I am sitting here with a huge smile on my face as I am back in my cosy little chat studio at Famous Five Plus HQ. My absence has been down to a number of reasons, none that I will bore you with right now, but suffice to say, thank you for inviting me to return. As usual I will be asking probing questions of my guests so that you learn some of their secrets and what makes them tick!
My first guest of 2014 is an author I admire, especially with her Dundee crime novels, please let me introduce you to the talented, Chris Longmuir.
P: Chris I am delighted that we have time to have a chat, as you know I have met, more than once, the gorgeous fellow, Detective Bill Murphy. You certainly have created a character there, but we are not here to talk about Mr Murphy, but you. I see that you were born in Wiltshire and now live in Angus. Why the move from that beautiful part of the UK?
C: Blame that on my parents. My mother was English, and my father was a Scot. They met when he was based at an army camp down there. I think the camp might have been at Swindon. So, you know how it is, lonely soldier meets local girl and before you know it there’s romance in the air. We lived down there until I was two years old, and then my mother brought me to Scotland where we lived with my granny for a short time until we got a place of our own. I suspect my dad must have been posted away from Swindon, so that was probably the reason for the move. However, I feel more Scottish than English, and the Angus countryside is beautiful as well. It’s often called the gateway to the glens. Glen Esk is only 12 miles from where I live, although of course it stretches a lot further than that.
P: Parents have a lot to answer too! Anyway, as usual I digress. Now where was I, ah yes! Before you took to the pen professionally you had a number of jobs, you've been a shop assistant and look at this you've worked in mills and factories, and was a bus conductor for a spell. What an amazing background for creating characters, tell me about these jobs.
C: What’s to tell, they were jobs. When I was a teenager it was easy to move from job to job, so if you didn’t like one you moved to another. I’m sorry for the young folk of today, when they get a job they have to hang on to it, and job satisfaction doesn’t come into the equation. However, you are right, it does give me plenty of fodder for situations, settings and characters. I’ve used my retail experience in Night Watcher, and a lot of my police team situations and office scenes are actually based on my social work experience of working in teams, as well as working hand in glove with the police on some investigations. The politics and work settings do have a lot of similarities. And in my new book which will soon be ready to publish, I have a scene set in a spinning mill.
So, now I’ve admitted, I also worked as a social worker (please don’t hate me). Did you know that there are differences in Social Work between Scotland and England. In England the departments are known as Social Services, while in Scotland they are Social Work. Maybe the work ethic is stronger here – only joking of course. In Scotland probation and criminal justice were all part of Social Work, although recently that’s started to change, while in England they are separate departments. So, I’ve worked in all areas of social work, including probation, criminal justice, medical social work (they used to be called almoners), child care, mental health. You name it, I’ve experienced it. And, of course, you’re bound to know I finished up as the Assistant Principal Officer for Adoption and Fostering.
The funny thing is, I’ve never been able to write a book where the main character is a social worker, although I think an investigative social worker might hit the spot. I think I’m too close to it to base a book too strongly on a social work background, although I’ve had minor characters who were social workers.
P: That will teach me to ask such a questions, seriously, what an amazing working life and so much to call on for that handsome, Dundee detective. Best I move from thinking about it, I look forward to catching up with him again in your new book. Back to my notes, it says here you left school at fifteen, didn't we all in those days? But that wasn't the end of your education because years later you went on to study with the Open University, what was that all about?
C: When I left school I didn’t believe I had much brainpower. The truth is I never tried too hard when I was at school, and no one bothered to tell me that qualifications were important. It was only at a later stage in my life I started to do night school. I’m not even sure why that was. But I think there is something in my nature that pushes me on and makes me want to prove to myself that I can do things. Call it ambition or whatever you like. It has affected me in other ways too. When I started as a social worker I said I didn’t want to be anything else but a basic grade worker. I didn’t want to be a senior and I didn’t want to climb the ladder. So what happened when the first rung of the ladder appeared? I jumped on it and continued to climb. It’s the same with my writing. I always want to prove I can write something better than the last one, and that keeps me going.
P: Chris, you are a woman after my own heart, believe you me. Ladders and rungs eh! I mentioned earlier, I've read a couple of your books and it seems to me you like to have your audience on the edge of their seat and when daring to step out, looking over their shoulders. At my age it is all a bit much, but it still didn't stop me from avidly turning the pages.
C: Funny you should mention that because you are certainly not the first to say this. Many have described my Dundee Crime Thrillers as scary, atmospheric and page turners. But away from making you nervous, I also write historical sagas, short stories and historical articles which have been published in America and Britain. And the new one – it’s a historical crime novel set in 1919 Dundee – is similarly dark and atmospheric. In fact I would go as far as to say it has a gothic feel to it.
P: Goodness me, America, now you have arrived! I always believed you were a writer going places and it seems I was right, especially after I read about your awards. Night Watcher which gave me the shivers won the Scottish Association of Writers’ Pitlochry Award, and the sequel, Dead Wood, won the Dundee International Book Prize, as well as the Pitlochry Award. Inviting you here to my little chat studio was a great choice as it fits perfectly into my New Year's resolution which is to brush shoulders with the rich and famous this year.
C: Well, I’m not too sure about the rich and famous, you know that we writers aren’t particularly concerned about money, although it’s nice to be able to afford to eat now and again. But it’s been lovely to chat with you, Peggy, and I hope it’s not too long before we meet up again.
P: Thank you Chris, the pleasures all been mine and rest assured we will meet again. I'm already adding a date in my mental diary!