June. When a mutilated body washes up on the shores of Loch Ness, the media goes into a monster-frenzy. But the real killer is very much human, and it’s up to Logan and the rest of the Major Investigations Team to find them.
11. If you had the opportunity to write a novel with any writer alive or dead, who would it be and why
Hmm. I’m not sure. If it’s a 50/50 royalty split, I’ll go with JK Rowling. 🙂
Seriously, though, one of the things I most enjoy about writing a novel is that it’s solely my vision. When I was writing screenplays, you had to try to second-guess what the budget would allow, then the best case scenario was that a director and producer would come along, take your script, and then stamp their own creative vision all over it.
I like the fact that a novel is just mine. Sure, there’s an editor to think about, but I have final say, no one else. I’m not sure if I’d be able to collaborate on a novel if it meant giving up that control.
That said, I’d love DCI Logan to do a crossover with someone like LJ Ross’s DCI Ryan. Something like that could be a lot of fun.
12. Do you have words of advice you can share with anyone who is intrested in writing a novel
The obvious one is to write lots. The more you write, the better you get. But we’ve all heard that before.
So, instead, I’ll say: Live. It’s hard to write about being scared if you’ve never done anything scary. It’s hard to write about love if you’ve never experienced it, or about the thrill of driving a fast car around a racing track if you’ve never gone over thirty.
Go out and experience as many things as possible. Travel. Have adventures. Make friends. Laugh, love, experience loss, and all that stuff. The more of life you experience, the richer your writing will become.
Pre Order DCI Logan Novel 2 – Thicker Than Water – Out 30th June 2019
Not all monsters are make-believe.
When a badly mutilated body washes up on the shores of Loch Ness, DCI Jack Logan’s dream of a quiet life in the Highlands is shattered.
While the media speculates wildly about monster attacks, Jack and the Major Investigations Team must act fast to catch the killer before they can strike again.
But with Nessie-hunters descending on the area in their dozens, and an old enemy rearing his ugly head, the case could well turn out to be the most challenging of Jack’s career.
And, if he isn’t careful, the last.