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M C Beaton

Q & A with M. C. Beaton

3 January 2017

M. C. Beaton is hugely popular with library users across Britain.

In fact last year more people borrowed her books than any other British adult fiction writer. Born Mary Gibbons in Glasgow in 1936, she is the author of over 160 Regency romances and mystery novels, which she writes under various pen names. She is widely known for her popular Hamish Macbeth Murder Mysteries and Agatha Raisin detective novels. Many of her books are available in large print and audio from Magna Large Print.

How do you feel to be one of the most borrowed British adult fiction writers in the UK?
I cannot yet believe that I am the UK's most borrowed British adult fiction writer. Just as well. Nothing like a swelled head for causing writer's block.

You started your career as a bookseller - did you always dream of one day becoming a writer?
I worked as a bookseller in the days when it was regarded as a profession. I actually dreamt of writing a short story for Chamber's Journal and that dates me.

Did your work as a crime writer for the Scottish Daily Express inspire you to start writing detective stories?
My work as a crime reporter for the Scottish Daily Express is the reason I regard myself more as an escape artist than a writer. Real life crime is too often nasty and brutish and real life murderers are boring psychopaths. So only occasionally are my books based on reality.

What for you, is the best thing about being a writer?
The best thing about being a writer is making one's own time and being one's own boss. I love crosswords and so I love juggling all my suspects together and planting clues.

You're such a prolific writer, where do the ideas for your novels come from?
I get ideas for my books everywhere. For example, have you ever noticed how loudly customers at the hairdressers talk when they are under the drier? And how loudly they shout out the intimate details of their lives? Great for a blackmailing hairdresser and so the Wizard of Evesham was created.

Generally, how long does it take you to write a book?
It takes me about six months to write a book. I often wish I had more time and yet I usually end up putting off work until I'm rushing and screaming to make the deadline.

Do you have any favourite characters and if so, which?
I don't have any favourite characters. They do what I write and I don't want them running away with me. As Nicholas Blake said, "Never fall in love with your characters."

You've had many different pen names, why is it important to use a pseudonym?
I originally had different pen names because I was writing Regency novels for different publishers. I had settled down to writing all under Marion Chesney, my real name, when St. Martin's demanded a pseudonym, feeling the critics might think a romance writer could not write detective stories.

Agatha Raisin and the Blood of an Englishman will be published in large print in March. Her Hamish Macbeth Mystery, Death of a Nurse will be published in April. Other titles published by M.C Beaton can be found here.

Interview by Nicky Solloway at Magna Large Print Books.