Much thanks to Doug for taking the time to answer these questions!
First a little bit about Fault Lines: It set in a reimagined contemporary Edinburgh, in which a tectonic fault has opened up to produce a new volcano in the Firth of Forth, and where tremors are an everyday occurrence, volcanologist Surtsey makes a shocking discovery. On a clandestine trip to The Inch—the new volcanic island—to meet Tom, her lover and her boss, she finds his lifeless body, and makes the fatal decision to keep their affair, and her discovery of his corpse secret. Desperate to know how he died, but also terrified she’ll be exposed, Surtsey’s life quickly spirals into a nightmare when someone makes contact—someone who claims to know what she’s done.
My Interview with Doug ~
• What did you want to be as a child? Was it an author?
Either an astronaut or a professional footballer. Time is running out on both ambitions.
• What does a day in the life of Doug Johnstone look like?
Up early and get the kids to school. Then spend the morning writing fiction, aiming for around 1,000-1,500 words. Afternoons are spent doing journalism, manuscript assessment, teaching, emails, and at the moment I’m working on some screenplay stuff. Then kids back home, homework, make the tea, then chill out watching TV or playing guitar at night.
• What do you use to inspire you when you get Writer’s Block?
I don’t really believe in writer’s block, which I think comes from my journalism background. If a journo gets writer’s block, they get sacked. I just write, even if it’s crap.
• What book would you take with you to a desert island?
Where I’m Calling From, the collected stories of Raymond Carver.
• Favorite quote?
‘Less is more.’
• Coffee or tea?
Strong black coffee.
• Best TV or Movie adaptation of a book?
• Do you plan your books in advance or let them develop as you write?
A bit of both. I have a plan at the start, where the opening and ending are quite firm, but it’s very loose in the middle. And then it all changes anyway as I write, and I scribble all over my plan until it’s unreadable and I have to write a new plan.
• What does the act of writing mean to you?
A combination of deep creativity and problem-solving logistics.
• Have you ever had a character take over a story, and if so, who was it and why?
Not really, but there is an element that once you’ve set up a character a certain way, they have to act according to that character whether you planned it or not.
• Which character in any of your books (Fault Lines or otherwise) was the hardest to write and why?
Probably Ellie, the central character in The Jump. She’s a middle-aged woman whose son has committed suicide before the start of the book, so there’s a lot of grief and loss to deal with. That was hard.
• Which character in any of your books (Fault Lines or otherwise) is dearest to you and why?
Probably Ellie from The Jump again, for the same reasons. She really got under my skin.
• Do you have stories on the back burner that are just waiting to be written?
Yes, loads. I have a folder with ‘Ideas’ written on it that is full of scraps of paper, story ideas, background, newspaper clippings and so on.
• For encouragement of budding authors, what has been the hardest thing about publishing that you have overcome?
Getting noticed in the first place. But the important thing is to be passionate about what you’re writing about, and hopefully someone will eventually share that passion.
What has been the most fun?
Getting sent finished copies of your books never gets old, really.
• What advice would you give budding authors about publishing?
Just to persevere and believe in yourself. It’s pretty banal advice, but it can be like a war of attrition trying to get published, so you have to stick at it. But if you’re determined in your work and professional and polite in your approach, you’re giving yourself and your work the best chance.
• What was the last thing you read?
The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry, out in August. It’s the penname of Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman, a historical crime novel set in Edinburgh in the 1800s. And it’s terrific.
• Your top five authors?
Sara Gran, Megan Abbott, James Sallis, Raymond Carver and Willy Vlautin.
• Book you’ve bought just for the cover?
Loads. There were some lovely Penguin editions of H.G. Wells books recently that I picked up with subtle abstract designs on them. Same for Solaris by Stanislaw Lem, published by Faber and Faber. And No Exit have done a terrific job with James Sallis’s backlist.
•Tell us about what you’re working on now.
A novel about three generations of women from the same family who have to take over the running of a funeral directors and private investigators.
Be sure to order Fault Lines
~ The Novelette 😎