Glasgow-born author Denise Mina saw a lot of the world in her early life because her father’s job as an engineer saw the family move 21 times in 18 years. She left school at 16, working in poorly paid jobs until she decided to pursue a law degree at Glasgow University in her early 20s. Mina’s first novel, Garnethill, won the Crime Writers’ Association John Creasey Dagger for best first crime novel in 1998, and since then she has gone on to write seven further books, including The End of the Wasp Season, which won the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year in 2012.
Surprisingly, she also writes comics and in 2006 she finished her first play, Ida Tamson. In addition to penning short stories, she is a regular contributor to TV and radio. With her latest crime novel, The Red Road, coming out on 4 July, we asked her to join us for an interview.
What inspired you to write crime fiction?
I was doing a PhD and thought it was the perfect way to disseminate ideas about people with mental illness being rational. Also, it was my own private vice and I thought it would be a wonderful thing to write. Imagine doing what people do when they skive off work, how people comfort themselves when they’re feeling crap. Delicious!
Are you a crime fiction reader? Who are your favourite authors?
Honestly too many to mention. Many of them are friends of mine and I’ll feel bad if I leave any of them out.
You write novels, comics and plays – does your approach to each one differ?
Each form is different. Novels feel very personal but comics and even more in the case of plays, you are forming a frame for other people’s input. Novel writing is total emersion in another parallel world. Plays are imagining the stage and having things happen there and writing them down. Comics are amazing to write to because you have to imaging static images and then describe them. I can actually feel different parts of my brain working when I sit down to write a comic.
The Alex Morrow books are becoming a series – Still Midnight, End of the Wasp Season and Gods and Beasts. How did you go about creating her?
She’s supposed to be a slight blank, a neutral point in the stories. I tried to give her as little going on as possible, someone who would seem quite dull if seen from outside. Because she was quite a blank she developed these very strong characteristics, like having a vivid internal world and chaotic back story, as people who are superficially dull often do.
Glasgow is almost an extra character in the Morrow books – how does the city inspire you?
It’s a big filthy, funny mess of a city. To a certain extent all cities are universal but Glasgow is perfect for crime novels because everyone talks to each other, it’s always awash with rumour and scandal. Most of my novel plots are built on Glasgow stories I’ve been told, often by strangers at bus stops. It’s great now that I’m quite well known because people look out for me to tell me stories. It’s a poor city as well, which does lead to interesting patterns of crime.
Will we be hearing more from Morrow?
I’ve just finished a book about Morrow called The Red Road where she has a decisive showdown with her brother Danny. The next book will be a Morrow book too.
What are you working on now?
I’m writing a graphic novel adaptation of The Girl Who Played With Fire for DC Comics, having finished The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo last year. Then I’m editing a film of my old aunties watching a documentary about themselves in a cinema. Then I’m going on my holibags!
Watch for our review of The Red Road soon…