I’m always inspired by writers who’ve won a major competition, or who have published their first novel. So, it is even better to speak to an author, Chris Longmuir, whose first crime novel was published after winning the prestigious Dundee International Book Prize 2009.
Dead Wood, published by Polygon during 2009, is an excellent novel by any standards. It was inspired by a real life murder case in 1970s Dundee, but it is a contemporary story with completely fictional characters.
A strong female protagonist, Kara is a memorable character who unwittingly becomes embroiled in a police investigation after she stumbles across the bodies of some murdered women in a wood. To add to the thriller element, Kara is also wanted by the local gangster, to whom she owes money, and her life is in danger from all sides. And with the gangster’s daughter being one of the murder victims, he is all out for revenge.
One of the strengths of the book, apart from its cracking story, is the characterisation of the gangsters which adds an interesting element to this crime novel.
Like many of the best actors, Chris Longmuir was hardly an ‘overnight success’, having written and published short stories and articles for many years. Not to mention the other unpublished novels hoping to see the light of day. So was her greatest success, so far, worth the wait? I asked Chris the following questions.
What has it meant to you, winning the award and seeing your first novel published?
“It was absolutely marvellous winning the Dundee International Book Prize. It was totally unexpected because I had assumed they would be looking for a more literary entry, and I don’t consider my work to be literary. What I want to achieve is a really good story, a page turner, and they don’t usually hit the literary button. All the feedback I’ve had from readers so far is that I have succeeded in my aim, which pleases me immensely. The money prize, although very nice, was not the main reason I entered the competition. It was the lure of publication, the thing that most unpublished novel writers want, to see their book in the bookstores. There is nothing quite like seeing your book smiling out at you from the shelves of bookshops. It’s like giving birth to a new baby after multiple miscarriages.”
Are you now looking for an agent? Or do you have one?
“I thought that finding an agent would be easy after winning such a prestigious award, and with a fast selling book that went through its first print run in less than 6 months. But it hasn’t worked out like that and I am still looking for someone to represent me.”
Any advice for other first time novelists?
“My main advice to other first time novelists is: a) take expert advice from relevant people, other writers or editors rather than friends and family, or even a literary consultant; b) believe in yourself and your ability; c) above all – persevere, don’t give up.”
Thanks to Chris for taking time to give such great answers to the questions. Dead Wood is well worth the read and certainly deserves to have won this major prize. I’m looking forward to her next novel.