Was writing a novel something you have always aspired to do?
Definitely. I was a very bookish child and grew into a bookish adult, so the idea of actually writing my own novel was always something that held great appeal. I spent years hacking out weird and wonderful short stories on a variety of clapped out old typewriters, but it only once I got my hands on a Word Processor (Protext on the Atari ST – Yay! No more Tippex!) that I finally went for broke and started my first novel, ‘Dreaming in the Snakepark’.
How supportive were your friends and family of your decision to become a writer?
These days anyone can shout I’M A WRITER and no one bats an eyelid. Back when I started, writing was something pretentious and abnormal you did in secret. When my friends and family discovered my shameful hobby they weren’t slow to direct some friendly-fire in my direction. Happily I got my own back when I forced each and every one of them to read my 500,000 word first draft. That shut them up for a few months.
Is there any authors in particular that have inspired you and if so why?
For me Stephen King will always be an inspiration. He appeared on the writing scene when I was still a highly impressionable teenager and swept me off my feet with his early work in the Horror genre. I suppose what made him stand out was his direct way of speaking to the reader, his use of contemporary song lyrics, and a very definite opposition to right-wing politics. Most of all he’s one hell of a good story-teller.
You will be attending Bloody Scotland this year, how important do you think it is for authors as well as readers to attend events like these?
Readers also attend? Really? Whenever I go along to a Crime-fest I’m always narrowly avoiding being trampled to death by hordes of wild-eyed, drink-fuelled authors. I think it’s a great thing for writers to meet up and swap war stories, commiserate on the latest rejection letters, and lie through our teeth over how many Amazon 5 Star reviews we have for our latest book. It provides a sense of community and fosters camaraderie. So much better than my early days as an isolated writer, not ever meeting anyone else with the same obsession. I even remember trying to join a writers club at my local library and finding myself trapped in a small room with a group of mad people whose idea of writing was penning lengthy articles for Caravan Monthly. Each to their own, I suppose.
Can you tell us a bit more about what a normal writing day for you is like?
I normally write in the evenings as I work during the day. In fact, when I say evenings, I mean midnight is usually my starting point. It’s a good time to work as I don’t normally get interrupted by phone calls about car accidents I’ve never been in or people at the door wanting to Tarmac my driveway or replace my guttering. It’s also an acceptable time of night to drink lots of gin.
What would your dream office/writing space be like?
My perfect writing space would be on a revolving spot-lit stage in a huge auditorium filled with admiring fans. Whenever I write a particularly pleasing piece of prose the audience will cheer and go crazy and flash bombs and strobe lights go off. When I make a typo the audience will let me know by sighing loudly and in extreme cases maybe throw Space-hoppers from the balcony. Um… I guess I haven’t really thought this one through properly.
What made you decide to write in the crime genre?
Peer pressure. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always enjoyed reading Crime, but I preferred to write fiction that was darker and not necessarily restricted to this reality. Unfortunately, that side of the fiction fence gets branded with the big Horror tag and no one takes you seriously. A fellow author recently pointed out that by simply sticking a policeman in the heart of the story you can reinvent yourself as a Crime writer and suddenly everyone feels fine about the unusual stuff going on the background. Personally, I feel there’s so many books out there tagged as crime, especially all the serial killer thrillers, that are basically just Horror dressed up as Crime. But these days the public shy away from the ‘H’ word. Horror isn’t all about giant slugs and mutant rats, you know.
For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of reading your books, can you tell us a bit more about DI Will Harlan, the protagonist from your series?
Will Harlan was once an ace detective who badly messed up a high-profile murder investigation and lost almost everything as a consequence, including his marriage. He’s spent the best part of five years being marginalised at work, overlooked for everything except the most mundane cases. He lives in a small hotel next door to the Glasgow City Necropolis. It doesn’t help his fading reputation at work that his landlord is a retired old-school London gangster. Redemption for Harlan finally comes along in the novel Heart Swarm. In the second novel, Wasp Latitudes, Harlan has rediscovered his old talents but still always looking over his shoulder for the next ambush from his colleagues. I’ve been told he’s not terribly likeable.
Where do you get inspiration from for the crimes you feature in your novels?
It’s very difficult to come up with a new crime that hasn’t already been committed in someone else’s book, or in real life, come to that. All you can do is apply a decorative touch to try and set it apart as semi-original. I’ve stopped trying to come up with anything remotely unique as the toy box has already been emptied. For me, the location of a crime can be more shocking than the crime itself and that’s been my focus lately.
Finally, what are you currently working on at the moment and what else can readers look forward to from you in the future?
I’m currently working on the third book in the DI Will Harlan series, a novel called ‘Nightingale Static’. After that I plan on changing tack and writing something different. It’s still nebulous and shape-shifting right now, but hopefully it’ll reveal itself when I need it to.