Interview: Catriona McPherson

Liz here. It’s no secret we love Catriona McPherson here at Mysteristas. She’s warm, generous, intelligent, and absolutely hilarious. How does she do with our standard questions? Read on.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?

I wake up after eight hours of dreamless sleep, to the fluttering of the muslin curtains blowing in a breeze. I pad over to the balcony of my hotel room to look at the ocean. After coffee, I go down to the beach. I tip the guy with the brollies, then I lie under one reading Jane Austen’s newly discovered seventh novel (or Stephen King’s latest release – hang on, this is a dream: both), going for a swim when I get too hot and getting out when I can’t wait to see what happens next. When the sun slips down, I walk for miles up the beach, litter-picking plastic out of the high-tide line, and find a locket with a cryptic message inside. Then I have a shower, put on a size eight dress that’s maybe a bit too roomy and go out to the perfect little seafood place next door.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

I was panting to get back to Lexy after the end of SCOT FREE, since I left her at a tantalising moment. I mean, the mystery plot was tied up – I didn’t write The Matrix II – but she’d just taken a step on her personal journey that I couldn’t wait to explore further.

As to the plot of this one, I happened to buy a fifty-year-old high-school yearbook in an antique shop and was entranced by the glimpse of a lost world I’d always assumed was made up by Hollywood. I knew right away that I wanted to write a story with its roots in Cuento’s recent past, a story where the past reached out to the present and squeezed.

Also, in SCOT FREE Lexy was fresh off the boat, making rookie mistakes just as I did. In SCOT AND SODA, she’s beginning to navigate California life a bit better. In other words, her current mistakes are the ones I’m making now. This series is a lot like confession.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing? 

Great question! Funnily enough, the Last Ditch trilogy is my holiday from one of the themes that resounds through my writing like a drumbeat. Usually, in my historical novels and even more so in my standalones, there’s a missing child. Sometimes, it’s a child who has actually been lost as part of the plot. Sometimes it’s a longed-for child or a long-gone child who’s in the background while the story’s about something else. Paging Dr Freud, right?

One theme that’s abso-LOOT-ly there in SCOT AND SODA, is the question of the meaning of family: birth families, made families and families of the heart. Maybe it’s because I moved thousands of miles from my large, loving, blood family; I do hanker to give my protagonists a crew of close pals to laugh, cry and bicker with. 

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.

And this is a fantastic question! Stephanie Plum’s name has come up in reviews, but if I’m pressed I’d say Mira James in Jess Lourey’s Murder-by-the-Month series is a great inspiration. I was a huge fan of Northern Exposure back in the day, but I hope Lexy’s never as snooty about California as Joel was about Alaska.

Where do you see yourself in five years – this is the time to dream big!

What, bigger than a seventh Jane Austen novel? Okay.

In five years, I’d like to have found out that writing about the second world war, when Dandy Gilver’s life gets there, is not as daunting as it seemed. And I’d like to barely be able to remember how terrified I was that the suspense novel I was writing in the spring of 2019  was beyond me and didn’t make any sense.

People close to me would say I’ll be having the same baseless over-reaction to the 2024 novel, just as I did back in 2014. I don’t remember it that way.

I’d also like to have finished Lexy’s story in the Last Ditch trilogy as planned, But then, after the box-office smash of the film adaptation/game-changing success of the HBO series, I decided to see if there was maybe another Last Ditch Motel story to be told. Any writer who says otherwise is lying. There was only one Sue Grafton, wasn’t there?

*****

Catriona McPherson is the multi-award-winning and best-selling author of historical detective novels, set in Scotland in the 1930s and featuring aristocratic sleuth Dandy Gilver. She also writes darker – that’s not difficult – contemporary standalones, including the Edgar finalist THE DAY SHE DIED. After eight years as an immigrant in northern California, she started the Last Ditch trilogy, written with love and no judgement (honest) about her new home.  SCOT & SODA  (“frightfully funny” – PW) is the middle book of the three. Find Catriona online: Facebook, Twitter,  www.catrionamcpherson.com

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7 thoughts on “Interview: Catriona McPherson”

  1. Thanks for visiting, Catriona. Having gone to high school in Vacaville, I was impressed with how accurately you portrayed high school in northern California 50 years ago. I was a few years behind the class you wrote about, just enough that I studied their every move. It was right before everything changed and you caught an end of an era. Looking for toward the next Lexy and I hope it isn’t the last.

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  2. Catriona, you’re a gem. I do wonder what dreamless sleep is like…

    Funny you mention about families. I’m starting to see hints of the same theme in my writing. That yearning for a family, or at least a group of people you can rely on, be crabby with, cry on…you know.

    Hope to see you at Malice in a couple weeks!

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  3. I just finished reading the first Last Ditch book and am about halfway through the second. (I’m reading it on a train. I put the book down to look at this blog; also, I feel like people are staring at me when I laugh…) Please tell me this series will go on after the third book! I feel so invested in these characters!

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  4. Catriona, I’m a huge fan and so delighted that you’ve joined us today! Fabulous interview and I especially enjoyed reading about revisited themes. So interesting how they run beneath our stories like an underground river. And I’m with you on the perfect day, although I’d have to visit your beaches as Oregon’s are too cold for much more than a dip of the toe. (For me, anyway.)

    Congrats on Scot and Soda and, well, everything! I hope to see you soon. ❤

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