Today we travel to Montrose, Scotland to chat with Chris Longmuir about how imaginary friends, turning to a life of crime, piles of books, building computers, Dirty Dancing, determination, and hiding a penny under her tongue come together as part of Chris’s life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi, I’m Chris and, although I was born in Wiltshire, I’ve lived in Scotland since the tender age of two, so I count myself a Scot. I live in a seaside place called Montrose, a wee bit further north than Dundee where most of my books are set. I’m a mum, a granny, and I’ve lived alone since my husband passed on a few years ago. But I’m not lonely. I have too many voices in my head, and my imaginary friends rarely leave me alone for any length of time.
Apart from that, there’s nothing special about me, it just so happens I like to write. When I was little, I used to imagine writing a book; I had a great imagination, but I thought that was something beyond me. I’d never met a writer, so never thought in a million years I could be one.
What else can I tell you? I live a very quiet life. I don’t smoke, drink or swear, although you’d never guess that after reading one of my books. My characters do enough of that, so I don’t need to. I don’t have much of a social life unless it’s connected to reading or writing, and I’m never happier than when I have my head in a book, or I’m closeted away in my study writing, so you might find me a little dull.
In which genre do you write?
I write contemporary crime thrillers and historical murder mysteries, although when I started to write being a crime writer wasn’t in my game plan. My first book was a historical saga, A Salt Splashed Cradle, set in a fishing community and my plan was to be the next Catherine Cookson. However, my timing was off because sagas went out of fashion with the publishers just as I finished writing it and popular saga writers were losing their contracts. That put paid to my plan. But, not to be beaten, I turned to a life of crime.
How many published books do you have?
At the last count, I had eight novels and two nonfiction books. I have two well-established crime series. The Kirsty Campbell Mysteries set during and after the first World War, and the Dundee Crime Series, contemporary crime thrillers. My new book, ‘Dangerous Destiny: A Suffragette Mystery’ is the first book in a set of suffragette mysteries. And, of course, my solitary saga which I mentioned before (it’s published now).
What does your ideal writing space look like?
Ideally, it would be a small orderly book-lined study with all my research books in one place and near to hand. My desk would be tidy with nothing out of place. It would be a quiet haven where I could dream to my heart’s content. The reality, however, that’s a different thing. Oh, I have the small study, but it’s messy. Papers and folders everywhere. Book shelves stuffed with books in no particular order. A filing cabinet with books piled precariously on top. More piles of books on top of the book-cases. I live in daily fear of an avalanche and reckon I’d need to be dug out if it ever happened.
What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?
I’m afraid I don’t do a lot of marketing. I prefer the writing side and most of my time is taken up with writing and researching. I’m curious by nature and I love to research. But that curiosity sent me down another path. I like tech. Anything to do with computers and I’m your girl. Anyway, back to curiosity. I simply had to find out how computers work. Picking and pecking at the keyboard wasn’t enough for me. So, you’ve guessed it, I took a course on how to upgrade and build computers. After I did the course I started doing some minor upgrades to my PCs but that wasn’t enough for me. Now, I wouldn’t consider using a computer I hadn’t built myself.
What was the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?
Knives Out. I watched it because it was billed as an Agatha Christie type murder mystery movie and I cut my crime reading teeth on Agatha Christie. I love the puzzle element and I always try to incorporate that into my own crime thrillers and murder mysteries. Apart from that, I love musicals and have recently watched Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody. An all-time favourite of mine is Dirty Dancing!
Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?
Determination. If I hadn’t had that I wouldn’t have published ten books. Before I started writing novels I had been publishing articles for more than ten years. However, breaking into the book publishing world is far harder than writing and publishing articles. You keep on hitting your head off a brick wall which won’t give way. But my determination kept me going until I eventually broke through after about ten years of trying and four novels under my belt.
And, even then, I didn’t make the breakthrough until my crime thriller, Dead Wood, won the Dundee International Book Prize. Winning that prize made me an overnight success after twenty years of hard slog.
Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?
The idea for Dangerous Destiny: A Suffragette Mystery came from the back story of my main character in the Kirsty Campbell Mysteries. Kirsty, who is a pioneer policewoman, was originally a suffragette. You probably don’t know that the women’s police services in Britain at the start of the First World War were set up by the suffragette societies and, as I explored Kirsty’s police career, I became more and more interested in the suffragette histories. So, I went back in time to 1908 for Dangerous Destiny and wrote the first book in a new suffragette mystery series.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene?
It has to be the penny in the mouth! It was for an attempted sabotage scene in a munitions factory in one of my Kirsty Campbell Mysteries, Devil’s Porridge. One of the jobs the munitionettes did at Gretna was to make an explosive paste. Anything dropped into the mixture would cause an explosion and the munitionettes were searched before they entered the mixing area to ensure they took nothing in with them. My munitionette, intent on sabotage, hid a farthing under her tongue with the intention of causing an explosion. Now, you no longer get farthings but they were about the same size as a penny so, I stuck a penny under my tongue to see what effect it would have and assess what speech would be like with the penny in place. Needless to say, it rather restricted my speech.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve just started to write another of my contemporary thrillers in the Dundee Crime Series. It doesn’t have a title yet, I’m just calling it ‘Tony’ for the time being. And, as the name suggests, it’s about Tony who is a gangster and nightclub owner in Dundee and he’s being framed for the murder of one of his pole dancers. I did a bit of pole dancing research on YouTube in order to describe the pole dancing moves. You have to agree a writer’s life can follow interesting paths.
Tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it?
My most recent book was published on 26th March, this year. It’s so new the ink is still wet. It’s called Dangerous Destiny: A Suffragette Mystery and is meant to be the first book of a new suffragette series of mysteries. This one is set in Dundee, Scotland in 1908, and in future books I’ll take Ethel and Kirsty to Edinburgh and Glasgow.
It was wonderful to learn more about you, Chris. Your life doesn’t sound boring at all! Thank you for being a guest on MTA. All the best to you! – Camilla
Suffragettes are dying. The police aren’t interested, taking the attitude ‘good riddance to bad rubbish’.
Three suffragettes band together to find the truth.
Kirsty, a naive young girl unable to escape her controlling family and the secret of her past, lives a sheltered life with her parents in their Broughty Ferry mansion. When she becomes interested in the suffrage cause she is aware her father will disapprove and does not know if she will have the courage to defy him. Despite this she becomes increasingly involved with Dundee suffragettes.
Ethel is a working class mill girl fleeing from her abusive home and vicious father who has sworn to kill her rather than allow her to be a suffragette.
Martha is a seasoned suffragette seeking justice for her friends.
Kirsty and Ethel come under the wing of Martha, who protects them and encourages their aspirations. But when suffragettes are found murdered with ‘Votes for Women’ sashes wound around their necks, they band together to hunt the killer.
Will Kirsty and Ethel forge a new destiny for themselves?
Will Martha unmask the killer? And will she survive?
A coming of age story with murder and mystery at its heart.
Find the book here:
US Amazon Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Dangerous-Destiny-Suffragette-Mystery-Mysteries/dp/0957415389
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