Star writer returns to the dark side | Crime-writing Fifer Val McDermid has had a busy year so far, having found a cameo role for the First Minister in a play she penned for Radio 4 and campaigning to save an award-winning Orkney mobile library. Now she’s back on familiar ground as she launches another of the gripping, spine-tingling bestsellers that have turned her into one of Britain’s best thriller writers, and she joins the Edinburgh Book Festival to discuss.
“Ideas are cheap. Ideas are everywhere.”
Out of Bounds, the new book, returns to Karen Pirie. Four young lads in Dundee steal a car – “What else is there to do in Dundee?” – and DNA matches a historic case, but it becomes far more complicated than that. So why return to Karen? “At my heart I’m a lazy person,” says Val. She had an idea for a Cold Case story, she thought she’d use the character she already had. “Characters have a way of creeping up on me and making themselves heard,” she continues. Karen was practically shouting at her.
It’s odd to hear Val call herself lazy – she’s 30 books in, plus a whole host of other projects. How does she keep doing it? “It’s fun. I enjoy it, it’s the challenge,” she says. She keeps being asked to do things and thinks it’ll be fun, so does it. “Being a writer is about challenging yourself. You have to accommodate the kind of mind you have – you can’t take someone else’s rules and make them work for you. You’ve just got to go for it or why bother?”
It seems that when one book ends, Val’s already onto the next. “Ideas are cheap,” she notes. “Ideas are everywhere. It’s impossible to escape ideas and stories – they come at you from all sides.” Off the top of her head she rounds off about three future book’s worth of ideas that came from chance encounters or things she had overheard.
“I was brought up with the conviction that I was as good as anyone else.”
The hour talks through Val’s childhood and love of libraries, the importance of libraries and the self-confidence instilled in her from a young age. “I was brought up with the conviction that I was as good as anyone else,” she says, that she could do whatever she wanted “and the only one who can stop me achieving it is me.”
It wasn’t always crime – when she was about 20 she thought she was going to write the next great English novel, “but I was pure shite at it.”
The chat navigates through online presence and feminism, and the convergence of the two. Someone tweeted her saying they could no longer read her books because she was a feminist, to which she replied “Your loss – you probably struggled with them anyway”, it went viral, she was named something like Badass of the Week in Elle Mag Malaysia.
It’s an hour of laughs, crime, and library love from Malaysia’s Badass of the Week. What more could you want?