Monday, May 02, 2011

Scene of the Crime with Author Sam Millar

This week on Scene of the Crime, I'm very pleased to interview award-winning Irish writer Sam Millar, author of mysteries featuring Karl Kane, a private investigator in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Sam has had a remarkable life, and if you'd like to know more about it, the best thing to do would be to get a copy of his book, On the Brinks, and read it.

Millar is a man of undisputed talent and conviction, and by paying attention to the links he shares via Facebook and Twitter, I've become more aware of what's going on in the world around me.

Sam Millar
The two books in the Karl Kane mystery series are: Bloodstorm (2008) and The Dark Place (2009), and Millar is also the author of non-series books Dark Souls (2003), The Redemption Factory (2005), and The Darkness of Bones (2006).

If you'd like to know more about the author...

Now let's get on to the interview!

What was the very first book you remember reading and loving? What makes that book so special?

The very first book I remember reading was Noddy in Toyland. The book was very special for me as I was able to ‘hide’ in it, along with all its fascinating and wacky characters. My mother walked out on us when I was eight, and that book helped save my sanity (though some people would say not entirely…).

Outside of your writing and all associated commitments, what do you like to do in your free time?

I do voluntary work with mental health and depression sufferers. Neither I - nor my family- realized at the time that when my mother walked out on us never to be seen alive again, she suffered from chronic depression. Very little was known in those days about chronic depression. Working with people in the mental health profession has become very cathartic for me, and given me a better insight into the suffering depression causes.

If I were to visit your hometown, where would you recommend that I go? (I like seeing and doing things that aren't in all the guide books.)

I would say the Cave Hill, a very famous but overlooked ‘beauty spot’ in Belfast. It’s a large cliff area with a prominent rock formation known locally as Napoleon’s Nose. I have based some of my crime novels there, and of late it has started getting the recognition it deserves. Though according to the Tourist Board of Ireland, no thanks to my grim crime novels.

You have total control over casting a movie based on your life. Which actor would you cast as you?

Jeremy Renner
Sean Penn had been tipped to play me in Warner Brother’s direction of my controversial memoir, On The Brinks. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration became embroiled in it, and the film was put on hold. For me, the perfect actor would now be Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, The Town).

Who is your favorite recurring character in crime fiction?

Apart form my own Karl Kane, of course! I’ve fallen in love with Caitlin Strong from best-selling author Jon Land’s brilliant Strong series (Strong At the Break, Strong Justice, et al). Caitlin is a very strong female, and a great role model for young women. My two daughters love her. Secretly, I think my wife is jealous of her.

Before your very first published mystery, what else had you written (short stories, articles, unpublished manuscripts)?

I was lucky to have written short stories before learning the craft of novel writing. Some of the short stories went on to win literary prizes in Ireland (Aisling Award for Art and Culture, Martin Healy Short Story Award, Brian Moore Award for Short Stories and the Cork Literary Review Writer’s Competition). Others went on to be performed by the BBC. I have always loved writing short stories; unfortunately, it’s tough finding a publisher willing to take a chance on short story collections.

What did you do the first time you saw one of your books on a shelf in a bookstore? How did you celebrate when you first heard you were to be published?

When I finally was told my first book, Dark Souls, was to be published, I could hardly breathe. Coming from a working-class family, I could only daydream of ever becoming a writer in Ireland. Then it happened. When the book went on sale in the local bookstore, I remember bringing all my family and friends to come and look at it sitting there with all the other published books. Looking back now, it was probably very embarrassing for them, standing there staring at my book! I celebrated by going out for a nice meal with my family, at a local restaurant.  I don’t think I remember the conversation, because I was still floating on air.

I don't know if you've seen it, but I love Parnell Hall's video about book signings. What is the most unusual experience you've had at a book signing or author event?

The most embarrassing book signing I did was in Dublin. A woman came up with a book, and asked me to sign it for her. Then I realized the book was not mine, but another fellow Irish crime writer called Cormac Millar (no relation). I signed the book, anyway, and thanked her, as I hadn’t the heart to tell her that wasn’t my book she had just bought.

The way some people talk, the only way to read now or in the future is with some sort of electronic device, like my husband's Nook. What is your opinion of eBooks, and how will they affect you as a published author?

Two years ago, I was very skeptical about Kindle. I said it would never catch on. Of course, the rest as they say is history. Ebooks are here to stay and authors and publishers ignore them at their peril. One of my early crime books, The Darkness of Bones was released last month on Kindle. Within three days, it had topped the best sellers in Kindle format. I was totally shocked, as little publicity was created for it. Word of mouth on the Internet did all the selling. I am a true convert to ebooks. [Congratulations!]

Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview, Sam. May you have many best sellers to come!

Don't forget to stop by next Monday when my guest on Scene of the Crime will be Ann Purser, British author of the cozy Lois Meade mystery series. See you then!


  1. Cathy, thank you for spreading the word about my books. Very much appreciated.

  2. You spread his name all the way to Pennsylvania and my mind. Will keep a watch out for his books.

  3. I will have to pick up one of his books...thank you for bringing him to my attention!!!

  4. Sam-- You're very welcome!

    Barbara-- Fantastic!

    Patty-- You're welcome!


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