An Interview With James McCreet

We caught up with historical crime thriller author, James McCreet, to talk all things literary.

We love it when our authors pop into the office at Pan Macmillan, so when James McCreet came in the other day we managed steal him for a few minutes to ask him some questions about his new book, The Incendiary's Trail. Here's what he had to say...

For people who may not have read any of your books yet, could you give a brief rundown of the series or your latest book?

The Incendiary’s Trail is a Victorian detective thriller based in London. This is the very beginnings of detection – before Sherlock Holmes – and pits the keen minds of policemen against criminals who lurk in a city caught between bright modernity and impenetrable darkness.

When did you start writing?
I suppose I discovered at a young age that I could express myself better and more naturally in writing than in personal interaction. For years, I wrote letters and journals, but it wasn’t until 2005 that I attempted to write books. Then I found there was a world inside me waiting to get out.

How do you write? Typewriter, hand, or Laptop?
Laptop. It’s simply the fastest way to do it, and it helps that I spend my days as a copywriter tapping out text to order.

When and where do you write?
Between 8.00 and 10.00 p.m. five nights a week in an attic room. I’d do more if my wife would let me and if I didn’t have a day job. I drink either cognac or malt whiskey as I write, and listen to rock music on my iPod.

Do you read your reviews, good and bad, and do they make a difference to you?
I think that a writer knows their own strengths and weaknesses. Everything else is opinion.

If you weren't a writer what would you do?
I’d say ‘professional mountaineer’ if I wasn’t afraid of heights. So I’ll go for the life of a carpenter. I like the idea of having something solid to show for my work.

What advice would you, as you are now, give yourself as a 16-year-old?
Relax! You will get a girlfriend and your complexion will clear up. Keep reading – it’ll be of great benefit later.

What was the first book you remember falling in love with?
Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. It was the first book I read after finishing my degree and suddenly I’d found a writer who, like me, was earnestly, desperately, wildly trying to find himself as a writer. There’s no story in his book, but a lifetime of passion.

What is your worst vice?
Over-eating. My stomach drives my daily routine and I’ll eat until I’m almost in pain. I’m ashamed of my lack of restraint, but it’s an animal pleasure I can’t forego.

What book are you reading right now?
Moby Dick, for the third time. Simply put, it’s the American Shakespeare. When I lived in China, I owned two books: this one and Edgar Allan Poe’s stories. I think they both had a lasting impact.

What did you study at University?
English and American Literature. I preferred the American at the time – it had a more distinctive voice because for so long it was seeking an identity.

How to you spend your time when you’re not writing?
Eating! I so seldom get the chance to read, but I enjoy that, too.