Name: Frank Muir, but I am published in the UK under the author name T.F. Muir, and in the USA under T. Frank Muir.
Age: Much older than I’d like to be.
Where are you from: Glasgow, Scotland.
A little about your self ie your education Family life etc:
I live in Lenzie, on the outskirts of Glasgow, with my wife, Anne, just the two of us, our children having flown the nest. I graduated from Strathclyde University, Glasgow, with a degree in Civil Engineering, about as far away from crime writing as you can possibly get. But civil engineering gave me the opportunity to travel, and shortly after graduating, I found work overseas, where I spent most of my professional life – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and 20+ years in the USA, where I became a dual US/UK citizen.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My next novel – BLOOD TORMENT – number 6 in my crime series set in St Andrews, is scheduled for publication in early May 2016. Chicago Review Press in the USA published my fourth novel – LIFE FOR A LIFE – in September 2015, and are on the verge of picking up number 5 – THE MEATING ROOM – which is terrific news indeed.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be an author, or more specifically, to make a living from writing books. But for reasons that are too long to explain here, I lost interest in English at school, and found confidence in mathematics, which was why I ended up studying civil engineering at university.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I decided to give up civil engineering and write full time.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Fear of failure. I remember waking up one morning in my thirties, and thinking that I didn’t want to wake up one day in my seventies, and look back on my life and wish I’d written that book I’d promised I would write. That day, I set a goal to write that book, and two weeks later, after having purchased a computer and a Teach-yourself-to-type book, I sat down and started to write. That first book was a sprawling international thriller, which still sits on my computer needing some serious revision.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I can’t think that I do. If anything, I tend to write short sentences, particularly in action scenes in which I disregard most of the rules of English, while searching for the right rhythm rather than grammatical correctness.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Most of my titles just come to me, seemingly out of nowhere. For example, one day my publisher asked me for a synopsis for my next book to see if I could interest them, and I wrote a short jacket blurb, after which I just added a title – THE MEATING ROOM. To this day, I have no idea where that came from. But my publisher liked my jacket blurb, and loved the title, and contracted me for one more book.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Not that I can think of. I want my readers to enjoy my books, so I try to make them page-turning and suspenseful, with endings that will make the reader want to come back and read more.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic ?
My manuscripts are read by a number of professionals for factual accuracy, such as police officers for investigation and interviewing strategies, lawyers for legal issues, doctors and forensic pathologists for all things gruesome. I try to make the descriptive narrative as factual as possible, but I’m sure the odd inaccuracy slips in.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
As my ideas come to me from reading newspapers, or catching news reports, or just a snippet of a conversation that might trigger some subconscious response, there tends to be a factual element based on a real event in all my stories. But my detective – DCI Andy Gilchrist – is based on me. Physically, he’s everything I’m not – tall, slim, high pain threshold, and driven to the point of obsession (him, not me). Intellectually, there’s some of me in there, although he tends to be smarter than I am when he solves crimes. Hey, wait a minute, don’t I tell him how to do it?
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
When I was younger, I read nothing but mystery, action and adventure, horror, and anything that had me gripped in suspense. And even now, I read mostly crime novels and thrillers. A couple of authors have me coming back for more, time and again – Robert Harris, Martin Cruz Smith, Greg Iles – and their work inspires me to try to write to the best of my ability.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’ve just finished re-reading Martin Cruz Smith’s HAVANA BAY featuring his Russian detective Arkady Renko. Smith’s writing is tight and evocative, and in my opinion he’s the best there is.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I recently read Gillian Flynn’s first two books – SHARP OBJECTS and DARK PLACES – both of which were terrific. I have not yet read GONE GIRL probably because I’ve seen the movie.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I have a number of projects on the go at the moment. Most importantly, I’ve just finished the first draft of the next in my DCI Gilchrist series, tentatively titled STONE HEART, which I need to knock into publishable shape soonest. After that, I have the first draft of a thriller set in the States, which needs some serious work on it before submitting to my US agent. I’m also collaborating with a playwright friend on a Scottish play full of satire, humour, and loads of bad language. And early in the new year, I intend to write one more self-help booklet to add to my two self-published golf booklets – HOW TO CHIP LIKE A PRO IN 4 SIMPLE STEPS, and HOW TO CURE YOUR PUTTING YIPS IN 4 SIMPLE STEPS – which are short and cheap as chips, and which have surprised me by how well they are selling. After that, well it’s back to the beginning and on to the next Gilchrist book…
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Without a doubt, it was (and still is) the Strathkelvin Writers’ Group, which I joined 15 years ago, after returning to Scotland from the States. The Group is comprised of writers of mixed age and gender, who have an unbridled passion for writing and reading. In 2004, I was persuaded by the Group to enter the opening chapters of a detective story I was working on, into an annual competition run by the Scottish Association of Writers. That story was EYE FOR AN EYE, my first DCI Andy Gilchrist story, and to my surprise it won the coveted Pitlochry Award for the best crime story by an unpublished writer. That win encouraged me to succeed in my writing, at a time when I was beginning to despair about it all. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Strathkelvin Writers’ Group.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I do indeed. Several years ago, I decided to abandon the civil engineering profession to follow my dream of writing for a living.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Oh, this sounds like an arrogant response, but the short answer is – No. That’s because so much time and effort is spent revising, rewriting, reworking the story over and over until it is as good as it can possibly be before it is published. The time to make substantial changes in any book is between the first and second drafts, after which you mostly just have to hold on and go with it.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
This sounds really weird, but before I was old enough to go to school, one day and out of the blue my grandfather said to me – You’re going to be an author. Of course, I had no idea what an author was, and he told me. Did he plant a seed? I don’t know. But for as long as I can remember, I loved to read, and without a love of reading I don’t believe you can be a writer.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
My next novel – BLOOD TORMENT – will be published by Little Brown in April/May 2016, so all the work on that has already been done. But I have only recently completed the first draft of the next in the series – STONE HEART – which begins with DCI Gilchrist finding the decomposing body of one of his neighbours – an elderly woman – in her house. But the ever-suspicious Gilchrist suspects foul play, and the mystery deepens when he questions the woman’s son and begins to suspect that he is not all he purports to be. I won’t say any more, because even at this stage the story could change.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Yes, definitely. Getting that first draft down. I don’t develop a story from a short synopsis, but tend to start writing from a sliver of an idea – for example, Gilchrist finds the decomposing body of his neighbour, then what? – and let the story flow to see how it develops. This often leads to much rewriting, but I’ve learned from experience that my first draft is effectively my synopsis. It’s kind of scary when you think about it, but I have a 113,000+ word-long synopsis that I now need to cut back to somewhere between 90,000 to 95,000 words. Strangely – or so I’ve found from talking to other authors – this is part of the writing process that I like the most.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
This is a tough one to nail down, because there are so many great authors out there. But if I was forced into a corner, I would have to choose one of two – Robert Harris, and Martin Cruz Smith – and maybe a third – Greg Illes – and even a fourth – Mick Herron – and possibly a fifth – Gillian Flynn, and so it goes…
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Google Maps is a terrific tool for travelling the world while sitting at your computer, so nowadays there is much less of a need to have a physical presence in any one place. But my crime series is set in St. Andrews, a lovely old town on the east coast of Scotland, which my wife and I visit frequently. And of course, once there, I take the chance to do some research in the ‘auld grey toon’s’ many pubs and restaurants, which is where Google Maps comes up short, big time.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My publisher designs the covers, but always asks for my input.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Again, that would be completing that first draft. Also, in a detective series it’s not just the characters who have to be fully developed and interesting to the readers, but the plot has to have a mystery that will keep the reader hooked and guessing to the end. I am particularly proud of the mystery I developed in HAND FOR A HAND, the second in my series, in which DCI Gilchrist is fed cryptic clues by way of body parts. Gruesome, but gripping.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
With every book I believe I learn a bit more about what makes a good book – how to flesh out the characters, how to build the suspense, and how to keep the reader turning pages – which I hope comes through to the reader.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Never give up.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
It never fails to amaze me that what starts off as an idea in my mind, ends up as a book that people can pick up and read (or download), and which can give so much simple enjoyment. Of course, no book can please everybody, but I remember receiving a lovely review from one reader, which ended with – you made an old lady happy. To me, that was one of the best reviews I’ve ever had. Readers should never forget the hard work and dedicated effort that goes into writing a book, and should remember that reading is subjective – what works for one reader, might not work for another. If you like an author’s work, then feel free to give a nice review. But if you don’t like an author’s work, then don’t give any review. I think I speak for the majority of authors in that respect.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Vaguely, and for the life of me, I can’t remember its title, or who wrote it. But it was a book about a couple of robin redbreasts raising their young. I can remember reading it over and over, and just loving it.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I have a dry sense of humour, and being Glaswegian have the irrepressible knack of finding something amusing or funny in even the darkest of moments. But the older I become, the more aware I am of how short life is, and how precious each and every day is, and I find that I am more touched by poignancy now.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Oh, that’s a tough one, but as we’re talking about writing, I’ll keep my answer to an author. That author would probably be Capt. W.E. Johns, who wrote over one hundred action adventure books in his Biggles series. As a young boy, I just couldn’t get enough of these books, and it would wonderful to sit down and talk to his creator.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
I don’t think I’m the person to ask. When I’m done and dusted, I’m sure my wife will find something nice to say about me.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I read every day, mostly crime and thriller novels, but will read everything and anything I happen to come across. I used to play golf to a fairly competent level but a shoulder injury obliged me to become a spectator. I recently had an operation on my shoulder, and am assured that I will be able to play golf again in a few more months. Until then, I will continue to birdie the nineteenth hole, a favourite pastime of mine.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love watching all the crime miniseries on TV, and when it comes to movies, strangely it’s not crime or thrillers that I enjoy. I loved “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” and I found “The Descendants” to be the best movie I’ve seen in years – funny, poignant, heart-breaking, uplifting, all in one.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
For food, I eat fresh fruit almost every morning. Main meals are mostly chicken or fish, and for some reason I tend to stay clear of pasta, not because I don’t like it, but because I prefer potatoes or rice. A spicy hot Indian or Thai curry is a favourite, accompanied by a beer. For colours, I dress mostly in blacks, blues and greys, so I guess that’s it. For music, I have an eclectic taste, and am happy to spend a night listening to someone else’s favourite songs. If I had to choose three songs to listen to right now, they would be ‘Hotel California’ by The Eagles, ‘Like a Tattoo’ by Sade, and ‘The Prayer’ by Andrea Bocelli.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
When I was younger, I wanted to be an airline pilot, but I could never pass the physical because I am completely deaf in one ear. Now, I can’t think of anything else I would do, other than being a writer.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I have a website at www.frankmuir.com which details all my books.