Did you start writing with a series in mind?
I had no idea what I was doing. It never crossed my mind to get published. I just wrote it to stop me killing people. Someone else had to point out to me that at the start of Absolution, there’s a girl lying in bed, having everything done for her, and it was written by someone lying in bed, having everything done for her. I went to my local writers’ group with my 250,000 words, and A.J. Close, who’s a proper writer and now a writer in residence in Perth, said: “Can I just read a wee bit of that?” She read it and said: “This is good. Send it to Jane Gregory. She likes evil bitches like you.” Jane got back to me, asking: “Would you mind flying to London, tomorrow?” – “Okay.”
I flew down to London, where everybody does lunch, darling. I came away having had a nice chat about dogs and marathons, so I phoned a journalist friend of mine and asked him: “What’s supposed to happen at these things?” He asked me: “Did you swear a lot and get drunk?” I said: “Well, I don’t drink and I didn’t swear too much.” So he said: “Right. Glaswegian writers have a bit of a reputation, and publishers like to know whether you’re going to turn up, whether you’re quite nice, and whether you aren’t a disgrace to yourself.” I passed that test, and the next day I was signed.
What made you decide to write a standalone novel?
I wasn’t going to write a standalone. My agent suggested it, saying I should look at these characters from a different perspective. I was quite happy to do it, and when I told her what the book would be about, she said: “You know, that’s a good crime novel, but it’s a much better psychological thriller. If you can write that in the first person, that will be a stunner of a novel.” So I gave it a try. I’ve always viewed it as knowing these actors very well and giving them the script to a play. When they get hold of it they say: “I wouldn’t say that or that or that… I would do this…”
Back to your first question: Something that really annoys me is when an average Glaswegian woman picks up a shotgun and knows what to do with it. No. You pick up a shotgun by the opposite end and hit the person over the head with the big thick bit. That is what the average Scottish woman would do. I hate it when you get these super women who run about in high heels and solve crimes. Stop it.
What do you like about writing?
I just love creating this wee world where bad things happen and where I put them all right. I can make Costello eat lots and lots of chocolate and she doesn’t put on weight, and Anderson can have affairs. It’s lovely.
What do you like about your writing?
I have to confess I’ve sat through bits of it, thinking: “Oh, my god.” I went on stage recently and said: “I don’t write my novels with any moral compass. I write novels that amuse you when your flight is delayed, yet again.” There was a wee ripple of applause, as if to say: “Well, there’s someone who isn’t a pretentious git.” I like making my puzzles as complicated as possible, and I like solving them. I hope it’s got good characterisation and it’s all believable, but it’s a form of entertainment, and you have to be very careful about elevating it to anything above that, such as a moral compass by which people should live their lives. “What are you trying to say about society?” I think we’re all bright enough to make up our own minds about society without being told. Nothing’s worse than going to a concert at which the person on stage preaches at you for 20 minutes. Oh, shut up. Do what you’re here for. Give us “Roxanne”.