Quote of the Week:
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
― Oscar Wilde
This is an interview that I think you’ll enjoy. Colin is affable, humorous, and a gifted writer. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Ranfurly Review, and an Assistant Editor at the Scruffy Dog Review.
NT: If you had 10 seconds to describe who Colin Galbraith is, what would you say?
CG: He’s a rough diamond, a music lover, a fan of fiction, fish, pubs, cheese, and Indian curries. He writes crime stories and thrilling tales of an out-of-this-world nature, and he’s an outstanding fake-faller.
NT: I hope that I get to see you do a fake fall one day (grin). Tell us, what was it that sealed it for you that you wanted to be a writer?
CG: I wanted to be a journalist when I was a schoolboy, but that was driven out of me, or more likely, I couldn’t be bothered with studying for it. I was too busy getting into trouble and trying my best not to fit in. So I forgot all about the notion of writing. Then someone bought me a copy of Paul Auster’s memoir, Hand to Mouth, and that sparked something in me. Paul Auster made me believe in myself and I realised that I had to at least discover if the writing urges were genuine. So I did, and I’ve been writing ever since.
NT: Who are some of your favourite authors that you feel influenced your writing?
CG: It’s odd, because the writers that have influenced me most are not crime writers. Paul Auster has been the biggest influence on me, not just through his work, but how he talks the game. Spike Milligan and Douglas Adams were huge early influences on me, the way their creative spirits just flowed onto the page to create remarkable works. And then there’s Albert Camus. When I read the first line of The Outsider in a shop in Edinburgh, I knew I’d discovered someone special. I re-read that book all the time.
Within the crime genre, though, William McIlvanney and Ian Rankin have been my biggest influences. After them come the likes of Val McDermid, Doug Johnstone, Allan Guthrie, and JA Konrath.
NT: What did you find most useful in learning to write?
CG: I took a creative writing course with the Open College of the Arts (OCA), which was an extremely useful foundation for me. But I think the most useful “thing” I uncovered while sharpening my craft, was the book written by Stephen King, On Writing. I found that immensely helpful and full of great advice.
NT: I need to get my hands on that book then. What kind(s) of writing do you do?
CG: Mostly thrillers and crime fiction, although I have also written a couple of paranormal novellas (one published) that I enjoyed dipping into. I can see me writing more in that genre because it allows me to mix genuine Scottish ghost and paranormal stories with my imagination.
I also write, perform and teach poetry but under a pseudonym: Chas Stramash.
NT: I’m a huge fan of crime thrillers. I thoroughly enjoyed your novella, Stella, and Slick is on my to-read list. Why did you choose to write in those particular genres?
CG: I’ve tried writing in a lot of genres. I take online writing classes quite often, and one I did recently involved writing a story, then re-writing it in different genres. It was very challenging and a lot of fun. My story was about two guys working in a record shop, and it was adapted into literary, a play, a western, a gay romance, a thriller, a comedy, and a crime story. But in all I write, I always seem to slide towards writing crime thrillers. I just enjoy it and it feels natural and right. I like exploring the darker side of people.
If anyone is interested, the course I took was called “One Story, Many Voices”, and is run by Devon Ellington. It’s usually held at savvyauthors.com among others, and I’d highly recommend it.
NT: What is the most important thing that people don’t know about your subject/genre that they need to know?
CG: I’ll give you a fact: Crime fiction, or Tartan Noir, to give it its other title, is a huge business here in Scotland. Until Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo came along, Scotland was the top country for producing crime fiction and writers.
NT: Hmm, I didn’t know that. So, for those interested in exploring the subject/theme of your book, where should they start?
CG: You know, I have no idea. And if I don’t know where to start to answer that question, I can’t expect my readers to either! I know writers that think of a theme they want to discuss through their novel and then ask themselves how best they can make it work into their plot and characters. I’m not like that. If I hit on a theme at all, then I’m lucky and it’s quite by accident.
NT: Are you a full-time or part-time writer?
CG: I’m a part-time full-time writer. In other words, when I’m not working at the day job, it’s what I do.
NT: What do you think most characterizes your writing?
CG: They all concern every day stories of everyday people. Maybe someone I’ve seen on a bus or in a coffee shop. Then from the mundaneness of that situation comes the “who are they?” or “what if?” moments. From that point, I’ll descend into their darkness.
I’ve noticed that my novels often involve the protagonist chasing something or running away, but in either case, they always seem to end up in Scotland!
I like dark humour and try to insert that into my stories too. Some readers might not get it; Scottish humour can be very inflective and self-damning.
NT: Do you have a specific writing process that always works for you, or does it vary?
CG: It varies. With fiction I’ll spend a while germinating an idea in my head before spilling the ideas into a notebook for developing over time. When it comes to the actual writing of the novel, it’s all done on my computer.
Poetry is entirely different. I always carry my notebook with me and I’ll write direct into it when the urge or an idea strikes. Then I’ll transfer it to the computer and edit it many times until I’m happy with it. Sometimes that’ll take weeks, other times a few minutes.
NT: What are some day jobs that you have held, and how have they impacted your writing?
CG: I’ve been quite a lot of things over the years, from a supermarket shelf stacker to a gardener to a newspaper delivery lad. All of my jobs since graduating in 1995 have meant working in an office, which isn’t great for cultivating creativity or an openness of mind. Hence the drive to write more and more.
NT: What projects are you working on?
CG: My latest book, a crime novella called Greener is the Grass came out on 4th May, so that was quite exciting. Right now, I’m working on the final drafts of a new crime novel called Gatecrash, which I’m hoping to have out in time for August.
I’ve also got a couple of chapbooks of poetry coming out under my Chas Stramash pseudonym: Living Leith is a collection of poems about Leith here in Edinburgh, and Poems From a Coffee Shop Window is about coffee (surprise surprise) and was just released.
NT: You’re quite the prolific writer. What do your plans for future projects include?
CG: There was a copper in my recent crime novel, Slick, and although he was only a supporting character he got such a great reaction from readers, I want to do more with him. Once I’m finished with Gatecrash, I’m going to start work on a brand new crime novel with D Lennox as the main man.
I’m also toying with the idea of further developing a stage play I wrote five years ago. It’s a project that I can’t seem to let go of.
My writing year ends in August and my main goal for the year was to complete the various manuscripts that had not been finished over the past few years. I’ve spent the year doing this, and if I can get Gatecrash out for August, I can embark on my plan to produce two books per year: one crime, one paranormal, one poetry chapbook.
NT: What process did you go through to get your books published?
CG: Each has varied. Eternal Press was only the second paranormal publisher I sent Stella to and they snapped it up. I was delighted, because the book was only written as a personal project that I never intended to be published.
My crime fiction had been going round the houses of large publishing houses until I had a meeting with a local agent and publisher here in Edinburgh. He made me realise I was doing it all wrong, and that without a platform on which publishers could see who I was and what I was all about, they wouldn’t take me, as they wouldn’t know how to market me. I’m creating that platform now. Hopefully someone is watching.
My poetry is all done through Smashing Press. I submit poetry to other publishers now and then, but only if they fit the work well. Poetry is a tough market with a lot of publishing risks, so doing it yourself is really the best way to get it out there.
NT: What are your thoughts on e-books vs. print books, and indie vs. traditional publishing?
CG: I’m all for e-books these days. I still enjoy reading from a paperback, but I’d rather read it on my Kindle if I can. I get through so many books these days more than ever and it’s all down to the Kindle.
I think traditional publishers don’t quite get it yet and are struggling to see how they can compete with indie publishers. They need to change their entire business model if they are going to get up to speed and embrace the new generation. Why should I wait a year to get my book out there when it can be out immediately? Imagine doing that with Coldplay’s next album?
NT: I agree. I can’t imagine Coldplay doing that, either. Now, writers are usually encouraged to write as much, or even more than they read. What are you reading now?
CG: I’m reading two books at the moment: The Complaints by Ian Rankin (while in the coffee shop), and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
NT: Excellent! What advice would you give to new writers?
CG: Experiment in writing and you’ll find where you belong. Keep reading and keep writing. Grow a thick skin but enjoy it. If it’s not fun you’re doing it wrong.
NT: How can your fans and readers contact you?
NT: Colin, my last question to you — What is that one question you wish that someone would ask about your books?
CG: Your books are perfect for the publishing company I run. Would you mind signing up?
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