Val McDermid: A Working Class Lassie From a Wee Scottish Mining Town
Excerpts from the interview by Chris Aldrich in the October/November 2001 issue of Mystery News
Val McDermid has some big shoes to fill with the US publication of her new thriller, Killing the Shadows. Her own. After being dumped several years ago by her publisher, she returned to the US scene last year with the publication of A Place of Execution, a much acclaimed and highly atmospheric novel that has been nominated for nearly every mystery award. Last fall, just as A Place of Execution was released here in the states, she was profiled on CBS Sunday Morning by Anthony Mason, to whom she described herself as a working class lassie from a wee Scottish mining town. I asked Val whether she expected all of the attention she and the book have gotten.
I've been rocked by the response of readers to A Place of Execution. I never feel satisfied with a book when it's finished, and this was no different. I thought it was strong, but I didn't think it was as good as I had wanted it to be when I set out. But the reaction to it has been phenomenal .
The new book, Killing the Shadows, could facetiously be subtitled Someone is Killing the Great Serial Killer Writers of the UK. And doing it particularly gruesomely, using their own plots and methods as blueprints. The protagonist of Killing the Shadows is Fiona Cameron, one of a new breed of criminal profiler who eschews the usual behavioral approach to psychology instead employing computer technology to do crime linkage and geographic profiling. She gets drawn into the case because her lover, Kit Martin, is a best-selling thriller writer whose friends and colleagues are turning up dead, and they fear that he is on the killers to-do list.
The next two books after that will probably be standalone thrillers. I've got several ideas kicking around, but I haven't decided absolutely which of them I will write next. It's narrowed down to one of three.
Val McDermid has also been tapped by the LA Times as a reviewer and shes the guest of honor at this years Magna Cum Murder the week before Bouchercon. I wondered how she manages to find the time to do so much.
I am one of the undead. I do not sleep. Only joking. Honestly!
These days, I tend to do admin and email and bitty things like reviews and articles in the morning in my home office. Then in the afternoon, I go to my office outside the house (such luxury, I hear you say, but it's more of a necessity with a small child in the house) and write from one till five. I like my office; it's on an industrial estate, it's very spartan -- a chair, a table, a computer and a poster of A Place of Execution. I can play my music loud and nobody complains or gets woken up by it, and there's a cafe on site that does bacon sandwiches to die for.
Farther from that wee Scottish mining town than mere mileage can measure, Val McDermid is still making up her own versions of the stories, relishing the fact that shes in charge of her life.
The writing can be the most joyous and wonderful thing and at the same time, youve got the constant edge of challenge. What more could a lass ask for?
Read the complete interview in the October/November 2001 issue of Mystery News