It’s my turn on the Burnout blog tour today. I’m hosting a Q&A with Claire to find out a bit more about her and her second novel. But first, the blurb.
“My husband is trying to kill me.” A new client gets straight to the point, and this line of enquiry is a whole new ball game for Maggie Laird, who is desperately trying to rebuild her late husband’s detective agency and clear his name. Her partner, “Big” Wilma, sees the case as a non-starter, but Maggie is drawn in.
With her client’s life on the line, Maggie must get to the ugly truth that lies behind Aberdeen’s closed doors. But who knows what really goes on between husbands and wives? And will the agency’s reputation – and Maggie and Wilma’s friendship – remain intact?
Burnout is the sequel to Cross Purpose, the McIlvanney Prize-longlisted debut that brought crime to Aberdeen.
Welcome Claire. Before we start, could you tell me a little about yourself?
After reading English at university, I had a long and varied career, first in newspaper and television advertising, then in HR. When my children were born, I set up in business, developing a chain of shops and rental properties. It was only after my kids were grown that I returned to writing, attending Creative Writing evening classes and later studying for a MLitt at Dundee.
I have recently down-sized from a Fife village to the West End of Glasgow, and divide my time between there and St Andrews.
Burnout sees the return of Maggie Laird and her business partner “Big” Wilma, first seen in Cross Purpose. Can you introduce us to your leading ladies?
They’re very different from the professional detectives and forensic scientists crime readers are used to.
Maggie Laird is a stay-at-home mum of two teenagers. Petite, conservative and straight as a die, she is short on confidence and something of a snob.
New neighbour, divorcee Wilma Harcus, herself the mother of two adult sons, is big, brash and a bit dodgy.
The unlikely pair are thrown together by circumstances. When Maggie’s ex-policeman husband, George, is found dead in his struggling detective agency, Wilma rides to the rescue, persuading Maggie to take on George’s business as a conduit both to paying the bills and restoring his good name.
Cross Purpose saw Maggie struggling to contend with the unexpected loss of her husband and she was at her lowest ebb. Do we now see her moving into a more positive place in Burnout?
It’s a gradual process, but she’s working towards it: building up the agency’s client list, settled in her P/T job at Seaton School, her children recovering from the trauma of their father’s death. She has a more balanced view on her quest for justice, and is opening up to the possibility of another relationship.
Wilma seemed the powerhouse in Cross Purpose and it was her energy and drive which pushed Maggie on. Are you turning the tables in Burnout?
A categorical yes. At the beginning of Cross Purpose Maggie was first paralysed by grief, then doggedly determined in her drive to avenge George’s death. Burnout finds her more assertive in arguing the case for taking on new client Sheena Struthers, and confident in her handling of Wilma’s marital problems and support for young colleague Ros. Under Wilma’s influence, she is also becoming less judgemental and strait-laced.
Over the course of the last year you have been promoting Cross Purpose and taking Maggie and Wilma around the country. As they take the language of Aberdeen with them on their travels how have readers been responding to Doric (a Scots language spoken in the North East of Scotland)?
When I first lived in Aberdeen, I found Doric impenetrable, but grew to love it. In Cross Purpose, it serves both to reinforce the sense of place and add the pithy humour necessary to balance the darkness of the subject matter. I don’t intend to lose the vernacular altogether. However, for practical reasons – overseas readers find it difficult to follow, for one – I’ve found it necessary to make some compromises.
Cross Purpose released last year and subsequently became a 2017 McIlvanney Prize nominee. Does that give you a lift when working on the next books or is there now a pressure of reader expectation?
A bit of both. I was beyond thrilled when I heard the news of my longlisting, although the full significance didn’t hit home until I saw the other nominees. For a debut author to be in the company of such stellar names as Val McDermid, Denise Mina, Ian Rankin and my role model, Lin Anderson, among others, was staggering.
The nomination certainly gave me a lift in that it brought my name and novel to a wider audience. Hopefully, it will boost my readership and establish Harcus and Laird as a fresh and original crime series on the Tartan Noir scene. As to reader expectation, I have been heartened by the support of the many booksellers, bloggers, librarians and readers who have championed my writing. I have learned so much from them, but doubt their expectations can be higher than my own.
Thanks for answering the questions and all the best with your book!
You can buy Burnout here.
About the Author
Claire MacLeary lived in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Fife, before returning to her native Glasgow. She describes herself as “a feisty Glaswegian with a full life to draw on”.
Following a career in business, she gained an MLitt with Distinction from the University of Dundee. Her debut novel, Cross Purpose, was longlisted for Bloody Scotland’s 2017 McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. A sequel, Burnout, will be launched in spring 2018.
Claire’s short stories have been published in various magazines and anthologies, including In Memoriam, a tribute to those who have donated their bodies for research to Dundee’s Department of Life Sciences.