Wednesday 10 August 2011

Dancing With Myself: FIONA JOHNSON interviews FIONA JOHNSON

How did you first begin reading crime fiction?
I’ve been reading crime fiction for years off and on. It

all started with William McIlvanney’s ‘Laidlaw’ when I

became fascinated with the grim reality of Glasgow. I

particularly enjoy Scottish crime fiction, mainly

Stuart MacBride, Russel McLean and Allan Guthrie as

I like my crime to be noir, violent and very funny. I’ve

just started reading the Barney Thomson series by

Douglas Lindsay and I am so impressed by the

uniquely outrageous humour amidst no end of

brutal murders and body parts. I’ve never before

come across a writer who plays with the whole crime

genre as much as Lindsay. If you haven’t read him

then you really must.

Do you write from experience, or purely imagination?
It’s a mixture. I would say that I always have to write

from some kind of experience but then I let my

imagination fly. That’s the bit

that I enjoy. I take normal situations and then try to

make them as ridiculous as possible such as in the

‘Gemma’ detective stories that I write. I want to write

about a strong female character who isn’t

put down or afraid of men. Gemma also has a strong

feminine side and isn’t afraid to remind her male

police colleagues that there’s a whole side to being a

woman that they’d rather ignore in their

attempts to stereotype her. Gemma kicks ass, knees

them in the balls and explains PMT to them all in one


What’s your favourite setting?
My stories are all set in Scotland or have Scottish

characters in them even if they are set in England.

I’ve written some stories based on Islay because I

lived there for 9 years and it is a fertile

setting for many more stories with its whisky heritage

and wily characters. Other stories are set in rural

Argyll where I now live.
I’m keen to show that not all crime in Scotland

happens in the big cities; there’s a lot going on in the

tartan and heather lands as well - more than you

might think! I suppose a theme in my writing is

breaking down stereotypes, whether that’s about

Scotland, women or murderers.

Which writers outside of Scotland do you love?
My absolute favourite at the moment is Josh Stallings

His two books, ‘Beautiful, Naked & Dead’ and

‘Out There Bad’ blew me away when I read them.

Josh is able to inhabit characters and get
under their skin so that you really learn some deep

truths and then the action is a total whirlwind of

violence. He has it all for me; plot, setting


Another writer I love is Charlie Huston.
I love his Hank Thomson books. He never dodges an

issue and keeps to the noir agenda right to the end.

He takes you on a downwards spiral, throws you out

of a plane without a parachute and lets you fall.

I would also recommend Benjamin Whitmer's book

The descriptive language he uses is outstanding.

Who should we look out for?
I’ve been reading a lot of short stories written by

Thomas Pluck. There are so many talented people out

there writing short stories at the moment, but his

stand out for me. Great characters and believable
tales of the struggles people have in their lives. His

story ‘The Forest for the Trees’ is one of the best I’ve

read all year.

I also love anything by Chris F. Holm
and his stories stay with me for a long time and

seriously creep me out especially if I hear anything

scratching in my bedroom wall late at night.

I’m also desperately keen to read a novel by

Steve Weddle
and I’m hoping that will happen soon. His Oscar 
Martello stories are tremendous and Steve is great at

turning on sudden and deadly violence.

So what can we expect from you next?

I’m definitely going to keep writing about Gemma and

develop her character some more. I’d also love to

write a crime novel set in Argyll that’s very noir and

extremely funny. But just now I’m having

fun learning so much by reading as much as I can

and just trying out new styles and voices.
I’ve discovered that I love writing dialogue and I’m

trying to use Scots without making the writing too

difficult for non Scots to access. That’s a lot of fun

and I’ve now become a great eavesdropper into other

people’s conversations in shops. That’s
where you find the really colourful everyday language

that I just love so much. The two boys in

 ‘ A Straight Game’ were directly based on two young

lads in a games shop in Kilmarnock. The way

they were talking to each other was fascinating so I

pinched it for a story.

What do you have coming out?
I’ve got a new ‘Gemma’ story that I’ve submitted and

a story about death and childhood coming up on

The Flash Fiction Offensive .

You could also read ‘Hard As Nails’ in Shotgun Honey

and then there is ‘A Straight Game’ and ‘Ferry Late’

up at the Flash Fiction Friday site.

If you want a good old rummage through my writing

then they can all be found on my blog:

so go and have a nose around and let me know what

you think.

You can also catch my book reviews at


  1. A great look into the mind of a talented writer. Enjoyed that, Fiona. Very well done.

  2. Great interview Fiona. You make crime sound so very appealing - even to this romance writer!

  3. Loved this interview! Now, Nigel... can you score an interview with Banksy? I'd love to see that one!

  4. Great stuff. Keep on writing, lady. I need good stuff to read.

  5. Talking about people to look out for? How about you take a long look at yourself, Fiona. Am I right, folks?
    Such versatility. "Saying Goodbye" at TFFO is a great coming of age tale; the Gemma stories are a bubbling hot pot of character and tension. I look forward to a whole shelf of Gemma stories someday... so get to it.
    Thank you for the kind mention. And the kick in the pants, that pushed me to send out my stories. I'm so glad your talents are being recognized. And this is just the beginning.

  6. Well done Fiona. Good to get to know more about you/ your writing. Enjoyed "Saying Goodbye" very much and look forward to catching up on more of your stories. Best of luck!

  7. Awesome. Keep on cranking out those words!

  8. You had me at Gemma . . . but then, you know that. You have everybody at Gemma. She's the gateway drug to the read-on-sight habit your stuff instantly generates. And that Stallings, Weddle, Holm, Huston, Whitmer and Pluck bunch are pretty fast company. I figure you'll keep right up. Cool.

  9. Great dance you did here. You make me want to stomp about the heather with chainsaw and baseball bat. I love your dialogue, you nail the Scots voice without feeling cute or impenetrable. Keep writing, you got the goods. And as always thank you for the massive support.

  10. Cool interview with a top writer and a strong member of the crime fiction community.

  11. Lovely interview -- and thanks for the kind mention!

  12. A huge thanks to everybody for all of the kind comments!

  13. Well, that was great knowing you a little better, Fiona. I agree wholeheartedly about Josh Stallings' book. I got OUT THERE BAD traveling by mail, making me on pins and needles. Looking forward to your TFFO piece