Tell us a little about your current novel, what readers can expect from it..
No Man’s Land is the first in a new Stirling-set series. It introduces us to Connor Fraser, a former police officer in Northern Ireland turned security consultant. When a decapitated corpse is dumped in Stirling, Connor finds it little more than a grotesque distraction, but when the case takes a personal turn, Connor comes to realise that the past has returned to haunt him and he must race to unravel a mystery that some would sacrifice anything, and any one, to protect.
Where did you grow up and what was family life like?
I grew up in a wee place called Eskbank, which is about eight miles south of Edinburgh. I remember my gran teaching me to read with Batman comics, and my mum insisting I read a few pages of a book every night before bed. Family life was fairly standard I suppose, with family and friends visiting regularly and big barbeques in the garden during the summer.
Academic or creative at school?
Creative, totally. I had a good memory so I could get through the academic courses, but my heart was always in the English class. I loved history and then, in third year, we got a joyless teacher who decided the best way to teach the subject was with flowcharts. That killed it for me, and it taught me a valuable lesson in story telling, and keeping people engaged with how you deliver the story you’re trying to tell them.
First job you really wanted to do?
Probably a journalist (see answer below). I always wanted to work with words, so I looked at what I could do that would let me write and give me a living, so journalism was the answer. It was a great education in writing, researching and, most importantly, hitting a deadline.
Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?
Not really, because I’ve always wanted to write, it’s been a burning desire in me for as long as I remember. One key moment was in primary school, when we were given these cheap jotters with burned pink cardboard covers. We were told these books were for our stories, and they all didn’t have to start with “once upon a time” and end with “and they all lived happily every after”. It was like being given the keys to the kingdom, there was no stopping me after that.
Who are your real life heroes?
Anyone willing to speak truth to power and stand up for what’s right in a world that’s going increasingly mad. Personally, my gran was a hero to me. She had a rough life, but she never let her experiences harden into a callous on her soul. I wish I could be more like that.
Funniest or most embarrassing situation you’ve found yourself in?
Most embarrassing – that I can share! – would probably be the Dundee International Book Festival back in 2015. My agent was taking some photographs and I’d been invited to the gala dinner as I was shortlisted for the book prize the year before. As usual at anything book related, drinking ensued, and Bob and I got royally hammered. Next morning I went along and did my panel, still hammered, then I was handed over to English literature students and put on camera for an interview. They were asking about narrative technique, plotting structure, politics and thematic beats and I was sitting there, white as a sheet, dribbling nonsense. The interview is on You Tube, I think, and it’s a cringe fest from beginning to end.
DIY expert or phone a friend?
I’d like to say I’m an expert, but my ambition outstrips my ability! I can tackle flatpack and most things furniture related – I find putting a cupboard together by following the instructions strangely soothing – but beyond that I’m a bit of a lost cause.
Sun worshipper or night owl?
Night owl. Too many years as night news editor have set me to working at nights, I used to start work at 3pm and finish at 11 or 12. Of course, I work more normal 9-5 hours in the day job now, but I still find my brain kicking in around 8pm, when I’d be charging towards another edition deadline at the old job.
A book that had you in tears.
The ending of Frankenstein had me in tears as a teenager. The final fate of the monster broke me.
A book that made you laugh out loud.
Quite Ugly One Morning by Chris Brookmyre. The first Parlabane book and it had me in stitches throughout, a brilliant blend of crime, comedy and cracking characters.
One piece of life advice you give everyone
Enjoy yourself and don’t take it all too seriously. We’re only here for a short time, so tell the people you love you love them, don’t get too angry too often and don’t let the little stuff bother you.
About the book:
War is coming to No-Man’s Land, and Connor Fraser will be ready.
A mutilated body is found dumped at Cowane’s Hospital in the heart of historic Stirling. For DCI Malcolm Ford it’s like nothing he’s ever seen before, the savagery of the crime makes him want to catch the murderer before he strikes again. For reporter Donna Blake it’s a shot at the big time, a chance to get her career back on track and prove all the doubters wrong. But for close protection specialist Connor Fraser it’s merely a grisly distraction from the day job.
But then another bloodied and broken corpse is found, this time in the shadow of the Wallace Monument – and with it, a message. One Connor has received before, during his time as a police officer in Belfast.
With Ford facing mounting political and public pressure to make an arrest and quell fears the murders are somehow connected to heightened post-Brexit tensions, Connor is drawn into a race against time to stop another murder. But to do so, he must question old loyalties, confront his past and unravel a mystery that some would sacrifice anything – and anyone – to protect.