Crime in the community: an interview with Linwood Barclay


Continuing the Canadian theme on my blog this month, I’m joined by crime fiction author, Linwood Barclay.

After a distinguished career with the Toronto Star, Linwood retired from newspapers in 2008 to work exclusively on his books.

With his latest book Parting Shot wowing readers, I asked Linwood to join me on the blog for a chat about his writing and his future plans.

Linwood Barclay author photo

Parting Shot by Linwood Barclay book cover

Promise Falls is a community that features in many of your books, most recently in the follow-up to the Promise Falls trilogy, Parting Shot, which you state in your newsletter will probably be the final novel to feature the town. What made you choose to set the stories in a fictional setting rather than a real one, and have there been any unforeseen problems in doing so?

I like a fictional setting because you aren’t hemmed in by anything that’s actually happened in a real location. You can build this town from scratch, give it its own history, its own cast of characters. And you don’t have anyone emailing you to say that I got the location of the post office wrong. 

Some crime fiction authors absorb themselves in their research, attending morgues, learning a new skill, or going to extreme lengths to experience what their characters go through – what’s been the most extraordinary research you’ve had to undertake for your writing?

I set my books in a world I know, and don’t have to do a great deal of research. When I come to a point where I really need to know something, I try to find the answer online, or find the right person to ask. Funnily enough, the most research I did was for Fear the Worst, where the main character was a car salesman. I took two retired car salesmen, both friends, to lunch and said, “Tell me your stories.” 

You’ve recently released your first novel for young readers, Chase. Was it a conscious decision to write a YA novel, or was there something in the original story idea that compelled you to do so?

The idea for Chase came to me at two in the morning.

The whole thing was just there. I knew, instantly, it was not right for one of my adult thrillers, that it was really more of a book for kids. But it was too good an idea to put aside, so I wrote it.

Chase by Linwood Barclay book cover

What does your writing space look like?  Do you have any pre-writing rituals to get you “in the zone”?

We have two places, and I have an office in each. I’m surrounded by books and lots of decorative toys – Batmobile models, nerdy spaceships from 1960s Gerry Anderson shows, a Lego Mini Cooper, a model Texaco tanker from the 60s, the Seaview from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. So many of these items are from the shows I watched as a kid, and these were the shows that first fired up my imagination. 

I don’t need to get into the zone. I worked for 30 years in newspapers and writing is a job. I sit down and get to work. But there must be coffee. 

Your books have captured readers’ imaginations for a number of years, and now it’s the turn of television audiences with Never Saw It Coming shooting in Canada, and The Accident in France. What has surprised you most about the novel-to-TV series experience?

Surprised me…I’m not sure. I’ve also been involved in another possible adaptation of one of my books – it’s not nailed down so we have not announced it – and that experience has been teaching me to be very patient. I can write an entire novel in the time if takes a network to make a decision. And when you are adapting something to TV or film, you learn it’s a much more co-operative process. Everyone has something to say, everyone has input. That’s very different than the more solitary process of writing a book.  

We all occasionally hit a brick wall with our creative endeavours – what do you do to relax and overcome any stumbling blocks?

Going back to an earlier point, I worked in newspapers for three decades, and you weren’t allowed creative blocks. You produced. If you didn’t, you were gone.  I do occasionally take breaks between projects to recharge, but if I go very long without writing, I start to get very restless. I always need a project. 

Finally, where can we buy your books?


Linwood, many thanks for taking the time to join me on the blog today!

You can keep in touch with Linwood Barclay via his website here.

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