What do psychopaths and mystery writers have in common?

Crime, Thrillers, and my Writing Journey

Chris Longmuir’s talk at a Summer Audience


“There are two kinds of folks who sit around thinking about how to kill people. Psychopaths and mystery writers.” Castle

Now, I sincerely hope I’m not a psychopath, but I am a mystery writer, and to take it further, I’m a crime writer.

So how did I become a crime writer – well, I suppose I didn’t start out to be, because the first novel I wrote was a historical saga. That one is now published as A Salt Splashed Cradle, and the reason I didn’t continue writing sagas was simple. When I finished writing it, sagas went out of fashion.

I started writing about 24 years ago and, although I’d wanted to write my entire life, for a variety of reasons – lack of confidence being one of them – I never did.

So it wasn’t until much later I was attracted by a creative writing class being held in my area and I’ve never stopped writing since then. At first I wrote short stories and articles and made my first tentative steps onto the publication ladder with several short stories and loads of articles. My articles were mainly historical, not the Kings and Queens and lords and ladies stuff, but more along the lines of social history, what the ordinary folks were doing and how they were living. So when I started my first novel it wasn’t surprising it was a historical one. A saga based on the ordinary fisher folk of eastern Scotland.

So that was how a Salt Splashed Cradle came about. I enrolled for the RNA New Writers’ Scheme and they liked A Salt Splashed Cradle so much they placed it with a publisher, but because sagas no longer the in thing, it was rejected.

Okay, I thought, I’ll try crime, because that was my first love, but I stuck with historical crime and wrote The Death Game. That novel was one of the twenty winners of a worldwide competition set up by Creme de la Crime to find the best unpublished crime writers. At the end of the day they only published a fraction of the winners and I was in the half that was dropped. I didn’t realise it at the time but that was a blessing in disguise, because if I had been published at that stage I wouldn’t have been eligible to enter the Dundee International Book Prize competition.

So The Death Game went into the bottom drawer beside the saga and I turned my attention to contemporary crime and my version of the Dundee Police Force was born. When I started writing Night Watcher I fully intended DS Sue Rogers to be my lead detective, but somehow or other DS Bill Murphy stuck his head above the parapet and pushed her out of the running. Night Watcher went on to win the SAW Pitlochry Award.

Dead Wood came next, although in the beginning it was called The Screaming Woods, and under that title it won the SAW Pitlochry Award. Not bad I thought, two separate books both winning the same award, I must be doing something right.

I didn’t know it then but Dead Wood was to become my breakthrough novel, when it won the Dundee International Book Prize which is claimed to be the biggest literary prize for unpublished writers, so it was quite a prestigious thing to win. There was one condition attached to winning the prize and that was a change of title. That was a no-brainer, I would have stood on my hands if they’d asked me, so The Screaming Woods became Dead Wood. It was duly published and the first print run sold out within 3-4 months. I really thought I had arrived.

When I started writing books I was quite naive about the possibilities of publication, however many rejections later I thought I knew how the business worked. You needed to get your first book out and if it was a success, which Dead Wood was, the rest was plain sailing and you were on the road to becoming a successful author. So after a time I submitted Night Watcher, but to make sure it was in the best possible shape, I had it professionally edited by a Literary Consultancy. The book was as good as it could possibly be. However, I hadn’t factored in the recession and the subsequent effect that had on publishers. They were now looking for the safe titles that would guarantee they made money. They were no longer interested in taking a risk on a relatively little known author who might or might not make money. They weren’t interested in a book that might sell a few thousand copies, they were looking for books that would sell a few hundred thousand copies.

So Night Watcher did the rounds and collected the rejections the same as before. It was as if Dead Wood had never happened. Luckily an agent friend of mine guided me in the direction of epublishing. So I formatted Night Watcher, made a cover and uploaded it. Then I held my breath. It did reasonably well, but I had read somewhere that if an author only had one digital book to offer it would sell less well than those authors who had several books. So I dug out A Salt Splashed Cradle, read it over, and thought this is quite a good story. It got the revision and polishing treatment, and up it went to join Night Watcher. After that I compiled two books of short stories which I dug out of the depths of my computer.

The books were all doing quite well so I invested in a professional cover for Night Watcher and I must say it’s an improvement on my original cover. I’m currently working on a vigilante style novel, also based in Dundee, and also featuring DS Bill Murphy, and when that is finished I intend to have it professionally edited, and give it a professional cover.

So that’s my journey to becoming a crime writer. It’s had its ups and downs but I have no regrets about anything I did, and I’m enjoying the freedom of epublishing and not having a publisher calling the shots. My success or otherwise is in my own hands and that pleases me no end.

Chris Longmuir, 16 June 2012

To find out  more about Chris Longmuir, including where to buy copies of all Chris’s books:-
Author Page: http://loveahappyending.co.uk/chris-longmuir/
Author Website: http://www.chrislongmuir.co.uk/index.html
Author Blog: http://chrislongmuir.blogspot.com/
Twitter  A/c @ChrisLongmuir: http://bit.ly/k0d5Y1
Facebook page Chris Longmuir: http://on.fb.me/lnLtDr


Please leave a comment

  1. Melanie Robertson-King Says:

    Great insight, Chris! When will you epublish your historical crime novel, The Death Game?

  2. Chris Longmuir Says:

    Have to rewrite it first. Needs a lot of revision.

  3. Harriet Grace Says:

    It was a great talk, and lovely to see it in print in the blog!

  4. Stephanie Keyes Says:

    It was a wonderful talk! Well done, Chris!

  5. Nicky Wells Says:

    I loved your talk. But then I was hooked from your opening quote… ADORE Castle, and that is such a cool quote for starting your talk. You rocked! x

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