A native of Dundee, Marion studied music and worked for many years as a piano teacher and jobbing accompanist. A spell as a hotel lounge pianist provided rich fodder for her writing and she began experimenting with a variety of genres. Early success saw her winning first prize in the Family Circle Magazine Short Story for Children national competition and she followed this up by writing short stories and articles for her local newspaper.
Marion has also worked as a college lecturer, plantswoman and candle-maker and now is a full-time writer, penning the DI Clare Mackay series of crime fiction novels set in St Andrews.
Marion lives now in North East Fife, overlooking the magnificent River Tay. When she’s not writing she can be found tussling with her with her jungle-like garden and walking her daughter’s unruly but lovable dog.
How did you get started writing? – I suppose, like most writers, I’ve always written. I have a school jotter from when I was 9 that has a 6-chapter mystery story, heavily borrowed from Enid Blyton. But it was many years before I decided that crime was the genre I wanted to pursue. I had non-fiction pieces published in my local paper, short stories in My Weekly magazine and I won a children’s story competition organised by the then Family Circle Magazine. And then life became busy for a while and I didn’t write so much. But it was always there in the background, always something I knew I wanted to do.
What drew you to write a novel It was a feeling every time I read a book – I wanted to see if I could do it myself – could I write a book that people would want to read? I suppose for most writers the ultimate aim is to walk into a book shop and see your work on the shelves. I started attending writers talks in bookshops, listening to what they said about the writing process and I wanted to do it even more – to be someone who could call myself an author.
Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing? – My interest in crime goes right back to childhood when I read those Enid Blyton mystery stories. I loved the puzzle – trying work out who the culprit was and how we might find out. It seemed natural to move on to Agatha Christie and as my aunt collected her novels I borrowed them and read as many as I could. But going back a few decades crime tended to be looked down on, almost like a kind of pulp fiction. And then I discovered Ian Rankin – the creator of Inspector Rebus and I began to realise a good novel is a good novel, no matter what the genre. For me, the Queen of plotting is Kate Atkinson. Her Jackson Brodie novels are sublime – the most complex plots woven through the book which come together seamlessly at the conclusion. The more I write the more I like to try and copy this technique, introducing plot threads which appear to be unconnected but which all have a bearing on the investigation. I envy Chris Brookmyre his knowledge of computer hacking. I love that level of detail and, while my knowledge of hacking is very limited, I do try to introduce some interesting detail into my plots.
When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest? – Oh yes! I’d love to say I had a reply within hours of sending out my three chapters and synopsis but it rarely works like that. The first novel I wrote hasn’t been published and it never will. It was a learning curve and while I waited for agents and publishers to reply (or not) I began writing my second novel and it’s this story that became See Them Run, my debut novel. I had lots of rejections and I would say to anyone trying to be published to expect that. Don’t be put off – keep going. In the end my book was picked up by Northbank Talent Management and they sold the book to Canelo who offered me a 3-book contract. I’ve not stopped writing since!
There are many interesting characters in your Novel, do you have a particular favourite one? – I should probably say my protagonist, DI Clare Mackay. I do love Clare, flaws and all but, if I’m being absolutely truthful, my favourite of the continuing characters is Benjy the dog. He adores Clare and he introduces a bit of fun into the novels. I also enjoy writing flawed characters and in my second novel, In Plain Sight,there’s a character called Susan Clancy who I really liked writing. I won’t give the game away by saying if she was a goody or a baddy but I did enjoy writing her.
What kind of research have you have to undertake for your Novel? – Lots! Police Scotland publishes their Standard Operating Procedures for different types of investigations online so that’s really handy. But for See Them Run I had to investigate intricate wood carving, vehicle tyres, the dark web and ballistics. Some information is more difficult to come by and I often have to find ways to work round. But I’m so lucky to have a lovely group of friends and family with different skillsets who are happy to share their knowledge with me.
Are the characters in your books based on any real life? – Hm. That’s a hard one. Not as far as I’m aware. In my never-to-be-published novel there was a character based on a horrible university tutor I had. I took great delight in killing him; and I let the killer get away with it! But, since then, I’m not aware of basing characters on particular people. I do take personality traits I notice in people and use them in characters though. I’m always observing people and situations for anything I can use in a book.
Do you have a particular favourite scene in the book and why In See Them Run I do like the opening scene where there’s an exchange of text messages during a wedding ceilidh. In Scotland we do weddings very well – a ceilidh is an evening of Scottish country dancing usually with the Orcadian Strip the Willow near the end when everyone has had a lot to drink, and chaos ensues. I wanted to recreate that at the start of the book. Apart from that I always enjoy scenes where there’s great tension. But probably my favourite is writing the last few chapters of any book. All the hard work is done and it’s so satisfying to tidy up loose ends and decide just how to finish that last page.
Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa? – I suppose, inevitably, there’s a lot of me in Clare – or how I would like to be. She has better hair than me and she’s fitter too. She’s probably the person I’d like to be. Otherwise, I don’t think I’m interesting enough to be in a book – probably why I make up characters and give them interesting lives.
If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you might planned. I’m currently writing book number four in the series where the victims seem to be connected by a dating website they have used. But then another connection emerges and there are people who the police can’t track down! I’m still at what Val McDermid calls “the muddle in the middle” stage but it should work out fine – I hope! Books five and six are just germs of ideas just now
If you had the opportunity to write a novel with any writer alive or dead, who would it be and why – Ooh that is an interesting question. Writing is such a solitary activity, it’s hard to imagine collaborating with another writer. The trick would be finding someone who didn’t intimidate me. In my third novel, Lies to Tell, I wrote a scene in the High Court in Edinburgh but my knowledge of court proceedings isn’t great so it might be fun to write with an Advocate or a QC – someone like The Secret Barrister. I’d love to write a court room drama.
Do you have words of advice you can share with anyone who is intrested in writing a novel – First of all, read widely, particularly across your chosen genre. By reading published authors you’ll absorb what makes a compelling story. Some writers plan carefully before they start to write (I’m a planner) but others have only a rough idea and launch straight in. Whatever you do, keep careful notes about your characters. I keep mine in an Excel spreadsheet and record their age, likes, dislikes, hair colour, type of car etc. I don’t write biographies for them but any time I write something about them I go to my spreadsheet and put it there. It’s so easy to forget details later on. But whether you plan or not, try to get to know your main character – get inside his or her head before you start to write. Your writing will have more conviction that way. When you finish your first draft bear in mind it’s just that – a first draft. It’ll have to be edited so put it away for a week or two then read it afresh. You’ll be amazed at what you spot. Finally, when you think it’s ready to send off, take a few days to read it out loud. You’ll spot even more errors, clunky dialogue and places where you’ve repeated or contradicted yourself. It’s a tiring but valuable exercise. And keep going! Writing is a long-term goal – it doesn’t happen overnight but it does happen. I’m living proof of that. 😊
In a famous Scottish town, someone is bent on murder – but why?
On the night of a wedding celebration, one guest meets a grisly end when he’s killed in a hit-and-run. A card bearing the number ‘5’ has been placed on the victim’s chest. DI Clare Mackay, who recently moved from Glasgow to join the St Andrews force, leads the investigation. The following night another victim is struck down and a number‘4’ card is at the scene. Clare and her team realise they’re against the clock to find a killer stalking the streets of the picturesque Scottish town and bent on carrying out three more murders.
To prevent further deaths, the police have to uncover the link between the victims. But those involved have a lot more at stake than first meets the eye. If Clare wants to solve the case she must face her own past and discover the deepest secrets of the victims – and the killer.
A child’s life is at stake. Which of the residents of St Andrews is hiding something – and why?
When a baby girl is snatched from the crowd of spectators at a fun run, the local police have a major investigation on their hands. DI Clare Mackay and her team are in a race against the clock when they learn that the child has a potentially fatal medical condition.
As Clare investigates she realises this victim wasn’t selected at random. Someone knows who took the baby girl, and why. But will they reveal their secrets before it’s too late?
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer…
Early one morning DI Clare Mackay receives a message from her boss DCI Alastair Gibson telling her to meet him in secret. She does as he asks and is taken to a secure location in the remote Scottish hills. There, she is introduced to ethical hacker Gayle Crichton and told about a critical security breach coming from inside Police Scotland. Clare is sworn to secrecy and must conceal Gayle’s identity from colleagues until the source is found.
Clare already has her hands full keeping a key witness under protection and investigating the murder of a university student. When a friend of the victim is found preparing to jump off the Tay Road Bridge it is clear he is terrified of someone. But who? Clare realises too late that she has trusted the wrong person. As her misplaced faith proves a danger to herself and others, Clare must fight tooth and nail to protect those she cares about and see justice done.
All published by Canelo as eBooks.
See Them Run and In Plain Sight will be published as paperbacks on 23 July and as audio books in August and September.
AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE