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Catriona McPherson

answers the Usual Questions

photo, Catriona McPherson, courtesy of the author; 225x169

Catriona McPherson

Scottish-born author Catriona McPherson immigrated to the U.S. in 2010. A former academic linguist, she is now a full-time fiction writer.

Has your interaction with fans, for example, at conventions, affected your work?

Yep. I got an email from a Dandy Gilver fan, kind of complaining (but very nicely) that the detective's family and household - her husband, sons, maid, butler and cook - hadn't been in the last book and asking me if they'd be in the next one. It just so happened that I was right at the stage of deciding what the new book was going to be, so I thought "why not?" and instead of her leaving them behind when she went off to solve a case at a hydropathic spa (A DEADLY MEASURE OF BRIMSTONE) I gave them all flu, pleurisy, bronchitis and/or pneumonia and they went with her.

Is there any particular incident (a letter, a meeting, a comment that stands out?

Oh! No contest. I was in the middle of a . . . discussion about dialect with my editor. I'm always putting Scots dialect in and she's always trying to take it out. Anyway, I got a letter from an elderly gentleman in, I think it was Idaho, it might have been Iowa . . . who had read my last book and was startled by the phrase "get redd up" (meaning cleared and tidied, after a meal). He said his mother had been born in Scotland in the 1890s and had used that phrase every day. He had never seen it written down before. He finished by saying "thank you for bringing my mother back to me". I forwarded the letter to my editor and - why yes, I think I won that particular "discussion".

Do you have a favourite author or book (or writer or film or series) that has influenced you or that you return to?

So many. Stephen King is my favourite living author and his book On Writing, published the year I started writing professionally, is a constant friend. I can see it right now from where I'm sitting. His novels continue to inspire me too - although nothing I write is anything like his work. Ann Cleeves is another hero. I devour her work and admire her greatly. She's got that skill of writing beautifully but so sparingly you kind of can't catch her at it. Oh my: Jenni Diski, Dorothy Whipple, Dorothy L Sayers, Lisa Scottoline, Joyce Carol Oates, Val McDermid, Simon Brett. I should stop.

Who is the person you would most like to be trapped in a lift with? or a spaceship?

If it's not too mean to want him trapped in a lift: Stephen Hawking. His conversation takes a while and it would mean that the time, in effect, would be moving at the right speed. Anyone else you'd have exhausted all possible topics much quicker. (Can't quite believe I'm saying Stephen Hawking trapped in a lift makes time move differently. Ehh, he won't read this.) A spaceship: the crew of Red Dwarf. They're good at it.

Who is the person you would most DISlike to be trapped in a lift with? Or a spaceship?

A claustrophobe. I'd be unable to help and they'd be pitiful but annoying too.

What would you pack for space? (Is there a food, beverage, book, teddy bear, etc that you couldn't do without?)

Book? One book? I don't want to play this game. Assuming I get to take the contents of my local library, I'd also like some good teabags, a kettle and an unlimited supply of milk.

What is the most important thing you would like to get/achieve from your work?

Hmmm. I'm stumped. I don't think of my work this way.

What is the special satisfaction of your work?

Everyone loves a good film, play or book, right? You immerse yourself in another world and get swept away. Well, for me writing a story feels much the same as watching or reading it. So, I get to entertain myself and call it a job. After fifteen years, it still feels too good to be true.

submitted by Catriona McPherson

For other answers to The Usual Questions Click here

Just the facts:
Born: Queensferry, just outside Edinburgh, 1965.
Resides: 20 scruffy acres in northern California
Awards here
Dandy Gilver series
and here: Standalones

Web site:


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