Next up on the Book Week Scotland blog is and amazing Q&A Double Bill! Not only do we have the glamorous Theresa Talbot but we are also joined by the super sophisticated, world travelled Mark Leggatt!
Today Theresa and Mark will be baring their souls to us all as Theresa compares saving hens to saving stamps and Mark explains why he is going to be bah humbug this Christmas!
Theresa the voice of traffic and Travel on BBC Radio Scotland, she is also the author of “This is What I Look Like” (hilarious memoir of her life) and “Penance” – a psychological crime fiction novel based on the riot that closed down Glasgow’s Magdalene institution.
Having met Theresa a couple of times I can confirm that she is a. very glamorous b. has a warm and infectious sense of humour and c. has endless patience with the strife that some of those male Scottish crime writers bring her!
By day Mark Leggatt is a high-profile Project Manager in the world of banking, by night he is an author of international crime thrillers starring Connor Montrose, CIA Technician. Names of the Dead and The London Cage are both high-octane and fast paced reads; the 3rd in the series, The Silk Road is due to be published in Summer 2017.He is also a lovely guy with an absolutely wicked sense of humour!
A huge thanks to Theresa for taking part in today’s Q&A; but first a little bit about her!
Theresa Talbot is a freelance writer, journalist and radio presenter, perhaps best known as the voice of Traffic and Travel on BBC Radio Scotland and as the host of The Beechgrove Potting Shed. Prior to working with the BBC she was with Radio Clyde and the AA Roadwatch team. Theresa worked in various roles before entering the media as an assistant in children’s homes, a Pepsi Challenge girl and a library assistant. She ended up at the BBC because of an eavesdropped conversation on a no.66 bus in Glasgow. Her passions include rescuing chickens, gardening, music and yoga.
1. Theresa how did your research into Penance affect you given the information that you must have come across?
There are still sections of Penance that make me cry – even though I know what’s coming the wasted lives make me weep. I didn’t just research the Magdalene Institutions, but did some research on the mental health system too. I really upset me to think of how tragic some people’s lives are – but as a journalist I’ve covered horrific stories. You have to learn to take a step back. Although on saying that one of the reasons I stopped being a reporter was that I hated the bad news stories!
2. What do you prefer – TV/Radio presenting or Book Festival Panel events?
Oh that’s a good question – I can;t really distinguish between the two. Radio is in my blood, and part of my DNA I’ve been doing it so long – but because of my experience as a presenter, chairing panels at festivals is like an extension of what I do already. I still have to pinch myself when I’m at a book festival as I can;t believe people actually turn up to listen to me talk about my books! A good way to get more people in the door is to pretend it’s Denise Mina talking then once the audience see it’s me, lock the doors and refuse to let them out.
3. You list saving chickens as a hobby of yours…please can you elaborate further!
Saving chickens is a bit like saving stamps – but with less licking! What happens in real life is these poor wee creatures which are kept in battery farms for intensive egg laying are sent to slaughter at one year old (they’re not as productive then so it’s cheaper for farmer to get rid of the flock and get a new batch in.) There are a couple of Chicken Charities (bet you didn’t know there was such a thing!) who intervene and take the hens before they go to slaughter and try get homes for them…and that’s how I get my wee hens!
4. What has the highlight of your writing career been?
Initially the highlight for me was seeing my book in print..but to be honest every book event/festival is like another highlight..so it just keeps going.
5. If you could have a night out with any fictional character who would it be and why?
Ooh a night out with a fictional character….Crikey where do I start, I’d have loads to choose from. Perhaps Mr Rochester from Jane Eyre (before he was fire damaged – I’m terribly shallow)
6. If “This is What I Look Like” was televised – who would play you (the child, the teenager and now)
Ha ha ha….I can;t imagine anyone fighting for the role..but if I had to name anyone..I think I’d get Douglas Skelton (of The Dead Don’t Boogie Fame) to play me as a child – as long as he kept the beard! He would have that right balance of impish childish humour but lend it an air of gravitas…Clearly I would play myself as a teenager, clinging onto my youth by the skin of my acrylic nails, and we’d maybe rope in that old reprobate Michael J Malone to play me as I am now. I know he has a good line in wigs.
7. Can you tell us what you are working on at the moment?
I’m working on a follow-up to Penance.. It’s a stand alone novel, but we get to meet Oonagh O’Neill again and most of the other characters from Penance.
8. What is it about Scottish crime fiction that makes it so popular?
9. Which book do you wish you had written and why?
Quickly looks up Amazon best seller list…. honestly – anything which would make me enough dosh to allow me to write full-time. Who gets the royalties from The Bible? That must have sold a fair whack…
10. Do you have any quirks or rituals you carry out before you write?
. I drink wine. That’s not quite a ritual – and to be honest I do that before most activities, but I do find a glass of wine helps the words flow. Gin doesn;t work as well and I’m not sure why…I think it’s because gin has a sucker punch..you don;t know you’re drunk until half the bottle is gone. But with wine it just loosens the limbs enough to be a bit brave on paper.
Thank’s Theresa, I’m thinking of stealing your ritual for working every day – I’m sure it would help!
Here’s my review for the brilliant Penance:
To get your mitts on Theresa’s books then click below to take you to Amazon:
And now it’s over to Mark Leggatt!
Mark Leggatt was born in Lochee, Dundee and lives in Edinburgh. A former specialist in Disaster Recovery for oil companies and global banks, his career has taken him around Europe, especially Paris, where he lived for a number of years. History and modern global conspiracy lie at the heart of his work, and are the backdrop for the adventures of CIA technician Connor Montrose. Leggatt is a member of the Crime Writers Association in the UK, and the International Thriller Writers in the USA
Mark Leggatt Q&A
1. Mark, you are a Scottish crime writer but chose international settings for your novels, why was this?
It’s strange, but I didn’t think of the location when I was starting to write the story. When I decided to write about a CIA tech with a grudge who was seconded to Interpol, the location would be wherever his job took him. Having travelled and worked around Europe, I felt comfortable writing about those locations, rather than the USA. If my main protagonist, Connor Montrose, had a good reason to be in Scotland, that’s where I would have written the story. But he had a much better reason to be in Italy, so the story started there. Of course, since he soon becomes a wanted man, his travels take him to places around Europe, which gave me great scope to write about the places I had been, especially Paris, where I lived for a number of years. So the locations are chosen rather by progress of the character and his adventures, rather than myself. Sometimes they are a surprise to me!
2. What has been the highlight of your writing career so far?
The first gig I had sticks in my mind, which was the launch of Names Of The Dead in Waterstones Edinburgh. It was packed out and a sell-out. That was very special, but I think appearing on a panel in New York at Thrillerfest in 2015, alongside several international authors, including Mark Billingham and Peter James has to be the highlight so far. This year I was on a panel with lots of other authors, and I’m in line for another in appearance in New York in 2017. Three years in a row for New York would be very nice!
3. You have recently completed the hugely successful “Four Men in Search of a Plot” Tour with fellow Scottish authors – can you tell us a wee bit more about how that came about and the format behind it?
The idea came to me when I was touring the Waterstones bookshops, soon after Names Of The Dead was released. I would pitch up in East Kilbride, or Dundee, or Kirkcaldy, stick up a big banner and sell my books, offering signed copies. It was hard work but great fun, and I had a great chat with the customers. Waterstones then decided that they would stop authors doing this kind of promotion (no idea why), so it came to an end. I thought about arranging my own evening gigs, but then thought they would be much better fun if my writing pals came along at the same time, and instead of a ‘panel’ we had a free format Q&A session, on any topic, and just had a great craic with the audience and readers. I ran it past my publisher, Claire Cain, and she though it was a great idea, and enlisted her team to produce the posters, and engaged my publicist to do all the bookings. I emailed the boys, Gordon, Doug and Neil, and they thought it was a great idea. Then we roped in Peter Burnett to hold the whole thing together, and off we went on the road! Peter came up with the format of Crime Factor (I think it was Peter…) and told the audience to ask any question at any time, and we would discuss the factors that made up a great crime novel. It’s a really easy, engaging format and the audience and readers really seem to enjoy it. It’s very relaxed, funny and we can just have a good time.
4. Can you tell us what you are currently working on?
The Silk Road – the further adventures of Connor Montrose, this time involving false flag terrorist attacks, illegal arms sales and underground internet banking. Kirsty (from The London Cage) is back too, whether Connor likes it or not.
5. Is Connor Montrose based on anyone in particular?
No, when I started writing his character, I really didn’t know how he would turn out, or who he was, but I would find out as the same time as the reader, in how he reacted to situations. But he isn’t based on any person, and certainly not me!
6. What, for you, is the biggest challenge in being an author?
Finding the time to write. I have a very busy and demanding day job as a Project Manager in banking technology, and my writing has suffered over the past few months because of pressure of work, and the lack of time to sit down and write. It’s very, very frustrating. Actually, it drives me bloody mad. However, I have three weeks off over Christmas, so I’m going to do nothing but write. As I’m a contractor, I can take a few months off between jobs. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do next year, once this current contract is over. I’m going to spend my days in the Central Reference Library in Edinburgh, writing my wee tartan socks off. One of these days, I won’t need the day job anymore. That’s my objective.
7. What book do you wish you had written and why?
Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake. When I was younger, it was the book that made my go “Wow! You can write stories like this?” It’s one of my all-time favourite books. I’d love to have written that story and created those characters. Steerpike is the archetypal conniving, manipulative bastard that would fit in to any crime novel. And I was in love with Fuschia. The whole series is a mastery of imagination.
8. What are you currently reading right now?
The first five chapters of The Silk Road, my work in progress. I have to get them all back into my head and start again after a two month layoff due to the demands of a the day job. In the next few weeks, I have a wee bit more time on my hands, and it’s all going to be given to writing. Christmas can get stuffed, I have a book to write.
9. Describe yourself in 5 words
Intense, introvert, extrovert, imaginative, and judging by the answers above, a fairly good liar.
10. You are to have dinner with 2 fictional characters – who are they and why did you choose them?
Steerpike and Sir Harry Paget Flashman VC, KCB, KCIE. Just for the fun of it. I’d convince both of them that the other was going to kill them before the meal was over, then wind them up and watch them go. And make Flashman pay for the dinner
Thank you Mark, brilliant answers – and I’m sure that you will still manage to indulge in a little festive cheer in between writing your next book!
To read my review on Names of the Dead then click below
And to buy Mark’s books then pop on over to Amazon and get those fingers clicking!