I’m joined today by Margaret Kirk whose novel Shadow Man won the Good Housekeeping First Novel Award 2016 and was published by Orion last November. She is going to share #TenThings she’d like her readers to know about her in the form of a Q&A.
Thanks Joanne for inviting me onto your blog. So, ten things about me … hmm. How about a Q&A to get things started? I’m being my own Inquisitor, but I promise I won’t let myself off lightly!
Your first book, ‘Shadow Man’, is a police procedural set in Inverness. An odd location for a gritty crime novel, surely?
Thirty years ago, maybe. But Inverness is a city now—and like every city, it has both light and shade. The Highlands are where I grew up, and I wanted to take readers on a journey round the places I know best. Sort of like a North Coast 500…with bodies 😉
And a half-Scots, half-German detective. Where did that come from?
Poor Lukas! One of the themes of ‘Shadow Man’ is the experience of returning home to the Highlands after an extended absence, and how we make our peace with that. Let’s just say Lukas has a number of issues to deal with arising from his interesting parentage…
So what drove you to a life of crime … writing, that is?
The die was probably cast years ago, when I worked my way through the entire Sherlock Holmes stories at a ridiculously early age. You have to write what catches you, what holds your interest so that you can’t do anything else, I think – and it just so happens my natural inclination is towards the dark side of human nature!
Do you have a dark side, then? What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done? Go on, confession is good for the soul …
Hmm. I do have a dark secret, as it happens. Though whether I should tell … oh, okay then. When my brother and I were little, we always got Terry’s chocolate oranges in our Christmas stockings. And I developed a really crafty way of nicking a couple of slices out of the bottom of his, without his knowing. Sorry, Roy! (PS: Not really).
Shocking stuff! So when you’re not stealing other people’s chocolate, what do you get up to?
Well, Fantasy Me is into long walks, healthy eating and is thinking of entering the Loch Ness Marathon. Whereas Reality Me is a bit of a lazy beggar, much given to binge-watching Game of Thrones or Scot Squad and extreme coffee consumption. I am working on the walking bit, though.
Random question – if you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
Random, but interesting. Hmm… I’ve a soft spot for Glasgow, where I went to university, and I lived in Germany for a while, which I really enjoyed. If I was going to choose somewhere exotic, I’ve had some great visits to my brother, who lives in San Diego – but really, I think Inverness suits me just fine. We’ve got excellent transport links to the rest of the UK and Europe and we live in one of the most scenic parts of the country. Who wouldn’t want to live here?
Okay, here’s another one – for one day only, you can travel back in time to a period of your choice. Which, and why?
Have to admit, the thought of time travel fascinates me. Being a scaredy-cat, I’d have to be fairly sure I couldn’t come to any harm, so I’d have to be encased in some sort of protective bubble so I could observe but not be seen, I think. But I’d love to go back and see, not necessarily big moments in history, but how people like my great-grandparents lived for example. They were crofters in Sutherland, and I think it would be pretty humbling to see just how hard their lives were back then.
Back to the writing stuff. In these challenging times, what advice would you give someone who wants to get published?
Crumbs, let’s see – first of all, don’t give up the day job. Seriously! I know I did, but unless you have an alternative source of income, it isn’t very smart.
The bad news is, getting published is down to an indefinable blend of determination, talent, good choices and sheer dumb luck. It’s actually frightening when I think back to how many good things came about because I just happened to see a short story competition to enter, for example, or a crime-writing course that for once, wasn’t taking places hundreds of miles from where I live. The Good Housekeeping competition was a case in point – I’d seen it advertised, forgotten all about it, and finally managed to enter at pretty much the very last minute!
The good news is, there is so much good advice out there. Find a good writing group if you can – online is fine, it’s what worked for me – and learn to give and receive feedback. Writers are a supportive bunch in the main, so don’t be afraid to ask for help!
You left the reader quite a few unanswered questions at the end of ‘Shadow Man’. Did you worry that might annoy some people?
It’s not something I had a choice about. I’ve known Lukas’ story arc pretty much since I first started writing about him, and I knew I couldn’t do it justice by trying to cram it all into one book. Plus, the more I developed the other characters in ‘Shadow Man’, the more they showed me their stories – so there’s a lot more still to learn about them all in subsequent books. And hopefully, my readers will enjoy the journey!
An easy question, to finish – what are you reading right now?
Not that easy, actually, as I’m pretty voracious and get through three or four novels a week. I’ve just finished Essie Fox’s ‘The Last Days of Leda Grey’ and am looking forward to resurrecting my rusty German to attempt Volker Kutscher’s ‘Goldstein’! Wish me luck…
You can order a copy of Margaret’s book here: Shadow Man
Social Media links: