Scotland and me
I grew up on the West Coast of Scotland in an environment where the supernatural was almost commonplace.
My grannie certainly had a touch of ‘the sight’, always knowing when someone in the family was in trouble. There are numerous stories told of family members meeting other, long dead, family in their dreams, and I myself have had more than a few encounters with dead family, plus meetings with what I can only class as residents of faerie. I have had several precognitive dreams, one of which saved me from a potentially fatal car crash.
I have a deep love of old places, in particular menhirs and stone circles, and I’ve spent quite a lot of time travelling the UK and Europe just to visit archaeological remains. I also love what is widely known as ‘weird shite’. I’ve spent far too much time surfing and reading Fortean, paranormal and cryptozoological websites. The cryptozoological stuff especially fascinates me, and provides a direct stimulus for a lot of my fiction.
I've also been influenced by many Scottish writers. Stevenson in particular is a big influence. He is a master of plotting, and of putting innocents into situations far out of their usual comfort zones while still maintaining a grounding in their previous, calmer, reality. His way with a loveable rogue in Treasure Island and Kidnapped in particular is also a big influence. Other Scottish writers who have influenced me include Arthur Conan Doyle, John Buchan, Iain Banks and, more in my youth than now, Alistair MacLean and Nigel Tranter. From them I learned how to use the scope of both the Scottish landscape and its history while still keeping the characters alive.
Some more of the insiration comes from the countryside, the history and weather. All those lonely hillsides, stone circles, ancient buildings and fog are ripe for stories to be creeping about in.
The fact that we've always been England's scruffy wee brother, and have been slightly resentful of the fact for centuries adds another layer – the wee chip on the shoulder and the need to prove yourself is always a good place from which to start an adventure.
Added to that that we're a melting pot of Lowlander's, Highlanders, Islanders, Scandanavians, Picts, Irish, Dutch, English, Indians, Pakistanis and Chinese and everybody else who has made their way to the greatest wee country in the world, all with their own stories to tell and to make.
And when it's raining and dreich, what better than to sit by a fire with a stiff drink and tell some stories?
But I think it’s the people that influence me most. Everybody in Scotland’s got stories to tell, and once you get them going, you can’t stop them. I love chatting to people, usually in pubs, and finding out the weird shite they’ve experienced. My Glasgow PI, Derek Adams is mainly based on a bloke I met years ago in a bar in Partick, and quite a few of the characters that turn up and talk too much in my books can be found in real life in bars in Glasgow, Edinburgh and St Andrews.
See the the books below for more details of my longer Scottish Fiction. There are also many short stories in anthologies and magazines...and there will be more to come...