When did you first start writing? And what made you start?
I’d always dabbled in writing wee stories at school (mostly rewrites of favourite science fiction books and films), but later at university I tried writing some original stuff - which was terrible, to be honest. Pressures of working life meant that I laid it aside for a good while, but my wife encouraged me to start again. I wrote a few short stories which I submitted to anthologies and entered into competitions. I was lucky enough to be one of the winners of the very first one I entered – the Canongate Prize for New Writing - which, at the time, was a pretty prestigious competition. That gave me encouragement that maybe I could do this after all. I enrolled in a couple of continuing education creative writing courses and from there moved on to the MPhil in Creative Writing at Glasgow University, which was a fantastic experience.
What was the first full-length novel you ever wrote? (I realise this may not be the same as the first book you have had published!)
Dark Side of the Moon was the first full novel I completed (though many (other) moons ago I did get quite a way through a young adult fantasy book – maybe I’ll return to that some day).
Dark Side of the Moon” has just had a second print run. That’s fantastic news! Tell me more about the book? What prompted you to write it?
The book is essentially a heist story, concerning a bunch of Glasgow crooks who decide to steal the world’s most famous diamond (a rare purple diamond known as the Dark Side of the Moon) when it is exhibited in the city as part of a festival. The story is told entirely from the crooks’ point of view – there isn’t a cop in sight – but the important thing here is that they are completely incompetent; they are hopeless, a bunch of numpties. The story revolves around the setting up of the heist and whether they can pull it off or not. It’s funny, it’s dark, it’s violent, and there quite a few sweary bits! I wanted to write a kind of Hollywood blockbuster crime story but set it in Glasgow and populate it with normal Glaswegian punters with all their foibles, hang-ups and dodgy alliances. No Bruce Willises or Matt Damons here! It’s been described as Ocean’s Eleven meets Trainspotting.
What are you working on at the moment? Are there plans for the next book?
I’m well over half-way through writing the next book and hope to have a first draft completed by the end of the summer. While Dark Side Of The Moon was a heist story, this one is a chase/road trip story starting in Manchester, moving to Glasgow and ending up in the Highlands – there’s a man on the run, hyper-addictive designer drugs, reality television, gangland bosses, government heavies and unscrupulous tabloid newspaper hacks. It’s not quite The 39 Steps!
You’ve had success with novels, short stories and poetry. Do you have a preference? If so, which genre?
I like them all – whatever suits the ideas I have. There’s no fixed genre, though I do like to write poetry in Scots (some poems have been prizewinners and shortlisted in the McCash Scots Poetry Competition).
You’re a physiologist by training (all the best people are!). Does this help you in your crime writing? If so, how?
Not really! I haven’t tended to bring any of that stuff into my writing – if my characters wouldn’t be aware of it, I won’t include it. It could be too much like work! Having said that, for the next book I have been investigating the pharmacology of methyl substitutions in opioid drugs – how I’ll use that information, I’m still not sure!
You also rescue staffies. Tell me how you got involved with this?
Aww, our wee staffy, Skye, came to us one January night after she’d been handed in to Govan police station at midnight – a seven-week-old puppy in a cardboard box. One of our friends is a policewoman who brought the pup to us and asked if we could give her a home. How could we say no? She’s five now and has turned out to be a great wee dog - we’ve never looked back. Staffies get a bad reputation, but it’s not the dog that’s the problem, it’s the other end of the leash.
You were one of the featured authors in “Crime in the Spotlight” at “Bloody Scotland” in 2016. What are your favourite memories from the event?
That was such a fantastic event – great fun and wonderfully friendly people. My favourite memory I suppose was the ‘slot’ I filled – immediately after Val McDermid and immediately before Christopher Brookmyre. No pressure! The Crime in the Spotlight feature is such a great idea which gives exposure to new writers in front of a large and knowledgeable crowd. I feel so lucky to have been able to have been a part of it.
Do you have any regrets over choosing to write? If so, what are they?
None at all. I do regret that I don’t have enough time to devote to it. I have a really busy job, so it’s grabbed moments where and when I can.
Where is your ideal writing space?
Anywhere I can open my laptop and spread out my notebooks. However, I wrote a lot of Dark Side Of The Moon in a wee cottage up on the Isle of Skye, and that’s my ideal way to write. If I can manage it, I will take a week’s annual leave and head up north with the dog and write continuously for the whole week (with therapeutic dog-walks to clear my head, of course!). I can get a lot more done that way.
What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given?
Just get it down on the page.
And now for some more random questions...
What’s your radio tuned to most often?
Radio Scotland – Janice Forsyth, Bryan Burnett, Vic Galloway and Roddy Hart.
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.
A computer – I can write on it, keep in touch with what’s going on in the outside world, and I can always wipe my bum with docken leaves!
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.
White – I’m not sure I’d suit the other colours (and orange trousers? No way!)
Jason Bourne or James Bond?
Cats or dogs?
City or country?
Country. I love cities, but it’s no contest – country is better.
Real book or e-book?
I like the convenience of my Kindle, but when I get a new physical book and open it up to read it just feels so much better.
Fountain pen or biro?
Pencil, actually. Much prefer a good pencil to any sort of pen.
Thanks very much for letting me bombard you with questions!
You can catch up with Les on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/LesWoodWriting
His website is at: https://leswoodwriting.com/
Dark Side of the Moon by Les Wood