Recently Read -Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing by Libbie Hawker

Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing by Libbie Hawker

Genre; Non-Fiction (Writing)

25126763When it comes to writing books, are you a “plotter” or a “pantser?” Is one method really better than the other?

In this instructional ebook, author Libbie Hawker explains the benefits and technique of planning a story before you begin to write. She’ll show you how to develop a foolproof character arc and plot, how to pace any book for a can’t-put-down reading experience, and how to ensure that your stories are complete and satisfying without wasting time or words.

Hawker’s outlining technique works no matter what genre you write, and no matter the age of your audience. If you want to improve your writing speed, increase your backlist, and ensure a quality book before you even write the first word, this is the how-to book for you.

Take off your pants! It’s time to start outlining.

My thoughts:

I first heard of this  book on one of the podcasts I listen to (I can’t for the life of me remember which one!). I then heard about it again from crime author SJI Holliday who read it and raved about it on Twitter. It was at that point I decided I needed to read it myself.

Shallow Waters was written as a ‘pants’ book. Hannah Robbins 2 is currently being written with a plot already in place as I thought I would try it the other way around this time and see which way I preferred working. I can tell you, I’m preferring being a plotter. It is much easier to know where you’re going and no, it isn’t stunting my ‘artistic flair’. That I can use in each and every chapter I write.

Anyway, back to the book we are talking about, or at least how it fits into writing Hannah 2 . I’m close to completing the novel and thought I’d read Take Off Your Pants to see if it could help tighten up my plan for the ending so I could write it faster. After a stressful year with my medical retirement from the police, I’m a little behind my own schedule so I’m feeling the pressure. Take Off Your Pants is a comprehensive book that not only shows you how to outline your novel but explains how to make it a deep, rich and cohesive experience for the reader.

Libbie Hawker uses simple language and explains what she is telling you by showing you how it has been done in previously published books like (two very different books) Charlotte’s Web and Lolita. She takes you through character arcs, theme, and story core as well as plot and at the end she shows you one of the plans for her own novels. It looks so simple. She makes it all sound like childs play!

When I finished reading the book I instantly started adding to the bare outline I had, fleshing out the part I had left to write in the way Hawker had explained and I’m now typing away finishing the novel.

If you’re interested in outlining, if you’ve never done it or you’d like to look at how someone else does it and compare it to how you work and see if you can combine the two, to enhance your working life, then I’d say this is a great book to try.

I’m always looking to learn, so I imagine there will be more writing books reviewed on here, and I’ll take what I need from each of them.

What Can You Gain From Reading As A Writer?

book-408302_1280I’m sure you’ve often heard the argument that writers need to read if they are to write well, because how can they write if they don’t read? I’ve also occasionally heard the opposing argument, though not often, that the writer doesn’t have the time to read as they are too busy writing.

I come down squarely in the camp of ‘writers need to read’, but it wasn’t until very recently that I fully understood how it was helping me, or I should say, I saw recently how it was helping me.

Dan Brown is an author who divides readers. And writers. His books, though massively popular, which is evidenced by sales figures, are sometimes said to be not as well-written as other books in his genre. I have, in the past, read all of Brown’s books. My favourites were Deception Point and Digital Fortress. I read his books before I started writing myself. Until now.

A couple of days ago I started Inferno, his 2013 offering and when I first started it I could see where the lively discussions about his work might emanate from. I wasn’t feeling the love for the book as I remembered feeling for previous books. I was reading it and looking at the sentences in a critical way as a writer. I was looking at the sentence structure, not the entire book! It’s not to say I know how to construct the perfect sentence, but it did get me thinking about how to construct a sentence. But then something changed. I found myself turning the pages faster and faster and realised I’d stopped examining the words and sentences and was simply engaged with the story. Dan Brown might not have hooked me with his sentences, but he is currently reeling me in with his story.

So, my point with this post is this; we don’t just need to read good books as writers to learn from them, but we can learn from any book we choose to pick up. Be it a good book with stunning sentences and story, bad books that have nothing you like in it at all, or a book that has something in it you can learn from in the good and the bad sections. But really, how do you know how you are doing in your own genre if you’re not reading in it? Or how do you know how you’re doing with your writing if you’re not reading at all? What do you have to compare against? To push yourself harder towards? Because we all want to continually improve don’t we? I know I do.

What books have you picked up and realised you have taken something away from? And what was it?



Recently Read – The Ice Twins by S. K. Tremayne

The Ice Twins by S. K. Tremayne

Genre; Psychological crime

23553419A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity—that she, in fact, is Lydia—their world comes crashing down once again.

As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, Sarah finds herself tortured by the past—what really happened on that fateful day one of her daughters died?

My Thoughts:

This story starts in a solicitors office as Sarah and Angus are signing the papers for the property on the isolated island inherited from Angus’s grandmother. During this scene, we see how the death of their daughter has affected both of them and how it has affected their marriage, how they are fighting to keep it together. Scotland is a new start for them. A chance to leave everything behind.

Then, as it mentions in the blurb, Kirstie claims that she is in fact Lydia which means that fresh start they wanted doesn’t go quite as planned. Can you imagine how shocked you’d be hearing that?

I loved the concept of this novel and wondered where it would go, where the author would take me. I was not let down as throughout the reading you are constantly unsure exactly what is happening and who the child is. And because of this, there is a gradual breakdown of the family unit as each member struggles with the situation and the child struggles with her identity.

The Ice Twins is beautifully written and had me turning the pages quickly, just wanting to know what was happening and also enjoying the writing. The cold isolated setting was well drawn, especially the isolation of joining a new community when you have the very obvious “issues” as Kirstie had.

Eventually the story spirals down into it’s very bleak ending but it fits with the whole story. It’s about the death of a child, the mourning of the parents and sibling, so you have to be in the mood to read it, but it is really well done and worth a read. If you read crime anyway, bleak is a way of life for you, so this should easily be your cup of tea. It didn’t feel quite right to say I enjoyed this book, but it’s a well written, twisty, crime novel that I wanted to keep reading to the end.

With thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for my copy.

Recently Read – Can Anybody Help Me by Sinéad Crowley

Can Anybody Help Me by Sinéad Crowley

Genre; Crime fiction

21460555It was crazy really, she had never met the woman, had no idea of her real name but she thought of her as a friend. Or, at least, the closest thing she had to a friend in Dublin.

Struggling with a new baby, Yvonne turns to netmammy, an online forum for mothers, for support. Drawn into a world of new friends, she spends increasing amounts of time online and volunteers more and more information about herself.

When one of her new friends goes offline, Yvonne thinks something is wrong, but dismisses her fears. After all, does she really know this woman?

But when the body of a young woman with striking similarities to Yvonne’s missing friend is found, Yvonne realises that they’re all in terrifying danger. Can she persuade Sergeant Claire Boyle, herself about to go on maternity leave, to take her fears seriously?

My Thoughts:

This is the last of my holiday reads. Or the last of my holiday reads that I enjoyed and I’m sharing. (If I don’t enjoy it, I don’t share it.)

This is the debut novel by Sinéad Crowley and the first featuring Sergeant Claire Boyle. It was interesting to read a novel where the police protagonist was pregnant. And heavily pregnant at that. It made her feel real, as though she actually had a real life and wasn’t just created for a novel if you know what I mean.

The novel is narrated from the points of view of pregnant Sergeant Boyle and new mum Yvonne and what I really liked about it is how it is based on the internet and how much information we tend to put out there about ourselves and how over time we have given away far more than we maybe have realised. The internet is a fascinating and current subject and I enjoy when it is covered well, which this is.

Early motherhood and the difficulties it presents is also a topic covered well with the character of Yvonne as we watch as she feels drained and isolated with her new baby and with a husband with a busy job who helps as often as he can, but that isn’t as often as is needed. Yvonne is a very identifiable character which is what made this book so good for me I think.

Through her isolation Yvonne turns to the internet and to Netmammy and gets close to some of the women on there and in turn gets concerned when the body of a woman turns up and one of her ‘friends’ hasn’t been online for a while. Life and online get blurred and Yvonne gets embroiled in a dangerous situation that is unnerving to watch unfold.

I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the Sergeant Boyle series.

With thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for my copy.

What To Do When Attending A Crime Scene

Back in May I wrote a post on the working relationships of police officers and stated that it would be the first in a series of posts on policing. I haven’t yet followed up on that. This is now that second post. And from now on, I shall try to be a bit more regular with these kinds of posts because I know that one was popular. You can find it Here if you didn’t read it.

police-850054_1280Today I’m going to look at crime scenes. Now crime scenes are a large area to cover, in terms of what you’re looking at if you’re attending one (therefore wanting to know about if writing crime) so this post will get split up into a couple of posts so as not to drag on. I’d rather give you bite-sized posts that are easily taken on board than throw a lot of info at you that will just turn to mush inside your head.

Usually, the first person at the scene of an incident is the uniform officer. They’re your front line. Your first port of call. You don’t know you have a murder unless someone goes to look first. Unless of course someone phones in to say ‘I’ve just murdered so-and-so and his head is hanging off because I used my chainsaw on his neck.’ But then the fastest person there is still going to be your uniform officer.

Also, notice I said incident and not crime. It may well look like a suicide, for example, a hanging, but you still need to have a look at it properly – get CSI’s out to check the scene, to make sure it is what it looks like.

But, if you suspect it’s a suspicious death or outright murder, then the right people are called to the scene and that’s where you choose what you call your team who are going to investigate (if you’re writing) because it’s different in every force. In the UK, we do use the word homicide unit rather than murder though.

So, you do suspect it to be murder, what does the uniform officer do while waiting for their plain clothes colleagues?

  • Make sure the person is definitely dead first! It’s ok to go into the crime scene to save life.
  • Then, don’t touch anything.
  • Close the crime scene and make it as wide as you think is necessary. It can always be brought in later. Think about entry and exit routes from the scene. Think about where an offender may have parked a car. Think about a bit of privacy for your victim if they are out in an open area because don’t forget you are not touching anything so your victim could be in an exposed place being gawped at and, equally, distressing other people. You can NOT cover them up. You’d be transferring fibres onto them and possibly taking away evidence when you remove whatever it is you cover them up with. Better to contain rather than miss anything.
  • Start a scene log (logging people in and out and what time) and don’t let anyone into the scene unless they need to be in. Think of the above re; exit and entry, if you need to cover these to prevent other people contaminating your scene by walking into it, then cover them.
  • If there are any potential witnesses lurking, grab and detain. (You will hopefully not be alone by now and these tasks are all shared out) If they’re adamant they won’t stay, obtain their details and try and confirm they are giving you the right details. (driving license etc).
  • All the while you are updating the control room (inspector) who is getting everyone necessary to you.

So, that’s a fair bit of information for just arriving at a crime scene. My next post will be on what the homicide team’s thoughts will be when they get there.

If you have anything you want to see covered in this series, then please let me know. I have a few questions already waiting that writing friends have asked in the past but I’m open to more.

Recently Read – Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

Genre;  Psychological thriller

IMG_1033A chance encounter sparks an unrelenting web of lies in this stunning new psychological thriller from national bestselling author Mary Kubica

She sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can’t get the girl out of her head…

Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman: she works for a nonprofit, takes in stray cats. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi returns home one day with a young woman named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Disheveled and apparently homeless, this girl could be a criminal—or worse. But despite her family’s objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home.

Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow’s past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she’s willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated.

My Thoughts:

Can you tell from the photograph that this was another of my holiday reads?! I do love holidays and the time they give you to relax and catch up with much-needed reading time.

This is another corker of a novel from Mary Kubica. It’s told from the viewpoints of Heidi, Chris her husband and Willow.

Heidi really wants to help and make everything OK but Chris is suspicious and not at all happy about the stranger in his home. He does however relent and allow his wife to continue with her planned houseguests. Willow’s chapters are glimpses into her life, into how she came to be on that platform where Heidi found her. As the novel progresses we learn more and more about the characters and watch in horror as things start to slowly and gradually crumble, as they invariably do and as you’d expect them to in a psychological thriller. And whatever you think the way this scenario could twist before you read this novel, it’s probably not the way it goes. This deteriorates with shocking and unhappy results and will leave you waiting for the next Kubica novel with anticipation. She weaves chapters smoothly and has you understanding the characters motives and each breakdown and crumble as it arrives. I found myself internally nodding or shaking my head at some of the actions and reactions because I could see what would happen if the character did what they were going to do and I understood why they would do it. This showed me how immersed I was and how believable the characters were.

Not happy reading because it’s not a happy situation, but a great psychological thriller if that’s what you are looking for. Another great read from Kubica.

You can find out what I thought of her debut novel, The Good Girl Here and see how Mary writes her first drafts Here.

With thanks to the author and publisher for my copy.

What’s Your First Draft Like? – Mary Kubica

Today I am excited to welcome Mary Kubica to the blog, as part of her Pretty Baby blog tour, to talk about her First Draft process. I absolutely adored The Good Girl – you can find my raving review Here and see how she made it onto my top 5 books of 2014 Here. – and Pretty Baby was one of my holiday reads which will be making it onto the blog next week.

MaryKubicaMary is the author of two novels, including PRETTY BABY (2015) and THE GOOD GIRL (2014), which is a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature, and lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children.  Mary enjoys photography, gardening, and caring for the animals at a local shelter.

When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?

I dive right into the manuscript. When I get excited about a new idea, I usually can’t wait to start and so, as long as I’m not currently in the middle of another project, I start toiling away immediately. Sometimes I get a new idea when I’m in the middle of another project, and then I have to postpone it until I can focus completely on the task at hand.

Do you have a set routine approaching it?

I don’t. I’m not someone who outlines or does much – if anything – in the way of note taking before I begin a new manuscript, and so I sit down and start writing whatever comes to mind. I generally begin a new manuscript with an indefinite starting point and though I have no idea where the story will take me, I slowly develop my characters and in time they decide where the story will go. In the case of PRETTY BABY, I began the novel with just an image of a homeless girl holding a baby, not knowing who she was or what her story would be, and in time, the story slowly began to unfold.

Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

Straight to the keyboard! I never write with pen and paper. My handwriting is terrible, for one, and I can also create much more quickly on the computer.

How important is research to you?

I research what I need to, but for both THE GOOD GIRL and PRETTY BABY, the research required was minimal. I like to use what I already know and incorporate that into my novels, but that isn’t to say that I haven’t had to do some research along the way.

How do you go about researching?

I generally use the Internet, though there’s nothing better than seeing something with your own eyes, so if I can seek out what I need to know that way, I certainly will. I’m also fortunate to have friends in professions that I call on from time to time to help out with arbitrary questions.

How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?

I do keep a file on my phone with random thoughts or phrases I fear I’ll forget, but generally I keep all those ideas and images stored in my head until the time comes to put them on paper.

Tell us how that first draft takes shape?

I simply write. As I’ve said, I don’t outline, but dive right in. Because my novels are not told linearly, I write them in smaller, linear sections and then merge when done. For example, in the case of PRETTY BABY, I wrote the story of Heidi and Chris, and then separately wrote Willow’s tale, and merged the two together when through. I edit as I go, so a chapter needs to be in tiptop shape before I feel comfortable moving onto the next. By the time I’m finished, the first draft is usually in pretty good shape and goes through just a little clean up before getting passed along to my agent and editor.

Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?

Nothing other than a mostly quiet house and a cat or two – or four – to keep me company.

Writing Room

Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?

It depends on the day. There are those magical days I get consumed completely in the writing process and lose all track of time, and there are days when I’m only moderately consumed and can easily be distracted by the world around me. I prefer to be completely consumed.

Writing DeskWhat does your workspace look like?

Fairly sparse and clean. It’s the only space in the house that belongs to me and only me, and is a simple room where I can focus on writing. I have an antique desk that used to belong to my grandmother, which I’ve refinished, and framed images of THE GOOD GIRL and PRETTY BABY all around. There is also a pretty comfy armchair where most of my writing gets done.

Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

Edit as I go. I like to keep my manuscripts clean, and have trouble moving onto a new chapter if the last one feels out of order to me.

I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression? I don’t keep myself to a certain number of words per day, but rather write when the words are flowing, and when they’re not, I stop. It feels counterintuitive to me to put words down on paper when they’re feeling forced. If I’m struck with a case of writer’s block, which certainly happens, I find it’s far easier to work my way through it when I’m running errands or cleaning the house rather than staring at a blank computer screen.

So, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take? And what shape is it in?

This depends completely on the novel. For THE GOOD GIRL, it took about 5 years, but for PRETTY BABY, less than a year.

In what format do you like to read it through, e-reader, paper or the computer screen?

Computer screen. It’s rare that I print out a manuscript.

What happens now that first draft is done?

I send it along to my agent and editor for their feedback, all the while agonizing over whether they’ll like it or not.

Thanks for taking the time to do this Mary. 

You can find Mary on her website, Twitter and Facebook.

Pretty Baby

23638955A chance encounter sparks an unrelenting web of lies in this stunning new psychological thriller from national bestselling author Mary Kubica

She sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can’t get the girl out of her head…

Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman: she works for a nonprofit, takes in stray cats. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi returns home one day with a young woman named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Disheveled and apparently homeless, this girl could be a criminal—or worse. But despite her family’s objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home.

Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow’s past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she’s willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated.


Follow Mary as she continues her blog tour on the following dates;


New Addition To The Bradley Family

Yes, you read that correctly, there has indeed been a new addition to the Bradley family home. In the shape of a second cockapoo, young chocolate bitch Lola.

Alfie is 21 months old and has a lot of energy. Even with two walks a day he is still buzzing with excess energy that makes him that little bit naughty around the house. That’s not to say he’s still not my adorable cuddly teddy bear of a dog who lays under my desk when I’m writing or beside me at my bed when I’m resting, it’s just there are times when he’s a little frustrated and I see a need for something else in him.

I’m a member of a cockapoo group on Facebook and many of the members have more than one poo, and these poos  were always portrayed as happy contented poos because they have each of the to play with.  So, as we have a newly paved back garden space for them and I’m at home and have the time for two dogs we decided to go ahead and get another.

Welcome home Lola.








Now, it’s not been a walk in the park with her. And I don’t just mean having to get up in the night to take her to the toilet  because she very wonderfully won’t mess in her soft mesh crate or having to clear up the occasional wet patch where she forgets she has to go outside to wee, no, I mean the fighting between Alfie and Lola.

It would appear Alfie is a bit surprised by the new arrival in the house and expects her to submit to him if she is here, but Lola has other ideas. Coming from a house full of other dogs she seems used to the hustle and bustle and is willing to fight back when Alfie wants to push her around. This results in quite some battles which, to be honest, can be quite upsetting to watch. I’ve been told by the cockapoo group on Facebook that this can happen quite often and after a few weeks will settle down when they find their feet.

I’m hoping it’s sooner rather than later because when they are being nice to each other they make a beautiful looking pair of dogs and this makes me blissfully happy.FullSizeRender 8


Recently Read – The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

Genre; Crime

23364977Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.

Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

My thoughts:

There has been a lot of hype about this book and I usually tend to stay away from books where there is this much hype. I know that I can be influenced one way or another. Generally in the negative towards a book. Don’t ask me why, it’s just something that happens. Or I believe it happens…

As well as the hype, (mostly on Twitter) I’ve read a couple of reviews of the book and it seems to be a bit of a Marmite book because the protagonist isn’t all sweetness and light. She has her flaws and this doesn’t seem to be something readers are used to.

Anyway, this was the third book I read on holiday. Rachel our protagonist is recovering from a divorce and has a problem with alcohol. She likes to look out of the train window on her daily commute and particularly at a certain house. She sees a couple living there; they are often on the veranda area of their home. Rachel has made up names for the couple and by the affection they show each other she has also written their lives out – in her head. This seems to be a form of vicarious living on Rachel’s part.

I see that Rachel has a problem with alcohol, but it doesn’t make me want to stop reading. I’m not irritated by her. I like Hawkins style of writing. It’s clean, uncluttered and factual (for the fictional needs).

The story really starts when Rachel sees something she’s not expecting to see on that veranda, something that shocks her. It’s not enough that we as readers know the whole story, but it’s enough for Rachel to want to do the right thing, but because of her troubled life this isn’t easy. The story follows her trying to do what she thinks will help but often ends up not doing much to help at all and causing more harm to her fragile self-esteem which exacerbates the drinking cycle.

We also have chapters from the viewpoint of other important characters in the story, mixed in with Rachel’s. We have chapters from Megan, the missing woman, from before and leading up to her going missing, and we have chapters from the viewpoint of Rachel’s ex-husband’s new wife, who is not amused by the drunken ex-wife still in their lives.

So, I’m sitting in the middle ground area, I’m not raving about it or hating it, but I will say it’s a really enjoyable crime read and I did want to keep picking it back up to see what happened next. I enjoyed it. I think flawed protagonists are great. Hard work for an author to work with because you need to keep the reader interested but  I personally love them. (Note my recent penchant for serial killer novels!) The pace of this book was wonderful. I love alternating chapters, they really work for me and I liked that Rachel wasn’t a do-gooder on a train who wanted to solve the crime like a member of the Scooby Doo gang!

With thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for my copy.


Bloody Scotland Blog Tour – An Interview With Val McDermid

Bloody Scotland crime festival is held every year in the historical and beautiful town of Stirling in Scotland. This year it runs from 11th – 13th September and has a wonderful line-up of crime writers. Full events listing can be found HERE.

Writer Val McDermid at home in Alnmouth, Northumberland.

I am incredibly lucky to have been able to  interview one of the most well-known – and whose books are always much  anticipated – of crime writers, Val  McDermid.

Val’s novels have been translated into 30  languages and sold over 10 million copies worldwide. That’s some going. You can find her event pages for Bloody Scotland (she’s doing two!) Here and Here. The events as you will see are on Friday and Saturday so plenty of opportunity to see her around the festival and pop in to one of her panels!

Thanks for coming onto the blog today Val. I see that you are doing two panels at Bloody Scotland. One of them very factually related as you discuss forensic science with Lin Anderson, the other you “discuss murder and mayhem” with the equally brilliant, Peter May, as well discussing your new novel, Splinter the Silence, which brings back Tony Hill and Carol Jordan.

The blurb for the forensic panel states that forensic science is a major theme in Lin’s books as well as your own. Do you think that readers have a thirst for knowledge that is mixed in with their fiction reading nowadays? And if so, why do you think this is?

I think crime fiction readers are curious about the world they live in. That’s why they choose a genre that explores the things we do to each other and the reasons why we do them. The scientific developments that have grown around criminal investigation in recent years are fascinating in themselves, and by incorporating them into our books, we are giving our readers something more to get their teeth into, which they love.

Because we are mostly discussing fiction, what do you make about the argument that it is in fact fiction and too much detail takes a reader out of a story or slows down a story narrative?

I think that’s true. We need to give the reader enough to intrigue them without showing off how thoroughly we have researched the topic. We have to keep the reader engaged with the story and the characters or they stop reading, which defeats the purpose of the exercise. My job is to create an authentic world with the key informative details that are necessary for the book to keep working. If they want to know more, there are plenty of online resources and books that can fill in the details.

As well as writing fiction and nonfiction books, you have also helped create a free online forensics course for the Open University’s Future Learn platform. I read that it hit over 10,000 subscribers shortly after it became available. That is an amazing figure and goes to show how interested people are in the subject. You must be thrilled with how well it has taken off. How did your involvement with the learning platform come about?

I’m delighted that so many people are joining in with what promises to be a fascinating project. I’ve had a long-standing relationship with Prof Sue Black at Dundee University and some of her colleagues. They’ve always been incredibly generous with their time and their expertise so when I’ve been in a position to return the favour, I’ve always been happy to help out. I was involved in a major project to raise funds for the revolutionary new mortuary at Dundee, and the MOOC that I’m working on with Dundee University and Future Learn is the next step in the journey of collaboration. I’ve just finished the short story that will accompany the course – once students have reached the end of their quest, they’ll be rewarded with access to the story that explains the background to the body they’ll be investigating.

What is it about the science of forensics that fascinates you so much?

I always enjoyed science and maths at school. And since I’ve chosen a life of crime at a time when the science has taken so many great leaps forward, it seemed only natural to me to follow those original interests. And besides, the stories are so terrific!

This year sees a new Tony Hill and Carol Jordan novel released. The first of which, The Mermaids Singing (which is brilliant!) was released in 1995, do you still get as much enjoyment from writing them as your readers obviously do from reading them?

Well, the readers probably have more pure enjoyment than I do because it’s still pretty hard work to get the book down on the screen! But yes, I do enjoy sitting down with Tony and Carol as much as I did in the early days. Their characters and their professional lives are so full of potential, it’s always intriguing to figure out where I’m going to take them next. If I ever stop feeling like that, then the series will end. I promise not to churn them out just for the sake of the franchise!

In 2012 you released your first children’s book. Could you see yourself writing in another (adult) fiction genre novel, other than crime, one day, and if so, what would it be and why?

I did rework Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey last year, which was both demanding and challenging. But it was also a lot of fun. So I don’t rule anything out although I have no specific plans for shifting genres. But writing should be about being willing to push yourself in new directions, so I never say never! (except probably to erotica…)

When you’re not reading books on a work-needed basis (awards, blurbs etc), what do you enjoy reading, purely for Val Mcdermid?

Good fiction. Sometimes crime fiction, sometimes not. Increasingly I find myself drawn also to narrative non-fiction as long as it’s well-written and carried along with a good sense of story.

Can you tell my blog readers something about the next book you’re working on that isn’t yet out there – just a titbit?

Next year’s book will feature Karen Pirie again, my Scottish cold case detective. She’ll be investigating two cases, one officially and one off the books. I know the bare bones of the story, but frighteningly little detail at this point…

Thank you very much for your time, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the blog.

Thanks for inviting me.


You can find all the previous Bloody Scotland blog tour interviews listed on the below banner. They are definitely worth checking out as is the festival itself!