Today we travel to Inverness, the capital of the Highlands of Scotland, to chat with Margaret Kirk about how comic strips, Ragdoll cats, a spooky holiday flat, Scooby Doo, and Good Housekeeping come together in her past and present writing life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi, and thank you for inviting me onto your blog! I’m Margaret Kirk, a Highland Scot living and working in Inverness, the capital of the Highlands with my husband and two spoilt Ragdoll cats.
I’ve always loved languages and I lived in Germany for a while (where I developed a lasting love affair with Lebkuchen and Ritter Sport 😉 ). I worked in a mental health recovery unit for several years before taking the plunge and becoming a full-time writer.
In which genre do you write?
Scottish crime, set in the Highlands where I live. So I call it Highland Noir, which seems fitting!
How many published books do you have?
Two currently, Shadow Man and What Lies Buried. Book 3 in the DI Lukas Mahler series, In The Blood, will be published by Orion this summer.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?
Aargh, slightly embarrassing, but okay. This is where I own up to writing a terrible play, aged 10. It was set in ancient Egypt, involved a murderous priest and a princess in peril – so I suppose you could say I got the crime bug very early on! But even before that, I was writing little comic strips. So I think as soon as I could make stories myself, I wanted to do it.
What does your ideal writing space look like?
I feel really bad about this, because I have a lovely little shed at the bottom of the garden, which I really should use more than I do. But honestly, this winter it feels like it’s been raining for a thousand years, so I’ve been staying inside on my comfy chair with my ragdoll cat snoozing by my side! As soon as the weather gets better, I’ll start using ‘The Murder Room’ a little more.
What are you currently reading?
Just finished ‘The Other People’ by C J Tudor – excellent as always! I love the current trend towards the gothic that’s creeping into crime and psych thrillers.
Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?
In The Blood is set on Orkney. It’s a place I’ve visited many times and which has a real hold on my heart. But the idea for this book came from an incredibly spooky holiday flat we rented one year – I’ve never felt an atmosphere like it, and it made a huge impression on me. I wouldn’t have stayed there on my own for anything! So of course I was always going to write about it one day …
What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene or plot or to help you remember something if writing a memoir?
Well, I do have interesting discussions with my husband about blood spatter patterns – and I have enlisted his help on occasion to choreograph fight scenes!
If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?
Has to be Scooby Doo. Love the not-terribly-scary ghosts – and that dog! Not Scrappy Doo, though – what the heck was that about?? Possibly I might be Velma’s more sarcastic sister.
If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do?
Hmm. I write crime, so not entirely sure I’d want to be dealing with the crimes Lukas Mahler has to solve! Though I am quite fond of his no-nonsense boss, June ‘Braveheart’ Wallace … I think I’d quite enjoy sorting his unruly Major Incident Team out.
What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?
I think the last one I watched was one of those superhero ones – Thor or something? As you’ve probably guessed, it wasn’t exactly my choice, so maybe ‘watched’ is putting it too strongly. I am looking forward to catching up with the second part of IT, though.
Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?
Broadly speaking, yes. Like my main character, I had to move back to Inverness after many years away when my mother became very ill. I enjoyed my job and it felt like quite a wrench at the time, but if I hadn’t made the move, I wouldn’t have had that experience of coming home to somewhere and not being sure for a long time where exactly I fitted in.
And of course, if I hadn’t bought a copy of Good Housekeeping one day, and happened to see their First Novel Competition advertised, I might never have dared to send anyone the opening chapters of what became Shadow Man!
What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?
Oh, so many places to choose from – living in the Highlands of Scotland, we’re completely spoilt for wonderful scenery and historical locations on our doorstep. Orkney has to be in the running for one of my favourite places, with wonderful, atmospheric settings everywhere you look – it’s a completely magical place. Then there’s Chanonry Point, where you can go dolphin-watching and shudder at the terrible fate of the Brahan Seer, a local psychic who came to a very sticky end back in the 17th century …
What are you currently working on?
Book 3 in my DI Lukas Mahler series, is almost ready to go. There will be at least three more books in the series, but right now I’m contemplating a slightly more gothicky standalone …
Tell us about your most recent book.
I can’t give too much away about it, but I absolutely love my strapline:
‘A missing child. A seventy-year-old murder. And a killer who’s still on the loose.’
It was wonderful to learn more about you and your writing style, Margaret. Thank you for being a part of MTA! All the best to you! –Camilla
Where to find the book:
What Lies Buried , book 2 in the series, is available from all good book stores (and please do use your local indie, if you can!), Waterstones, W H Smith etc as well as the Zon.
Ten year-old Erin is missing; taken in broad daylight during a friend’s birthday party. With no witnesses and no leads, DI Lukas Mahler races against time to find her. But is it already too late for Erin – and will her abductor stop at one stolen child?
And the discovery of human remains on a construction site near Inverness confronts Mahler’s team with a cold case from the 1940s. Was Aeneas Grant’s murder linked to a nearby POW camp, or is there an even darker story to be uncovered?
With his team stretched to the limit, Mahler’s hunt for Erin’s abductor takes him from Inverness to the Lake District. And decades-old family secrets link both cases in a shocking final twist.
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