Welcome to my stop on Jackie McLean’s Run blog tour, with Love Books Tours!
Many thanks to Kelly @ Love Books Tours for arranging the following interview with Jackie McLean…..
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
I live in Glasgow and as well as writing, I work full-time. My career background is pretty varied (I’ve been a government economist, a political lobbyist, and I’ve run a pet shop). It’s a bit like my writing habits – I like to jump from one thing to another, to try new things. I keep actively involved in all sorts of crime fiction events, and have spoken at Bloody Scotland, Newcastle Noir, Noir at the Bar Edinburgh, Crime at the Castle and Literally @ Newbattle. My third book (Run) has recently been published. Along with my first two (Toxic and Shadows), it forms a series featuring DI Donna Davenport.
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
Ideas for books come from everywhere – even from dreams! Sometimes a news story will catch my attention and spark off an idea, or something might happen that makes me wonder ‘what if…?’
I wrote Toxic because I wanted to base a story in my home town (Arbroath), and the idea behind Shadows came about when a friend asked me to write about some worrying things she was seeing at work. But, of course, the best source of story ideas come from eerywigging on other people’s conversations. Yes, you should never trust a crime writer!
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
Haha, good question! I generally don’t base my characters on people I know, except for one: the character Graeme Hunter in Toxic is a composite of two people I really didn’t like. I’d better not say any more…
How do you pick your characters’ names?
That’s an interesting one – sometimes it’s fairly easy. I might spot an interesting name on the credits at the end of a TV programme, or I might run through the alphabet for ideas. But sometimes in my books I’m looking to name characters whose ethnic origins are in parts of the world I’m not that familiar with, and so more research is needed to be accurate and properly sensitive to cultural norms. For instance, I might want to name a character who’s a thirty year old male from Ghana. I’ll do some reading on naming conventions, popular names for the time period, and whether names reflect different religions or other divisions. Then, when I pick what seems to be a suitable name, I’ll do some Google searching to check that people really do exist with that name, and that it’s not so unusual as to be unrealistic.
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
I work full-time, so getting time to write is difficult. With various family commitments, a set writing routine is out of the question, too. What I tend to do now, and I’ve found this works quite well for me, is to set myself a weekly word count target, and I write as and when I can to try and meet it.
When it comes to writing books, I tend to plan one-third of the storyline at a time. Planning out the full book can waste time, as I find when I get around a third of the way in, new characters and events have come into the story that change how the next part should go.
A crime fiction novel is generally around 80 – 90,000 words long. I write a first rough draft of about 50,000 words, and take some time to consider whether all the pieces of the story are in the right place – like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle. I’ll then re-work the draft to about 70-80,000 words, which I give to my partner to read. She’s an avid reader, and is very good at spotting what works and what doesn’t. I’ll then do a further re-draft based on her thoughts, and once that’s polished up, it’ll be about 85,000 words and ready for sending out. In theory the process could be done in a year, but life often gets in the way…
Who are your top 5 favourite authors?
- Fannie Flagg (she’s a fantastic storyteller, and her books ooze Southern comfort);
- Barbara Kingsolver (such talented writing);
- Sarah Waters (her amazing attention to detail transports you into the historical settings she writes about);
- Denise Mina (just superb);
- Kathy Reichs (a real life forensic anthropologist writing crime fiction, wow!).
If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
I did meet Kathy Reichs a couple of years ago at Bloody Scotland. I was armed with a whole set of questions (such as, ‘how on earth do you find the time?’), but when it came to the moment, I clammed up and wasn’t able to utter a sound!
Were you a big reader as a child?
A huge reader, and still am. Very early on, I had read every book in the school library… except for the Ladybird Book of the Human Ear, and eventually I caved in and read that, too. I was a frequent visitor to the town library, where I devoured pretty much everything I could lay my hands on, from the Mrs Pepperpot books to Solzhenitsyn.
When did you start to write?
I can’t really remember – I’ve always written as a hobby. When I was 14 I finished writing a novel that was a satire set in the aftermath of a third world war. The storyline was that the leaders of a few countries decide to hold a conference to figure out the way ahead, but one by one something happens to them and they send a substitute. Each of the substitutes thinks they’re the only ‘fraud’ and when the real leaders are ready to join the conference, they have to decide whether to ‘fess up. The manuscript is long lost, and I think about it often. Maybe I’ll re-visit the idea one day…
If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?
Oh, I hate a sad ending, so I’d change all the sad endings into happy ones.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
If I could pick just one, it would be Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. I was amazed by it, and it’s a book that’s stayed with me about 20 years on from reading it. An accessible course in philosophy, written as a novel – just wow! It should be compulsory reading, and I so wish I could write something even a fraction as clever.
If you wrote an autobiography, what would your title be?
It would be something along the lines of, Oops…
What are you working on right now?
I’m giving DI Donna Davenport a wee break, and I’ve started writing a brand new series. It features disgraced journalist Suzy Sangster, and she has a difficult relationship with her sister who’s a police officer (but might also be psychic), which gets her embroiled in things she shouldn’t get involved in.
Tell us about your last release?
Run is the finale to a trilogy featuring DI Donna Davenport. The first book, Toxic, tells the story of a desperate race against the clock to locate the illegal storage of MIC (the toxin responsible for the Bhopal disaster in 1984), and the escalating conflict between Donna and her colleague DI Jonas Evanton. In Shadows, Donna is drawn into the the murky world of people smuggling and organ harvesting, while waiting for Evanton to unleash his revenge. He does this in Run, by orchestrating a series of incidents that bring the police force to its knees. If there’s to be any hope of avoiding further bloodshed, Donna has to decide whether to accept his terms.
How can readers keep in touch with you?
On Twitter it’s @JackieJamxx
I have an author page on FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/WriterJackie/
And there’s my website (with the odd blog and free short stories) on https://jackiemcleanauthor.com
I do love to chat!
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Jackie 🙂
RUN THE GAUNTLET
DI Donna Davenport and her team are under pressure.
With the hunt on for the country’s most notorious cop killer and an ongoing complex international investigation, the murder of a local thug during a football match is the last thing the police need.
But as more incidents overload the police, and fear brings vigilante mobs onto the streets, suspicion grows that the mayhem is being orchestrated.
CUT AND RUN
One man can make it stop. With the city heading towards chaos and disaster, Donna prepares to abandon caution and the rules, even if it means she is ostracised by her own team.
happy reading 🙂