This week’s author interview is with Chris Longmuir, another Awesome Indies Approved author.
Hi Chris, tell me about your latest book
Hi Tahlia, thanks for inviting me.
My new book, Devil’s Porridge, published in August 2016, is a historical murder mystery, the second book in my Kirsty Campbell Mystery Series. Here’s the blurb:
Pioneering policewoman, Kirsty Campbell, teams up with Belgian refugee, Beatrice Jacobs who is on a spying mission for MI5. The feisty pair set out to protect a young munitionette who has witnessed the aftermath of a crime and they become embroiled with saboteurs, Irish revolutionaries, a German spy, and a killer without a conscience, in the midst of a World War 1 munitions factory.
I love the cover!
Tell us a bit about yourself and why you write
I’ve been writing professionally for about 26 years now, and with me it’s like an addiction, an itch I have to scratch. When I’m prevented from writing, which used to happen during my professional career as a social worker, I go into withdrawals. This was one of the reasons I took early retirement to concentrate on being a full time writer.
At the start of my writing career I mainly wrote articles and short stories and I was able to juggle this with my working life. It was when I started to write novels that the itch grew worse and the juggling of two careers became impossible. The reason may be the extent to which I immerse myself in the story and the lives of my characters.
I have never regretted the decision to take early retirement to write full time, even though it made less financial sense. You see, as a Principal Officer in my social work career I was practically at the top of the career tree, two steps down from Director of Social Work. And, as we all know, writers don’t earn vast amounts.
My articles and short stories sold almost as soon as the ink was dry on the paper, but it took longer to achieve publication as a novel writer. I wrote several books, and won quite a few awards for them, before attracting the attention of a publisher. My break through book was Dead Wood which won the Dundee International Book Prize in 2009 and was subsequently published by Polygon. This book paved the way for my other books to be published as well.
Today, I have parted company with my publisher to become totally independent, and I have seven books under my belt with another two in progress. I am more fulfilled now than I have ever been.
There are a lot of people writing books these days, what makes your writing different to all the rest?
Every writer is different in the way they approach their writing and the kind of stories they write, so every book is different from the rest. I’m mainly interested in human nature. What makes people do the things they do, so you could say my books have a psychological element. I’m also interested in history and how people lived in the past. This is reflected in my historical saga A Salt Splashed Cradle which follows the lives of fisher families. Similarly my Kirsty Campbell Mysteries focus on life in the early part of the twentieth century, during and after the first World War, and the emergence of the first women’s police service. My contemporary crime novels focus more on the dark workings of the criminal mind, as well as the day to day life of policemen who are responsible for solving the crimes.
What genres do you write in and why?
I think I’ve answered some of this in the previous question, but I suppose my focus on crime fiction arises from my own reading preferences. I’ve always read crime fiction starting with Agatha Christie in the early days through to Ian Rankin, and Val McDermid today. I also like a great deal of American crime fiction and read authors such as Jeffery Deaver, Michael Connolly, and Harlan Coben. I think my reading has probably affected my writing style because I write suspense thrillers with an Agatha Christie type puzzle embedded in the story. I like to be kept guessing in a crime novel, so I try to keep my readers guessing as well.
Where do your ideas come from, or what inspires you to write?
This is the question all writers dislike because we don’t really know where our ideas come from. The nearest I can get to an answer is that the ideas come from my head. And, believe me, my head is not a comfortable place to be when I’m writing a novel.
What kind of person would like your books best?
A reader who likes murder mysteries and suspense. They like to be kept guessing and enjoy a twist or two before the end of the book, and they enjoy trying to outguess the author. My clues are always in the book so that the reader can guess the identity of the killer if they are sharp enough. I think it is cheating if a writer only introduces the killer at the end of the book. In my opinion they have to be present all the way through.
I agree with you there. The reader wants to have some chance to work out the mystery for themselves.
Why did you choose the indie route to publication? Did you ever try the traditional route?
I was traditionally published before I became an indie. When I first started to follow the indie route I had a publishing contract but the publisher would not honour my contracted royalties for the publication of ebooks and tried to get me to accept 30% less royalties than was stated in my contract, so I refused and published my new work to Kindle rather than submitting the books to a traditional publisher. So, at that time I was a hybrid author publishing both ways. I managed to get my publishing rights reverted to me in 2014 and I now publish all my books independently.
What’s the hardest part of being an author?
There is no doubt about it, marketing and promotion is the most difficult part. Most professional writers prefer to spend their time writing rather than promoting, but even those writers who are traditionally published are expected to promote their books nowadays.
Promoting themselves and their books does not come naturally to most writers so we all dread it. I’m not even sure what works, and what works today won’t necessarily work tomorrow. I think the most we can do is build our platform and get our names recognized.
That’s true. I think we just have to make sure that people don’t forget that we exist.
What do you like most about being an author?
I like weaving stories, and I like pleasing my readers. I often do library and bookstore events because it means I can meet my readers and chat with them. Like many writers I don’t have much of a social life, too busy writing, so one of the joys of being a writer is meeting and talking to readers.
If you could have one wish granted what would it be?
Apart from the impossible one of wishing my husband were still here – he passed away eleven years ago – my only wish is that I can keep on doing what I do, writing stories my readers want to read.
What is the most unusual object you possess?
A horse’s skull which was dug out of our garden many years ago. It’s still on a shelf in the garden shed. Our house is built in an area of the town which used to be a monastery, I reckon we must be in the vicinity of the stables!
Well, that’s certainly unusual!
What’s next? What are you working on now?
I’m working on two books at the moment. Another Kirsty Campbell mystery called Bloody Murder. I’ve written about five chapters so it’s very much at the start of the story, and I don’t plot so I don’t know where it’s going. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the magic will still happen.
The other book I’m working on is a nonfiction book called The Nuts and Bolts of Self-Publishing. This one came about after I did a writers’ conference workshop with the same title. It was so successful I had difficulty getting the attendees to leave. Afterwards, when I looked at my notes for the workshop, I realized I had the synopsis for a book.
Nuts & Bolts of Self-Publishing was published just over a week ago. The Amazon link is https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nuts-
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chris-Longmuir/e/B003VMURAW/