Myra, you also write short stories and non-fiction, which do you prefer and why?
I’ve always enjoyed writing non-fiction because it comes from personal experience and I feel confident about my areas of expertise but in recent years I’ve concentrated on fiction. Short stories tend to come to me almost fully formed - a sudden idea - and I like to write character based short stories with a sting in the tale. But mostly I prefer to write novels, though they are more difficult and more time consuming of course, but over the length of the novel you have time to develop both character and plot. My Bute novels feature the same main character, Alison Cameron, and I’m getting very well acquainted with her.
Why did you choose to write 'cosy crime'?
The main interest for me in any crime is the puzzle - who did it and why. I suppose this springs from the development of the characters and I like to keep the reader guessing as long as possible, though there are plenty of clues in the novel. Bute is an ideal place to set such stories. It’s a small island off the West coast of Scotland with a population of no more than 6000 people, except in the summer when the population is swelled by many visitors. This gives me all the benefits of a location that has strong associations for people in the West of Scotland (many of whom spent childhood holidays on Bute) and indeed with the many people of Scottish descent throughout the world. It allows me to focus in on the characters and use a kind of shorthand for the locations. And in a small place you have lots of opportunities for local gossip and intrigues to help move the plot along! I prefer not to write about violent crime. I prefer to write the kind of books I like to read.
How do the islanders feel about your Alison Cameron mysteries being set on Bute?
Some of them are rather bemused, I think. But everyone has been very supportive, very helpful. And I do know a number of people living on the mainland, having read the books, decided to take a trip to the island. So I suppose I’m doing my bit for island tourism, though I am very careful to have a large disclaimer about the characters not being based on anyone I know. I do use real locations, but often change details for purposes of the plot. I must add that the island isn’t the hotbed of crime that my novels suggest. In fact there is very little crime and it is a beautiful place with lots of unspoiled beaches and excellent walking, including the West Island Way. A lot of money is being spent on upgrading facilities, including the Art Deco Rothesay Pavilion which features strongly in the next book.
Do you have a favourite writing place? I write in the attic, which isn’t nearly as Spartan as it sounds! I have a PC facing a blank wall to avoid distractions. But I can write anywhere and often write some of my novel on the ferry to Bute.
What are you working on now?
My current novel, the work-in-progress, is for the moment called ‘Last Dance at the Rothesay Pavilion’ and the plot centres on the renovation of the Pavilion. During the last war Bute (especially Rothesay) was a very busy place as many army and navy personnel, including some from Canada, were stationed there and there is a fund of stories about what went on. Ettrick Bay, for example was used as a practice run for the D-Day landings. I’m weaving some of this history into the novel and I hope the twist will please readers.
Any tips for new writers? Join a writers’ group! There’s no doubt in my mind that joining Erskine Writers a few years ago was just the impetus I needed to take my fiction writing seriously. Everyone has been so supportive, I’ve learned lots and the opportunities to enter competitions and receive advice from the judges have given me exactly the kind of help I needed. Writing can be a very solitary business and apart from the opportunities to develop your skills, a writing group offers a great social focus.
Myra has a blog and a website and her books are available to buy on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. Thanks for featuring on my Author Showcase, Myra!
NEXT FRIDAY: I have a very special blog post for next weekend - as it’s my First Blogiversary! I’m also celebrating exactly one year of indie e-book publishing and will be giving away lots of presents to YOU – so please pop back on Friday 30th March - for a fun filled and gift giving blogiversary party post. Yay!