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Author Interview: Iain Kelly

July 12, 2020

Welcome to another episode of Author Interviews… I have a great one today. Please welcome Iain Kelly, author of The State series.

The footpath I am walking along is awfully clean and awfully quiet. In fact, I don’t see anyone around at all. Large buildings tower over me, giant blocky shapes like a long white Lego wall. They make housing units out of modules these days. It’s a sign of what is to come. Buzzing sounds in the distance and in seconds a drone is hovering over me. I keep my head down, eyes pinned to the pavement. Don’t look, don’t draw attention to yourself. The drone zooms off and I can breathe easier.


I look into the shadows of a nearby alley. Oh, there is my contact.

Hi Iain… thank you so much for agreeing to participate in my latest Author Interview. Welcome! First up, tell us a bit about yourself.

I work for the BBC in Scotland as an editor – so I create stories from pictures and sounds for a living. I work across lots of different genres from documentaries to sports to children’s shows and current affairs. I’ve got 6-year old twins at home, so they keep me busy for a lot of the time, but when I get a bit of peace I like to read and watch movies (I’ve missed my trips to the cinema during our lockdown here!), as well as getting out for a run to keep fit.

Running? Really? Where do you get the energy? I’m impressed! But I do agree on missing the cinema! Now, tell me a little about your writing…

I fit my writing in mainly in the evenings once the kids are in bed, or if I get a day off work and they are at school! It can be tricky finding the time, but it’s really about sacrificing a bit of free time and prioritising. I enjoy creating stories and editing my own writing, so I don’t see it as a huge sacrifice to spend my time writing. I generally write at my dining table on my laptop, but my laptop goes everywhere with me, so if I can grab an hour writing in a café or at work, I get a bit done there too. I write regular short stories on my blog to keep things ticking over, and get new ideas for longer stories.

What age were you when you started?

I don’t remember what age I started, but I do remember writing stories from an early age. A primary school teacher once told my parents I would be a writer or a journalist when I grew up. I still have a lot of stories I wrote as a kid stored in the loft somewhere. Some of them aren’t that bad! And a lot of them are based around football, which has been a lifelong love too.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I never really thought about writing as a career, and once I went to University to study film and television and concentrated on that as a career, my writing took a back seat for a good decade at least. Once my television editing career settled down, I went back to writing as a hobby and after a few years of blogging, short stories, writing courses and failed attempts, I managed to complete my first novel and self-publish. At the moment it is still a sideline, but I must admit if I could earn enough money, I would give up my day job and happily earn a living as a writer.

What was your favourite book as a child and why?

There are a few that stand out. When I was very young I loved the original Thomas the Tank Engine books and I always remember Peace at Last by Jill Murphy – I still have the originals from my childhood. I recently read Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine to my own kids, which was one I remember as being a childhood favourite – and it was lovely to see them get such joy from it as I used to. I read all of The Secret Seven by Enid Blyton (my older sister read The Famous Five), The Hardy Boys and The Three Investigators. I also loved the Tintin and Asterix books. Later at secondary school my English teacher introduced us to Terry Pratchett and I became an avid fan of the Discworld novels.

Oooooo I was a big fan of The Famous Five and The Secret Seven, The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. Terry Prachett too! So, tell me, what about your favourite book as an adult and why?

I studied English Literature alongside Film and Television at university, so a few of the classics are among my favourites: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, To Kill a Mockingbird, Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, anything by John Le Carre, Catch-22, anything by Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Agatha Christie, especially the Poirot novels, Georges Simenon, James Ellroy, William Boyd… I could go on and on!

Haha, it sounds like it… all good choices too! okay, onto your work. Tell me a bit about The State Trilogy, where did you get the idea?

It didn’t start of as a trilogy. I had an idea to write a crime novel that would include a bit of political intrigue. The initial character that I wanted to write about was Gabriella, the assassin in the first book, so the idea of a political assassination was the starting point, and the rest of the plot followed on from that. Once I had finished the first novel I realised there was an opportunity to continue the story of the main characters in an interesting way, moving away from the detective storyline and more into politics and intrigue, and with the last novel, war.

Clever and very nicely executed. Tell me about Danny? Is he modelled off anyone?

Not particularly. There was a recurring detective in a few of my short stories that I used as a basis. Some of his characteristics relate a little to my own life – he has twins who die at birth and my own twins had a difficult start, so I drew on that (fortunately my own twins pulled through fine!). In the second book he looks after a child with type-1 diabetes, and I wrote that after my own son got the disease, so again I drew on a bit of my own feelings there of wanting to protect him.

Gosh. Well that love and desire to protect certainly shine through. What about Gabriella? and Phillips?

Gabriella was again a character in a very early short story that I wrote on my blog about a female assassin and the character stuck with me. Basically, I just think a kick-ass female assassin is a cool character to write a story about! But she’s not a superhero, so I tried to give her a realistic backstory and a grounding in reality. Similarly, Phillips was a spy character from a few blog stories, and I just love the spy genre (James Bond, Le Carre), so I wanted a mysterious agent in there too.

I love the worldbuilding in this story. Tell me about The State… where did you get your inspiration?

I wanted to set the first story in my own city – Glasgow – which is often the setting for gritty murder detective stories in literature, but has a whole lot more to offer. However, politics here at the moment is a fast-changing beast, with Scottish independence and Brexit always in the news. To set a political thriller in the real world was tricky as by the time I had finished it, it may well have been out of date! So I decided to set it in a future country called The State instead, which is loosely based on Britain (Capital City = London) and specifically Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland – which make up Central City. Readers from Scotland will recognise the geography and a few of the places straightaway, but others will be able to enjoy without that knowledge.

What are you hoping your readers take away from this story?

First and foremost I hope the books are an exciting, engrossing read, but hopefully under that surface they will make people think a little about the sort of world we are heading towards, and how we want to live, what sort of society do we want to have? Since writing the books there have been quite a few relevant things happening around the world that have tied in to some of the themes of the books – the climate emergency, the pandemic, right- and left-wing extreme politics, over-population, the energy crisis, alongside technological developments – and I hope the stories add a little to debates around these things.

What is your writing process?

I’m an impulse writer. I get an idea and run with it without planning too much. I keep going until I have a first draft written, knowing there are things I will need to go back and change as the story develops. Then I edit extensively, before letting someone else read and give notes back, and then I produce a final draft.

How long did it take you to write each book? Did you find it easier or harder with book 2 and book 3? 

The first draft for each book took about 3 months, with another month for editing and final checks. I actually found the first book the hardest, starting from scratch. The plots for the 2nd and 3rd books fell into place quite easily after that, and I knew where I wanted them to go and where I wanted the characters to end up.

Are you writing anything new? What can you tell us about it?

Now that the trilogy is complete, I have something completely different to work on. I wrote a first draft between books 1 and 2 of the trilogy for a literary novel set in the real present day world about a man travelling to an island in Scotland to relive a formative summer he spent there as a child and track down the girl who was his first childhood love – with a bit of mystery and intrigue as well of course. I’m hoping to rewrite and edit before the end of the year and once again try submitting to agents and publishers, before self-publishing if I get no response from them!

Finally, what advice would you give to someone wanting to write a book?

I know it’s easy to say, but do not start writing a book if you think you will earn a living from it. You have to do it for the sheer enjoyment of creating stories and characters that you love. If you make some money and a few people buy it and enjoy it at the end – great. The best thing about self-publishing is that you have an outlet, so all the effort is worth it. Be prepared for rejection and tough criticism and remember you cannot please everyone, but write a story that makes you happy and who knows – maybe you will be one of the lucky ones!

Terrific advice!

Thanks so much for your time today, Iain. Take care getting out of here… there’s a few drones around.

I wave goodbye as he disappears and wait over ten minutes before I poke my head from the alley. No sign of drones. I step out as if I have every reason for being there and head back down the road.

See below for some links and locations where to find Iain. It’s a great trilogy – give it a read today.

You can find Iain at the following…

Amazon Author Page: Amazon UK:

You can find Iain’s Books on:
Google Play:
Barnes & Noble: Kobo:

You can read my reviews of The State series below.

A Justified State

State of Denial

State of War

  1. Reblogged this on Iain Kelly and commented:
    I gave an interview recently to fellow blogger and author Laurie Bell on her blog Rambles, Writing and Amusing Musings, talking about writing, reading and my State Trilogy books. Give it a read!

  2. Thanks for having my Laurie, great fun answering the questions 🙂

  3. Fascinating interview, Laurie… I love to read about writers!

  4. Loved this interview Laurie. I have all three books from the STATE trilogy, and I can’t wait to read them. I have some holiday time coming (I have worked 6 days a week since January) so I will soon have chance to get stuck into them.

    • Yay! Enjoy them
      (My gosh you must be exhausted)

      • I am! We finally have staff coming back from furlough, so we are all taking some holiday time this month (I have today off!) and then from August,/September I am hoping to return to my normal 17 hour contract.
        I have only been able to work extra hours because the charities I work for on a voluntary basis have had to postpone a lot of projects. I have still kept my hand in doing work on accounts and personnel databases remotely. But now we are starting to do more training of volunteers and publishing material online, and hopefully soon we will be able to be back in action, so I want my time back!
        Before then…I am really in need of rest!

      • Wow full on. Now is the perfect time to relax with some great books

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