Home > Interviews

Tony Cox Interview with G.R. HALLIDAY

Written by Tony R. Cox


What was it that led you to becoming a writer and author?

I was born in Edinburgh and grew up near Stirling in Scotland. My dad is a writer and I remember as a young child watching him spend hours working at his typewriter. I was intrigued by what was so enthralling about this machine so used to play with it when he wasn’t around. I think I’ve always found something engaging about getting started on a fresh piece of paper or computer screen, a useful quality for a writer to have! I started writing seriously after I moved to the Highlands about ten years ago, which led to my first novel From The Shadows being published in 2019.


Did your previous careers have any bearing on the characters, plots or locations for any of your writing?


Not explicitly, but I used to work for a magazine based in central Inverness so would walk around the city a lot thinking about story ideas during my lunch breaks, I think getting a feel for the city in that way and through my work led to some of the atmosphere and characters in my writing.


What is it about the Highlands that makes the area so fitting for crimes and deep personality traits? 

I’ve loved the idea of the Highlands since I was a kid growing up in central Scotland, there’s something about the landscape and culture of the area that feels magical to me. But you can’t have one extreme without the other - so I think it’s exciting to contrast all that bleak beauty with a darkness that suits crime fiction really well. I think living in the Highlands, a lot of people interact with the landscape, it’s hard not to be moved and changed by such timeless and atmospheric surroundings. You can taste it in the whisky, the music, the history, the writing…


You write extensively and intimately about the geographical locations in Under The Marsh; would you advise would-be authors to do the same – urban or rural settings? 

I’ve always loved writing that takes me to a place and time, and really enjoyed these kind of descriptions in a book. Parts of The Secret History by Donna Tartt and Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh come to mind. But I’ve also enjoyed books that are much more focused on drama and characters, so I think it really depends on what appeals to the author.


Under The Marsh is loosely a ‘police procedural’, in that the main character is a DI, but the other characters, who form a panoply of sub-plots, are stronger than conventional police procedurals. 

When I’m writing supporting characters I always think that no one considers themselves to be a side character in real life, we all have our own fears, dreams, history. When I get to know characters a bit better, I feel much more comfortable writing about them. In general I’m just really interested in people and what makes us tick, how we form our visions of the world. I also think, because this novel was a bit more of a mystery and psychological thriller than my first two novels, it was important to understand the other characters really well, so I did spend more time on this.


The main protagonist is a woman. She has a daughter, a mother and aunt, and two women DCs working for her. You seem to find it natural to write from a female perspective. How would you advise other male writers to manage this? 

I don’t actually find it that easy to write from the female perspective, I’ve had to work at it quite hard - but it feels a lot more interesting to me than writing male characters. When I write males, I often feel like I’m writing aspects of myself, but to write females, especially from their point of view, feels a bit more distant. I like the challenge of stepping into a different perspective. I’ve always had a lot of female friends so I think that helps. The psychologist Carl Jung had an idea that we carry an internal image of the opposite sex inside ourselves - so getting in touch with this inner feminine could be a way for male authors to write female characters. I also used to read a lot of my older sister’s magazines when I was a teenager, so that might be an idea too!


Your characters mostly have three dimensions and leap out of the page as real people. How do you achieve this, and are there any drawbacks to allowing each of them a personality? 

For me, this just needs time to get to know the characters and understand them. Sometimes I’ll meet someone who has a little quirk of behaviour, way of speaking or what they wear that ends up growing into a character in one of my books. Potential drawbacks are that it takes time to let the characters grow, so there’s a lot of redrafting. I guess it means the characters do what they want rather than what I want, but usually I try to negotiate this with them!


In your writing, generally, is there a ratio between fiction, and what you have experienced, and the diligent research that you carry out in areas where you do not feel so strong? 

Most of the locations and most of the interactions between the characters are close to things that I’ve experienced myself. For the technical side of things, like police procedure and autopsies etc., I do a lot of research, speak to retired detectives (my sister’s a consultant in Accident and Emergency so that really helps) and read up on technical details. I think ultimately a story is about interaction between characters and their journeys, so for me that’s always in the foreground, with the research in the background. Obviously, there are things that are totally alien to me (like interviewing a serial killer!) but I know what it feels like to be intimidated or wary of someone so hopefully I can transfer those feelings to the page.


Under The Marsh

RRP: £8.99
Released: July 21 2022

G. R. Halliday

Book Reviews
About Us
Contact Us

Privacy Policy | Contact Shots Editor