10 Questions With… Craig Robertson

Hi everyone, and on the blog today I’m delighted to welcome crime writer Craig Robertson. Craig’s gritty Glasgow thrillers are not for the faint hearted – his latest one, Watch Him Die, sounds amazing!

I was really pleased when Craig agreed to answer a few questions on what he’s been up to in lockdown, and of course, that all important writing process.

Over to you, Craig…

1) As a child, did you have a favourite author? Was there a turning point with any particular book that made you go ‘Wow!’

I was always reading when I was a child, devouring book after book. I started my crime fiction reading early with the likes of Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven, The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. But my favourite author was probably Robert Louis Stevenson. It was Kidnapped that gave me that wow factor and let me fully realise what a novel could do. It remains in my top ten list of all books.

2) Did you enjoy English at school?

I did. And I’m happy to admit that was partly because it came quite easily to me. I was never one for doing too much studying so when a subject involved reading books, and writing or analysing stories, then I was happy that I could do well at it without having to put too much work in. But how could you not enjoy a subject that meant reading great books?

3) Are you a full time writer? If so, what was your ‘life’ before turning to writing full time?

I’ve been writing full-time for ten years now. Before that, I was a journalist for 20 years. I covered some of the biggest stories during that time and was lucky enough to travel the world and meet people from all walks of life. It was a terrific apprenticeship for becoming an author, particularly writing every day as there’s no better way of honing your craft.

4) Do you have any plan formed when you come up with ideas? How does your idea generation work?

It probably varies every time but as a rule, I’ll come up with a premise – something that interests me, and I think I can build a book around – then go from there. I’ll spend quite a bit of time playing around with the idea, adding bits on, working out where it might go and, most importantly, if it has enough legs to sustain an entire novel. If it has, I’ll add in themes that I want to tackle and then write it.

5) Can you briefly describe your writing process? How many drafts of your novel do you write before you send it to your agent?

Again it varies from book to book, but I’ll plot out the novel before I start. Not every detail of it but most of the plot points

I’ll only do one draft before I send it to my agent. I feel one is enough because I never do a dirty first draft, I edit as I go, don’t leave anything to be filled in and by the time I hit The End it’s ready to go. It’s a throwback to being a journalist that I need to have it right when it’s done.

6) Can you name one author that you admire, and why you like their particular style of writing? Why do their stories intrigue you?

That’s a tough question as there’s so many authors I admire but if pushed to name just one, I’ll go for James Ellroy. He has a wonderful ability to create atmosphere, invoke sense of place and to give flesh to characters. His prose style is unique, sparse yet evocative, and his plots are complex but complete.

7) When you leave your desk on a Friday evening, what’s the first thing you do? On a Friday evening/the weekend, what do you do to relax?

I rarely have a weekend as such and there’s never a point where I leave the desk and think that’s me finished till Monday. Writing full-time means just that, I never completely clock off. On the other side of that dynamic is that I’ll take a day or half-day off during the week if there’s something that I want to do. But among my favourite free time things are going hillwalking or just going to the pub for a pint.

8) What are you currently reading? Have you found that your reading habits have changed since lockdown started?

I’m not reading anything right now. I’m close to finishing a book and won’t be reading anything until it’s done. I never like reading while I’m writing but will go back to Doug Johnstone’s A Dark Matter between finishing my new book and the next project. I’m about halfway through it and it’s excellent.

9) What are you currently watching on television? Have you found that your telly habits have changed since lockdown? Do you have a favourite drama that you watch religiously?

The current watch is The Plot Against America but unless it picks up very soon then I’ll be giving up on it. The first two episodes have been slow going and episode three will be its last chance. Lockdown hasn’t really changed my viewing habits as I don’t watch much TV anyway and no terrestrial telly. But we’ve binge watched some very good stuff this summer; The Great, Mrs America, and I May Destroy You.

10) When you write, do you prefer music or silence? Do you have a favourite genre that you listen to?

I don’t often have music on when I write, partly because I find myself typing in time to the music and that becomes distracting. I don’t need silence either though. I used to write in a busy newsroom with people shouting at each other so noise doesn’t bother me. My musical taste is all over the place and pretty eclectic, but I’m a words man so it’s usually something lyric-driven.

Thank you so much for your time this afternoon Craig. It has been a pleasure to interview you!

Bio: A former journalist, Craig Robertson interviewed three Prime Ministers, reported on major stories including 9/11, Dunblane, the Omagh bombing and the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. He was pilloried on breakfast television, beat Oprah Winfrey to a major scoop, spent time on Death Row in the USA and dispensed polio drops in the backstreets of India.

He is the author of eight novels set on the mean streets of contemporary Glasgow and one set on the not-so-mean streets of Torshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands.

He was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Dagger for his debut Random, has twice been longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year, been longlisted three times and once shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. He’s a Sunday Times bestseller and an international bestseller.

Craig is a director of the Bloody Scotland crime writing festival and runs the Bute Noir festival in Rothesay. He splits his time between Scotland and California, where his wife – bestselling author Alexandra Sokoloff – is from.

His new book WATCH HIM DIE is similarly split between Glasgow and Los Angeles. When police forces 5000 miles apart uncover video feed of a young man dying, they realise there is no way to identify him, no way to find him, no way to save him. Not without the cooperation of a killer. And the only way he will cooperate is if he can watch him die.

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