01 January 2001

The Intel: Anna Smith

With Easter done and dusted, you’ll be relieved to know that Crime Thriller Fella is back, so we can all get back to the really important business of reaffirming our love for crime writers. Let’s get on with it.

Anna SmithYou know Anna Smith. She writes the Rosie Gilmour thrillers, featuring the tenacious crime reporter with a nose for trouble. In the latest, called Betrayed - which is out on kindle tomorrow and released in paperback on May 8th - Rosie’s search for a missing barmaid leads her into the dangerous world of Glasgow’s Ulster Volunteer Force, and a snake pit of vicious gangsters.

It’s the fourth Rosie Gilmour novel - and Anna knows her stuff. She’s an award-winning journalist who has spent a lifetime in daily newspapers, trotting the globe as a frontline reporter. She’s covered wars as well as major investigations and news stories from Dunblane to Northern Ireland, Kosovo and 9/11. She’s also worked as a columnist with various national daily newspapers.

Anna gives us the Intel on Rosie - and of course, her writing regime…

Describe Rosie Gilmour to a potential reader?

Rosie Gilmour is a tough, investigative journalist who tears down the walls of corruption and exposes all the bad guys - from drug dealers, to bent cops and lawyers - and she doesn’t care who stands in her way. She works for a daily newspaper in Glasgow and is at the top of her game. But she is also a troubled character, haunted by childhood memories and traumas that make her wake in the night in tears. She has learned to live with them, and throws herself into her work - but is also vulnerable, as we see in her relationship with the men in her life.

Rosie sticks her nose into Glasgow’s underbelly – where does her investigation in Betrayed take her?

In Betrayed, Rosie has taken on the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) Loyalist gangsters in Glasgow who are smuggling cocaine into the country in Rangers supporters’ when they are at Champions League matches across Europe. The trail takes her from Glasgow to Holland and Seville as she chases her story. She knows these are hard men, but nothing could have prepared her for what happens in this big story.

BetrayedHow have your own experiences as a newspaper reporter shaped Rosie’s investigations?

Most, if not all, of the plot lines in my novels come from actual experience in a lifetime as a frontline journalist where I covered major stories all over the world. I use these memories and the experience as a backdrop to what I fictionalise in my stories.

What’s your writing process? What comes first - plot or character?

Sometimes my routine changes with each book. The novel I have just completed for next year, began with an opening scene. I built the entire novel around that scene, which was quite challenging, but I think it has worked. Generally, a semblance of a story presents itself to me, and the characters develop as I go along. I like it best when a character just seems to walk into the story and develop all by itself. That’s when you know you’re nuts!

Take us through a typical writing day for you?

When I’m writing a novel, I work in the afternoons, furiously creating a chapter and painting a scene. Then I leave it down, go for a walk and come back. Sometimes I’m surprised at what I’ve written, because I become very wrapped up in it. I then re-read and correct and begin a new chapter, which I might not really work on properly till the next day. A lot of my time is spent reading and re-reading what I’ve written.

And in the run up to actually writing a new novel, most of my time is spent walking around, either in the beach in the West of Ireland or in Spain, or in Scotland, losing myself in the storyline and trying to work out the plot. When you are writing crime, you have to plan more, as so many chapters and scenes you have created must impact on each other as the book develops, so I have to be careful.

What’s the hardest lesson you ever had to learn about writing?

The hardest thing I’ve learned about writing is that it involves a lot of work. But to me it doesn’t feel like work. There’s a saying….find something you love doing and you’ll never work a day in your life. In theory that’s how I feel. But I still have to produce the goods, and they have to be edited meticulously. So there is an element of slog. But I think overall, the hardest thing was years ago before I was published - when I was writing away and hoping for the best. Most writers will tell you there is always rejection first, and I’m no different. But it’s all about keeping going, keeping the belief. I’m good at that. I’ve always expected a lot!

Give me some advice about writing…

Again, my advice would be, it’s not easy getting published - although these days a lot of writers self publish. But with that they miss out on having some great editors on their side as they go through the process, plus the promotion of a book. But I’d advise writers just to keep at it and hopefully the publisher will come. But most of all, when you start out, just keep writing. Write something every day - even if it is only a few hundred words to keep you in the zone.

What’s next for you?

I’ve just finished my latest novel, A Cold Killing, and will soon be editing. But I am already working in my head on the next Rosie Gilmour novel. So I’m at the process where I’m walking around like Forrest Gump with my head full of lots of characters and plots. If you see me, don’t call for the men in white coats! I am actually working!