Apart from irregular visits by my brother Ron, the blog hasn’t often heard different voices and I want to change that. I’ve asked writer friends for contributions and the first to respond is Myra Duffy. I know that Myra’s been writing ever since she was very young. In fact, her first publication appeared while she was still in her early teens. She’s a successful writer of non-fiction articles and books, but her preference has always been for fiction. In recent years, she’s had plenty of short stories published but her real love is the novel and she’s produced a series of cosy crimes/mysteries set on the Isle of Bute, just off the West coast of Scotland.
So, Myra, you happen to have chosen one of my favourite places in the world to write about – the West coast, I mean, although I haven’t yet visited the island itself. Why did you choose it as your setting?
We’ve had a family holiday home on Bute for many years and know the island well. The setting gives me the benefit of a location that has strong associations for people in the West of Scotland (many of whom spent childhood holidays on Bute) and indeed people of Scottish descent throughout the world. In a small place you have a closed community and lots of opportunities for local gossip and intrigues to move the plot along.
I should say that the island isn’t the hotbed of crime my novels suggest. In fact there is very little crime and it’s a beautiful place with lots of unspoiled beaches and excellent walking. A lot of money is being spent on upgrading facilities, including the Art Deco Pavilion where my most recent book Last Dance at the Rothesay Pavilion is set.
So you’re in the great tradition of the Midsomer Murders or Miss Marple – mayhem and multiple homicides in an apparently gentle, beautiful setting. What’s the attraction of the ‘cosy’ genre for you?
As a reader of all kinds of crime novels, the main interest for me has always been the puzzle – who was the culprit and why. In ‘cosy crime’ the sleuth is usually an amateur whose education/life experiences have equipped him or her with various skills and the story is intended as a ‘fun read’ that engages the mind.
There’s no graphic violence or sex and there are plenty of red herrings in the plot.
If you enjoy crossword puzzles, you probably enjoy ‘cosy crime’.
OK, tell us a bit about the main character in the series.
That’s Alison Cameron, who might well be a neighbour. She’s an ordinary woman who becomes involved in the various crimes/mysteries by chance. I like to use ‘outsiders’ as the main protagonists. The interplay between these characters and those who live on the island helps the dynamics of the novel, though I’m very careful not to use real people in the plot.
I think one of the things that comes through very clearly in the writing is the feelings you have for the place and the community there. So far, there have been three in the series: The House at Ettrick Bay, Last Ferry to Bute and now Last Dance at the Rothesay Pavilion. I hope you’re not stopping there. Any more planned?
Yes, my work-in-progress is called Endgame at Port Bannatyne. Alison has been appointed assistant scriptwriter for a film being made on the island, but of course nothing goes according to plan, not even for the writer at this stage! I’m hoping this novel will be available by the summer.
I know your readers will be glad to hear that and I’m guessing that while you continue to enjoy revisiting the place and the people through your fiction the books will keep coming. Unless you’ve got plans for trying a different genre – have you?
Like most writers, I’ve all kinds of novels half-written and yes, I’d like to do something different at some stage. At the moment though, I’m kept busy with Alison and her problems!
I look forward to reading how you help her to solve them. Thanks for visiting, Myra.
You can read more about Myra at her website and on her blog.
Hello Myra it is good to see you visiting Bill’s blog and I have enjoyed reading about the background to your “cosy crime” novels. Can crime be cosy? I seem to remember both murder and fire adding spice to Last Ferry to Bute but I am glad your crime stories are enjoyable rather than so dark I get nightmares. I look forward to reading Last Dance at the Rothsay Pavillion. Like Bill the setting tugs at something inside of me although I have not yet visted Bute either.
Nice interview, Myra and Bill, thank you. I shall look out for your books, Myra. I’ve been to many Scottish islands, but I’m ashamed to confess Bute isn’t yet one of them. I must put that right.
Thanks Gwen and Jenny. How remiss of all three of us not to have visited Bute yet.
Great interview, Bill and Myra. Since I live on the west coast, Rothesay was where I spent most of my childhood holidays! Love the island and Myra’s books – just the kind of puzzle mystery I enjoy reading.
At last, someone else who knows Bute. Thanks, Rosemary.
Excellent interview, Myra. I’ve only visited Bute once when I was a child but you and your books have made me want to go and explore it properly.
I’ve been to Bute twice, loved the place. I’ve also read the first two of Myra’s books and thoroughly enjoyed them. I still have Last Dance to read though, something to look forward to.
Interesting interview, Myra and Bill. Living in the west of Scotland, I can visit Bute easily. Your ‘cosy crime’ series suits the island perfectly, Myra. I’m looking forward to reading Endgame at Port Bannatyne – I hope it’s not the last one!
Thanks Mary, Chris and Joan. Interesting that you all stress the synergy between the books and the place. It confirms that Myra’s right about the strong associations readers will make with the location.
Lovely interview, Myra. My sister-in-law’s family were brought up on Bute and I’ve visited the place many times. I’ve read all of your cosy crime novels and you use the island setting perfectly to convey the local community’s sense of solidarity – and their wariness of ‘strangers’. I’m looking forward to many more books in the series!