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Taking Inspiration from the Past: Elly Griffiths and S.G. MacLean


Opinion

Two more crime novelists reveal their writing insights

Image of Taking Inspiration from the Past: Elly Griffiths and S.G. MacLean

It’s the final day of Aberdeen’s hugely successful inaugural crime fiction festival, Granite Noir and there’s a full house in Aberdeen Central Library as Dr Tim Baker of Aberdeen University introduces historical crime fiction novelists, Elly Griffiths and S.G. MacLean.

Baker kicks off by asking what drew the authors to pen historical crime fiction.

Griffiths explains that whilst on holiday in Norfolk, walking across Titchwell Marsh, she learnt that prehistoric man thought marshland was sacred, because it’s neither land nor sea, but something in-between. They saw it as a kind of bridge to the afterlife. This nugget of information spawned the entire plot of The Crossing Places, which became the first in Griffiths’s Dr Ruth Galloway mystery series. Griffiths’s latest offering, The Chalk Pit, became available this month. Other novels in the series include The Woman In Blue (2016), The Ghost Fields (2015), The Outcast Dead (2014), Dying Fall (2012) and A Room Full of Bones (2011).

In addition, she owes the creation of her Stephens and Mephisto series of novels to her late grandfather, who was a music hall comedian and bequeathed her his collection of play bills. These included such as exotic acts as Petrova and her Prancing Ponies, and Lou Lenny and her Unbelievable Mule, which sparked Griffiths’ imagination and lead to her writing The Blood Card (2016), Smoke and Mirrors (2015) and The Zig Zag Girl (2014).

Next, we turn our attention to Inverness born MacLean, who explains that as a student completing a PhD in 17th century history at Aberdeen University, she endured many blustery walks from the Queen Mother library to King’s College, and wondered how 16th and 17th century scholars survived the harsh extremes of weather. This curiosity led her to write the first in her acclaimed Alexander Seaton series, The Redemption of Alexander Seaton (2009) which was short-listed for both the Saltire first book award and the CWA Historical Dagger. This was followed quickly with A Game of Sorrows (2010), Crucible (2012) and The Devil’s Recruit (2013), with settings including Banff, Northern Ireland and Aberdeen. Her latest Damien Seeker series includes The Seeker (2015), winner of the 2015 Historical Dagger, and The Black Friar (2016).

Griffiths and MacLean provide an engaging insight into their research and writing processes. Afterwards, there is a lively hubbub of conversation as a large proportion of the audience queues patiently as Griffiths and MacLean complete signings – always an indication of a successful book event.

/ @Rae_Cowie


Rae is keeping everything crossed as she prepares her first novel to be sent to agents. She's a member of both the Scottish Association of Writers and the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme, winning the Elizabeth Goudge first chapter competition in 2015. She cut her blogging teeth as part of the Novel Points of View blog team - blogging about reading, writing, art and more. She has lived in various locations around Scotland but is currently rooted in the North-East, finally finding time to develop her writing.

Comments

2 Responses to Taking Inspiration from the Past: Elly Griffiths and S.G. MacLean

  1. It was a really good event, thoroughly enjoyable and a well devised article above weaving in the authors updates and their achievements! My thanks to Rae Cowie.

  2. Jenny Harper says:

    Great review Rae. Wish I could have been there!

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