🎉🎉 A massive Happy Publication Day to Alex Walters 🎉🎉 Their Final Act is out today!!!! As part of the opening day of the blog blitz, I’ve got a fabulous guest post from the man himself!
Big thanks to the lovely Sarah Hardy, formerly of Bloodhound Books for asking me to join the blitz.
Jimmy McGuire, a washed-up comic, is found dead on the streets of Inverness, his body garrotted. Back in the 1990s, McGuire had been half of a promising double-act until his partner, Jack Dingwall, was convicted of rape. Soon after, a second corpse is found in an abandoned industrial site on the edge of the Moray Firth. The body has been there for some days and has also been garrotted. The victim turns out to be a former musician turned record producer, who had also been the subject of rape allegations.
Meanwhile, DI Alec McKay and DCI Helena Grant are still wrestling with the fallout from one of their recent cases following an acquittal.
As the body count rises, the police think they have the killer in their sights. But McKay is concerned that the evidence is too neat so when he realises there will be a final victim, he fears that time is running out…
The Guest Post – Glimpses of a Writer’s Life: Beating the Retreat
What do writers do when they’re not writing. Well, countless things. But over the past year my day job has changed fundamentally…
Twelve months ago, my wife and I moved to the Scottish Highlands with the aim of setting up a writing retreat, so fulfilling two long-standing ambitions. I’d increasingly been reducing my other work commitments – which included running a small specialist business consultancy – with the aim of focusing more on my writing. My wife, Helen, is also a writer, as well as a tutor and columnist in various writing magazines, so we felt that running a retreat would sit well alongside our writing activities.
For me, it’s involved a significant change in both my priorities and the pattern of my writing. Previously, although my day-job work was more flexible than most, I still had to fit the writing around a demanding schedule of client work. On the whole it worked well in that I could generally block out periods when I needed to concentrate on writing. Even so, it’s always hard to turn work down, and there were always intensive periods when the writing had to take a distant second place.
The first few months in the Highlands were similar in terms of the pressures of setting up a new business. We’d bought a former B&B with spectacular views over the Cromarty Firth and the mountains beyond – the perfect location for a retreat. The house itself fortunately needed little work, but changing the atmosphere and feel of the place to suit our needs was more challenging. We established writerly themes for each of the bedrooms, and had the fun of tracking down and acquiring suitable decorations and accessories for each room (including an unlikely cuddly Sherlock Holmes). We spent the time building bookcases, finding suitable furniture to fit the house, and working out how to cater for a very different clientele from those who had stayed here previously.
Alongside that, we had to let people know of our existence – setting up a website and social media accounts, writing articles for local and national media, chatting to local journalists, and finding appropriate places to advertise. In the early days, we also ran several trial retreats for friends and contacts to enable us to fine-tune what we were offering. That’s helped us to decide what to provide in terms of catering, room facilities, and the general support and services available to our guests.
For the first few months that felt very much like a full-time job, although I was still trying to juggle some consultancy work as well as finishing two novels. But I can’t pretend that it wasn’t a much more varied and enjoyable lifestyle than I’d enjoyed before. And all of it conducted against a backdrop of one of the most glorious landscapes in the world.
Since then the mix has continued to change. With the initial preparation completed, we began running retreats for real, offering a mix of scheduled taught weekends and flexible private retreats. It’s never less than hard work, but it’s always fun. The guests we’ve had to date have always been interesting and good company, and it’s been gratifying to see how productive and inspired people have been in the retreat environment.
As for the impact on my own writing, now that we’re getting more into the swing of running the retreat, I’ve definitely been able to free up more time to focus on writing. There are times when we’re insanely busy, but those are more predictable, so I can plan how to allocate time to write. As far as my Alec McKay books are concerned, it’s definitely inspiring to be able to write them from the midst of the Highlands setting rather than recalling it from a distance.
Above all, though, the retreat has provided an unexpected bonus. We’ve had a wide range of different kinds and levels of writers staying here, and the opportunity to discuss writing – the craft, the challenges, the excitement of it – with our guests has been an increasing source of inspiration. All writers work differently and there’s always something new to learn. And now I have much more time to learn it.
Thanks Alex for sharing a bit of your life with us!
Who Is Alex Walters?
Alex Walters is the author of Candles and Roses, Death Parts Us and Their Final Act, all featuring DI Alec McKay and set in and around the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands. He has also written four books set in and around Manchester – Trust No-One and Nowhere to Hide featuring the undercover officer, Marie Donovan, and Late Checkout and Dark Corners, featuring DCI Kenny Murrain – and three crime novels set in modern-day Mongolia, The Shadow Walker, The Adversary and The Outcast. Alex has previously worked in the oil industry, broadcasting and banking and as a consultant working mainly in the criminal justice sector. He now runs the Solus Or Writing Retreat in the Black Isle with his wife, occasional sons and too many cats.