Cision: How did you find your way into journalism and was it something you had always wanted to do?
Doug: I always wanted to write in some form. I was in bands and running a fanzine, then started to get music reviews printed in magazines here and there. I decided to quit my office job and concentrate on writing. Did a post-grad journalism course at Napier Uni and started freelancing in music, books, film and across the arts and entertainment fields straight away.
Cision: Have you noticed any significant changes with regard to the style of literature that is now proving to be most popular?
Doug: I don’t think so. There’s always been a blend of more and less commercial literature on offer to readers, from obscure literary works to mass-market genre fiction. There’s good and bad writing in all genres, but unfortunately the good stuff isn’t always the best-selling. Such is life.
Cision: What are your views on the current situation surrounding journalism that has been prompted by the Leveson inquiry, and how important is it to encourage young people to continue with creative writing and a career in journalism?
Doug: Leveson has cast a harsh light on journalism, but it’s not as if that’s representative of the vast majority of the industry. I think young people will continue to gravitate towards journalism, I don’t see any signs of that abating.
Cision:As a freelance writer, do you feel more journalistic freedom in comparison to the restrictions that may be posed by working for a particular paper?
Doug: Yes, definitely. I have worked in offices for particular papers at times, but didn’t really like it much. As a freelance you have scope to pick and choose what you pitch to editors, so it’s usually something you’re really interested in. At a paper, it can seem like a bit of a treadmill at times. The downside is, of course, that you’re always struggling to get enough work, especially in the current financial climate.
Cision: What are your top three tips for PRs wishing to gain the attention of a literary journalist?
Doug: It’s not rocket science. Be courteous, be concise and be organized. Not too much to ask, is it?
Cision: Have you received any event invites from PRs that have been bizarre?
Doug: I don’t really work in any areas that get bizarre PR invites. I wish I did, it might make things more interesting. I used to work on the arts desk at the Edinburgh Evening News, and during festival time you’d get a lot of strange freebies sent to you by Fringe shows. Pants, sweets, condoms – totally random stuff.
Cision: How do you use social media as a journalist and how effective do you think it is?
Doug: I have a Linkedin account but to be honest I never use it. I am on Facebook and Twitter all the time, and these are less geared towards pure career journalism and opportunities probably, but infinitely more useful for general background knowledge, ideas, pitches and general buzz. I mostly write about books and music, and friends and colleagues are always posting great new releases and exciting news, stuff that in a good freelance writer generates ideas. It’s not entirely tangible, I guess, but it is definitely very useful. I also regularly blog about books, music, my own novels, anything that takes my fancy really, and that just feeds into everything else.
Cision: With 2012 being the year the world has its focus on London, the UK is celebrating the best of British talent, creativity and values. As part of this, the RSC is presenting the Royal Shakespeare Festival beginning on 23rd April which will run until November. How important is it to acknowledge writers from the past and the present and will you be attending any dates?
Doug: I won’t be attending any events at the Shakespeare festival as I’m based in Edinburgh, so it’s a bit tricky logistically. For sure, it’s important to acknowledge our literary history, but I prefer to concentrate on the future, that’s just the way I’m made, I think. I don’t have much time for looking backwards.
Cision: Are there any other literary events that you are looking forward to this year? Do you have any gig dates coming up? If so what are the details.
Doug: I always love the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August, as a resident of the city. I’m reading at it again this year, but that aside, it’s always a fantastic two weeks, and the atmosphere in Charlotte Square is brilliant. I’m also going to the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate in July for the first time. It’s the biggest crime writing festival in the UK, so I’m really looking forward to that.
No music gigs, but a handful of book festival events:
14th May, Faber Social, London
14th June, Crime in the City, Glasgow
21st July, Harrogate Crime Writing Festival
17th August, Edinburgh International Book Festival
15th September, Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival, Stirling
Cision: You are also a musician. Do you regularly combine your freelance journalism with music? How do you feel these two expressions of art can work together?
Doug: I started as a music journalist, so I guess that was a crossover there. These days I do less and less music writing. My fiction has had some crossover with music as well, my second novel was about an indie band, and I recorded some songs as the fictional band. I still like to take my guitar along to book events, play a few songs.
Doug’s latest novel, Hit & Run, was recently a #1 bestseller on the Amazon Kindle, Fiction and Crime charts.