Today we travel to the east of Scotland, near Edinburgh, to chat with Charlie Laidlaw to discuss how the University of Edinburgh, Eddie Calvert, being a street actor, visiting 19 countries, becoming a journalist, having thick skin, Charles Dickens, and a swimming pool each play a role in Charlie’s past and current life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Paisley, central Scotland, which wasn’t my fault. That week, Eddie Calvert with Norrie Paramor and his Orchestra were Top of the Pops, with Oh, Mein Papa, as sung by a young German woman remembering her once-famous clown father. That gives a clue to my age, not my musical taste.
I was brought up in the west of Scotland and graduated from the University of Edinburgh. I still have the scroll, but it’s in Latin, so it could say anything.
I then worked briefly as a street actor, baby photographer, puppeteer and restaurant dogsbody before becoming a journalist. I started in Glasgow and ended up in London, covering news, features and politics.
I then took a year to travel round the world, visiting 19 countries, after which, surprisingly, I was approached by a government agency to work in intelligence, which just shows how shoddy government recruitment was back then. However, it turned out to be very boring and I don’t like vodka martini.
Craving excitement and adventure, I ended up as a PR consultant, which is the fate of all journalists who haven’t won a Pulitzer Prize, and I’ve still to listen to Oh, Mein Papa.
I am married with two grown-up children and live in east of Scotland near Edinburgh. And that’s about it.
In which genre do you write?
How many published books do you have?
Three – The Things We Learn When We’re Dead, The Space Between Time and Love Potions and Other Calamities.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?
I’ve always been a writer, from primary school. I wrote my first “novel” in my early teens and, by the time I was 21, I had written three more. All were gibberish. But I then became a journalist and learned how to write lucidly. Writing is a trade, and you have to learn it…there are no short-cuts.
What does your ideal writing space look like?
My actual writing space looks exactly like a desk, with a computer on it, because that’s what it is. My ideal writing space would involve lots of sun and a swimming pool.
What are you currently reading?
The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris, the fourth in the Chocolat series. It’s a masterclass in descriptive writing, and told through multiple first-person narrators.
Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?
I don’t know! I find that odd ideas come to me, and the trick is to figure out why they came to me, and how can I use them. Inspiration only ever comes in small chunks…you have to take that first idea and then ask “what comes next” over and over, until you have a plot and story for a book.
What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?
Worrying about not writing or marketing my books. I do worry too much!
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?
Writing is a deeply personal thing. It’s just you against a blank computer screen, and the blank screen often wins. But writing becomes very public when your book is published – and it can then be judged. The surprising thing I’ve learned is that I don’t much care if someone doesn’t like my book…I have a thick skin I didn’t know I had.
What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?
The final full stop. Writing a book is a lengthy marathon, and it’s always good to finish. In my case, I’m just finishing book four so will have that final full stop in the next few weeks…but then it’s back to editing, editing, editing!
Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? Has this helped with your published writings? If so, how?
I don’t keep a journal or diary. My life is not interesting enough to write it down. But I do always have a notebook with me, even in bed, so I can write down even the smallest of ideas. Every budding writer should do the same, because an idea forgotten is a great novel lost.
What is the most crazy thing that has ever happened to you?
Being threatened by a man with a gun in Dubai, and being given an armed bodyguard by the Palestinian Liberation Organisation in Beirut (not the same person with a gun).
If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?
Why did you pee on the floor? Why did you pee against that chest of drawers? Why did you pee on that chair?
What are you currently working on?
A novel inspired by Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. My books are all, in their own way, about the choices we make and how that impacts on our future. A Christmas Carol sums that construct nicely.
Tell us about your most recent.
The Space Between Time follows Emma from childhood into adulthood. On the face of it, she appears to be the luckiest girl in the world. She’s the daughter of a beautiful and loving mother, and her father is one of the most famous film actors of his generation. She’s also the granddaughter of a rather eccentric and obscure Italian astrophysicist.
But her seemingly charmed life begins to unravel, and Emma experiences love and tragedy. Ultimately, she finds solace in her once-derided grandfather’s Theorem on the universe.
The Space Between Time is humorous and poignant and offers the metaphor that we are all connected, even to those we have loved and not quite lost.
It was great fun having you on MTA, Charlie. Thanks for adding some laughter to my day. I’m adding ‘The Space Between Time’ to my ‘to be read’ list. Sounds like a wonderful story! Wishing you all the best! – Camilla
My book can be found at:
All 3 books can be found at:
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