Wednesday, 27 May 2015


I am delighted that FERGUS MCNEILL is joining me on my blog today. His three books - Eye Contact, Knife Edge and Cut Out - are published by Hodder & Stoughton

So Fergus, what inspired you to write a book in the first place?
It really happened by accident. Like many people, I'd wanted to be a writer since I was a child at school, but I'd never quite got around to doing the actual writing part. Eventually, I joined a creative writing evening class because I thought it would force me to write regularly… and it did! One term, our tutor set us the challenge of beginning a novel; I started writing some chapters, which later became my first novel Eye Contact, and I suppose I've just kept going ever since.

Where do your ideas come from?
My ideas come from feelings, thoughts, pieces of music and a hundred other places. Inspiration is impossible to control, but there are ways that you can encourage it to work for you. For example, I try to write 'on location' as much as possible - making regular visits to areas where my stories take place. It's like walking on to the movie set of my book, and that always seems to spark new ideas and has me reaching for my laptop.

Have your personal experiences influenced your writing? And if so, how?
Many authors look into themselves to find authenticity for their characters. The personality of my series protagonist D.I. Harland is very much defined by a tragic bereavement, and I know that I drew on my own experiences of loss to write those sections in the books. My villains are based on other people - never me! - but I do sometimes base their workplace, or some of their colleagues, on my own ... just don't tell anyone!

Describe your writing style in 10 words or less?
Close third person, fast-forwarding between the interesting bits

Do you have any strange writing habits?
Writing 'on location' is probably my strangest habit, but I also make a point of listening to particular music whenever I write (mostly ambient, soundtracks or neo-classical). I use music as a kind of mental bookmark, avoiding those special songs or albums until the next time I'm writing, when they help me to quickly get back into the thought process I was in previously.

Do you plot out the whole book before you start or just start writing and see where it leads you?
I usually have a reasonable idea where the story is going, but I've learned that the best inspiration often comes later in the journey, and I don't ever want to miss out on something great just because it wasn't in my initial chapter plan. So I treat those early plans as a kind of safety net - they're there in case I don't find anything better, but I'm always looking out for something unexpected as I go along.

What do you consider to be the hardest part of your writing?
I find myself caring far too much about some of my characters, and it can be tough when I know I'm about to put one of them through a difficult time. If it's emotionally rough for them, it's emotionally rough for me, and I've often found myself trembling, or even in tears, at the end of a particularly troubling scene. This wouldn't be so bad, but I'm usually somewhere embarrassingly public - maybe on a train or in a café - when it happens!

Do you read? If so, who are your favourite authors?
I read all sorts of different things, so there are quite a few authors in the frame. My crime favourites are always changing, but I'd have to mention Erin Kelly (The Poison Tree), Ann Cleeves (Raven Black), and Phil Hogan (A Pleasure And A Calling). Outside the crime genre, I love reading early John Le Carré, Philip K Dick, Terry Pratchett and J R R Tolkien.

How has your life changed since becoming a published author?
I thought that being a published author might make me feel more confident about my writing but, if anything, it's just made me even more anxious and insecure. Previously, I didn't have to worry, because I never expected anyone to actually read my books; there's a bit more pressure now. It's not all bad though. I have more Twitter followers now - I'm @fergusmcneill in case you were wondering - and I love chatting with readers so that's a genuine silver lining!

If you were writing a book about your life, what would be the title?
'Not Enough Time. Not Enough Cake.'

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Don't give up! When you're on the outside, it's easy to imagine that there's a secret formula to being published, or some special technique, but there absolutely isn't. The same submission that gets you a three-book-deal has probably gathered a pile of rejection slips first. Just keep going. Good writers that do, always seem to break through eventually,.

And lastly, why should people read your latest book?
I started wondering what might happen if someone wished their life was more like yours - exactly like yours - and what might happen if they lived right upstairs from you. The result is Cut Out, a psychological thriller, featuring my Bristol-based detective Inspector Harland. I really hope people enjoy it.

About Fergus McNeill
As well as writing crime novels, Fergus McNeill has been creating computer games since the early eighties, writing his first interactive fiction titles while still at school. Over the years he has designed, directed and illustrated games for all sorts of systems, including the BBC Micro, the Apple iPad and almost everything in between.

Now running an app development studio, Fergus lives in Hampshire with his wife and teenage son. He is the author of Eye Contact, Knife Edge and Cut Out.

Read Fergus McNeill's blog at, find him on Facebook and follow Fergus on Twitter - @fergusmcneill.

Cut Out
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on 23 April 2015

Nigel never meant for it to happen. At first, he just wanted to be Matt's friend. But when he discovers he can hear what is going on in the flat below him, his fascination with his new neighbour drifts into obsession.

Rearranging his furniture to recreate the layout of the rooms downstairs. Buying the same clothes, going through his post, his things. Becoming Matt without him ever knowing.

And it would have been all right, if Matt hadn't brought the girl home.

When things spiral out of control, Detective Inspector Harland has to unravel the disturbing truth. But there's far more to the case than meets the eye...

Read my review of Cut Out here 

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