I am excited to introduce one of my favourite whodunnit authors today, Dr Catriona King.
I have read three of her D.C.I. Craig novels, set in Belfast. They are impeccably written and very addictive. You can see my review of The Visitor HERE. And her fourth, The Waiting Room was launched by Crooked Cat last week. I just know that her stories would adapt well to a TV series, and what’s more, Catriona would write the scripts herself!
You have developed a technique to your writing, which works for me every time, and it appears that you know Belfast like the back of your hand. What led you to start writing a detective series there?
I’ve always loved the Rebus novels written by Ian Rankin, and the way they educate the reader about Edinburgh. I wondered why no-one had done something similar in Belfast. But then I wondered if perhaps because ‘The Troubles’ here had lasted so long, people perhaps had been reluctant to write ‘ordinary’ modern crime stories e.g. crimes that could have occurred anywhere. So I decided to.
I wanted to write a modern thriller series that had nothing to do with looking at the past but was right up-to-the-minute. I wanted the series to show Belfast and Northern Ireland for the modern European city and country that they are.
There is so much beautiful scenery here, so many great shows, restaurants and shops that I thought someone needed to write about them, hopefully in an entertaining way!
How long does it take you to write each book?
Oh now, that’s an interesting question. I think the first draft probably takes about two months, but it can take longer if I’m busy with ‘real life’. The second draft, which in some cases is almost a re-write, can take the same time again.
Then of course there will be the changes suggested by my editor which will take another few weeks. So minimum probably 3-4 months, maximum probably 5. Unless I get writers’ block…
And is every one more – or less – of a burden?
I’ve just released book four in the D.C.I. Craig series which is called ‘The Waiting Room’. After writing four books about the same team, set in the same place, I think that there’s a danger of becoming stale. So I’ve made a conscious decision to leave D.C.I. Craig for a few months and write something completely different, to keep things fresh.
I’m currently writing a novel set in New York called ‘The Carbon Trail’. It’s a spy/science thriller and has completely new characters. The first draft will hopefully be completed by July.
I’ll start writing book five in the D.C.I. Craig series in the autumn. I’m too fond of the characters to leave them for long.
Tell us about other pieces you have published, and where.
My first attempt at writing fiction was when I was eleven years old. It was for a competition and I won an encyclopaedia, which I still have. I loved English literature at school but my writing fell by the wayside while I was practicing medicine, purely from a lack of time. Although I did write a lot of academic articles during my medical career and was a full time journalist on a medical newspaper called ‘Pulse’ for about six months. I’ve written book chapters on management as well.
On a less academic note, I’ve written a play which will be performed soon.
I would love to write a regular column for a newspaper or magazine in Northern Ireland, just to have a quirky look at everyday life here. There is plenty of material out there!
I would also love to script D.C.I. Craig for television. I’m very open to offers, if anyone out there is listening!
Are you still practising your forensic medical profession?
No, I don’t practice medicine now. I did an MBA which took me sideways into health strategy and NHS management and I’m still involved on that side of health..
You have also lived and worked in London. Would you tell us something about the differences between living there and in Belfast?
I like both Belfast and London, but I think that the strength of big cities like London is that they bring together so many people from different cultures, which is wonderful. Belfast is attracting people from many different cultures now, which is great.
It’s very freeing living in a big city. No one thinks that they know you, so you can be exactly what you want to be. Small cities don’t have the anonymity afforded by large ones.
But small cities are quieter and slower, and that can be a plus, because they aren’t as lonely. London was wonderful but it could be very lonely.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
That I hopefully helped some people when I was a doctor. It’s a great privilege to hear people’s vulnerabilities and be invited into their lives. And an even greater privilege to be able to help them in some small way.
What books would you take with you on holiday?
Oh goodness, that’s an interesting question! Before I became a writer it would have been crime novels and thrillers, every time. The Scottish writers Ian Rankin and Val MacDiarmid in particular. Sadly since I started writing crime I find it hard to read it, so I’m trying to educate myself to reading other genres ( when I get the time— to be honest, if I have spare time I would rather write than read.)
I really like classical literature, and because I run a theatre company I read a lot of plays. I love anything by Oscar Wilde, and Noel Coward is another favourite at the moment. I’m also reading a great book at the moment written by an actor, Patrick O’Kane, who wrote it as part of his NESTA Fellowship. It’s called ‘Actors’ Voices’ I would recommend it to everyone, even if you have nothing to do with acting. It’s a real insight into what goes on backstage.
What are your criteria for a good read?
It has to move quickly. If a book doesn’t move along then I get bored and have been known to skip to the last page (I know, that’s dreadful of me).
And I have to like the lead characters; otherwise I don’t care what happens to them!
How did you find Crooked Cat?
By a strange coincidence, really.
Rose McClelland, an author from Northern Ireland, was interviewed in a local newspaper. She had a full page spread and she looked so cheerful and normal that I read it. She talked very positively about Crooked Cat who are her publishers.
I looked at their website and submitted my first book, the first in the D.C.I. Craig series, ‘A Limited Justice’. They were very tolerant of my dreadful punctuation and offered me a contract and the rest is history. They’re great, very pleasant and supportive.
Thank you for interviewing me, Jane.