There are probably hundreds of these Q&A things knocking about on my hard drive, but this was the closest one to hand.
This is a wee Q&A I did for my Swedish publishers for a feature called ‘Close Up’. It was meant to be about Flesh House, but as I’m a contrary sod, I’ve edited out all those bits…
1. Big break:
The biggest break I ever had was my ankle. My wife’s heavily into horses, so I thought I’d be supportive and learn to ride. One lesson later I was in Accident and Emergency with a fractured ankle and torn ligaments. If I run upstairs these days, it sounds like the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan. Only without all the screaming.
2. Career highlight:
That would have to be winning the CWA’s Dagger in the Library in 2007. It’s voted for by libraries and the people who use them, so I felt really honoured by that. Other highlights would be hanging around the bar at conventions drinking and talking rubbish with the crime writers I like to read.
3. Career lowlight:
Giving the Toast To The Lassies at a Scottish Book Association Burns supper. It was a dreadful, horrific, humiliating experience as I made a complete and utter cocking mess of the whole thing. It was so bad I had to post an apology on my blog afterwards.
4. Favourite author:
That has to be R.D. Wingfield, a brilliant writer who never really got the recognition his work deserved when he was alive. Wonderful characters, densely layered plots, frenetic pace, and a joy to read. If you haven’t tried him, you’re missing something special. And other than R.D. Wingfield, I always look forward to any new book by Allan Guthrie, Zoë Sharp, Mark Billingham, Val McDermid, Charlie Williams, and Ray Banks. I can recommend them all.
5. Guilty pleasure:
Plastic cheese. You know: the stuff that comes pre-sliced and wrapped in plastic? It’s got more in common with butter than actual cheese, but I love it. Normally we’re very gastronomic in our house, but there’s always room in my fridge for its artificial cheesiness.
6. Favourite pastime:
Cooking. Which is why I’m slowly turning into a lard-stuffed beanbag with a beard.
7. Unknown skill:
If I told you that, it wouldn’t be ‘unknown’, would it?
8. Worst part of writing process:
The pain. THE PAIN!!! Some days it’s like nailing burning squirrels to your knees while a mentally-challenged badger tries to stick wasps up your nose. It shouldn’t be a tough job – all I have to do is sit on my bum all day making up lies about people who don’t exist. What’s tough about that?
9. Best part:
Doing events. I know that sounds strange, but after six months of sitting on my own talking to the cat, it’s really nice to actually meet real people for a change. Especially if they’re readers.
And being able to go for a snooze on the couch (with cat) any time I feel like it is pretty sweet too.
10. Most overestimated:
Coffee – it’s like someone’s scraped all the lumpy bits off the Devil’s bumhole and made a drink out of it. Who ever invented it should be dug up from their grave, shot, then urinated on.
11. Most underestimated:
12. Favourite gadget:
My digital camera – it’s great for taking photos of the half-chewed mice my cat Grendel leaves in the porch for me. (though these days I might vote for my iPod Touch…)
13. Scared by:
The sight of myself in the mirror whenever I shave off my beard. It’s worst in the dead of night. Half asleep, staggering down to the toilet, click on the light, catch sight of scary bloke in mirror… AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!
14. Horrified by:
Reality TV. I mean seriously, what the fuck? Remember the days when TV companies used to make dramas, and comedies, instead of churning out cheap crap where people phone in to vote idiots out of a house?
15. Most proud of:
My homemade cream of mushroom soup.
16. Why crime?
I’ve been reading it all my life. When I was a little boy I started getting the Hardy Boys mystery novels out of the school library. I’d read them in one night, take it back the next day, and get the next one out.
17. Bad habit:
Fiddling with things. I can’t leave any book alone for five minutes without wanting to change words, sentences, paragraphs. It drives my editors mad.
18. Good habit:
I tend to put off starting the working day by tidying the kitchen. Other than that, all my habits are bad ones.
19. Old habit:
Sleeping really, really badly, then walking around the next day like a half-shut knife.
20. Inspired by:
Aberdeen. If I’m ever stuck for ideas, all I have to do is go for a walk around the city and things start to jump out at me. Sometimes literally. It’s a great place for finding inspiration.
21. Motivated by:
The fear that my publishers will ask for their money back, and I’ll have to return to the life of an IT project manager. Which is a bit like being the valve in a septic tank. Nasty stuff rains down on you from above, and nasty stuff bubbles up from below, and somehow it all ends up being your fault.
22. On crime writing:
There are worse ways to make a living, and you get to meet some very interesting people. Weird people, but interesting.
23. On realism:
It all depends on what’s going to serve the story. There’s no point in sticking 100% to how things are done in real life if it’s going to bore the socks off the reader. I think a book has to feel real, but be gripping. And sometimes you can do that best by lying your head off.
24. On fictional violence:
I think there’s a very real difference between real violence and fictional. When I kill, maim, mutilate, and cannibalise someone, they don’t really get hurt. Because they’re not real. I made them up.
But I don’t like reading about real violence, to be honest I find it pretty sickening. I’ve done a lot of research into case files of violent crime and I’m always very aware of the fact that real people suffered because of what happened. And not just the direct victims either: their families and friends as well. In real life violent crime is a horrific thing.