Susi Qs – Week 6 – William Shaw

Hello and welcome to my blog series – Susi Qs – where I will be quizzing some of your favourite crime fiction authors, in the style of the Smash Hits Biscuit Tin. For those of you unfamiliar/too young – this involved a celebrity choosing some very random questions from a biscuit tin. I’m using a virtual tin (let’s imagine it was one like this…), and instead of a celeb, I’ve got an author…

This week’s guest is William Shaw, who has been shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger, the Barry Award and The Golden Bullet and longlisted twice for the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year without actually winning anything. He was on the staff of Smash Hits for several years (in fact, he probably invented this whole concept).

So, without further ado – let’s find out what wisdom Will would like to share with us…

Where’s the worst place you’ve been sick?

On the ceiling. True story. Though the ceiling was actually quite low. I was a 14-year-old on a family canal boat holiday with my family and my mum, who was quite the forager, thought it would be a nice idea to try some puffball mushrooms, fried in red wine. The vomit was projectile. In the cold light of morning it was also purple. 

How often do you change your sheets?

Weekly on a Sunday. From when I was 19 I lived for a couple of years alone for a in a house half way up a Welsh hillside with no heating apart from a coal fire and a single electric heater that I wired in almost killing myself in the process – and no running hot water. I used to have to heat water on a Baby Belling cooker or on a coal stove to wash anything. Occasionally I took a tin bath in front of the fire. I shudder to think how often I must have washed my sheets back then.

Do you find it hard to take criticism?

Actually no. It sounds really boasty, but I’m really good at taking criticism from people I respect and admire and even better at ignoring it from people who I don’t.

Who do you love?

Jane McMorrow who I fell in love with in September 1990 at a party thrown by Mary Loughran. We were both advantageously drunk and somehow I managed to persuade her to come to a contemporary classic concert by Olivier Messiaen at the South Bank the next evening, deeply weird but beautiful stuff. She was so hungover that evening she couldn’t even bend to tie her shoe laces but that weekend somehow set the tone for the next thirty-two years. I love the children we have together too who are far cooler than we ever were.

Who’s your favourite cartoon character?

Grommit. My sister used to be in animation and worked on The Wrong Trousers – and for Aardman’s Animated Conversations series. She is also the author of Stop Motion: Craft Skills for Model Animation. Beat that.

Do you worry about swallowing spiders in your sleep?


Do you have any weird habits?

Sometimes, rather than looking for the glasses cleaner, I lick my glasses and wipe them with my shirt tails. This is not a good look when you’re on stage at a book event.

Have you ever had your fortune told?

In The Belvedere on Brighton seafront – now The Tempest Inn – there used to be a man who always sat in the same chair and would do graphology for the price of a couple of pints. He looked at my handwriting and told me I was a bum and breast man because of the roundness of my ‘w’s. I told him he was an old perv.

Would you rather give up washing, smiling or reading?

Washing, all the way. Under lockdown I’ve mostly given it up anyway. We wash way too much. It’s really bad for your health and the amount of soap we pour down the drains is insane. Seriously. I gave up shampooing my hair six months ago because I looked like a snow globe whenever I wore a dark shirt and my scalp is now perfectly fine.

What are you wearing?

It’s mid January* and I’m wearing a Christmas jumper. That says everything we know about lockdown, doesn’t it?

*It’s nearly March. I suspect he’s still wearing it…

* * *

Thank you, Will. I have to say, that glasses licking thing is actually quite weird…


Find him on Twitter @William1Shaw