The Writing Life of: Dan Scottow
This week I am thrilled to be interviewing author Dan Scottow. Dan will be sharing with us details of his writing life, telling us all about his new book ‘Girl A‘, which was released on 29th March 2021, and answering a few fun questions too. This post contains affiliate links.
Dan Scottow grew up in Hertfordshire before moving to London in his early twenties. After more than ten years living there, he decided enough was enough, and packed his bags for Scotland in search of a more peaceful life.
Dan works as a graphic designer, but dreams of the day he can give it up and write full time.
Besides writing, he enjoys painting, watching a good scary film, travelling the world (or at least he did, pre-Covid), good food, long walks on the beach with his dogs, and of course, reading a great book.
Dan’s debut psychological Thriller ‘Damaged’ and his second novel Girl A are out now, and available to buy or download.
1) Did you enjoy writing when you were a child?
Yes, I absolutely adored creating stories from a very young age. I remember I used to fold sheets of paper in half, and slide them inside each other, then write my stories on them… my parents must have loved having to read all my ‘books’! Then when I was a little older, in secondary school, I really enjoyed English and particularly the creative writing side.
2) Which author shaped your childhood?
I’d have to say Roald Dahl, as these are the stories I remember reading with my Grandmother and parents the most. I enjoyed them because they had quite a dark side to them… which I guess appeals to my nature. Probably why I like writing such dark fiction these days as an adult. I also used to absolutely love the ladybird children’s hardbacks… we had every single one of them.
3) What motivated you to begin your first novel?
I had always wanted to write… but I also always used to make excuses as to why I didn’t have time to. Then one day I was reading an interview with Val McDermid, and she said something along the lines of, ‘If you want to write, just sit down and write. It’s as simple as that.’ I’m massively paraphrasing there, but whatever it was she said, it really struck a chord with me, and I thought, ‘You know what, I’m going to!’.
4) Do you plot your book, or are you a pantser?
I didn’t plot my first novel, Damaged at all… in as much as I knew exactly how it was going to end, and had a rough idea where it was starting… but everything in-between, I just sat and wrote. Girl A, my second novel, was much more heavily plotted out in a notebook, and I did the same for my third novel, which I’ve recently finished. So I guess as my writing develops, I’m discovering that I’m more of a plotter.
5) What is your average writing day?
My writing day is complicated, as I still work full time in my other career as a Graphic Designer. So writing has to fit in around my 9-5 job. It’s a lot of late nights, and sometimes when I’m really in the flow of it, I’ll sit and write for an hour on my lunch break. I’ve been working from home since last March due to the pandemic, so it makes writing on my lunch break more doable. I also used to have to commute an hour each way to work every day, so I try to use those extra 2 hours I have these days to write.
My weekends are usually filled with spells of writing too. I find my best ideas come to me quite late at night. In terms of where I write, I don’t actually have a designated writing space. I appreciate that some authors might think this is absolutely bonkers, but I just sit wherever I’m comfortable, whether that be on the sofa, with my laptop on my lap, in the garden if the weather is nice in the summer, or at my desk. I tend to write less at my desk these days, because I’m working from home, so if I sit there to write I feel like I am always at ‘the office’.
6) What is the best thing about being an author?
For me, there are so many great things about being an author. I really enjoy the creative process, I love coming up with characters, and storylines, and asking myself what each person’s motivation is for the way they behave. I’m extremely interested in how events in the past shape a person’s future… I think that tends to be a theme in my books.
I also get a huge kick out of knowing that something that I’ve written is being read by people around the world. It makes me feel very proud. But I think THE best feeling, if I had to choose, is when people send me messages about my books, telling me how much they’ve enjoyed them. And when they start talking about my characters as if they are real people… that gives me a real kick.
Publisher – Bloodhound Books
Pages – 344
Release Date – 29th March 2021
ISBN 13 – 978-1913942380
Format – ebook, paperback
Someone thinks they know who she is… and what she did. But she insists it’s a mistake.
All Beth has ever wanted is a quiet life for her and her family. And that is what she has, until one evening a note is pushed through the door, with two words scrawled in menacing black ink: Found you.
As Beth’s neatly crafted life begins to unravel, an unseen menace torments her and those she loves. But who’s behind the threats?
Somebody is out to get Beth, but do they have the right woman?
Beth faces losing everything, and there is far more at stake than just her marriage…
Purchase Online From:
7) How did you go about researching the content for your book?
For Girl A, my current release, I did a lot of research online into famous child murder cases. Particularly where children had killed other children, as this was the main theme of my story. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t pleasant. I read a lot of stuff that I really wish I hadn’t. It was quite disturbing, and I read some facts which will probably haunt me for a long time. But I think it was quite important to do this, as I wanted to make sure I treated the story with sensitivity.
I also had to contact colleagues of mine who worked in newspapers, to find out about laws about publishing children’s identities, and what the repercussions would be if papers ignored gagging orders, etc.
8) How long did it take to go from the ideas stage to writing the last word?
It was about seven months from first putting notes in a notebook, to writing ‘The End’ on my laptop. But within this time, I think there was a long period, maybe seven or even eight weeks, where I was hugely demotivated because of the pandemic, and stresses of lockdown. I didn’t write a single word during that whole time. It was very demoralising.
9) What made you choose the genre you write in?
My favourite books have always been psychological thrillers, so it was a no brainer that I would write something within this genre. I’m a huge fan of horror… the more disturbing, the better in my eyes. I chose to write psych thrillers instead, because I think horror is a hard one to master. I’d like to think there are some horror elements in my writing too though.
10) How did you come up with the name(s) for your lead character(s)?
This is a tricky one. Some characters’ names come to me along with the initial idea, and they don’t change. Other characters’ names get changed many times. The lead characters in Girl A, Beth and Charlie Carter… they went through so many incarnations I can’t even remember what they were originally called. But the little boy who gets murdered was Billy Noakes right from the start.
Sometimes a name just works, and other times, it doesn’t feel right, so I change it until it fits. I try not to use names of people I know, because I don’t want them to think that my characters are based on them!
11) Can you give us an insight into your characters?
So in Girl A, the story focuses around a character called Beth Carter, and what happens to her life when somebody starts to believe she is Girl A, who was involved in the murder of a child when she was 7.
Beth is a very private person. Doesn’t do social media, doesn’t really have any friends. She keeps her cards very close to her chest, and doesn’t open up to people, including her husband Charlie. This helps to build the mystery around whether or not she is indeed Girl A, because there is so little that anybody knows about her, that it is entirely possible that she could be. Her family are no longer around, and she has no friends from her past, so there’s nobody who can actually corroborate her identity.
Her husband Charlie is much more of an open book. He’s a happy go lucky kind of guy, who is glad to have married his university sweetheart. He’s uncomplicated, and in touch with his emotions. He’s always trusted Beth and has never had any reason to doubt anything she’s told him about her past. He has a huge internal struggle when he starts to doubt his wife. He doesn’t want to believe that she is Girl A, but at the same time, he can’t 100% rule it out because he knows so little about her past, before meeting her at university.
12) How did you feel when you had completed your book?
It is an absolutely wonderful feeling. So many emotions all rolled in together… relief, glee, exhaustion, but also a tiny little bit of sadness, because I have to say goodbye to those characters who have been a huge part of my life for a long time. Until the editing stage at least!
1) Do you have a favourite quote you live by?
Dance like nobody’s watching… (and indeed I do!)
2) Do you have any pets?
I have two Labradors. A black one called Penny, who is ten, and white one called Pebbles who is eight. They are like chalk and cheese personality wise… Pebbles is the bane of my life at times, as she is very disobedient. But she is also the most affectionate, cuddly dog you will ever meet. She can’t bear to be alone and spends the majority of the day at my feet. If I get up to go to the loo, she follows me and waits outside the door. It’s very endearing.
Penny on the other hand is much better behaved, but fiercely independent. She’s not as cuddly, and only comes for affection when she wants it. But she is the sweetest animal… She’s so gentle and loves bringing me all her various toys all day long.
3) What’s on your current reading list?
I have the biggest TBR pile… you wouldn’t believe. But at the moment I’m reading My Lovely Wife, by Samantha Downing, and quite enjoying it.
4) Your book has been made into a feature film, you’ve been offered a cameo role, what would you be doing?
Oh gosh, I hate seeing myself on film, so I’d probably be walking past a café window, with my face turned away from the camera!
5) If you could travel to the fictional world of any book for the day, which would you choose?
It would have to be Narnia! I was obsessed with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when I was a kid. I used to climb into my wardrobe and wish with all my heart that I’d find a door at the back to push through into Narnia.
6) There’s a penguin sitting in your writing chair, what is the first thing he says to you?
He’d probably say something along the lines of… ‘Hope you don’t mind, but I just read your latest chapter… I mean, the laptop was just sitting here open on your desk, so… (he shrugs). What the heck happened to you in your life to make you write such horrible stories?’