Tartan Noir is alive and well: Crime writer Val Penny is my Guest Author.
My Guest Author this week is
who has been compared with Ian Rankin
She has kindly agreed to tell me something about herself and her writing
and to share an extract for her latest book
published 9th September 2018
Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland.
She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats.
She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University.
Val has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer.
However she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy
Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels.
Her crime novels, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ and Hunter’s Revenge are set in Edinburgh, Scotland,
published by Crooked Cat Books.
You are an American, why did you venture to South West Scotland to live?
I married a Scottish man – who can resist a man in a kilt?
Did you have reservations about writing crime for a British market?
I have lived in Scotland for many years and am impressed by the quality
and variety of crime writers in the
Tartan Noir is vibrant.
Did you have to make a conscious effort to read a lot of British crime novels before attempting your own?
I enjoy reading crime novels: this is my favourite genre.
I read authors from all over the world: Scotland, England, Canada, US and Scandanavia.
Amongst my favourite authors are several British modern writers: Alex Gray, Ian Rankin, Erin Kelly,
Michael Jecks, Stephen Booth and Katharine Johnson.
Do you find writing from a Scottish perspective difficult, especially as the American Justice System is quite
different, especially from State to State too?
I have made mistakes with regard to police procedure and other issues,
but luckily I have very frank beta readers who have guided me in the right direction.
Have you had to change anything to suit American readers?
As a reader of a lot of crime, American and British, even Scandi-crime,
I can see the differences between writers from each country.
I do not and would not change my stories for different markets.
I think the joy of novels by different authors is different voices.
I am doing my first promotions in the USA early next year,
so I will hear even more directly from my readers there then.
Are your books sold in the USA?
What sort of feed-back do you get, if any, from your readers?
I expect they love the differences in legal systems and investigations.
My books are sold through Barnes and Noble and Amazon and are available all over the world.
I am lucky to receive excellent feed back from both sides of the pond.
You’ve studied Law – been a lawyer – has this helped you with your writing or did you have to put your
knowledge aside when thinking about your stories set in Scotland, where the law is also quite different to
that of the rest of Great Britain?
I practised law in Scotland and the USA. So that was not a problem for me.
Police procedure is a different matter and I often require guidance with that.
When did you first want to write?
I began writing stories when I was eight or nine years old.
I had quite a select audience – my little sister!
What was the first thing you wrote?
I wrote my first book for my sister called ‘The Douglas Family’ – I still have the jotter somewhere,
with original illustrations!
Have you reams of stories written and discarded or are you working on lots of new material now?
Like all authors I have hundreds of notes, ideas, phrases
and scenarios sitting in different notebooks and on computer files.
I am sure some of them will appear in future novels.
Which authors do you admire and why?
I enjoy the humour that Linwood Barclay puts into the crime novels he writes.
Ian Rankin, Kathy Reichs and Lee Childs tell great stories
and Erin Kelly weaves the most incredible plots in
her psychological novels.
However, this year I have made a point of reading books by
authors whose work was previously unfamiliar to me
and I have been engrossed by Death Wish by Linda Huber,
Chasing the Case by Joan Livingston,
Death of a Doxy by Chris Longmuir
and The Secret by Katharine Johnson.
So many good books and so little time!
Who do you think you might be compared with and why?
My novels are often compared to those by Ian Rankin –
but I think it is only because he also writes police procedural crime novels set in Edinburgh.
Has being a hair-dresser at one time helped you with your plots? My tongue is in my cheek….
I think every experience brings something to my novels.
When working in a hairdresser’s shop, I had to interact with different people and that has been invaluable
when creating characters.
Why did you give up Law?
I took early retirement when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Such big changes in life style and priorities were difficult to deal with all at once.
I am sorry to learn this and hope you are fully recovered now.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Do you have lots of ideas swimming inside your head at the same time,
or does something happen (News, TV,
Papers, overheard conversations etc) which inspires and sets you off?
I have always had a vivid imagination so I always have ideas swirling around and often a news article or a
snippet of a conversations will spark an idea that I will note down for later use.
Do you believe in the concept of evil or do you think there is a reason for every crime?
Often there is a reason for crimes that are committed, even if only the culprit understands the reason or
condones the crime.
However, there are some individuals who are simply evil.
I find them less interesting to write about.
Which is your favourite crime story and why?
The queen of crime is undoubtedly Agatha Christie.
My favourite of her stories is Death on the Nile.
It combines a finite number of suspects, a fascinating setting and a clever conclusion. Perfect!
Tell us something about your writing day.
It has taken me years to formulate my perfect writing day.
Now my days have a shape the way my earlier professional life did.
I catch up with readers comments, blog articles and promoting my work in the morning.
In the afternoon I work on my WIP.
I am presently writing the third book in my Edinburgh Crime Mystery
and that leaves my evening free to make dinner and enjoy life with my family.
How long did it take to write Hunter’s Chase?
‘Hunter’s Chase’ took me a long time to write, probably over two years,
but I was being treated for cancer during much of that period.
My subsequent novel, ‘Hunter’s Revenge’, which will be published by Crooked Cat Books
on 09.09.2018 took me about a year to write.
How long did it take for you to obtain a publisher and do you have an agent?
I don’t have an agent.
I was negotiating with an agent when I accepted the offer from Crooked Cat Books and decided that as I had
a publishing deal, I probably didn’t need an agent.
It took me a long time to gird up my courage to send my book out to anybody.
What if they didn’t like it?
Could I cope with rejection?
I was really lucky, and when I did send it out, I had interest from two different publishers.
I have since discovered that even tiny independent publishers have about 2000 manuscripts submitted to
them every month but only accept two for publication.
If I had known that, my books would still be on my computer!
Tell us about DI Hunter and what inspired his character
and where you think you might take him in the future
– if you want a long term series with him or not.
DI Hunter Wilson is an easy character to work with.
He is astute, experienced and fair.
He is a combination of people who have passed through my life
but I hope he is here to stay and will appear in a long series of novels.
Bear a/k/a DC Winston Zewedu:
what inspired his creation and why did you include an ethnic sideman to
I set the novels in Edinburgh largely because it is an internatonal city.
In order to reflect that cosmopolitan city, I wanted all types of people and, visually,
Winston Zewedu made a nice contrast to Tim Myerscough.
I have also included Doctor Meera Sharma
and the same-sex couple Jane Renwick and Rachael Anderson.
Characters of all types are welcome within The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries.
What are you working on now and when can we expect it?
I am presently writing the third book in the series, ‘Hunter’s Force’.
It is lovely to be working with characters I know, as well as new ones.
Do you think you will stay with this genre or are you up for trying others? Which and why?
I think I will stay writing crime, because that is the genre I most enjoy reading.
However, I became a grandmother for the first time this year
and that has made me flirt with the idea of trying my hand at a children’s book.
Many congratulations on becoming a grandmother, how exciting.
Let’s read some of your work and hopefully you will gain lots of new readers as a result:
Extract from Edinburgh Crime Mystery #2 – published by Crooked Cat Books 09.09.2018
East Germany, January 1968
The last thing Georg did on his eighteenth birthday was kill a man.
He really hadn’t meant to kill the Stasi officer in front of him, but it was him or Georg – and Georg did not want to die. It was the first time he’d seen a corpse. The streets were slick with ice. The man lost his balance and cracked his head on the pavement. Georg stared down at the body: there was blood and brains all over the pavement. He looked into the officer’s eyes. They stared blindly to heaven, but Georg knew there wasn’t a Stasi officer on earth who was going there. He looked away from death and towards his friends in horror, but when they saw what had happened, they scattered. Georg picked up the officer’s gun and began to run.
More Stasi officers appeared as the boys fled.
Georg was out of breath when he got home.
“What’s the rush, son?” his father asked.
“Shit, Dad! It’s bad.”
“You’re drunk! No language in this house, boy,” said his grandmother.
“Dad, the boys and me were leaving the bar to come home and we saw a Stasi officer”
“We were laughing and having fun.”
“For a laugh I knocked his hat off.”
“Idiot! You know Stasi have no sense of humour. Ever. So what next?”
“He pulled his gun and told us to stand silently against the wall.”
“And you apologised and complied, I hope.”
“I panicked and punched him. He slipped on the ice and fell over. He hit his head on the ground, and when I checked him, he wasn’t breathing. He was dead. I just took his gun and ran.”
The silence in the room was deafening.
“You did what? You fucking idiot! Did you really punch a Stasi officer? Are you mad? You know we don’t even have to openly engage in resistance to draw the attention of the Stasi and incur its retribution. Just failing to conform with mainstream society can be enough. Shit! I sired a fool.” Georg’s father’s red face reflected his rage.
“And now you are here,” his grandmother added. “You ran home, leading them straight to us. We will all die now. Thank you.”
“What is all the noise?” Georg’s mother came through from the kitchen, drying her hands on her apron. His twin sister Ingrid and younger brother Wilhelm followed her. They looked bewildered. Their father rarely raised his voice, especially not to Georg.
As his father explained the issues, Georg’s mother burst into tears.
“They will kill him,” she whispered.
Here is another treat for you, another excerpt from Val’s novel, Hunter’s Chase.
Excerpt from ‘Hunter’s Chase’ – published by Crooked Cat Books 02.02.2018
Jamie Thomson swaggered along one of the tree-lined streets in the wealthy Edinburgh suburb of Morningside. To him, the capital of Scotland was really just a big village. Everybody knew everybody else, and tonight, everybody would know Jamie Thomson. He felt it as he moved quietly along the dark street. Excitement. Pop was away, but, although he had just turned twenty, Jamie would show folk it was business as usual. Pop would be so proud.
Jamie’s uniform was clean: black trousers, black jacket with a hood – other folk might call it a hoodie – black silk gloves, and cheap, new black shoes. So much more difficult to trace, especially as he chose to wear them a size smaller than was comfortable. If he left a footprint they police would be looking for the wrong size of shoe. Genius!
He was glad of the hood. The rain was not heavy, but there was a lot of it. The wind blew it into his face and almost took his breath away. His Granny called this wet rain. Jamie missed her. A lot. Silly old sausage! Who ever heard of dry rain? He was glad the road was quiet. But then nobody with any sense would go out in this unless they had to, and Jamie had to.
The house was dark. Jamie smiled. Good. He liked it quiet and peaceful when he was working. He could concentrate, get on with it and get the job done quickly. Very satisfying. The old boy was usually out late on a Thursday, Jamie knew. Jamie watched. The old boy would come home with a babe, back of eleven o’clock, usually. Jamie had no idea what the hotties saw in the old geezer, but good luck to him.
Jamie sauntered up the path as if he belonged, although it was not easy to saunter with shoes so tight. Still, the pain was worth it. He quietly slipped the lock and the door creaked as it swung open. Then he sighed wearily as the burglar alarm sounded. He found the control panel behind the door (they always put it behind the door) and hit in a code. Silence.
Jamie nodded. He could not believe how many folk left their alarms on the factory settings, but he was very glad they did. Idiots. They deserved whatever they got, or whatever he got, more like it. He chuckled at his own wit.
Jamie pushed the door open and paused as it creaked. He breathed in deeply. Cigar smoke. Expensive. Didn’t the old boy know smoking was bad for your health? But the carpet was lovely! Thick. Far more expensive than that stuff Mam and Pop got on sale from Carpet Worth. Jamie flexed his knees and felt the thick, soft pile give beneath him. Class. He switched on his torch to check the soles of his shoes. No wet, no dirt. Good. Torch off. He didn’t want to leave muck on this carpet; that would be criminal.
Thanks so much form being my guest Val, I wish you continued success.
I hope visitors here will leave you comments and you will find new readers too…
For those interested in buying Val’s books
Author contact details: