Vinita Kinra: Welcome to Global Asian Times, Pat. Tell us about yourself.
Pat McDonald: I live in a rural part of the Midlands in the United Kingdom. I became a full-time novelist when I finished working for the Police Force.
As a lifelong voyeur of people, my interest lies in building characters, and I describe myself as a ‘free flow’ writer – plots and characters come to be as I write, and I call upon my experiences as I go. Nothing pleases me more than sitting in a public place and watching the world go by; most of my trilogy was written in a coffee shop at my local garden centre. Wherever I go, a little bit of the journey can be found in my work.
I dare say that at some point in time, my recent experiences as a reluctant patient — I was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor and had to have it surgically removed — will find themselves in my future novels. The operation was a difficult time for me, and I have had to teach myself to write and type again. With perseverance and determination, it came back to me easily with the help of social media and a few good contacts. I have just submitted my fourth book, Breaking Free, for publication, and am halfway through a humorous story ‘A penny for them’.
Vinita Kinra: What prompted you to write a crime trilogy?
Pat McDonald: I spent seventeen years in Law Enforcement and was privileged to inspect most areas of policing. I thought I ought to begin with the genre of crime because it was the last thing I did. My view of the world is to take the ordinary and ask ‘What if this were to happen?’ turning reality into something that might be extraordinary. I began to write the first book not just from the viewpoint of the work undertaken, but because I wanted to show that police officers had real lives, and those lives could easily intrude into their working lives.
Pat McDonald: Getting Even has the theme of revenge running throughout, and is set in an older, timeless era when police officers ‘could’ get away with bending rules. It tackles some hefty subjects of murder, pedophilia, prostitution and drugs, and shows that not all incidents are solved, or rounded off in a neat and orderly way—just like real life. But everything comes to those who wait. It examines revenge as a natural process and also as a violent response. Incidentally, my fourth book, Breaking Free, is a ‘spin off’ from this when Marcia Page escapes to Dubai and what happens when she comes back.
Vinita Kinra: Can your books be read as standalones?
Pat McDonald: Yes they can, but I am one of those writers who likes to build in ‘red herrings’ and because I had difficulty ending the first book, with three different potential endings, I carried on. Some of the storylines run over, but the books have a main ending and a cliffhanger. When this happened again in the second book, Rogue Seed, I carried on; hence the trilogy. The books have a main theme derived from the title, but ‘revenge’ does continue even into Breaking Free (out soon), not part of the trilogy. It is a standalone and examines further my interest in stalking and the concept ‘Can someone make themself disappear’?
Vinita Kinra: Who is your most loved crime fiction writer and why?
Pat McDonald: This is a difficult question, there are so many. I have always loved Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and Poirot — although set in a different era, the portrayal is excellent. I read current crime authors and am always ready for a good plot. Ex-police officers show a hard side of crime like Joe Leslie’s ‘Secret to being Frank’, Barrie Kibble’s ‘Satan’s Breed’ and the new author Angie Smith’s, CXVI The Beginning of the End. Ask me again later, I’m still reading!
Vinita Kinra: What is your advice to writers aspiring to tackle this genre?
Pat McDonald: I seriously don’t think it’s possible to write about ‘crime’ — fiction or otherwise — without some knowledge of the subject. I immersed myself in the subject for a lot of years, having access to areas that even some police officers don’t have. However, they say you should write about something you know, yet I find myself using the internet more and more for research purposes. For example, I know very little about drugs and their manufacture, but the beauty of fiction and imagination doesn’t demand you to be technically correct. I always advise new writers to just write: it’s amazing how much knowledge you have stored away in your memory.
Vinita Kinra: Share with us the story behind the title of Rogue Seed, book two in your trilogy.
Pat McDonald: Rogue Seed fell easily out of a conversation with the person who sold me a packet of chilli seeds, one of which grew into a strange plant. It sat on my patio for a while until I asked if I brought it in, would he be able to identify what it was. He said he might, but the seed may have been dropped by a bird, may have been in the compost, or just be a ‘Rogue Seed.’ In policing terms, going rogue is used when a police officer goes bad. I use it in all its definitions, and it became my theme in book two.
Vinita Kinra: Boxed Off concludes your trilogy, or is it just the beginning to more unanswered questions crime investigations leave behind?
Pat McDonald: I used the phrase, Boxed Off, to remind me to finish the trilogy! The remaining characters would easily fall into a series; however, the crimes are mostly solved, and the ending, I hope, is Boxed Off for the main ones. As in real life, all things are rarely solved — some are meant to be red herrings. Other crimes, like relationships, go on to become, who knows what. I don’t have many happy endings — life doesn’t allow for it — and most things are what you make of them.
Vinita Kinra: Give us a taste of your writing. Our readers would like to sample an excerpt from one of your books (max. 400 words).
It was another dismal night and this part of the city designated ‘regeneration’ was clear of old derelict pre-war buildings, mostly factories that had blotted the landscape for years. They were large industrial buildings that gave testament to the harshness of the era in which they were built. Huge chimney stacks, now blown to smithereens, stood the test of time by their stubborn persistence, large, erect, and dingy from the smoke that once billowed from their open tops.
The land was now waste land and nature had intervened, the wind having blown in seeds that gave forth an intermittent smattering of colour. Delicate flowers grew defiantly in between scattered bricks and rubbish in and around burnt out cars that were driven there and set alight by bored or bad youths who saw it as fair sport. The odd laminated sticker ‘Police aware’ waved from now non-existent windscreens, stuck precariously under singed and rusty windscreen wipers.
There was no wind tonight and the moon was covered by ominous cloud that gave it a haunted, scary look. The cloud threatened the earth with another drenching, but now it was dark. The head lights of the car picked at the landscape, primarily flat, but hiding the odd pothole and open footings of long lost buildings. It made its way slowly towards the middle of the site, stopped as the lights faded.
The man in the front seat sat quietly holding onto the steering wheel. He could just see some yellow ‘police’ tape caught in bushes. It had once, many months ago now, been wrapped around a scene where a taxi had littered the site with its gruesome cargo. The tape was the only remnant of that particular event. The man took it all in and thought ‘a fitting scene for another gruesome event’, but he did not smile.
His facial expression was fixed, as it had been for years in a cynical hardness. Some people described him as ugly. Even as a young man he had been no oil painting, but years of doubt and corruption, of smoking (in the early days when everyone did it) and an over indulgence in whiskey had drawn lines upon an already imperfect canvas.
He sat contemplating how life had delivered him to this point. He was still unable to accept that any of the many influences were his fault.
Vinita Kinra: Would you like to share with us any promotional videos or book trailers?
Pat McDonald: Only Getting Even has a video trailer, but my publisher being in the US, Americanized it. My books are about the UK police, and we don’t always visualize our characters in the same way. I described Joan Beddoes as wearing a dressing gown (housecoat/robe); their interpretation was a full evening gown—it reminds me of the language differences between countries.