Susi Qs – Week 1 – Craig Robertson

Hello and welcome to my brand new 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…

My first guest is Craig Robertson – the author of nine novels, mainly set on the mean streets of contemporary Glasgow and featuring DI Rachel Narey and journalist Tony Winter. He has been longlisted three times for the McIlvanney Prize, twice longlisted for the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year, shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger, and is an international bestseller.

So, without further ado – let’s find out what’s inside Craig’s head…

Have you ever broken a bone?
Many, and most of them my own. Growing up I was regularly either reckless or stupid and as best as I can remember, broke a bone 14 times. The list is: left shoulder, left thumb, right arm (twice), nose (twice), right ankle, left ankle, left leg, big toe (twice), coccyx and fractured skull (twice). It was mostly falling or jumping from walls and playing football. Only one of them (broken thumb) was as a result of punching a wall aged 15 when my best pal sensibly ducked.


If you were a kangaroo, what would you keep in your pouch?
Another, slightly smaller, kangaroo. It could keep another, more diminutive kangaroo in its pouch and in turn that one could keep an even smaller kangaroo with a smallerer kangaroo in its. I estimate that with suitable sized kangaroos available, there would be scope for up to 17 in successive pouches but, in theory, the number is limitless.


What’s your secret party piece?
If I told you it wouldn’t be a secret. But okay, seeing it’s just us… I can not only name all 50 states of the US, but I can name all 50 state capitals. I mean, it would need to be a pretty dull party before I pulled that one out, but I can do it. Just don’t make me.


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


Do you pair your socks?
What? I’m not sure I understand the question because socks are sold in pairs, worn in pairs, are meant to be in pairs. It’s a PAIR OF SOCKS, not two socks. Of course I pair my socks! Accidentally wearing odd socks is one of my greatest fears, coming a close second to being eaten alive by a pack of diseased rats.


Do you have any weird habits?
No. None. No, seriously I don’t. I don’t. Ensuring you’re wearing matching socks isn’t a habit and isn’t weird, it’s the only thing that keeps the world spinning on its axis. Don’t mess with it. Confession: I once flew to Los Angeles, having taken three separate flights, to discover I’d been wearing odd socks the entire time. I nearly died.


Who was your first crush?
A girl named Jill Robertson. We weren’t related. She was beautiful, we were both six years old and in P2 when I scribbled a note saying I LOVE YOU and slipped it into the pocket of her coat outside our classroom. I’ve never told anyone this before so I hope to hell she never reads this. Or that anyone who knows me reads this. NB – I wasn’t a stalker aged six and I’m not a stalker now.


What is the most annoying thing?
Hm, that’s a tough one. I’d have to choose between it being either people texting while walking or people walking while texting. One of those.


What’s the scariest thing that ever happened to you?
Apart from discovering I’d worn odd socks on a transatlantic flight? I lost control of my car while driving on black ice on a country road. The car left the road at speed, caught the top of a fence and flipped twice in the air, Dukes of Hazzard style, and smashed up on landing. Luckily, I walked away with just a bit of a fractured skull (bone 14).


Do you empty your own hoover bag?
Hahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahaha. I’ve only just discovered that you CAN empty a hoover bag. Previously it was either someone else who emptied it or, when I lived on my own for six years, each time the bag was full, I presumed the hoover was broken and bought a new one. True story.


How many times have you seen Top Gun?
Um. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it. It’s one of those movies that I know lots of bits about (Maverick/Goose/Iceman/Kelly McGillis/homoerotic beach volleyball game) but I don’t know if I’ve ever watched the whole thing. It’s about aeroplanes, right?

* * *

Thank you, Craig. A lot of things have slotted into place for me after that 😉

BUY CRAIG’S BOOKS

Find him on Twitter @CraigRobertson_

Recent Reads: One Word Reviews

Here are the last twelve books I read. In short, they were all excellent and I highly recommend them all (I don’t blog about books I didn’t like – life is too short!) They’re a mix of police procedural, domestic noir, psychological thriller, sci-fi/horror thriller,  dystopian thriller, thriller-thriller, crime-with-a-bit-of-romance and just a hint of the paranormal… take your pick from below 🙂

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

I’ve got a book coming out, you know . . .

One of my new photos 🙂

Another mad week in the world of a statistician/author who wishes someone would event longer days… As well as work, this is what I’ve been up to: 

  • Finishing an article for a magazine that will be out in June (exciting, and more details to follow soon!)
  • Getting some new publicity photos taken by the lovely Melanie Moss (great fun and I am really pleased with them – you can view a selection here)
  • Having a ‘home alone’ writing retreat, where I managed to write 10,000 words on Sat/Sun (very tough, especially on day two)
  • Reading… I finished these:
  • Doing a library event at Molesey Library with Louise Voss (brilliant night with a lovely audience)
  • And now I am getting prepared for my trip to Newcastle Noir, where I am doing a panel with Sarah Ward, Helen Cadbury and Amanda Jennings, chaired by crime legend Barry Forshaw, author of Brit Noir (out now)

It’s all go, as usual. Oh, and did I mention that Willow Walk is out in eBook next week?? To celebrate that, I’ve got a Goodreads Giveaway for a signed paperback, running now – click here to enter …and I will have exciting news about the launch nights for the Willow Walk paperback very soon – but as a heads up – if you are in London on 2nd June, or Edinburgh on 23rd – keep your evening free 🙂
Sign-up here if you want to read the opening chapters right now!
(Includes a free Davie Gray short story)

My first author events

I’ve been pretty busy since my last post, despite being on ‘holiday’ from work (i.e. waiting for a new project). As well as working on book 2 (of which I have made some progress, and shifted to a more sensible deadline of the end of June), I’ve had my first two author events. Exciting!

The first one was online – where I took part in THE Book Club‘s first ever Book of the Month event. Black Wood was chosen by the readers, who first selected the genre (psychological), then the book – I was up against Mel Sherratt and Megan Abbott, and in the end it was a very close thing!

Where I won by a mere 6 votes!
Where I won by a mere 6 votes!

A Q&A was held on 30th April (after a month, where the members of the club had to download and read my book) and then the fun began. I say fun, it was 5h of hard work, as hundreds of readers left comments, feedback and questions and I had to keep up with it all, discussing the book not only with those who enjoyed it, but those who didn’t. I did three competitions – one to win a signed book, one for a tote bag and the third for a character name in my next novel. Overall, it was great fun but not for the faint hearted – but what it taught me (apart from the fact that most of these readers were used to reading far gorier books than mine) is that people who might not like my book might still like me, so I think I managed to convert some detractors who are now looking forward to the next book. From the feedback received, i think the readers really enjoyed it too.

* * *

Then came my first real life event – a panel at Newcastle Noir over the bank holiday weekend.

This was held at the historic Lit and Phil building in Newcastle, which has the most beautiful library I’ve ever seen. This is me outside 🙂 I didn’t take any photos inside, but there are some on their website here.

Me on the programme!
Me on the programme!

I arrived on Saturday afternoon, and after meeting up with some of the other authors, attended an event that is always worth seeing – Mark Billingham and Martyn Waites in Conversation. I’ve seen these two before, and I love the way they use their skills as actors and comedians to talk about their lives and their books in the most hilarious of ways. That evening, it was a night out with the other authors (again!). Yes, it was a late one.

Music, beer and conversation in a classic venue
Music, beer and conversation in a classic venue

The next day, we had a quiet morning, before having Sunday lunch and on to the next event – Steve Cavanagh, Clare Donoghue and Peter Murphy. This was a fantastic panel about the legal profession and how these authors have used it in their books. Steve, in particular, was hilarious – especially as he told us he only became a lawyer as he joined the wrong queue at university!

It was great to see my books on display at the shop run by Helen from Forum Books

Then it was off to prepare for the last panel of the weekend… The Girls! Me, Eva Dolan, Susan Wilkins and Kati Hiekkapelto, chaired by Sarah Ward.

I wasn’t really nervous at all, until I sat down and looked at the audience while Jacky, the organiser, sorted out the microphones etc. Once I started though, it was easy to be led along by the excellent questions from Sarah and the responses from the other panelists. We all got on well and seemed to cover a variety of issues, keeping things entertaining by quips from Eva Dolan – who was asked at the end if she’d ever considered switching from crime to comedy! The weekend was topped off with a trip to another bar, and a late night sausage roll from Greggs… only in Newcastle!

I loved the whole event and it was great meeting up with authors, reviews and readers – only sorry I missed the other panels, I will definitely go back next year. My first two events were a great success – and I can’t wait for the next one – Crimefest in Bristol, next weekend!

Now the dust has settled…

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind. I can’t even remember how many guest posts and Q&As I wrote to help promote Black Wood. I had telephone interviews with newspapers. I had almost daily discussions with my publisher about launches and publicity plans and all sorts of other things that have already become a blur. I had daily obsessive checking of my rankings on Amazon, and I had my first exposure to reviews that weren’t always favourable. On top of all this, I’ve been ridiculously busy in my day job and have had loads of other real life things to deal with too.

I haven’t stopped!

But I’ll tell you what – it’s been exciting 🙂 I had two (colour co-ordinated) book launches in Waterstones, both of which went brilliantly, despite my initial nerves. We had mini chocolates with book cover wrappers, and we had tote bags made by my brilliant husband. In Chiswick, I was interviewed by Martyn Waites in front of an audience of 72 people, and in Edinburgh I was interviewed by Craig Robertson in front of 47. I signed and sold loads of books (some were almost stolen… accidentally of course). There was a good mixture of friends, family and enthusiastic strangers, and from the audience feedback, it appears that I am a natural at public speaking… not sure about that, but a small alcoholic beverage beforehand certainly helped steady my nerves! I still can’t believe I had two bestselling authors there to support me and cheer me on. Not only that, the amazing Karen Sullivan from Orenda Books made me a cake!

Launching my book could not have gone better. Black Wood has been in the kindle top 100 for 35 days. It has been a #1 bestseller in Scottish Crime, Vigilante Justice and Psychological Thrillers and reached a peak position of #14 overall. People have been sending me photos of my book in bookshops. Fantastic reviews have been flooding in, and everyone has been so excited and supportive that I still feel like I have to pinch myself on a daily basis. Yep… I’m a published author now, and it feels wonderful.

I can’t wait to do it all again… 🙂

Click here to see all the photos from London

Click here to see all the photos from Edinburgh

Introducing… Kati Hiekkapelto

I’m delighted to share a guest post with you from debut crime novelist Kati Hiekkapelto. Kati’s novel, Hummingbird, has been translated into English by David Hackston and published by the fantastic Arcadia Books. The novel will be launched at Bloody Scotland (19-21st September), where Kati will be appearing with Scots authors Craig Robertson and Malcom MacKay. I will also be meeting her there for an exclusive interview for Shots Magazine. I’m reading Hummingbird at the moment, and I’ll tell you now – it’s an absolute cracker!

Over to Kati to tell you a bit more about herself and her writing – enjoy!

Kati Hiekkapelto (Photos: Aki Roukala)

Screaming seagulls. Thousands of wild geese, ducks and cranes gathering on the fields before flying back south. Silent forests full of berries, mushroom and game. Autumn wind. Green is turning to yellow and red, leaves are falling down, nature is getting ready for the winter.

Sea surrounds my island. Calm and stormy sea, different color and mood every day. Mood of my soul.

I am Kati Hiekkapelto, a writer, punk singer and performance artist. I live on an island called Hailuoto in Bothnic Gulf, Nothern Finland in an almost 170 years old farm house.

My first novel, Hummingbird, will soon be coming out in English. It is a crime fiction novel about a young policewoman, Anna Fekete, who lives somewhere in Northern Finland, in an imaginary seaside town without a name. Anna is an immigrant from former Yugoslavia. She escaped to Finland with her mother and older brother during the Yugoslavian civil war at the age of 10. Ethnically she is Hungarian. There is a relatively large Hungarian minority still living in Serbia and Anna´s hometown is Magyarkanizsa, which is a real place.

Anna starts her job as a crime investigator after being in uniform for years. It is not necessarily easy to be a woman in a male dominated workplace, and being an immigrant woman can be even more difficult. Anna has to face lots of prejudices, especially from her partner Esko, who is a middle aged, alcoholic, typical Finnish redneck man.

A jogger is found shot by a shotgun in a remote jogging path near the sea. Police find a necklace in her pocket. It is an amulet of an ancient Aztek god, The God of Death. When another jogger is found with the same amulet in his pocket, police begin to fear that a serial killer is in their midst.

At the same time a young Kurdish girl calls 911. She says her father wants to kill her, but later she denies everything. Anna remains suspicious about the honour related violence and even when the police have to stop the investigation, she keeps her eyes on the family in her free time. Anna starts to have sleeping problems and burn out symptoms, and difficulties at work and in her private life. Too much smoking and drinking, and not doing her regular sports anymore, doesn’t help.

Hummingbird is the beginning of series about Anna Fekete. The second novel came out in Finland in last February. I hope it will be in English too! It is a story about illegal immigrants, drugs, gangs, impossibilities and possibilities to go back home; how these possibilities are so enormously and unfairly different within different people.

My main interests as a writer are in questions of immigration, minorities, being an alien, losing the mother tongue, racism, and human rights. I have written my Master’s Thesis on racist bullying among young immigrants in Finland, I have worked as special education teacher for immigrant pupils. My personal life is full of foreigners. I have lived in Serbia in Anna Fekete´s Hungarian hometown and I speak fluently Hungarian. So, these themes are familiar to me although, I myself belong to the majority and therefore I´m also part of the oppressive machine. But as an artist I feel that my duty is to give voice for those who don´t have it yet in our society. Perhaps that was one of the reasons I started to write crime fiction. In Scandinavia crime fiction has a long history of being position-taking in social problems. My punker background supports this. I have been some kind of an activist since I was 12 years old. I want to give my readers something more to think about than just who is the murderer.

The main reason for me to write, after all, is the passion. Writing is an inner must that I cannot escape. It is my way of thinking, breathing, surviving, creating, suffering, enjoying, living. Writing is my forest, my sea.

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