interviews / Q&A's

Meet Charlie Laidlaw: The Literary Shed Q&A


We’re delighted to welcome writer CHARLIE LAIDLAW to The Literary Lounge. The author of two books, Charlie publishes his third, The Space Between Time, this month with Accent Press.



First of all, Charlie, thank you so much for joining us and for taking the time to answer our questions.  


LS: You’ve had some very interesting jobs and were a journalist (and spy?). What’s been your favourite? And do any of them inform your writing?

CL: No, I don’t think so, although I am writing a spy thriller. It’s almost compulsory … just ask John le Carré!


LS: We hear Noel Edmonds may have threatened to sue you! Can you elaborate at all?

CL: I’d better not be too specific in case he decides to have another go. But it was to do with an ex-wife, I think. He wanted to be seen as the clean-living family man, and I had dented that.


LS: ‘Nuff said … Coming back to the writing, what was the first thing you penned? Have you always written fiction?

CL: I wrote my first book at about 14-years-old. Luckily, I threw it on a bonfire. I wrote my second at about 18, and a third at about 21.  I still have them, but they’re complete gibberish. And, yes, always fiction.


LS: Your novels are very character-driven, but is location also important?

CL: As you say, my books are character-driven, so they could be set in Scotland, Japan or the Planet Zarg.…

Anne Tyler always sets her books in the city she lives in, so I thought why not do the same.


LS: You’ve also written as Charles Gray, your ‘alter ego’. How different a writer is he to Charlie Laidlaw? Does your pseudonym have any personal significance?

CL: I just thought it would be neat to have a pen name. I then realised that it was a completely stupid idea because rather than simplify things it made everything more complicated. [The Herbal Detective is] being republished by Accent Press in early November. It’s more of a outright comedy, but it literally took months and months of research.


LS: You write a lot about loss and yet humour is also a key part of your writing. Do you think that’s a particularly Scottish trait? Of dealing with the darker things in life with humour – our pragmatic way of triumphing over adversity?

CL: I don’t like to read books that are overly heavy. But I like books that are complex, yet deal with those complexities with a dollop of humour. Maybe it’s also my outlook on most things: to not take things too seriously.


LS: The title of The Things We Learn When We’re Dead draws on The Wizard of Oz. Does The Space Between Time similarly take its inspiration from somewhere else?

CL: The title comes from a verse by TS Eliot [from ‘Four Quartets’]:

‘Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future

And time future contained in time past.

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable.’

 The book’s premise is that memory can be a fickle thing. We can grow up believing things, simply because we want to believe them.  Ultimately, our futures care contained in our pasts. But what if we slowly realise that we were wrong about our past?  How would that change us? Can we go back and make things better?


LS: How does Emma, the protagonist of your new book, differ to your previous ones, if at all?

CL: Emma is mentally flawed, and the book is about how she puts herself back together. In [The Things We Learn When We’re Dead], the central character was simply young and naïve. Both books have similarities: both are about memory. In my last book, the central character is injured in a car accident, and her memories slowly come back to her in a different way. The premise is much the same: would that process of memory change us in the present?


LS: Do you have a particular writing routine? How long does it ‘typically’ take you to write a decent first draft?

CL: It takes me a long time, as I have other commitments.  But when I get time, I can write quite quickly. I can write a first draft within two years.


LS: Would you consider writing in other genres?

CL: As I said, I’m writing a spy thriller. I’m also writing a pure comedy. But I’m also writing a book similar to The Space Between Time and I’m quite excited by how that’s going.


LS: Who are your main influences? Why?

CL: Hemingway, Fay Weldon, Graham Greene would be the obvious ones. But I adore Joanne Harris, and many, many other contemporary writers. As to the why, books are your teachers. Read lots of good books, figure out why you think they’re good books and, hey presto, you can also write!


LS: Which of your books would adapt best to the Big Screen? In your ‘Field of Dreams’ film adaptation, who would play the protagonist/s?

CL: I can’t help but feel that my last book would make a good film, as it’s full of Hollywood characters. The CGI industry would love it. As to who would play my characters, I don’t know.  They’re young and fairly ordinary, so it would have to be an unknown actress. That said, the film and theatre actress Kate Okello is the narrator for The Space Between Time … so I’d be delighted if she took the role.


LS: What’s your end of day, feeling rubbish, go-to track/album?

CL: Probably anything by Pink Floyd, although I don’t listen to a lot of music. 


LS: What’s next on the horizon?

CL: I’m soon to start teaching creative writing for aspiring authors, so that’s quite exciting. And I am (sort of) trying to progress three books.


LS: If you could give one piece of advice to a fledgling writer what would it be?

CL: I would caution any budding author not to have over-inflated ambitions. It can take years of rejection to find a publisher, unless you self-publish. So I would also advise them not to give up. You’re only a failed writer when you give up. But the big bit of advice would be to have objectivity. Figure out what are your strengths, and what are your weaknesses. Then decide how to put right the weaknesses – joining a group, going on a course, whatever.

Writing is not a skill that we’re born with.  It’s a skill you have to learn.


That’s great advice, Charlie. Thank you so much for spending time with us. It’s been an absolute pleasure. We wish you every success with The Space Between Time.



Charlie Laidlaw | The Space Between Time | Access Books | June 2019 | paperback | £8.99 |

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Acknowledgements: Poem text from TS Eliot’s ‘Four Quartets‘, used for promotional uses only. This Q&A is published as part of the virtual book tour arranged by Anne Cater of Random Things Tours. Many thanks to the author for making time to answer these questions and to the publisher for a book roof. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved. Photo: Charlie Laidlaw; author’s copyright.


Also of interest: ‘The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone’; ‘By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Permission by Saskia Vogel‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘The beauty of Tom Cox’s personal landscape‘; ‘Call Me Star Girl’;Falling from the Floating World‘; ‘Blood Orange’; ‘Lisa Ko’s The Leavers, Dialogue’s brilliant debut; ‘We should all be feminists‘; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’;RW Kwon’s The Incendiaries’; ‘Beautiful words – The Language of Secrets‘; ‘Beauty in translation – Roxanne Bouchard’s French Canadian noir‘; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

Select Q&As/interviews: ‘Meet Paul E. Hardisty’;‘Lilja Sigurðardóttir’; ’Tom Cox’; ‘Vanda Symon; ‘Gunnar Staalesen’; Some like it hot – the joy of Carole Mortimer, award-winning novelist‘; Gina Kirkham;John Fairfax’; ‘Ian Ridley’; ‘David Stuart Davies’.


This review is © 2019 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Thank you so much.



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