I am delighted to welcome Jackie Baldwin to Grab This Book. After successfully managing to hide from me for the full weekend at Bloody Scotland I was finally able to catch up with Jackie and we had a chat about her debut novel, Dead Man’s Prayer.
I always like to start by asking my guests to introduce themselves and to get an early plug in for their book – the floor is yours.
My name is Jackie Baldwin. For most of my working life I have been a solicitor, specialising in family and criminal law. Latterly, I trained as a hypnotherapist and now work from home. I live in Dumfries, SW Scotland. My novel, Dead Man’s Prayer was published by Killer Reads, Harper Collins on 2nd September this year. The Paperback was released on 1st December and can be ordered here.
For those that have not yet read Dead Man’s Prayer what can we expect?
It is a police procedural set in Dumfries and featuring DI Frank Farrell and DC Mhairi McLeod. It opens with the murder of an elderly priest which is soon followed by the abduction of toddler boys from nursery. In a small force with limited manpower these investigations put Farrell and his team under unprecedented pressure. He becomes concerned that his mental health may be unravelling but must push himself to the limit and beyond to bring the investigations to a conclusion before someone else winds up dead.
Tell me about Frank Farrell, I know he is a DI but it seems he has followed an unusual career path to get to where he is in Dead Man’s Prayer.
You could say that! He entered a seminary straight from school and became a Roman Catholic priest. He subsequently suffered a complete mental breakdown for reasons that become apparent and felt forced out of the priesthood. He fully recovered and applied to join the police.
I make no secret of the fact I love Scottish crime fiction but I will confess to not having read many books set in Dumfries. Did you feel a pressure to represent your hometown in a good light or do you know the area so well it made it easier to capture the locational feel?
I did worry about that a bit so I took the decision to make up a few streets and names if I was implying something negative. I will have had the original in mind when writing but only someone who lives here would be able to guess exactly where I am referring to. I feel I portrayed Dumfries in a positive light overall. I have lived here for all but about seven years so I know the town and the wider region of Galloway like the back of my hand. It has everything you could possibly wish for and the terrain offers up lots of challenges as well as myriad places to dump a body.
Dead Man’s Prayer is your debut novel, how long had it been a work in progress before you were signed up by your publisher?
Eleven years! Isn’t that awful? I wrote the first draft in around two years, edited it for another year then sent it out to a few agents. A couple of really good ones asked to see the whole MS but ultimately didn’t take me on. I put it away for several years as life was busy with work and kids. I then attended the first annual ‘Crime and Publishment’ weekend of masterclasses at Gretna which really ignited my passion for writing again. I came home, blew away the cobwebs and embarked on a massive rewrite which took the best part of two years. I was planning to send it out to agents again when someone posted on Facebook in March of this year that Killer Reads, Harper Collins was open for submissions. It had never occurred to me to submit to a publisher direct. I fired it off with zero expectations and was shocked to receive an offer of publication two weeks later. They have a really quick publishing model. My feet barely touched the ground.
There must be a long build up waiting for publication date to roll around. Now that Dead Man’s Prayer has been released and has been available for a few weeks how have you found the experience?
Thrilling and terrifying in equal measure! The fun side is hearing from readers who have loved your book. The scary part for me was having to promote the book and become more visible. I set up a Twitter account and, at first, would jump a foot in the air when my phone pinged but I’m really enjoying it now and have connected with lots of lovely people on there. I had no clue that this whole blogosphere even existed. It was like stepping through a portal into a parallel universe. A steep learning curve!
We were both at Bloody Scotland this year and, although we kept missing each other, I did see you on the main stage in the Albert Hall. Can I ask how your weekend went and can you explain what your official role was?
I had a great time! It’s such a friendly festival. I came up with a few friends from my crime writing group. I was one of twelve debut Spotlight authors which meant I had to appear before the panel, ‘Into The Dark,’ which featured authors, James Oswald, Craig Robertson and Malcolm Mackay, and read for three minutes from my debut novel. I also had my first experience of being miked up with what bore a passing resemblance to an endoscopy tube. My novel had only been out for a matter of days at the time so it was something of a baptism of fire but a wonderful opportunity!
Can I ask if there is a new project underway?
Yes, I am writing a second DI Farrell novel at the moment. I also have plans for an American serial killer novel and an American Sci-Fi crime novel.
Are you a bookworm? If I were to see your bookcases what sort of books could I expect to see?
Totally! I had to drastically prune my book collection when we decided to move to a smaller house once the kids were grown. I was ruthless and boy did I regret it. Afterwards, I felt quite bereft as if part of me was missing. Like a plant that has been savagely chopped, books are now creeping back into my house and making themselves at home. In fact, I need another new bookcase… I read quite widely, Crime, Sci-fi, Literary, Jane Austen. Whatever takes my fancy, really. I don’t do Romance or chick lit though. Too many years as a divorce lawyer!
Dead Man’s Prayer is published by Killer Reads and the paperback and digital book is available now: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dead-Mans-Prayer-gripping-detective-ebook/dp/B01DT37ZIE