I am delighted that ALISON BAILLIE is joining me on my blog today for her blog tour. Alison's book - Sewing the Shadows Together - was published by Matador on 7 August 2015.
What inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always liked writing. When I was about eight or nine I used to make little books and comics at home, and at school I can remember being told by the teacher to stop writing such long stories; I got carried away with thrilling topics like A Day in the Life of a Penny. I’d always thought I wanted to write a book, but with jobs, family, divorce and changing countries I never had time until my sons left home.
Where did you get the idea for Sewing the Shadows Together?
In the seventies and eighties I taught English in Edinburgh secondary schools. At this time there were several high-profile murders in the area and even after the cases were closed I couldn’t stop thinking about the people who were left behind – how could they ever get over something like that? I also became very interested in miscarriages of justice and cold case reviews and gradually the story that had been in my mind for so long began to solidify and take shape.
Describe your writing style in 10 words or less?
Readable, strong on character and setting
Do you have any strange writing habits?
I’m very bad at getting started – I am the archetypal ‘have to get all my pencils sharpened before I begin’ type – but once I start I can’t stop. I’ve found that I write best in places where there is no internet - because I can waste an awful lot of time on that.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you plot out the whole book before you start or just start writing and see where it leads you?
Because Sewing the Shadows had been forming in my mind for so long I had a very clear idea of the plot before I started, although I’d never written anything down. When I eventually began to write, the words flowed quickly and the plot seemed to spring to life fully-formed. Having said that, as I wrote further the story took on a life of its own: characters developed differently, some scenes were dropped and even the identity of the murderer changed. I read something in Stephen King’s On Writing where he said that writing is like uncovering a skeleton buried in the sand; as you brush away more of the sand the story is revealed. I could identify very strongly with that.
What do you consider to be the hardest part of your writing?
Definitely getting started. My first story was in my head for almost thirty years before I began writing it. The idea for my second novel is very developed in my mind, but I’m finding it difficult to find my way into it.
How did you go about researching the background for your novel?
The novel is set in places that I know well, Portobello, Edinburgh, the Outer Hebrides and Plettenberg Bay in South Africa. I changed some aspects of the geography and institutions deliberately, and I didn’t check every detail in the locations, because I wanted it to be true to the atmosphere of the places, rather than finding out whether a street was one-way or not.
Who are your favourite authors?
I read a great deal, especially Scottish and Scandi Crime. One of my sons looked up Tartan Noir in Wikipedia and it reads like a list of my favourite authors. It seems invidious to pick out individuals, but if I had to pick four I’d say Ian Rankin, Stuart McBride, Lin Anderson and Yrsa Sigurdardottir.
How has your life changed since becoming a published author?
It’s really too soon to answer that because my first novel has only just been published. However, there is a difference: before if people asked me if I wrote I used to mumble something a little self-consciously and now I can say that I am a writer. That’s an incredibly good feeling.
If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
I once read a quotation from George Eliot ‘Haunts of Echoes Old and Far’. and I thought then it would make a good title for a book. Maybe I could use it for my life-story (not that I’m thinking of writing it!)
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
I think the best advice is definitely to read as much as possible, and try and work out what makes a particular novel great. I often read novels I love more than once – the first time for the story and the second time to see how characters are introduced, how clues are buried and how the plot is developed.
And lastly, why should people read Sewing the Shadows Together?
I hope that readers will be drawn into the world of Sarah and Tom, and identify with them as they are caught up in a web of death, secrets, deception and love, before the truth finally comes to light.
About Alison Baillie
Alison Baillie was brought up in Yorkshire by Scottish parents. She studied English at St Andrews, before teaching English in Edinburgh, Finland and Switzerland. Now she spends her time reading, writing, travelling and attending crime writing festivals.
Find Alison Baillie on her Facebook page, website and Twitter - @alisonbailliex
Sewing the Shadows Together
Published by Matador on 7 August 2015
Can you ever get over the death of your sister? Or of your best friend? More than 30 years after 13-year-old Shona McIver was raped and murdered in Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh, the crime still casts a shadow over the lives of her brother Tom and her best friend Sarah. When modern DNA evidence shows that the wrong man was convicted of the crime, the case is reopened. So who did kill Shona? Sarah and Tom are caught up in the search for Shona's murderer, and suspicions fall on family and friends. The foundations of Sarah's perfect family life begin to crumble as she realises that nothing is as it appears. Dark secrets from the past are uncovered, and there is another death, before the identity of the real killer is finally revealed...
Read my review here.