This week, Scottish crime author Marion Todd answers our #FridayFive questions. Marion’s debut novel See Them Run is published by Canelo.
Tell us a bit about your job?
I write police procedural crime fiction, novels written from the point-of-view of the investigating officer. I start with an idea: a type of crime, a murder method or a social issue. I mull this over, developing it into a plot. Once I know where the plot is going I start writing. So there can be periods where I write very little but I’m still working. Alongside this, I try to update my website regularly to keep it fresh, and I post daily on social media.
What are the key ingredients for success?
(1) A novel must grab the reader from the start. The average bookshop browser may only spend a few seconds reading the opening so it must be exciting or intriguing. (2) You should be able to summarise the premise in a few sentences – as in the back of a book cover. (3) Characters and setting must come alive for the reader. (4) There should be a balance of narrative and dialogue – they serve different purposes – too much of one can put the reader off.
Describe a normal day?
Breakfast around 8 with the newspaper then I sit down at the computer to look over the previous day’s writing. This helps get me back into the story. I then pick up the threads and write for an hour or two. Dog walk is next (valuable thinking time). Sometimes I write again after lunch, but not always. The evenings are my most productive time. When I’m in the middle of a book I can write well into the night – very anti-social!
For those trying to break into the industry, could you explain how you got to where you are today?
The first novel I wrote wasn’t very good. But I loved the characters so I began a second novel built around them. I joined a book club and learned what readers like and dislike, and that helped with my writing. When I’d completed the novel I showed it to an editor friend who gave me some valuable tips. I edited it again and sent it off to Northbank who loved it. It was published yesterday – proof that persistence pays off.
What are you reading, watching and listening to now?
My bedtime read just now is Alexander McCall Smith’s Friends, Lovers, Chocolate – like wrapping myself in a warm Edinburgh blanket! My favourite podcast is Partners In Crime and in the car I’m listening to Mark Billingham’s Good as Dead – a thrilling siege story. I’m hopeless with TV, as I tend to write in the evenings. I’m still trying to watch the final episode of The Capture and most of A Confession – both riveting. And, of course, I can’t miss Strictly!