I'm very pleased to welcome Lin Anderson to Euro Crime as the latest stop on the blog tour for The Special Dead.
Amanda, who reviewed The Special Dead, last week asks the questions in the following interview:
Hello, Lin, thanks for agreeing to come and talk to us today.
First of all, many congratulations on being shortlisted for the Crime Book of the Year award! It's a fantastic achievement. How did it feel when you found out?
Astonishment mainly, because I’m very aware of all the excellent books being written and submitted to the Scottish Crime Book of the Year award. Followed, of course, by excitement and delight and, as Chris Brookmyre said on twitter, ‘Honoured to be among such reprobates.’
Tell us about Rhona, your main character. What was your source of inspiration behind creating her? Do you see any of yourself in Rhona MacLeod? She features in over ten books now and goes from strength to strength. What do you think makes her so popular?
One of my excellent Maths pupils at Grantown Grammer School in the Spey Valley went off to do Forensic Science at Strathclyde University. We lived in the same village, Carrbridge, and her mum was a good friend. When she came back home in the holidays she talked with great enthusiasm about her course. This was before CSI. Emma Hart became the inspiration for Rhona the forensic scientist (in her professional not personal life). Emma was working in London when I wrote Driftnet, the first in the series, and she helped me with the forensic aspects of it. The dilemma that Rhona finds herself in in Driftnet propels the story. Having given up her son for adoption seventeen years before, she thinks the latest victim may be her son.
I find I’m getting to know more about Rhona all the time. (A woman is like a teabag, you don’t know her strength until you put her in hot water). And I do put her in a lot of hot water. As for why readers like her, you’ll maybe have to ask them. One of her fans wrote to me recently to say ‘Rhona – what a woman! But she didn’t say why.
We have heard that your Rhona novels are currently being adapted for ITV. Is this true? When do you think we will see Rhona on our TV screens?
Elaine Collins, when she was with ITV was a big fan of Rhona and developed a series beginning with Final Cut. This was at the same time as she was working on Vera. There was much excitement about it, but sadly Elaine has now moved from ITV and the rights are back with me... On the plus side others are interested.
It must be difficult watching your creation being turned into something suitable for another medium and having no say in the matter. How involved are you in this process or is it totally out of your hands?
During the process Elaine very much kept me on board, and the script for Final Cut was excellent. As someone who writes for screen myself, I was confident that they understood the characters really well. When I was asked if I had any worries, my only comment was that Rhona MacLeod is not a ‘wee lassie’, but a mature woman.
Thinking of writing for film and TV, you have written several screenplays yourself, and been successful there as well. Can you tell us about this? How did it all get started? Any current projects that you can tell us about?
I had a drama on television called Small Love before I had Driftnet published. I went on to write short films. River Child won best drama at the Celtic Film Festival and a student Bafta while I completed my MA in Screenwriting from the Film Academy at Edinburgh Napier University.
The current project is a full length feature, a paranormal crime thriller called Dead Close, inspired by a short story of mine of the same name. Set in the Old Town of Edinburgh, both above and below ground, it’s being directed by Graeme Maley. September should see the start of the countdown on production with Makar Films. We’re all very excited about it.
My latest venture is a rock musical which I’m writing with John Sinclair, keyboard player with Ozzie Osbourne for 17 years, who now has a recording studio in the highlands near my home village. I’m writing the Book (script) and he’s writing the music and lyrics. It’s called Voice of a Generation and is set in 1975 in New York when it was known as Fear City. We’ve been working on it for the last 18 months and hope to complete it by the end of the year.
Another hugely successful project you are involved in is, of course, Bloody Scotland, the Scottish crime writing festival that is now in its fourth year. What inspired you to start this festival in Scotland? Why Stirling?
Bloody Scotland was born at a Crime Writers’ Association conference in Lincoln. Alex Gray and I, while drinking Prosecco, pondered why we Scots always came south for crime festivals when we had such a large body of excellent crime writers at home, and decided it was time for folk to come to us. Brilliant idea, followed by three years hard work and planning launched the festival. Four years later and it’s gone from strength to strength with an international reputation. We were also very fortunate to have great advice from Val McDermid, who began the Harrogate festival. We chose Stirling as the venue because of its unique position as the gateway to the Highlands, within easy reach of both Glasgow and Edinburgh, and because of its spectacular and history. When Alex came up with the name Bloody Scotland, it matched the festival content and location perfectly. Many of our visitors come from the USA and various European countries and use the visit to explore the highlands before or after the festival.
When Ian Rankin launched the first festival he said Scandinavia doesn’t have better crime writers than Scotland, it has better PR. Bloody Scotland was created to change that.
What is it, do you think, that has made Bloody Scotland so special?
For me, it’s doing what we dreamt of – encouraging new writers, celebrating the success of established writers, plus bringing UK and international stars to a Scottish audience. Bloody Scotland is now a brand, operating throughout the year to celebrate Scottish Crime Writing at home and abroad.
You used to be a teacher. How did your writing career start? What was it like taking the step to writing full time?
I come from Irish/Scottish parentage where story telling was very much a part of life. My first play was written at primary school. It featured Mary Queen of Scots and the murder of Lord Darnley. I studied Maths and Astronomy at Glasgow University, along with computing and went on to teach Maths first of all and later solely computing science. In between I had three children and spent five years in a remote part of northern Nigeria where I taught in the Savanah Sugar Company school. My first short stories, set in Nigeria, were written about that time and were broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in various collections. When I wrote Driftnet I was still teaching full time and was Principal Teacher of Computing at an Edinburgh School. It was very difficult to give up a full time job and salary to write full time, but it was what I wanted to do. After writing three books in the few hours after work, I suddenly had the freedom to write when I wanted. It was wonderful.
And finally, what next for Rhona?
I am currently working on None But the Dead, the sequel to The Special Dead. Set on the island of Sanday in Orkney, strange things begin to happen when the remains of a woman are found in the grounds of an old schoolhouse.
Thanks again, Lin. We have really enjoyed chatting with you. All the best with the short list. Euro Crime will have its fingers crossed for you!
A big thank you for your support and good wishes. Hope to see you at Bloody Scotland in the near future.
Lin Anderson’s new novel The Special Dead is published by Pan Macmillan 13 August 2015, £12.99 HB. For more information about Bloody Scotland (11-13 September 2015) go to bloodyscotland.com.