Today I get to share a Q&A I did with Claire MacLeary. Claire’s debut novel, Cross Purpose, has recently been longlisted for the prestigious McIlvanney Prize, Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award 2017.
Claire MacLeary lived for many years in Aberdeen and St Andrews, but describes herself as “a feisty Glaswegian with a full life to draw on”. Following a career in business, she gained an MLitt with Distinction from the University of Dundee and her short stories have been published in various magazines and anthologies. She has appeared at Granite Noir, Noir at the Bar and other literary events. Claire’s debut novel, Cross Purpose, has been longlisted for the prestigious McIlvanney Prize, Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award 2017. She is now working on Burnout, the sequel to Cross Purpose.
About Cross Purpose:
Two Women, One Quest, Grave Consequences When Maggie Laird’s disgraced ex-cop husband suddenly dies, her humdrum suburban life is turned upside down. With the bills mounting, she takes on his struggling detective agency, enlisting the help of neighbour ‘Big Wilma’. And so an unlikely partnership is born. But the discovery of a crudely mutilated body soon raises the stakes… and Maggie and Wilma are drawn into an unknown world of Aberdeen’s sink estates, clandestine childminding and dodgy dealers.
Cross Purpose is surprising, gritty, sometimes darkly humorous – a tale combining police corruption, gangs and murder with a paean to friendship, loyalty and how ‘women of a certain age’ can beat the odds.
Click HERE to get your copy!
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
A native Glaswegian, I’ve lived in Edinburgh, London, Aberdeen and Fife. Married to Alistair with two grown-up children, I now divide my time between Glasgow’s vibrant West End and St Andrews on the east coast.
How did you get into writing? Is it something you’ve always wanted to do?
English was my first love throughout my schooling, I read English at university, and I’ve always written, be it advertising copy, training manuals or short stories. Raising a family and a business career diverted my attention. It was only when my children were at senior school that I returned to writing, first attending P/T classes then pursuing a MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of Dundee.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Life! I’m curious about the world. I read: books, newspapers, adverts. Listen: to snatched conversations on public transport, in cafes and pubs. Observe. It’s amazing what you can pick up.
I ask questions: people are intrigued to talk to a crime writer and generous with their time.
How would you describe your writing to anyone who hasn’t read your book?
Strong. My debut crime duo, Cross Purpose, is generally described as ‘dark’ both in its subject matter and language.
Spare. My style is pared down. I try to make every word count, and leave a lot unsaid.
Funny. I feel it’s important to lighten the darkness with humour. Wilma, one of my two main protagonists, is larger than life, and has attracted a fan following.
Do you think social media helps in regard to promotion and drumming up publicity for a new book?
I’m sure it’s beneficial, especially if employed to the max. Sadly, I’m a bit of a dinosaur. My kids have helped with my website and Facebook author page. I confine myself largely to Twitter, which has been a huge help in connecting with author resources, with other writers and with the network of book bloggers, who do such a great job of getting our books out there.
What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?
Spending my days indulging my imagination.
What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?
The edit: when my wildest imaginings hit the dust!
Where do you see your writing career 5 years from now?
Four books in the Harcus & Laird series and a literary novel rescued from the bottom drawer.
What’s next for you?
I’ve completed the first draft of Burnout, the sequel to Cross Purpose, and am fortunate to have Russel McLean as editor. Burnout is scheduled to launch at the beginning of next year.
I often wonder are authors voracious readers. Do you read much, and if so, what kind of books do you enjoy?
I have always read avidly: the classics, literary fiction. These days I tend to read crime at night, mostly Tartan Noir, but also Scandi and European crime. In the morning I try to read a short story -Edith Pearlman, Lorrie Moore – to inspire me to write better.
Can you tell me your all-time favourite book, or if you have to, your top 5?
In my teens, I would have said the book that moved me most was Bernard Malamud’s The Assistant. Now, I’d say The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields.
My top 5 would be for different attributes: Chekov for short stories, Jayne Anne Phillips for dense, lyrical prose, Alice Munro for close observation, William Boyd for the breadth of his vocabulary and his compassion. And for crime, Wiiliam McIlvanney – a giant of a man, his Laidlaw the benchmark for Tartan Noir.
Has there been any books you’ve read that you wish you had written?
Too many. Think Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, anything by Carol Shields or William Boyd. As to crime, I greatly admire the late PD James, and Louise Welsh’s The Bullet Trick is both cleverly plotted and beautifully written.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
Fiddling with words. I like to do crosswords and word games. Bit sad, really!
Have you any hobbies that aren’t book-related?
I love to travel. Over the past few years I’ve visited Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, New Zealand, Cuba and Bhutan.
What’s your favourite holiday destination?
India. I’ve visited several times and would go there every year if I could. I love the vibrancy, both of colour and action. Everything is constantly on the move.
Anything I don’t have to cook.
Last but not least, why writing? Why not something else?
I’ve done lots of other jobs: advertising executive, training consultant, antiques dealer, property developer. I always return to writing. There’s something very satisfying in producing the perfect sentence, even if – annoyingly – my editor later strikes it out!
Huge thanks to Claire for taking the time to answer my questions, and heartiest congratulations on being longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize, Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award 2017.
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