It’s my pleasure to welcome Scottish Crime Writer, and my friend, Chris Longmuir to Celtic Connexions. I can’t wait to find up what you’re working on now. So, shall we get started?
You’re working on another historic crime novel in the Kirsty Campbell series. What is the title? Can you tell us what this book is about?
I’m keeping the title under wraps at the moment, it’s quite distinctive, and I hope unusual, so I’d hate to see it on another book!
The novel is a murder mystery, of course, with a spying sub plot. It’s historical, set during the First World War, so I have a cast of characters that includes women police, a Belgian refugee, munitionettes, Irish revolutionaries, MI5 agents, I even give a walk-on part to the Prime Minister of the time, Lloyd George.
It starts off with the Silvertown explosion in January 1917. This is based on an actual event, the explosion of the munitions factory in Silvertown. It was catastrophic and destroyed most of the area (70,000 properties were destroyed or damaged), with the effects felt miles away, there was even damage across the river on the Greenwich peninsula where a gasometer was blown up creating a massive fireball. This is the area where the Millennium dome is situated. The Silvertown explosion was an accident, although in my book it is something much more suspect, and sets the scene for a spy chase which leads us to Gretna Munitions Factory on the border of Scotland and England.
The Death Game was set in 1919 after the Great War. This book is set in 1917 during the action. Would you consider it to be the prequel to The Death Game?
That was certainly my intention when I started this book because it was intended to be a Kirsty Campbell novel. However, my characters often have different ideas to the ones I plan for them, and at the moment, my Belgian refugee, Beatrice Jacobs, is jostling for the top spot. She is a very interesting character, and I think I may give double billing to Beatrice and Kirsty. I will just have to see where they lead me.
What motivated you to depart from your contemporary Dundee Crime Series to historical crime?
I actually wrote The Death Game before I started the Dundee Crime Series, but I had an unfortunate experience with a publisher who contracted it. The publisher made so many demands for changes that the book became almost unrecognisable as the one I’d written. And, of course, as a new writer at the time I was anxious to please and thought they knew what they were talking about. So, I made the changes they requested, and in the process destroyed the book! When I came to my senses I did my best to get out of the contract, which fortunately had an expiry date, and put the book in the bottom drawer where it languished while I wrote the Dundee Crime Series. That series has proved to be very popular with readers, but I always had a niggle at the back of my mind about the Death Game which I had so successfully destroyed.
I decided to resurrect The Death Game, but because it was in no fit state to be read by anyone following the editing changes I decided to rewrite it from the beginning rather than mess about with it again. The book is now how I wanted it to be, but the style is different to that of the Dundee Crime Series, which is multi-viewpoint. The Death Game is much more focused on Kirsty, but my new Kirsty book, the one I talked about earlier, is more like the Dundee Crime Series in style, because it is also multi-viewpoint. But that is simply the result of my writing style having changed as I became a more experienced writer.
Will there be more books in your Dundee Crime Series starring DS Bill Murphy?
Yes, there will be more of the Dundee Crime Series, DS Bill Murphy would start to feel neglected if I didn’t pay him some attention. However, the conundrum will be, how I divide my time between DS Bill Murphy, and Kirsty Campbell.
You published a non-fiction book last year based on the blog posts you wrote as part of the Edinburgh e-book Festival. Can you tell us about it?
I did indeed. It’s called Crime Fiction and the Indie Contribution. It’s a study of independent publishing, and the focus is on ebooks and the independent authors known as Indies, who write them. I examine all aspects of publishing and make comparisons between the traditional and the independent models, pointing out the pros and cons of each. In conjunction with this I look at crime fiction, how it has developed over the years, and all the different subgenres. One thing I found out while doing this, is that what we in Britain refer to as crime novels, are more commonly seen as thrillers in the US and Canada.
I include discussions of 71 books written by indie authors or published by indie publishers in order to assess whether they meet the standards we expect from traditionally published books, and I read every single one of those books. These books were by authors unknown to me, and the book includes authors who probably have no idea I’ve included their books.
Writing this book was completely accidental. I did a series of posts for the Edinburgh Ebook Festival in 2013 – I was the Writer in Residence for the festival that year – and a lot of people followed the posts. However, after the festival finished, the posts were no longer available online, and readers were looking for them. It was a fellow writer who suggested I take the posts and make them into a book. Great idea, I thought, the posts were already written, so it shouldn’t take long! Well, you’ve heard the saying “Famous last words”, that could quite easily have been attached to those thoughts of mine. For a start, the posts were far too bloggy for a nonfiction book, so they had to be rewritten. Still, the information was there, so that wasn’t too onerous. But the main problem was that there just weren’t enough words for a whole book. So that meant a lot more research, extra sections added, and a lot more reading of indie novels. Anyway, I won’t go into details, but the end result was excellent, and I was pleased with it. The people who have read it have been very complimentary, even going as far as to saying it should be compulsory reading for anyone who writes, or wants to be a writer.
I know it’s still early days, but have you noticed a significant change in your sales since the changes to the EU VAT rules?
I’ve done a couple of blogs about these rules. I did one aimed at readers for my own blog, here is the link to ‘Paying More for your Digital Downloads? Here’s Why’. (Editor’s. note: I re-blogged this last Saturday.) The other one I did was for writers and it’s posted on the Authors Electric Blog site, and here’s the link to ‘EU VAT Changes Are Doing my Head In’.
These new rules have created havoc within the writing community, particularly for those authors who want to sell directly to readers through their websites. But apart from that, it’s pushed the prices of ebooks up in the UK and the EU countries. Where before, there was 3% VAT on ebooks (no VAT on printed books, they’re exempt), there is now 20% VAT on ebooks in the UK. That has had the result of pushing prices up for readers, and I think that is totally unfair considering the exempt status of print books.
I did worry that readers would think that we, the authors, were putting our prices up, when in fact it had nothing to do with us. However, because ebooks are relatively cheap in comparison to print books, the price rise is not extortionate. I think it’s added about 60 pence onto the price of each of my books. I know that some authors are saying their sales have gone down since the introduction of this tax, but I must say it doesn’t seem to have had any effect on my sales. I think that if a reader likes the way you write, and likes your books, they will still buy them. I know that if I want a particular author’s books, it wouldn’t make any difference to me.
However, I’m really sorry that readers are having to pay more, and I can only hope it doesn’t stop them buying books from their favourite authors, or those authors who have been recommended to them by other readers.
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Thank you for inviting me onto your blog, Melanie. I’ve enjoyed the interview, and if any of your readers want to ask me anything, feel free. Your readers can also contact me through the contact page in my web site, and if they do, I promise to reply in an email.
Thanks so much for stopping by today, Chris. I’ve enjoyed our visit as I’m sure everyone who stops by Celtic Connexions has, too.
You can follow Chris and find her books at the following links:
Amazon UK: http://ow.ly/GeM1w
Amazon US: http://ow.ly/GeM9R
Apple iBooks UK: http://ow.ly/GeKOr
Apple iBooks US: http://ow.ly/GeKUi
B&N Nook: http://ow.ly/GeL0D
Nook UK: http://ow.ly/GJGRt