I had the pleasure of meeting Douglas Skelton for the first time a couple of weeks ago when he appeared at Newcastle’s Lit and Phil for Crime Factor along with GJ Brown, Neil Broadfoot and Mark Leggatt.
Douglas is a great guy and an excellent writer. My thanks to him for taking the time to chat to me today.
Hello again, Douglas, tell us about your books.
As Andy Williams once said, where do I begin? I moved from true crime and criminal history to fiction with the Davie McCall series – Blood City, Crow Bait, Devil’s Knock and Open Wounds, all set in the heart of Glasgow’s criminal darkness but hopefully with a heart – but have now begun the Dominic Queste series with The Dead Don’t Boogie. This is lighter in tone but still with shadows around the edges.
What inspired them?
When I moved into fiction I didn’t want to write a police procedural as it was already being done and done well. I’d spent some years investigating actual crime and wanted to put what I’d learned into my writing – and that led to the Davie McCall books. They’re thrillers, not documentaries, but I like to think they are grounded in a realistic world. The Dominic Queste books, however, are different. Realism goes out of the window, so if I want to have a shoot-out in a city park, I will. I wouldn’t do something like that in a Davie book but the realism gloves are off with Dominic. However, they have their darker moments.
Where do you get your ideas from?
No idea. They just happen. They pop into my head and don’t leave until they’re written down. It can be a plot point, a premise, a situation, a scene I want to work in somewhere, even a line of dialogue. But that’s the magic. The rest is hard work.
Do you have a favourite book / character that you’ve written?
It’s hard to point to one book and say that’s my favourite. I like Crow Bait a good deal while I also like The Dead Don’t Boogie. I can tell you there’s a true crime book I wrote that I loathe (but won’t give you the title. I like to be a man of mystery.) As for characters, Dominic Queste is closest to me but I have a sneaking fondness for Jimmy Knight, the principal villain in the Davie McCall books. I enjoyed writing him so much. I wonder what that says about me.
What is the most useful piece of writing advice you’ve received? Who was it from?
Just get it done. I can’t remember who said it, probably an experienced journalist, but it’s valid. Just do it. Don’t talk about it. There’s a line in the film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – if you’re going to shoot, shoot – don’t talk. The same can be said about writing. If you’re going to write a book, write it – don’t talk about it. Just do it. It might not be very good. It might be wonderful. You’ll never know until you get it done.
What can readers expect from your books?
Entertainment, hopefully. Surprises, hopefully. Fun, hopefully.
Have you got any advice for aspiring writers?
The Just Do It line above is the best I can give. And be prepared for rejection. Also, never convince yourself that what you’ve written is perfect. It won’t be. You should always be learning and improving.
What do you like and dislike about writing?
I can be a solitary creature so I like that part of it. Just me and my laptop and the mayhem I create. What do I dislike? The same thing.
Are you writing anything at the moment?
I’ve recently finished the second Dominic Queste thriller, Tag – You’re Dead. I’m about to start something else but not quite sure what at the moment.
What’s been your happiest writing moment?
I’m not certain I have a happiest writing moment. It’s something I do, like breathing. I can stop doing it for a while but sooner or later I have to take another breath. I think the true pleasure comes when you hold the printed book in your hand for the first time – and then when you see it in a shop. Being told Open Wounds was long-listed for the 2016 McIlvanney Award is right up there in the happy charts, though.
Favourite book of all-time?