Meet the Author: Jackie Baldwin

Jackie Baldwin
Photo credit: Kim Ayres
This month's author under the spotlight is fellow Spotlighter at "Bloody Scotland" - Jackie Baldwin. Thank you so much for letting me grill you, Jackie!

Hi Amanda,
First of all, I would like to wish you and your followers a very Happy New Year!

Your first novel, "Dead Man’s Prayer" features a detective who’s an ex-priest. What made you choose this unconventional background for him?
I didn’t do it to be different. It was simply that as I had attended the local Benedictine Convent School I grew up steeped in that background. I came across various priests. It seemed to me a rather lonely, isolated life where, of necessity, at times you must be at war with yourself. It also lends itself to such meaty themes as guilt and redemption. I wanted to write about a Detective who is a bit ‘other.’

"Dead Man’s Prayer" is described as the first in a series. Did you always intend to write a series? How many in the series are currently planned out?
I certainly hoped to write a series. I am currently writing the second book but do have lots of ideas for future stories.

You’ve also had short stories published. Do you have a writing preference: short story? Or novel?
I have only had one short story published and definitely prefer novels. I believe a lot of novelists start off by writing short stories but I started off writing drama as that was what was happening locally at the time. Short stories rather terrify me, to be honest. I will have to apply myself to learning how to do them.

When did you first start writing novels? And what made you start?
It was always my ambition. The catalyst was when our local writer in residence, Jules Horne, invited applications for mentoring for a specific project. I had the idea for my novel and was one of the lucky ones accepted. That got me through the first draft because it was unthinkable to me to let her down when she had invested time and energy in me. Without that nudge I doubt I would have made it through to the end with two kids and a demanding job.

What was the first full-length novel you ever wrote (I realise this is not necessarily the same as the first you had published)?
It was Dead Man’s Prayer. I don’t even have an earlier one I started and didn’t finish. That said, I wrote it over and over and over again! I really needed someone to say to me, ‘Step away from that novel.’ Now, of course, I’m glad that they didn’t! Although, at this stage it would be rather nice to produce some manuscripts from the bottom drawer and announce in the manner of Blue Peter, ‘and here’s one I made earlier.’

You’re a trained solicitor, and practised in criminal and family law for twenty years before retraining as a hypnotherapist. What made you make the change?
Although I loved many aspects of being a solicitor, I found it enormously stressful as I used to worry about my clients and their predicaments. Hypnosis was something I had always had a passing interest in. I bought my first book on the subject as a child. It also featured in a short film script I wrote many years ago. However, the catalyst for retraining was when someone close to me received hypnosis for something apparently intractable and it worked. I then saw what a force for good it could be and determined to leave law and retrain. I absolutely love being a hypnotherapist and have no intention of giving it up. The human mind is an amazing thing.

Do you have any regrets over choosing writing as a career? If so, what are they?
I have no regrets whatsoever and have to keep pinching myself to believe that I have walked over that invisible line from aspiring to published. Having to promote myself and my book has been far more of a challenge as I am not terribly outgoing by nature.

You were one of the “Spotlight on Crime” authors featured in “Bloody Scotland” in 2016. What are your favourite memories from the event?
As were you, Amanda! Ok, don’t laugh but I got really excited when I got to wear the guest pass thing round my neck for the day. It made me feel like I was a musician playing in a band or something. I also got to go in a ‘green room’ for the first time, (only it was pink!) It was such a privilege to read from my book before the ‘Into the Dark’ Panel featuring Craig Robertson, James Oswald and Malcolm Mackay. The relief when I finished without (a) losing my voice, (b) knocking over the lectern (I am very clumsy) was immense. Afterwards, I felt like I was walking on air! It has also been lovely getting to know other Spotlighters such as yourself!

What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on the second DI Farrell novel.

Where is your ideal writing space?
I write in a small office lined with books and containing two wingback chairs as well as my desk as that is where I see my clients as well. It means I have to keep things tidy! No wall charts for me.

What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given?
As soon as your first novel is ready for submission, start another right away.

And now for some more random questions...

What’s your radio tuned to most often?
I am embarrassed to say this but it is Radio 4! I started off with Radio 1, progressed to radio 2 and somehow have ended up here. I draw the line at Classical FM though. This far and no further!
[Note from Amanda - absolutely nothing wrong with radio 4! Every radio in our house is tuned to it.]

You’re stranded on an island. You can choose one of the following three things. Which do you choose and why?

1. Limitless supply of paper and pens.
2. A computer which will never run out of battery and which can access the internet, but you can’t post anything/get help via it, only read what others have put up.
3. An endless supply of loo roll.

I know I should say 1. or 2. But I must confess it would definitely be 3!!

You can only wear one of the following colours for the rest of your life. Which colour do you choose?
Yellow. Orange. Green. White. Pink.

Rock and a hard place that, Amanda. Have to go with white, though my muddy dogs and rural lifestyle would mean the washing machine would never be off!

Jason Bourne or James Bond?
James Bond. (Pierce Brosnan!)

Cats or dogs?
Love both but if forced to choose, dogs.

City or country?

Real book or e-book?
Real book! (unless I am on holiday and need room for clothes.)

Fountain pen or biro?

Thanks very much for letting me bombard you with questions!
My pleasure, Amanda!

You can follow Jackie on Twitter at @JackieBaldwin1

Jackie's debut novel, Dead Man's Prayer is out now, both in paperback and as an e-book.