Spooked … by my own audiobook!

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Look, I’ve got a confession to make. I don’t really like audiobooks – I do try occasionally, but I never seem to get on with them, somehow. Maybe I’m simply more of a visual person, but they always make me itch to have the actual book in front of me instead of some unknown narrator talking at me. And I have a very clear idea in my head of what my characters should sound like, so I don’t mind admitting I approached the audio version of What Lies Buried with some trepidation.

But I have to say David Rintoul has done an excellent job. My DI, Lukas Mahler, sounds pretty much exactly as I envisaged him, and there’s a fluidity to Rintoul’s narration that carries the story along beautifully.

Okay, I could wish for a little more of Fergie’s died-in-the-wool Invernessian to come through, and when I hear Anna and June Wallace in my head, they’re even stronger and (to use the dreaded word) feistier than Rintoul plays them. But these are minor quibbles.  With male and female characters ranging from 10 to 83 years old, this has to have been a challenging book to narrate, and it’s a huge tribute to his skill that Rintoul pulls this off with such panache and believability.

But where he really excels for me is in his portrayal of a couple of the worst characters I’ve created to date. My goodness, the menace he injects into their lines is quite something. One scene in particular genuinely gave me chills … and I wrote it!

Chapeau, Mr Rintoul. Chapeau.

What Lies Buried Audiobook

 

Launch Day … and a bit of a revamp!

And here it is, finally. What Lies Buried had its launch this Thursday at Waterstones Inverness – and what an amazing turn out!
Huge, huge thanks are in order: to Toby and the Waterstones team, to Mallownuts for their delicious, book cover-themed vegan treats … and of course, to everyone who came. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!

Oh, and if you think the website’s looking a little bit smarter these days, this is thanks to the amazing photographic talents of Gordon Bain Photography , whose stunning images of Inverness are a perfect match for the world of Lukas Mahler’s MIT.

Thank you so much, Gordon! More of his fantastic pics will follow in the coming weeks, I promise.

Writing Strong Women:Let’s Keep it Real

I never actually intended to write about a male DI, that’s the thing. My first novel (my practice novel, as it turned out) had a female main character and a predominantly female ‘cast’. It wasn’t a detective novel, more of a gothicky chiller – think Poe’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ but set in the present-day Highlands and you’re pretty much there. It did feature a couple of murders, though, and I enjoyed writing it. I wasn’t sure it was absolutely the right genre for me, but it was certainly taking me in the right direction.

Then, three chapters from the end, with ninety percent of the plot out there and my characters firmly established, something happened. Specifically, DI Lukas Mahler happened – he walked in with his sidekick (who at that stage, was fairly anonymous and definitely not Fergie!) with all his mannerisms and his backstory pretty much fully formed in my head. And that, as they say, was that.

The novel’s still on my laptop, and though it’s not terrible, I have a feeling it’s destined to stay there. Because as soon as Lukas appeared, I knew he’d be my main character. With a male sidekick, in a series of police procedurals. And that left me with a massive problem. I wanted to write about women – strong women, to use the overworked, near-cliché. How was I going to manage that, with all that testosterone flying around?

I toyed with various solutions – make his sidekick a woman, maybe? Introduce a feisty female Procurator Fiscal* as a potential source of conflict/love interest? Thankfully, before I drowned in a sea of tropes, I realised I was approaching it from the wrong direction. I was buying in to the notion that there’s only one kind of strength women can exhibit, the ‘kick-ass’ kind that comes wrapped in pseudo-maleness.  I wanted to do better – be better – than that.

So Lukas has a woman boss, June ‘Braveheart’ Wallace, who’s twenty kinds of strong in one formidable package. His mother lives with mental ill-health due to horrendous trauma in her past, but she lives with it and refuses to let it define her. And his ‘love interest’ not only uncovers her sister’s murderer but saves herself and Mahler from him in Shadow Man.

Their stories, like Lukas’s, will change as the series progresses. But their strengths, in all their different manifestations, will remain – their stories, in many ways, echo those of so many women I’ve known. If they find an echo in your imagination, in your experience, then I’ll know I’ve done a decent job in bringing them to life. And I’ll carry on telling their stories for a little while yet.

 

*Procurator Fiscal – a public prosecutor in Scotland (roughly equivalent to a coroner elsewhere), responsible for investigating all sudden and suspicious deaths in Scotland.

 

 

 

What Lies Buried (a book by any other name…)

It’s almost here – book 2 of Lukas Mahler’s story! A little … okay, a lot darker, because hasn’t our world grown darker since I set Shadow Man in 2014? The cover image shows a local landmark up here, Fyrish Monument (with, for anyone who’s interested, a fascinating story of its own to read about here ). I love the image, love the title too … but it’s not the one I started with.

The original title, Pronounced for Doom, comes from the judicial wording used in Scotland to deliver a sentence of capital punishment, until its abolition in 1965. The first chapter of the book (which you can read on my blog here, if you fancy it!) opens with the discovery of human remains at a construction site near Inverness. They’ve been there a long time, so it seemed the perfect choice. But in the end, I realised the book’s not just about a long-ago murder. It’s about secrets, about pain, about survival … about, in fact, What Lies Buried.

It’s up on Amazon for pre-order (ebook coming soon, more news as I get it) but for now, here’s the first peek at the cover. Hope you like it as much as I do!

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A Good New Year? To One and All…

Oh, this is going to be such a strange post to write. Because in many ways, 2018 has been such a good year for me – since Shadow Man was published, I’ve been invited to talk on author panels at some amazing places.

Without a doubt, Bloody Scotland (Stirling, September) was one of the highlights for me. After attending as an audience member for several years, I could hardly believe it when I was invited to be on a panel! For me, it’s one of the best festivals in the country, somehow managing to be big and boisterous without being as overwhelming as Theakston’s, and I loved it.

In November, A Grand Time in Grantown was smaller in scale but definitely just as much fun, whereas Iceland Noir…my goodness, what can I say about that? Apart from maybe Blame it on the Brennivin! And finally, I was delighted to sign a contract with Orion for two more books in the DI Mahler series. Lukas and Fergie will return in June 2019!

But here we are right now. In Scotland, at the end of 2018. Preparing for the ‘bells’, taking a moment to remember those who won’t be bringing in the New Year with us on any more  Hogmanays. Trying, most likely, to ignore the thing set in motion in 2016. The xenophobic, mean-spirited, against-all-reason thing that’s still creeping towards us, like one of Dr Who’s Weeping Angels, waiting for us to blink.

Even at this late stage, are we going to be able to face it down? God, I wish I knew. But because it’s nearly New Year, because in spite of everything I want to finish on a positive note, I’ll try to echo what I said in 2017:

‘In spite of all the horrors this year has brought us, in spite of all those still waiting in the wings, Hogmanay stands for something we can never quite let go of.

It stands for hope.’

Happy New Year to you all, wherever you are, however you’re celebrating.

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Blame it on the Brennivin: No ice, but lots of Noir in Reykjavik

 

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Honestly, I’d no idea what to expect from Iceland Noir – apart from the fact that it was my first international festival, the line-up of guests was seriously impressive, and I was feeling more than a little overawed when I arrived in Reykjavik. There were so many excellent panels, it’s too hard to pick just one to talk about, but being of a spooky bent myself, I loved the ‘Super and Natural’ one with Connie di Marco, James Oswald, William Ryan and Michael Malone. And who could forget the Turf House panel’s ‘Battle of the Tea’?

Sadly, neither Hugh Fraser nor Val McDermid were able to attend as planned. But all of the panels I attended were excellent – even if there was one weird little Highlander rabbiting on about a famous Scottish poisoner on one of them!

I’d read up a little on Iceland itself – with 330,000 inhabitants, 122,000 of whom live in Reykjavik, it seemed to me to have so many parallels with the Highlands – but I was completely unprepared for what a stunning country it is.  Reykjavik is a lively, modern city, Scandinavian in atmosphere but with fascinatingly quirky touches – like the Punk Museum and the Cat Cafe ! I’d have loved to have taken the Sunday mystery tour (which by all accounts was something a bit special) , but sadly a problem with our flights meant we had to leave on the Sunday at the ungodly hour of 4.30 am. Would love to return and see more of Iceland, though – maybe in 2020?

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It was a little weird heading off to early-morning panels in the dark – in Scotland, we’re used to it not being light in winter until 8-ish, but it was closer to 10 am in Reykjavik, which felt really strange! But the lack of light was no barrier to fun-loving Icelanders, who we discovered really do party the night away. We Scots like to think we know how to party – but trust me, every night felt like Hogmanay on steroids. When we were waiting for the airport bus at 4.30 am, the streets were full and taxis were ferrying, er, merry Icelanders home after a night of revelling! (Note for next time – pick a hotel not quite so close to the city centre…)

There will be a next time, though, I’m determined. There’s so much of this amazing country yet to discover, and I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone.

(Maybe not the Brennivin, though. Bit of an acquired taste, that. Though I wonder if it might do better with a touch of Irn-Bru…? 😉 )

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A Grand Time in Grantown!

Back from a London visit, and with barely a minute to catch my breath, it was off to the Wee Crime Festival in Grantown on Spey – and it might have been ‘wee’ in size, but my goodness, just look at this line-up! :

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It was such a fun morning – lovely people to meet, more books to be added to my tbr pile – of course! – and for me, the huge, huge relief of having handed in Book 2 of the Lukas Mahler series on time.

I know it won’t be long before the edits wing their way back to me, but for the moment I’m just enjoying a couple of days doing nothing book-related. Any longer, though, and I’ve learned it will start to feel very odd. So right now, it’s catch my breath time before the next step.

And in just over a week, a slightly longer trip to a book festival beckons… yes, it’s furry boots time! Off to Iceland Noir – slightly worried about this fermented shark stuff I keep reading about, but I’m sure it’ll be fine. Won’t it?!

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