|Welcome to our New Faces column, where we're pleased to introduce debut mystery authors and let them tell us about their books. This time we're visiting with Stuart MacBride, whose first release is Cold Granite from HarperCollins.
Stuart, welcome to TMR! Tell us about yourself.
We moved up to Aberdeen when I was two, so Iíve been here for most of my life. My familyís pretty heavily food-orientated: my parents own an offshore and remote site catering company, my younger brother works with them, and his twin is the head chef at the American Embassy in Dublin. So Iím the only one who escaped.
I went to Westhill Academy, where we didnít do grammar. And it probably shows. But I did manage to fail Latin, which is a point of pride with me. Never wanted to do the damn stuff in the first place. After that I made the mistake of listening to my Grandmother and went to Herriot Watt University in Edinburgh to study architecture and hated every minute of it. So I did what any self-respecting teenager would do and dropped out.
I now live in the back of beyond, about 30 miles north of Aberdeen with my Fife Wife and Grendel, a grey/brown tabby Maine Coon Cat whoís taken it on herself to personally decimate the local fauna. The cat, not the wife.
What is your debut book about?
OK, hereís the book-jackety-style version:
DS Logan McRae is having a bad week: his first day back on the job after a year off on the sick, and four-year-old David Reidís body is discovered in a ditch. Stripped, strangled, mutilated and a long time dead. But David Reid is only the first; thereís a killer stalking the cold granite streets, abducting children, leaving their torn bodies behind.
The dead are piling up in the morgue, almost as fast as the snow on the streets, and Logan knows time is running out. More children are going to go missing. More are going to die.
And if Logan isnít careful, heís going to end up joining them.
Are you coming to mystery writing from another job?
Iím actually coming to the end of a year out from one of those massive international IT corporations youíve never heard of, but do lots of weird, science-fictiony things all over the globe. Only not in the bit where I work: we just get to do applications for the oil industry. Itís OK, but itís not programming Stealth Bombers, is it? Before that Iíve been an internet web monkey, graphic designer, studio manager, offshore steward, asked people Ďdo you want fries with that?í and failed an interview to become an undertaker. I was a bit hungover at the time.
What led you to write mysteries?
I didnít really realise it until people started asking this very question, but the very first books I bought were mysteries: the HARDY BOYS by Franklin W. Dixon and as soon as I discovered them I was hooked. Action and adventure, read by torchlight under the duvet when everyone else was asleep. Yes ≠ I was that clichť. And Iíve been reading crime novels ever since. Among other things.
Once Iíd started writing myself, I always thought Iíd try a crime novel at some point, I just never expected it to be so soon. But my agent suggested I have a bash, and Cold Granite was the result.
Tell us about your road to publication.
Cold Granite is actually the fifth book Iíd written. I started writing as a result of peer pressure: a couple of friends were writing books, so I thought, why not? With the first book I suppose I was learning the ropes ≠ two hit men from Edinburgh do a tour of the North East of Scotland to clear their order books, not knowing that theyíre being chased by the Inland Revenue and even worse, the VAT man. My second book was considerably more polished and landed me a big-name literary agent. And after I finished my third book I ditched them and went with the mighty Marjaqc Scripts instead. This was the book that got HarperCollins interested. They wanted to see if Iíd written anything else, and by coincidence Iíd just finished the first draft of COld Granite. So book three was unceremoniously dumped in favour of DS Logan McRae. And weíve never looked back.
Iíve only ever entered one competition: it was run by the science fiction and fantasy bookshop just up the road from where I used to work. It was the first short story Iíd written since school, and it came first. Which meant a cheque for £100! MONEY!!! The local paper even came and took my photo ≠ I look like a hairy potato in it.
The only person whoís ever read my stuff, other than my agent and publishers, is my friend James. He reads mine and I read his. Heís just landed an agent, so fingers crossed Iíll be going to a launch party in Wales soon. All that rain and sheep, itíll be just like home.
Iíve never been a member of a writersí group ≠ I know some people who swear by them, but Iíd probably just end up swearing at them, so itís safer not to bother.
What kind of research was involved for your first book?
I spoke to the police, asking them heaps of daft questions theyíd never heard before. It turned out I was the first person ever wanting to research a book, which surprised me, but made them keener than they might have been otherwise. I also made friends with the Senior Anatomical Pathology Technician at the local hospital morgue, and she was a great help. She now gets asked if the thigh-nibbling and mewing sounds in Cold Granite were based on her.
Iíve lived in Aberdeen for most of my life, so I knew the locations I wanted to use in the book really well. Which helped. But even then I managed to make a massive mistake at one point, though Iím not saying which.
Who are your influences as a writer?
R.D. Wingfield ≠ author of the TOUCH OF FROST books ≠ has to be top of my list. Wonderful characters, densely layered plots, funny, and very, very well written.
Mark Billingham, Iain Rankin and Val McDermid are also bloody good writers and nice people too.
What does your family think of having a mystery author in their midst?
Itís... Ďoddí I think. Proud, but strange. They didnít even know Iíd got a publishing deal until two weeks before I was due to fly out to Oslo to promote the launch of the Norwegian edition. We didnít tell anyone for a whole year ≠ my wife was on the verge of exploding when the time came. But they keep forcing their friends to buy copies, and my Sister-in-law keeps asking for it in bookshops in a VERY LOUD VOICE SO EVERYONE CAN HEAR! Which is nice.
Tell us about plans for future books.
Dying Light ≠ which is the second Logan McRae book will be released in the UK this May (two months after it comes out in Norwegian,) and imposed upon an unwary US in August. Itís about prostitutes, murder, drugs, sex, torture, arson and a Labrador in a suitcase. Wholesome family fun.
Book number three ≠ currently labouring away without a title ≠ should be finished by the end of April, or HarperCollins are going to break all my toes. Itís still very much in progress at the moment, but itís got pornography, bondage, and violence in it. And possibly a couple of other things too. Sort of depends how I get on.
And thatís the end of my three book contract with HC. If Iím lucky, I might get another one.
How can readers get in touch with you?
Carrier pigeons are out, as the cat has a tendency to eat them, but you can find me at www.StuartMacBride.com where I also keep a blog, which gets updated every day and has comments and all that kind of thing.
Stuart, thanks for your time, and best of luck with your future books! Readers, we have a review of Cold Granite in our Police/Detective section.