Blog Tour: Burnout by Claire MacLeary

Hi all,

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for Burnout by Claire MacLeary and I’ll be sharing an extract with you all!

About the author:

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Claire MacLeary lived in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Fife, before returning to her native Glasgow. She 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.

About the book:

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“My husband is trying to kill me.” A new client gets straight to the point, and this line of enquiry is a whole new ball game for Maggie Laird, who is desperately trying to rebuild her late husband’s detective agency and clear his name. Her partner, “Big” Wilma, sees the case as a non-starter, but Maggie is drawn in.

With her client’s life on the line, Maggie must get to the ugly truth that lies behind Aberdeen’s closed doors. But who knows what really goes on between husbands and wives? And will the agency’s reputation – and Maggie and Wilma’s friendship – remain intact?

Click HERE to order your copy!


Burnout, by Claire MacLeary

The woman leaned in. ‘I’ll get straight to the point. I think my husband is trying to kill me.’

Wow! Maggie jolted upright. That’s a first!

She struggled to maintain eye contact whilst her mind worked overtime. If their initial telephone conversation was anything to go by, this Mrs Struthers promised to be a profitable new client for the agency. But a threat on her life? That was a whole new ball game.

Maggie re-lived the dressing-down she’d had from DI Chisolm earlier that year when she got herself involved in an active murder investigation. What on earth was she going to do now?

Maggie took another squint at Sheena Struthers. Small-boned. Short hair. Good skin. Not much make-up. Pretty in an old-fashioned sort of way. And ages with herself, she reckoned, or thereabouts. In short, the realisation hit home, like Maggie in another life.

Poor woman looked a bag of nerves: eyes staring, fingers picking relentlessly at her cuticles. Almost as fraught as Maggie had been when she’d first picked up the reins of her husband’s private investigation business. Still, the woman would be frightened, wouldn’t she, if someone really was trying to top her?

‘That’s a very serious allegation, Mrs Struthers,’ Maggie continued.

‘Sheena, please.’ The woman opposite pushed her cappuccino to one side.

They’d met in Patisserie Valerie in Union Square. Maggie had passed it often enough but never been inside. In her straitened position, she couldn’t afford to stump up nearly three pounds for a cup of something and the same again for a pastry. But the easy parking suited both her and her prospective client, and the cafe was low-key, more private than Costa Coffee or Starbucks.

‘Sheena.’ Maggie started to smile, then, remembering the subject matter, hastily rearranged her face. ‘On what grounds, might I ask, is this allegation based?’

Lord, would you listen to yourself? Since becoming a PI, Maggie had schooled herself to think like a detective. Now she was beginning to talk like one.

‘Just a feeling, really. It’s hard to explain, but…’

‘It’s this time of year.’ She cut the woman off mid-flow. ‘The run-up to Christmas puts a strain on the most solid of marriages.’ What she wouldn’t give, now, to have a man at her side, strain or no.

‘You’re so wrong.’ Sheena Struthers looked her straight in the eye. ‘I’ve done my homework, Mrs Laird. Looked into other agencies, in Aberdeen and further afield. For one thing they’re much too big. You’ll appreciate that in my situation…’ She cast a furtive glance around the cafe. ‘Discretion is paramount. With companies that size, one can never be sure.’

‘But the police,’ Maggie interjected. ‘Shouldn’t you…?’

‘My dear…’ Keen brown eyes gazed into Maggie’s own. ‘One gets the impression they’re stretched enough, don’t you agree?’

Maggie offered a non-committal, ‘Mmm.’

‘And besides,’ Mrs Struthers insisted, ‘you must realise that any police involvement could endanger my marriage.’

For the second time that afternoon Maggie was caught on the back foot. Make your mind up, woman: your marriage or your life? ‘Oh, yes,’ she murmured, ‘I see what you mean,’ though she was at a loss to follow this line of reasoning.

‘Nor could I take the matter to a solicitor,’ Sheena Struthers continued. She leaned in close, dropped her voice. ‘My husband is an accountant, you see. Moves in rather a closed circle. And Aberdeen, it’s small enough, still. Word gets around,’ she looked to Maggie for reassurance. ‘Doesn’t it?’

‘It certainly does.’ Maggie buried her nose in her cup. She knew only too well what the woman was alluding to. The police were as much a closed circle as any other professional body.

‘From what I’ve heard, you are a person of some integrity. And operate outwith,’ she raised a questioning eyebrow, ‘what one might loosely call “the establishment”. In short, Mrs Laird, your firm seems the perfect fit.’

Oh, to Hell! Maggie had intended to bring the meeting to a close. Now she’d let this Struthers woman take control. She straightened in her seat. ‘It’s kind of you to say so, but I really don’t think I’m the right person.’

‘You will help me, won’t you?’ Sheena reached across the table, clutched at her arm. ‘Please?’

Burnout, by Claire MacLeary is published by Contraband. Available as an ebook from 8 March, price £5.99. Available in print from 29 March, price £8.99.


Keep up with the blog tour:

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~Blog Tour Q&A with Claire MacLeary

Hi everyone,

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.

About Claire:

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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:

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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.

No pressure!

 

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.

 

Favourite food?

 

Anything I don’t have to cook.

 

Favourite drink?

 

Red wine.

 

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.

 Make sure to catch up with the blog tour:


Q&A with Louise Hutcheson

Hi guys,

Today I’m delighted to bring you another author Q&A, this time with Louise Hutcheson. Louise is the author of The Paper Cell, which is published by Contraband.

About the book:

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From the publisher of Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project, the first in a new series of distinctive, standalone crime stories, each with a literary bent. In 1950s London, a literary agent finds fame when he secretly steals a young woman’s brilliant novel manuscript and publishes it under his own name, Lewis Carson. Two days after their meeting, the woman is found strangled on Peckham Rye Common: did Lewis purloin the manuscript as an act of callous opportunism, or as the spoils of a calculated murder?

The Paper Cell by Louise Hutcheson

About the author:

Louise Hutcheson has a PhD in Scottish Literature from the University of Glasgow. She works in broadcast and digital media and is a freelance editor who has edited a number of crime novels and other fiction. Louise also created and runs a highly respected review site for new fiction.


Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a Glasgow-based crime fiction editor who’s hopped the fence to start writing my own novels. For years, championing other people’s books was my bread and butter: I’ve worked in libraries, as a literary researcher, in publishing and in media, so it’s exhilarating to experience things from the author’s side for the first time.

How did you get into writing? Is it something you’ve always wanted to do?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer.

I didn’t gain the confidence to actually pursue my writing more seriously until my late twenties, and in lots of ways, I’m glad. I don’t think I was ready before that.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

The inspiration for my debut novel came from my own life: I was working at a publishing house, where one of my duties was to assess manuscript submissions. Upon coming across one I really rated, I joked to a colleague that I might steal it. Instead, I wrote my own novel about a publishing assistant who (you got it) steals a young woman’s literary manuscript.

Aside from that, I read a lot. I have no compunction in telling you that I draw inspiration from the writers I’m reading, particularly the likes of Muriel Spark and Patricia Highsmith.

How would you describe your writing to anyone who hasn’t read your books?

Waspish, feminist, literary crime with a retro feel.

Do you think social media helps in regard to promotion and drumming up publicity for a new book?

Absolutely. Social media allows readers and writers to engage on a personal level that marketing campaigns just can’t match. Most of the books I buy, I buy based on the blogs and conversations I see on Twitter, not because I saw an ad on the subway.

What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?

As I’m just about to publish my debut novel, I haven’t yet experienced all the hoopla that comes with being an author. For now, I’ll say the writing process itself. I love world-building and getting to know a character, drinking tea and writing into the small hours. I’m just a bit in love with the act of storytelling.

What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?

Anxiety. I worry constantly that readers won’t find anything of value in the book, and that would be thoroughly heartbreaking for me.

Where do you see your writing career 5 years from now?

It took me four years to write my first book, so…factoring in contract negotiation, editing and general procrastination, here’s hoping I’ll have book 2 under my belt!

What’s next for you?

The Paper Cell is launched on 23 June and I’ll be devoting all my time and passion to that. I’m not quite ready to think about writing the next book, but I’m sure the mania will take hold of me soon enough.

I often wonder are authors voracious readers. Do you read much, and if so, what kind of books do you enjoy?

 

God, yes. I read on the subway, on my lunch breaks, in bed, in cafes and pubs – basically whenever/wherever I can. I read a lot of crime and some fantasy, and I have favourite authors who I return to often, such as Ian McEwan, Robert Louis Stevenson, Muriel Spark and Kate Atkinson.

Can you tell me your all time favourite book, or if you have to, your top 5?

 

My all-time favourite book is A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé. It’s a French novel, a beautiful love letter to books and how essential they are to our lives.

Has there been any books you’ve read that you wish you’d written?

The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau by Graeme Macrae Burnet is a criminally underrated novel, and I desperately wish I had written it. It’s all wine and coffee and a very French detective, and it’s utterly compelling. Graeme went on to be shortlisted for the Booker for his second novel, but I’ll always be jealous of Adèle Bedeau.

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

 

I have a day job in tech, which I love, and I’ve been spending a lot of time recently learning how to code. I’m not very good, but it’s challenging and fun.

Have you any hobbies that aren’t book related?

I love to cook. My favourite way to spend a Sunday is to devote the entire afternoon to cooking something special. Preferably with a nice bottle of red to accompany the whole endeavour!

What’s your favourite holiday destination?

Islay, for its beautiful surroundings, delicious seafood and peaty whisky.

Favourite food?

I’m anyone’s for a bowl of pasta.

Favourite drink?

Either a dram of Lagavulin or a glass of red.

Last but not least, why writing? Why not something else?

 

I’m going to cheat here and end on a quote from my favourite novel. As mentioned above, this is from A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé, and it’s a more eloquent answer than I could ever provide:

“Novels don’t contain only exceptional situations, life or death choices, or major ordeals; there are also everyday difficulties, temptations, ordinary disappointments; and, in response, every human attitude, every type of behavior, from the finest to the most wretched. There are books where, as you read, you wonder: What would I have done? It’s a question you have to ask yourself. Listen carefully: it is a way to learn to live. There are grown-ups who would say no, that literature is not life, that novels teach you nothing. They are wrong. Literature performs, instructs, it prepares you for life.”


Huge thanks to Louise for answering my questions 🙂