Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Hi Fiona. My name is Stephen Scarcliffe and I am 37.
Fiona: Where are you from?
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I am the son of a preacher man. Born in London, I was brought up in Edinburgh from 6 months old, and have spent the majority of my life here. I was always very creative with a keen interest in Art, music, and writing. I spent a misguided (but fun!) youth in the late 90s and 2000s revelling in Edinburgh’s electronic music scene, and living for the weekend. I formed a post-punk/rock band, as singer-songwriter with my brother Adam, The Number 9s and spent ten years gigging in and around Edinburgh and Glasgow at venues such as Cab vol, King Tuts and the HMV Picture house before it closed its doors. And throughout that period the book grew and grew, before evolving from a sideline into my main focus as the band slowly petered off.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Well, the obvious news is I am about to release my first crime fiction novel Pure Angst. First of a three-part series might I add.
Besides this, I just booked a ten day holiday to Crete in October with my partner Angela, and I will be rolling back the years when I visit Freiburg Germany in July to celebrate a close friends stag. So between launching my book with all the work that entails to travel plans, a busy year lies ahead.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I always had a wild imagination from as far back as I can remember. I used to scribble fantasy stories on my storybook jotter at primary school such as Rohan the barbarian. There was another one about a lad with gigantic ears that could hear things from miles away. It all stemmed from reading Roald Dahl.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably when we formed the band. I was writing the lyrics for all the songs, something I threw myself into headfirst, and with a passion. Throughout this time I was also writing the books as a sideline, so yeah, this would have been the time when I started to regard myself as a proper writer, I guess.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I wrote a short story as part of a Creative writing module way back in 2005. It was about a heroin-addicted gangster coming out of jail after a long stretch and trying with difficulty to reclaim his patch. I got really good feedback from family, friends and my college tutor. It wasn’t until by chance I bumped into Irvine Welsh in a pub in Edinburgh city-centre with a copy of the short story on me that the seed was firmly planted. After a few pints, I built up the courage to go over and have a word. I handed him the copy and received an email shortly after detailing how much he enjoyed it. This inspired me to create a novel.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
It started when I was researching and reminiscing around old club nights from 90s Edinburgh. Reminded me of a particularly popular night that was held on Saturdays at Edinburgh’s venue nightclub called Pure. I then put it together with the one feeling that runs like a strand through the entire story, and that is the Angst of the 3 central characters. Pure Angst. Just feel it fits perfectly.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
Vivid descriptions, I like to mix it up in terms of pace, and chapter length and I use multiple points of view and storylines within the one overarching narrative.
When you have three central characters it makes writing a synopsis within a limited word allocation (for example when sending to publishers) a challenge, as you have to try and cover the story arcs of all three characters.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I grew up on the north side of Edinburgh. Some of my closest friends to this day are folks from in and around the areas the book is set, so I like to think this lends authenticity to the story and its characters.
Parts of the book are loosely based on things I was involved in and experienced personally growing up. Drugs were a big part of my youth. Ecstasy, speed, coke, etc, was always readily available and rife at every turn. This makes it alot easier for example to describe the feeling of a comedown after a heavy binge on class A’s than it would be for someone who has never experienced it. Not that I am for one second suggesting any writers should take this on as part of their research, quite the contrary!
Also, I was often in and out of trouble as a young guy, was very much par to the course when you moved in certain circles in the areas I speak of. You were often seen as weak If you weren’t up for a scrap, so pretty quickly, you needed to learn to stick up for yourself and your mates. This helped when it came to describing some of the stuff involving fights, petty crime etc.
Furthermore, there are elements of certain characters, and incidents in the book that are very loosely based on people I have known over the years, and things I have heard about or seen.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I wouldn’t say it’s vital but I would say that travel helps alot. I often find I am at my most creative when I’m experiencing the wonders of another country or even other parts of Scotland that holds so much beauty itself. There is definitely something to be said for detaching from the pressures of everyday life in the creative process, and it’s sometimes nice to reward yourself with a breakaway when you’ve been working so hard at it all!
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Domi from inspired cover designs did an excellent job creating an eye-catching minimalist cover that suits the story to a tee.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Often a person can be a product of their environment.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I have recently been getting right into the work of Chris Brookmyre. Where the bodies are buried is an excellent book. Also Charlie Huston, his first novel Caught stealing is an absolute rip-roarer that I couldn’t put down.
My favorite writer if I had to pick on and one only would be Don Winslow. I just love his fast-paced style, and his depiction of the drug trade, and the corruption it breeds. He creates brilliantly well-layered anti-heroes and you don’t need to work at his books, so easy to read.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Claire Wingfield, my literary consultant, and editor. She gave me the confidence in knowing I had something decent there. Her help with ironing out kinks in my writing was invaluable, and her advice helped steer me towards self-publishing after first attempting to go the traditional route.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I definitely would like to eventually.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
That’s a tough one to answer right now. Come back to me once I have had a few reviews in haha.
One thing I am struggling with a little right now is whether or not the dialogue is too heavy on slang or not, and whether this may limit my reach or not, time will tell. To have characters from one of the roughest housing estates in Edinburgh speaking in plain English would just seem a little false to me, however. Watering it down too much might cause the story to lose a bit of its soul and characater. And after all, Trainspotting didn’t do too bad did it? Neither has the Outlander, apparently massively popular as a book and TV series.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned an appreciation for the unbelievable amount of work that goes into being a self-published author, with this being my first book. Far, far more to it than just putting down words, you are effectively responsible for the whole package, marketing, formatting, setting up websites, you name it.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I like the idea of using an unknown actor with little experience playing the lead. Someone recruited directly from the schemes, similar to what happened for This is England and NEDS.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Before you charge headfirst into self-publishing or submitting to an agent, publisher etc, seek out a literary consultant and pay them to evaluate your manuscript. It’s one thing getting the opinions of family and friends but there is no substitute for a professional evaluation in helping you become the best writer you can be. It helps you pick up on things that would never get addressed otherwise.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Fan of Trainspotting or Irvine Welsh? Do you like stuff set in the 80s and 90s? Do you like a good gangland tale with lots of violence, betrayal, power struggles, twists, and turns? Do you like to read stories where the main characters have to come through a ton of adversity, whether it be a difficult childhood or unfortunate family ties? If any of the above applies then hopefully Pure Angst is for you. And there is more to come as it’s the first of a three-part series, get in there nice and early.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Tweak – Growing up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Roald Dahl, BFG.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
A night with old pals always makes me laugh.
An emotional ending to a film can jerk at the tears from time to time.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Bob Marley, genius, one of my all-time favorites. Would love to discuss his views on religion, marijuana, music, and just life.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I go to the gym three times a week, I love my music. A big fan of football particularly Spanish. I enjoy cooking. And I love film and TV foreign and western.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Huge fan of Gomorrah, Italian crime show about the Neapolitan Mafia. Sopranos still one of my all-time favorites. Breaking Bad, The Bridge, The Killing, True detective (Not season 2), The Wire, Last Panthers, Stranger Things, so many…
Films, I’m a huge fan of anything by Scorcese. Also to name just a few True romance, Carlitos Way, Blow, Drive, The Wrestler, Killer Joe, Dallas Buyers Club. I really like Foreign films, Oldboy, La Haine, Bittersweet life, Irreversible, A Prophet etc.
Love a good horror.
Just watched Greenbook at the cinema, excellent.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
I like a nice steak, am a big fan of Italian food, French food too. Really enjoy experimenting with all different kinds of cuisines, especially when abroad, Portuguese is nice.
Music, all sorts. Hip hop, Reggae, Rock and roll, Techno, Blues, Indie…
Favorite artists to name a few, Joy Division, Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Pete Doherty, The Doors, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, The Smiths, Bob Marley, Wu-Tang, Nas, Biggie Smalls, Black Keys, BRMC, Twilight Sad, Interpol, Ghostpoet.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I would probably go back to Art, and painting, that I used to enjoy so much at school. I would say music but that would be a pain if I am unable to write songs.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
I’d spend it with close friends, family, and partner. Ideally, go somewhere in Scotland with amazing views. Have a great meal in a nice restaurant, with a cracking bottle of red wine.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
It’s been a bloody good run, now for the next phase.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Below are my web links.