Have you always written, or is it something you’ve taken to in your retirement?
Trying to write a novel length book when I was in the job would have been almost impossible as detective work tends to consume you a lot of the time. However, I’ve always liked drawing, painting and writing poetry so I suppose the creative bug was in place. I did want to do it and think it really helped once I was away from the job which gave me a bit of a change of perspective.
In your Detective Grace Macallan series, which comprises five of your books - is Grace based on someone you worked with over the years?
I worked with some amazing people in my career but Grace is fictional. There are other characters who crop up in the books again and again so of course people who know me all think they recognise particular individuals and although they all have different views; I can’t convince them otherwise. Of course, the past and the people I’ve known and worked with influence my thoughts, but as far as possible the characters are completely made up.
Is there an over-riding story ARC to the series, or can readers dip in and dip out anywhere, without feeling like they are missing out on something?
From what people say the books can stand alone. However, I think to understand Grace you need the first one, which tells the story of her background in Belfast and how she was brought down after an anti-terrorist operation goes wrong.
Will there be any more in the Detective Grace Macallan series?
Book 6 is underway and is about a team of contract killers.
Is there one of your books which you are most proud of? Which would you press into the hands of a new reader first?
I think book 3 Shores of Death because I had been a deep-sea fisherman before my police career and wanted to write a story about that life. So, when I started Shores of Death, I brought trawlers into the plot in a story about trafficked women. For years I sailed and landed in North Shields and Eyemouth so they became part of the story as well.
On your writing in general, do you have a typical writing schedule? Do you write every day?
No schedule and I carry an iPad everywhere - so anytime of the day when the mood grabs me. I quite often write in the cafe in the gym I go to. But anywhere and anytime.
When you have an idea and you sit down to construct a story – do you know what the end result is going to look like? Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?
I just sit down and let it happen. I never plan and the story just unfolds like a stage play in my mind. It’s the same when I paint and just see where it goes. Of course, all those years as a detective myself does help.
What can we look forward to next?
As I mentioned earlier book 6 is underway and heads more into the world of the dark arts and covert intelligence. In addition, another character from the past unexpectedly appears in the story. I’ve also just released a noir thriller called Maxine’s Story – all about a sex worker in Edinburgh, whose world is collapsing beneath the weight of addiction and mounting debt. The story follows Maxine’s journey beyond the streets of Edinburgh in a gritty, poignant tale of hope and redemption!
Ever tried your hand at short stories?
I’ve written a couple of novellas, one of which was Maxine’s Story. Readers of the novella, were so intrigued about what happened to Maxine – I decided I absolutely had to write her journey as a novel – so people can now find out how things concluded for this hugely relatable character.
What’s been the most satisfying moment of your writing career so far?
Walking into a bookshop and seeing Cause of Death there for the first time. Was in a Dublin bookshop recently and seeing the books there still lifts me.
Any advice for prospective authors out there?
I always think that finishing a book whether it’s good or otherwise is quite a thing. No one else can write your book so it’s unique. It’s been said before and it’s true for me that the main point is to enjoy it. If you get some form of success or published that’s wonderful but first and foremost love the experience.
What’s the best thing about writing?
I just love the experience of drifting off into this theatre of imagination. Watching the story unfold and see it like a play. The characters walk on and off and I just write it down.
The only problem I have is that when I get to the last third of a manuscript, I can’t read a book myself. It’s impossible no matter how I try. Not that much of a problem and I have got used to it.
What are the last five books you’ve read?
Laidlaw by William Mcllvanney. Read it over 30 years ago and thought I’d visit it again. Still great.
Becoming by Michelle Obama.
We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen
Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber
Ruxton – The First Modern Day Murder by my friend and past colleague Tom Wood
Favourite activity when not working or writing?
As you’d probably expect from someone who was a deep-sea fisherman, I love the outdoors so I take any chance to walk in the great places we have in this country. I particularly love anywhere I can keep the sea in view.
What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?
I’m a big film fan and recently watched Rocket Man, which was great and The Grinch (because my granddaughter is a big fan)!
What do you watch on TV?
I’m a total news junkie so anything that has ‘news’ in the title.
What will you be doing in a couple of years’ time?
After winning Euro millions I’ll buy Heart of Midlothian and encourage Lionel Messi to sign on! Oh, and I’d love to see one of my plays I’m currently writing – on the stage 😉.