Monday 28 May 2012


What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?

My name is Ed James - though it's not my real name.  I was born in
Penzance in Cornwall but lived in Scotland from the age of 2.  I now
live in East Lothian, near the coast and Edinburgh.

Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?

In some ways, I always did.  I loved writing at school, even writing
some pieces for fun but getting disinterested with them quickly.  I
remember writing a good crime story for my project in Higher English
that was full of swearing.  I spent most of my 20s trying to be a
musician in an art-rock band, almost succeeding on a couple of
occasions.  When it all fell apart, I started writing, mainly as a
cathartic process but also to do something creative on my own that I
could live or die by.

When did you first consider yourself as a "writer"?

Quite quickly, to be honest.  I have a tendency to throw myself deep
into projects and it was pretty quickly that I was immersed in it.

Did it take a long time to get your first book published?

It's been five years and I've had to go the Kindle route.

Do you work another job as well as your writing work?

Yep.  I work in IT as a project manager.  It's a stimulating job and
I'm now good enough and experienced enough to be able to manage the
day job and writing.  And that's at both, I guess - I consider myself
good at writing after making a lot of mistakes and learning from them.
It's a long way to great, mind.

What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarise it
in less than 20 words what would you say?

Police thriller mystery hunting a killer who uses a social network to
hunt his victims.

BLURB from
Detective Constable Scott Cullen of Lothian and Borders has only been three months in CID as a full DC. He is assigned a Missing Persons case which has stretched his uniform colleagues. Caroline Adamson - a young, recently divorced mother from Edinburgh - has disappeared whilst on a date.

The more Cullen digs into her disappearance, the more he unravels her private life. Who was she on a date with? What happened during her divorce from Rob Thomson? As Cullen's own private life gets messier and the relationship with his DI deteriorates, Caroline's body turns up and he finds himself hunting for a ghost in the machine. 

Book one of the Scott Cullen series. 

£0.99 (Price was quoted on 15th May 2012)
Who is your publisher? or do you self publish?

Self publish.

Do you have a "lucky charm" or "lucky routine" you follow when waiting
for your book to be accepted by a publisher?

The times I've sent it off to agents, the charm I used was get on with
something else.  When I send off the full GHOST manuscript to an agent
three years and six drafts ago, I had four months to wait so I wrote
the sequel.  I'm only now getting back into it.

How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original
idea to finishing writing it?

Despite the fact that it's taken three years (elapsed time, not man
years!) to finish GHOST, I actually write pretty quickly.  It took
three months to do the first draft, then another three to do the
second draft.  I think I sent it off after nine months, though I'd had
some time off due to being really busy at work.  I pretty much totally
reworked it at Christmas time and wrote 27,000 words in ten days or so
to finish it.

Which of your books were easier/harder to write than the others?

GHOST is the third I've written and it was hard to finish.  They are
getting easier as I'm getting better/more experienced, but it's still
not a facile activity.

What can we expect from you in the future?  ie More books of the same
genre? Books of a different genre?

I'm going to finish the sequel, DEVIL IN THE DETAIL, and hopefully
publish it late Summer.  I've got a short story which I plan to
publish pretty quickly, it's a science fiction crime story.  I will
then get on with some new Scott Cullen - DYED IN THE WOOL is the
third, but I'm struggling to nail down the plot.

Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series?

Yes - DEVIL IN THE DETAIL is the second in the Scott Cullen series.

What genre would you place your books into?

Tartan Noir.

What made you decide to write that genre of book?

It's a funny story.  Just before Xmas in 2009, I picked up a hardback
of Iain M Banks THE ALGEBRAIST.  When I got on the train and took it
out of my bag, it turned out it was the hardback of Mark Billingham's
SLEEPYHEAD.  I tore through it, reading it in two days.  I'd been a
big fan of crime fiction like Ian Rankin for a long time and I thought
why don't I do it?  I'd just been writing a sort of crime fiction
story from the perspective of the baddies, but I couldn't quite get it
sorted.  What a police thriller gives is a solid framework to put your
story in.

Do you have a favourite out of the books you have written? If so why
is it your favourite?

DEVIL IN THE DETAIL is the favourite.  It's the most well-plotted and
I'm pleased with taking a small idea I'd had from an email chat with a
mate and turning it into a realised crime story.  I just need to
finish it and publish it!

Do you have a favourite character from your books? and why are they
your favourite?

I have to say that the character of the DI in GHOST - Bain - is the
one I love writing best.  He's like a force of nature - total chaos -
and I find it really natural to get into his wild way with words.  I
have to tone the swearing down as there's a tendency to punctuate
everything he says with the f word - as happens with loads of stress
monkeys I know.

Where do you get your book plot ideas from?What/Who is your inspiration?

I get ideas from reading the news, speaking to people or sometimes
just from something I see on the street.  I was working in London
recently and saw a poster for a club that had the phrase "do you need
an alibi" which gave me an idea for a short story.  It's something
I'll flesh out, but shows an example of the inspiration.

Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to
music, sit in a certain chair?

I do most of my writing on the train.  I've got two journeys to work,
one to Edinburgh and one from Edinburgh out to the office.  I get on
the train, headphones on and the netbook on.  I march onto the train
and get one of the seats with a table, usually pushing someone's
newspaper off my half of the table!

Do you have anybody read your books and give you reviews before you
officially release them?ie. Your partner, children, friends, reviewers
you know?

My girlfriend has been a very honest reviewer for years and really
helped me stylistically - I'm naturally a plot/story/plan kind of guy
and she's really helped develop my detailed writing style.  For the
final draft of GHOST, I gave it to my Dad - not someone short of an
opinion... - and it was very useful having another set of honest
feedback.  I think as long as there's honesty and you're not too upset
by the feedback then it's good and really helps your writing.

Do you gift books to readers to do reviews?

Yes - I really believe in the blog world to support writers like me.

Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?

Yes - I try not to enjoy the bad reviews too much or get dispirited by
the good.

Would you ever ask a reviewer to change their review if it was not all
positive about your book/books?

I'd go the other way and ask a glowing review if anything was wrong.
The only way to develop as a writer is to learn from feedback.
Writing a 90,000 word novel is very hard - it's a big project to
manage and you can only do an 80/20 thing with the best will in the
world.  That's when you need to harness honest, objective feedback.

How do you come up with the Title and Cover Designs for your
book/books?Who designed the Cover of your books?

Yes.  The titles of Scott Cullen will - for the time being at least -
be musical references of the form SOMETHING IN THE SOMETHING, e.g.
Placebo song, WHISKY IN THE JAR is the Dubliners and more famously
Thin Lizzy.  The covers I did myself based on some nice photos I've
taken on my iPhone.  It's great being self-sufficient.

Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?

The title usually comes with the idea.  I'll quickly come up with a
title, sometimes they stick, sometimes they don't - SPANNER IN THE
WORKS became DROP IN THE OCEAN, for instance, and I doubt I'll stick

How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?

Sadly enough, I've got an Access database that logs all my characters
and has a list of surnames that I can quickly pull out when I need a
character.  I remember reading an interview with Iain Banks where he
said he had a list of names in the Culture that he dips into when he
needs a new character.  To prep the names in advance is good as you
don't want to slow down when writing.  The places are largely real and
in Edinburgh, though I have invented a few places.

Do you basic plot/plan for your book, before you actually begin
writing it out? Or do you let the writing flow and see where it takes
the story?

I did the latter with GHOST based on a loose idea and got into a total
mess with it.  It's taken nine or ten drafts to sort the story out.
For future works, I think what's worked best is plot out the main
story and write it to a novella length - 30,000 words or so - and then
look at ways to complicate it and also add in subplots.  It's what I'm
doing for DEVIL and I'm having some success with it - the story is
nailed on, it's just the "book" stuff that needs fleshed out.

How do you market/promote your books?
I've been approaching blogs like your own to see if they're
interested.  For indie books like mine, it's an excellent resource and
I really appreciate the time taken to review.  I've got my books on
places like Goodreads and Shelfari as well.  The next step is to go
mainstream and target the press, but that is highly unlikely.

Have you ever suffered from a "writer's block"? What did you do to get
past the "block"?

A couple of times.  The way to get past it is to write.  If you write
something bad, you've written something and something that you can
fix.  If you've not written anything then you can't make it better.
Writing to me is an iterative process - I don't sculpt sentences for
hours, I bash through it and tweak with every edit.

What do you do to unwind and relax?Do you have a hobby?

This is the hobby!  To relax, I watch films, football or read sci-fi -
it's important to not read the same genre as you're writing at the

Is there a certain Author that influenced you in writing?

Ian Rankin is the main one - I would always get his REBUS books in
hardback when they came out.  Other influences are Iain Banks and
Irvine Welsh.  There are a lot of really strong Scottish writers of a
very varied range, and it maybe comes across in my books.

Which format of book do you prefer, ebook,hardback, or paperback?

I've not got a Kindle and I have about 60 unread paperbacks.  I want
to get into eBooks but I really am struggling to read a lot with all
of the writing I've done this year.

What are you currently reading? Are you enjoying it? What format is
it?(ebook, hardback or paperback)

I've just started reading REVELATION SPACE by Alastair Reynolds.  It's
a paperback sci-fi novel, first in a series.  It's promising, though
I'm only ten pages in.  I just finished LAIDLAW by Hugh McIlvanney
which is a late 70s crime thriller set in Glasgow and a key influence
on Rankin.  It was enjoyable but somewhat opaque and more of a
literary novel than a modern crime thriller, but then it's older than
I am.

Do you think ebooks will ever totally replace printed books?

I'd say so, yes.  As soon as iPads have eInk displays...

Did you read a lot at school and write lots of stories or is being a
writer something newer in your life?

I dabbled but it's something I've really got into with a lot of life
experience under my belt.

Is there a book you know you will never read? Or one you tried to read
but just couldn't finish?

I frequently start books that I can't finish.  Sometimes it's just
that I'm not in the right frame of mind.  I remember as a kid trying
to start reading the Hobbit every year for seven years or so - all
those dwarves falling out of cupboards really put me off.  I
eventually read it a few years ago and actually enjoyed it...

Are there any New Authors you are interested in for us to watch out
for? and Why should we watch out for them?

Gary Marshall - he's someone I knew from my music days.  He's the real
deal - been writing for a living for years and a real inspiration for
me to know, in that I could see there was a way you could live some
sort of creative dream (and also that the reality isn't always sexy).
He's published an eBook - COFFIN DODGERS - that is a good laugh and
one I highly recommend for fans of Christopher Brookmyre or Harlan

What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?

Make sure you get honest feedback and that you listen.

Do you or would you ever use a pen name?
I do - my real name has been taken.

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