This is an exciting week in Bookaholics as I am honoured to be interviewing Dundee International Book Prize winning author Chris Longmuir. I am starting with a review of her novel Dead Wood to give you a flavour of what you have in store today.
As I myself am from Dundee I and love crime novels I was really looking forward to reading this book. I was not disappointed. The plot moves along at a cracking pace and the highs and lows, and twists and turns leave you breathless. The characterisation is superb. These are real people with real lives and most of them are deliberately loathsome. You are left in no doubt as to their foibles and fears. The psychological tension is almost palpable throughout. With regards to Dundee, Chris Longmuir has it spot on and I found myself nodding in agreement with her descriptions. I love Kara as a character. She has many faults but at heart is the type of person who would fight to survive. She wants to do the right thing. If you like dark, gritty, tartan noir then you would do well to read this book. I would highly recommend it.
Welcome Chris, and thank you for joining us on Bookaholics today.
Q - Firstly I am sure the readers would love to hear about you. Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
A - There’s nothing special about me, it just so happens I like to write. When I was little I used to imagine writing a book, I had a great imagination, but I thought that was something that was beyond me. I’d never met a writer, so never thought in a million years I could be one. Apart from that, I’m a Mum and a Granny, and I live a very quiet life. I don’t smoke, drink or swear, although you’d never guess that after reading one of my books. My characters do enough of that, so I don’t need to. I don’t have much of a social life unless it’s connected to reading or writing, and I’m never happier than when I have my head in a book, or I’m closeted away in my study writing, so you might find me a little dull.
A - Dundee is one of the larger cities in Scotland, after Edinburgh and Glasgow, and maybe Aberdeen. However, Dundee has often been compared to a village, because it has a small town or village mentality. It has its fair share of problems, including a criminal fraternity, and a lot of drug users. In fact, when HIV and AIDS hit Scotland, one of the first places it was detected, was Dundee. In my fiction I’m interested in the dark side, and I came across lots of that as a social worker in the city. But, Dundee also has a cultural side, it’s not all doom and gloom. It has a university, a repertory theatre and an arts centre, among other things. The SS Discovery, Scott’s antarctic exploration ship is berthed there, as well as HMS Unicorn, one of the oldest frigates still in existence. There’s lots more. But I mustn’t forget it’s also the home of the Dundee International Book Prize, particularly as I was lucky enough to win it in 2009.
Q - Where do you get the inspiration for your fiction?
A - From the dark place that is my mind. As I’ve already said I’ve always had a vivid imagination, plus a lifetime of reading crime and horror books as well as lots of other genres, so I suppose some of that must impinge on an unconscious level. But I’m afraid my books originate in my imagination. Of course, I do loads of research, and sometimes that can spark off ideas as well.
Q - Which is your favourite character in any of your books and why?
A - I suppose Kara, in ‘Dead Wood’, has to be a top runner, mainly because this was my breakthrough book, and the one that was chosen winner of the Dundee International Book Prize in 2009. Plus she’s a fighter. She has her faults and she doesn’t always do things right, but I like her. Having said that, each time I write a book I get close to my characters, and I think that’s unavoidable. However, I have a confession to make here – I rather like my gangster, Tony, in ‘Dead Wood’. I have a soft spot for him, although he does some horrible things.
Q - When you are not writing what types of books do you read? What would you say was the best book you have ever read?
A - I read quite widely, but I do have a preference for dark crime. Jeffrey Deaver, and Val McDermid, are among my favourites. However, I do like Ken Follett’s books. I loved ‘Fall of Giants’, and the second one in the series, ‘Winter of the World’, I can’t wait for the third one to be published. I have no great liking for the classics, the writing styles are too slow, and often send me to sleep. I prefer a modern pacy novel, with lots of suspense.
Q - I have reviewed Dead Wood on the blog so readers will get a flavour of this book. Could you tell us some more about your other books?
A - ‘Dead Wood’ was my breakthrough book, which meant it was the first one published, however it is book two in the Dundee Crime series. Book one is ‘Night Watcher’, a story about two very different kinds of stalker, and it has been very popular. Not quite so raw and gritty as Dead Wood, but every bit as dark. The third book in the series is due to be launched on 11th July, and is called ‘Missing Believed Dead. Again this is a dark one with the usual psychological elements included in the story. However, I also have a historical saga, ‘A Salt Splashed Cradle’, which is based on the fisher folk of the north-east of Scotland. It’s set in the 1830s and follows the story of Belle, an incomer to the fishing community. This was actually the first novel I ever wrote and I have a soft spot for it.
Q - Now we are getting personal. What is your favourite food?
A - I don’t know if I have a particular favourite, although I am partial to sweet and sour chicken (the carry out variety). Home cooked, I’d go for roast beef and yorkshire pudding, or a good old-fashioned steak pie.
Q - If you ever have a day off from writing exciting books what do you like to do in your spare time?
A - Spare time? What’s that? However, I do like to spend time with my 11 year old granddaughter, Amy. I also like to attend writing conferences and events – but that’s writing oriented as well!
Thank you Chris. It has been a real pleasure to meet you and to get to know more about you. I for one am certainly looking forward to reading more of your books and I am sure many bookaholic readers will feel the same. I will finish by providing some links to your website and your books