I’m really chuffed to have Doug Johnstone as my author in the spotlight today. Doug has written eight novels, several of which I have read and reviewed on the blog. I first came across his work when I read Gone Again, which is set right here in Portobello, and have been to a couple of his book launches. I have to say, I am very intrigued by the sound of his next novel also set in and around Portobello – find out more about that below. His latest novel, Crash Land, was published by Faber in November and is a terrific read, even for someone like me who is not fond of flying. You can read my review of that here and order a copy online here.
Thanks so much for agreeing to take part Doug. First of all, would you tell me a little about yourself?
I grew up in Arbroath and now live in Portobello in Edinburgh. I studied physics at university, then I was a systems engineer designing radars, then I was a music journalist, then I was an author. I’m also a musician and singer songwriter, and I’m player-manager for the Scotland Writers Football Club. I’ve had eight novels published and there are a bunch of short stories in various places.
What inspired you to start writing?
I was always writing, I think. Stories for my own amusement, mostly. I loved Scottish fiction about people I recognised – writers like Iain Banks, Irvine Welsh and Alan Warner. I wanted to portray the world I saw around me, one that I didn’t see adequately represented in literature.
Tell me about your journey to publication
I wrote stories for years, submitted them to competitions and anthologies, never heard anything back. In 2003 I started my first novel, The Ossians, with no clue what I was doing. It got rejected by everyone I sent it to, 25 publishers, over 50 agents. But a couple rejected it quite nicely, which was enough of a kick up the arse to keep going. I wrote another novel, Tombstoning, and they both offered to publish it. I’m still quite amazed by that, really. I went back and re-wrote The Ossians from scratch, and that was my second novel.
In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?
CRASH LAND is a thriller set in Orkney that starts with a plane crash and gets much worse for everyone involved. It’s about lust and guilt, mostly.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
For that one I had a few ideas kicking around. Originally it was called AFTER THE CRASH but then a French thriller came out called that. They there were a couple of other titles before I landed (so to speak) on CRASH LAND. It works on a couple of levels, and conveys the catastrophic events pretty succinctly.
How did you celebrate publication day?
This is my eighth novel, and I have a bit of a tradition of just going down to Porty beach and looking at the sea for a bit. When I was unpublished and had a new family and financial and other pressures and wasn’t really sure what I was doing with my life I used to go there and think about things. It’s a kind of meditation without actually meditating, I guess. Anyway, I go down to the beach and just feel thankful.
Do you have a work in progress just now?
Yeah, I’m just finishing up the next book. It’s called FAULT LINES and is set in a slightly alternate Portobello and Joppa, where Scotland is rife with earthquakes and there’s a new volcanic island in the Firth of Forth. I know, sounds nuts. At heart it’s another nerve-shredding thriller, hopefully.
[I have GOT to read this book! As well as living in Portobello, I can see Inchkeith Island in the Forth from my living room so am very intrigued to find out what Doug imagines will happen to our beautiful area if there was a natural disaster!]
What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!
I just read Sebastian Barry’s Days Without End which I thought was terrific. A really weird Wild West thing, cowboys and Indians, American Civil War, lots of cross-dressing and violence. Hard to explain, but a superb narrative voice!
What are you reading just now?
Her Every Fear (Jan 2017) by Peter Swanson. He’s a brilliant American thriller writer, sort of in the Patricia Highsmith mould but bang up to date. This one is about a house swap that goes disastrously wrong. Loving it so far.
If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?
Probably Where I’m Calling From, the collected Raymond Carver stories. I could re-read them forever.
Is there a book you’d like to see made into a film? Who would be in your dream cast?
Any of Megan Abbott’s books would be great as movies. I think a couple of them are in production, actually. She mostly writes about teenagers or young women, so someone like Jennifer Lawrence or Emma Stone would be perfect.
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
Tyler Durden from Fight Club, then I could punch myself in the face in public with impunity.