Interview with David Hutchison

What's the story behind Deacon Brodie: A Double Life?
It’s a fact-based reimagining of Deacon William Brodie’s last year in Edinburgh and set in 1788. In real life, Brodie was a very respectable Gentleman – a City Councillor, Deacon (that is, head) of his Craft Guild, and a leading figure in Edinburgh. Yet, despite this stature, he relished living a dual life which was unseen by the city. His love for the thrills of gambling led him into the riskier thrill of crime, and he was eventually hanged for a robbery on the Excise Office.
If your novel is set in Edinburgh and you live in America, did that cause any problems?
No. I’m from Edinburgh, so its grandeur, conceits and faults are etched in me. Edinburgh does have a rather dual nature (historically, from its Old Town and New Town) and Deacon Brodie is the epitome of that duality. Stevenson knew Deacon Brodie well and eventually, after a false start with a play, he wrote Jekyll and Hyde. You can’t have grown up there without the city, with all its positives and negatives, having imprinted itself on you. Even living thousands of miles away from what, I think, is the most beautiful city on Earth, I can see it very clearly – writing of it was, in one sense, a reconnection.
Who are your favourite authors?
Well, leaving the usual suspects from the past on one side, I love the writing of Alasdair Gray, Ian Rankin and, especially, the late Iain Banks. Kate Atkinson’s words dance on the page, Denis Lehane is a fantastic writer and he conjures an uneasy Boston, Bill Bryson and David Lodge make me laugh out loud, and John Irving and John le Carré are simply masters. I thought my research was deep until I read Kate Summerscale – her (non-fiction) Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace, which reads like a novel, is phenomenal in this respect. Really, ‘favourite’ is too narrowing.
What problems do you see in writing?
Other than writing well and getting better at it? I think I didn’t realise just how solitary writing a full-length work can be. And, until someone is reading what you’ve written, you have no idea whether it, really, works . . . although, perhaps writers like John Irving don’t suffer from this! It’s great when readers give positive feedback – I have reached another, and that, for me, is a joyful thing.
What is your approach to writing?
After research, it’s longhand, which is an interesting word in itself. That gets edited and transferred to my computer, where it’s edited again as I type, and eventually the pages get printed, and edited again . . . and again. For me, when I’m editing, there’s a huge difference between reading words onscreen and reading them on the printed page. The last edit must be third-party and I am extremely fortunate in having a good friend who has a keen eye for the howlers I’ve made.
Can you describe your desk?
It’s non-existent, and I rely more on a desktop. This is an important item and, one day, I hope to have that personal space which I don’t have to share with a cat who thinks pens are toys. Actually, there’s a great photographic book, The Writer’s Desk [by Jill Krementz], which has about fifty writers at their ‘desk’. Writers are all different in their approach – I once photographed Nigel Tranter, and he wrote in a tiny little notebook . . . as he walked!
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
The begging letters seem to be working just fine. No, it’s a crowded marketplace for writers, and, for indie authors, marketing has to be the most difficult thing to handle – you have to be very proactive which, for me, takes time away from writing. If I reach a reader and they tell two friends, who tell two of their friends and so on, I’d be very happy with that.
What are you working on next?
My second novel, Lest You Be Judged – a crime novel, set in Edinburgh, with Detective Chief Inspector Mike Steel in the lead - is going through its final edit. So, currently, I'm working on All Flesh Is Grass - the sequel to that.
Do you have a favourite quote on writing?
Yes: “Get lucky; stay lucky” – I think John Rebus said that.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
After photography, it’s with music – listening to it and trying to play it better than I do.
Published 2016-03-27.
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Books by This Author

Deacon Brodie: A Double Life
Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 123,280. Language: English. Published: February 11, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Historical » United Kingdom
When respected Edinburgh Gentleman and City Councillor, Deacon William Brodie, chases his love of gambling, he is drawn deep into a double life. Before long the open respectability of day gives way to a hidden life of crime at night, and soon, Brodie is on a trajectory to disaster . . . one which leads him to the gibbet.