Today we’re talking to Scottish author Jackie Baldwin about books, reading and DI Frank Farrell
When did you start writing, and why?
I was obsessed with books as a child. I actually used to get into trouble at school and home for always having my nose stuck in a book. I was a solitary child and loved the worlds created for me by authors and that led to a desire to do that for other people to enjoy in the same way. I didn’t really get started until I was in my early thirties though. I wrote a short film script for a Border TV initiative and was selected to attend a weekend course with the amazing Peter Mullen. That lit the spark within me and I’ve been writing on and off ever since. I suppose my aim in writing is to create characters for readers to vicariously experience another life other than their own. I have always escaped into books when the going gets tough.
Which do you like to write, series or standalones? If you write both, what do you find the difference?
So far I’ve written one series and have just started another. The series that is published is a police procedural and the book I have just submitted to an agent is about a private investigator so these types of books are generally extended into a series or at least a trilogy. I would say that writing a series has both pros and cons. In some ways it is easier because the series characters have already been established and become familiar friends. People don’t remain static and I enjoy deepening and developing the characters in response to the events I throw at them. I suppose you could say they become real to me, imaginary friends, and I care very much about what happens to them. The downside is that sometimes you want to write something new or might feel increasingly constrained by having to conform to what is expected from you. I am not in that league but I can imagine that a very successful author might come under pressure to maintain a certain brand and come to feel somewhat trapped within their own success.
What do you like to do to relax when not writing?
When I’m not writing, (and not in the middle of a pandemic!), I love to do classes at the gym like Body Combat, Body Pump and Spinning. I am nobody’s idea of a gym bunny being on the large side but I really get into the zone in these classes with the music blaring. I enjoy going to writing festivals with my friends. I love to travel. I live in a rural area with both the coast and wooded walks easily accessible. This is the first time in around twenty years that I haven’t had a dog to explore these with. Sadly, we lost our last Retriever to illness at the very start of the pandemic. Walking felt very pointless without a dog romping along but we have had to get used to it.
Who is your favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?
I would have to say DI Frank Farrell. Farrell has integrity. He overthinks things at times but is brave and resourceful when the chips are down. I think he comes across as a bit of a loner in some ways though his friendships deepen as the series progresses. He can be a little awkward socially and stands apart which stems from his time as a Roman Catholic priest. He is a thinker and relaxes with a whisky while listening to Gregorian Chants. He’s a bit of a neat freak and DS McLeod’s messiness and chaos drives him up the wall. He’s incredibly loyal but also has a sense of humour which brings some light to his shade. He has darkness within him and credits his faith with saving him from any darker impulses. He suffered a nervous breakdown as a young priest and it affected him deeply. He lives in fear of a reoccurrence. I feel very drawn to him as if he is someone I would be friends with in real life. I suppose I may have drawn upon aspects of my own character in creating him but I won’t tell you which ones!
Who is your least favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?
I suppose it has to be Sheriff Granger in Avenge the Dead. A sheriff is the Scottish term for a judge in the lower courts. In my time I have appeared in front of some lovely sheriffs but also in front of a few who abused their power and were bullies. They would put you down in front of your clients with their sarcastic comments and do their utmost to make you squirm. The sheriff in Avenge the Dead is cut from that cloth and some of his little digs are taken from real life. I poured a lot of repressed rage into him and loathe him with a passion.
Tell us about your last book…
Avenge the Dead is my favourite book so far. The plot revolves around the Criminal Bar at the court in Dumfries. Someone is targeting those close to defence solicitors. The first victim is a wife and the second victim is a son. What is the connection? The case takes DI Farrell and DS McLeod into darker, more disturbing territory. It leads them back into the past to a horrific fire in which a young woman died, to four friends harbouring dark secrets and finally to a killer waiting patiently for revenge. I think this one was particularly fun to write because I used to be a young defence solicitor working in that very court.
What’s coming next…
I have completed a new novel which has a female PI as the main character. She has a male Golden Retriever who shares many characteristics of a dog I once had and greatly miss. It is set at Portobello beach in Edinburgh and has a cosier feel than the Farrell books although it still deals with difficult issues such as bereavement . I can have a dark side which bleeds out into some of my characters. It is currently with an agent being readied for submission. I am also working on a serial killer novel which I want to set in New York but I’ve been rather stymied by not being able to go there for research as I’d planned.
Anything else you want to share?
Jackie Baldwin is a Scottish crime writer. Her debut crime novel, Dead Man’s Prayer, featuring DI Frank Farrell, was published by Killer Reads on 2nd September 2016. This was followed by Perfect Dead and Avenge the Dead. For most of her working life, she has been a solicitor specialising in Family and Criminal Law. She later retrained as a hypnotherapist. Married with a grown family, she recently moved from Dumfries to East Lothian. She loves nothing more than to be outdoors walking, covered in mud and with twigs in her hair.
Thank you Jackie and best of luck with the serial killer in New York
Tomorrow we’re joined by Stephen Edgar