Susi Qs – Week 16 – James Oswald


This week I’m chatting to the extremely multi-talented James Oswald – author of the Sunday Times bestselling Inspector McLean series, the Detective Constable Constance Fairchild series and the five part epic fantasy The Ballad of Sir Benfro. When he’s not writing, he runs a 350 acre hill farm in north east Fife, where he raises pedigree Highland cows.

Go on then, James…

When was the last time you were arrested?

What are you suggesting? I’ve never been arrested! You’d have to catch me first. I was pulled over for a broken brake light in Aberystwyth once, then asked to step out of the car and take a breathalyser test the moment I wound down the window. As it happened, I was designated driver for the evening, but my two passengers were several sheets to the wind and smelled like seasoned winos. When they both explained this – at length – to the officers, and the test came up clear, the police took pity on me and waved me off without another word.

What was your first gig?

I was a chorus boy in the school panto, aged ten, I think. It was Jack and the Beanstalk, and I was originally cast as Jack’s girlfriend, Rosemary – all boy boarding school, these things happened. I could never remember my lines though, so I got booted. I was gutted; Rosemary’s costume was so cool, with a long blonde pigtail wig and make up and…

Oh, you meant first gig I saw? That would probably be Simple Minds at the Hammersmith Odeon in May 1984. I had a ticket to see David Bowie a year earlier, but I wasn’t allowed out of school and ended up giving the ticket to my sister.

If you were a kangaroo, what would you keep in your pouch?

If I was a kangaroo, I would probably keep a joey in my pouch. Anything else would be weird.

What is the most annoying thing?

Dog poo bags left on the path or hung on the fence. Really, this makes my blood boil. There’s footpaths all over the farm, and a lot of people walk their dogs here. Most either just leave the poo where it is, which is fine since it’s not a high traffic area and it’ll break down soon enough, or they bag it up and take it away. A few mindless fuckwits bag it then leave the bag in the path, or tie it neatly to the fence. Just what do you think is going to happen to that? Do you expect some dog poo warden to come and clean up after you?

The really annoying thing is that they probably think they’re upstanding and responsible citizens because hey, they’ve bagged their dog poo! But no, they’re not thinking at all. Selfish fuckwits.

What’s your most treasured possession?

I’m not really good at treasuring things. Maybe my copy (OK, copies plural) of 2000AD prog 865 which came out in December 1993 and features my first and only published comic script, the Tharg’s Future Shock It’s A Cold World.

Would you rather have four arms or four legs?

That entirely depends on what I’m cooking and how many mouths there are to feed.

Who was the best Beatle?

My older brother was into the Beatles, so I of course couldn’t stand them and hardly ever listen to them. I wear John Lennon specs, mind you, but then Paul McCartney gave us the Frog Chorus and Ringo is Thomas the Tank Engine. Might have to go with Pete, since he was clearly the Best.

Do you empty your own hoover bag?

What kind of a question is that? Only very occasionally. And in private.

Which dead celebrity do you wish was still alive?

Poor sods, can’t they have some rest now?

What was your favourite toy?

I had a few chemistry sets when I was little, which were great fun. I never learned any chemistry (apart from acid+alkali=salt+water, which stuck for some unfathomable reason), but the little methylated spirits based Bunsen burner was great for setting fire to things, and if you mixed all the bottles of chemicals together you got some weird things happening. I can’t quite believe the stuff we were allowed to have in the 70s. God only knows what I did to my brain with the fumes.

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If you want to know more about James, you can find him on twitter @SirBenfro. His books can be purchased HERE.

Harrogate Happenings 2014

The setting... tents at The Old Swan
The setting… tents at The Old Swan

In 2009, I went to Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Festival (aka ‘Harrogate’), for the first time. I didn’t have a blog, hence no record exists of what I got up to there (probably for the best…) What I do remember is that I was quite shy about approaching people, but I did meet my future agent, Phil Patterson, and future best-selling superstar author, James Oswald…

I returned in 2012, when I was writing a lot of short stories and attempting to finish a novel. I wrote about it here. Last year, I had just signed a contract with my agent and was buzzing about that – by then I had met loads of readers and writers on twitter and I wrote about it here.

This year, I went having just signed a deal for my debut novel, BLACK WOOD, and it was such a fantastic experience for me being congratulated by so many of the readers, writers and bloggers that I now consider friends… One of the big things that happened this year was when several people came up and introduced themselves to ME (rather than the other way around)… it made me feel very loved 🙂

As usual, the whole thing passed in a blur of words and drinks and laughter – just to reconfirm that crime writers and readers are some of the friendliest and most supportive people I’ve had the pleasure to meet. I can’t do a shout-out this year, because there were just SO many people, and I don’t want to miss anyone out. My only regret is that I didn’t have more time with some of the people that I only saw for fleeting moments, and that I completely missed seeing some people all together… but that’s what it’s like at the crime community’s biggest love-fest, and I wouldn’t expect it any other way 🙂

Memories of the festival include: the opening awards party where one of my favourite authors, Belinda Bauer, won the best novel award… lots of interesting panels… BEER… Val McDermid interviewing JK Rowling… meeting lots of new people and catching up with old friends… RAIN… a new fancy beer tent and some giant chairs… THUNDERBOLTS AND LIGHTNING… loads of great book recommendations – including The Girl on The Train (which I was lucky enough to get a SIGNED proof copy of and can’t wait to read)… us not winning the quiz again… some late night acoustic guitar… BEER… lots of random chat and lots of laughter…a marriage proposal during audience question time (yes – she said yes!)… and just for a change, nothing controversial happened and everyone was cheery, even when it RAINED (did I mention that it rained?)…

As promised, I got more than one photo this year, so here’s a little slideshow that sums up just a fraction of what went on in what has been unanimously described as ‘the best one yet’. Well done to Steve Mosby and the whole team for organising a memorable event 🙂

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As always, I came back exhausted, but inspired to write – and next year, I’ll return to The Old Swan as a published author… I don’t think that’s really sunk in yet, but as you can imagine – I can’t wait 🙂