Friday 15 April 2011

Lin Anderson interview: Driftnet

Driftnet by Lin Anderson

Lin Anderson is a screenwriter and novelist, author of the Rhona MacLeod series optioned by ITV. Driftnet is the first in the series, and was chosen by Ian Rankin as one of his favourite 20 books. You can find out more about Lin and Rhona at

Can you sum up Driftnet in no more than 25 words?

A forensic scientist arrives at a scene of crime and thinks the victim might be the son she gave up for adoption 17 years before.

What was your motivation for writing it?

My father was a Detective Inspector in Greenock CID. He had 3 daughters and worried about us constantly, but we never took his warnings seriously. Then came the story of Robert Black, the Scottish serial killer, caught by a policeman who flagged down his van for speeding and found his own daughter in the back. I was teaching computing science when I started Driftnet and the internet had just become available to pupils. At an inservice course, we learned that three paedophile rings were operating in Glasgow and they had just found the internet. All three ideas came together. I imagined someone arriving at a scene of crime and the victim looks like them. I didn’t want a male detective with angst and a drink problem so decided to go for a female. One of my former pupils, Emma Hart, had become a forensic scientist and she became the inspiration for Rhona MacLeod.

How much difference does a good cover make?

It’s vital. I’ve had two publishers for the first three books in the series and their covers are quite different. Although I had some input, they weren’t my idea. With the ebook I decided what I wanted. Fortunately I have a son with a Digital Media degree and an artistic flair.  He listens to my ideas and comes up with the goods.

How important is a good title?

Capturing the essence of Driftnet was difficult. The story is about the grooming and exploitation of vulnerable teenage boys online. When I saw the dictionary definition of Driftnet i.e. ‘A driftnet catches everything’, I realised it was the one.

How important is a book's central character?

When I wrote Driftnet, I thought of it as a one off, focussing on Rhona MacLeod and the dilemma she faces. If you’re lucky and readers really buy into a character, then you have the chance of a series, which is what happened with Driftnet.  But I’ve learned that it’s not just Rhona that draws readers back. It’s the little gang of characters that inhabit the books. Chrissy McInsh, Rhona’s outspoken sidekick, modelled on Miss Toner from BBC series Tutti Frutti, and her mentor DI Bill Wilson, modelled on my father, to whom the books are dedicated. My main forensic contact since Emma moved to London is Dr Jennifer Miller, a forensic expert at Glasgow university who I met around book 4 when I did a diploma course on Forensic Medical Science. She introduced me to her assistant Karen, who she says is her Chrissy and she also has her version of DI Wilson. Strangely, I’d created a fictional gang that’s replicated in the real world. In fact Jen says she thinks she is Rhona MacLeod.

What's the best piece of craft advice you've been given?

I did a new writer’s course with 7:84 theatre company early in my writing career. Ian Heggie told us that ‘a story is a character in action’. He also said ‘you learn about your character by throwing shit at them in increasingly large doses’. The other piece of good advice, especially relevant to crime and thriller writing, was given to me by Mark Grindle who was Executive Producer on my first short film ‘Small Love’. He said ‘Always keep the secret as long as possible’.

What's your favourite part of the writing process?

I love getting up in the morning to re-read and re-work what I wrote the day before. I know some writers write the entire book then go back and edit. For me it’s a stepwise refinement process. Move forward, go back and improve, move forward again. Also, since I start the book with just the opening scene and have no idea what’s going to happen next, it’s all very exciting.

What aspects of marketing your book do you enjoy?

Ebooks have really given some of the power back to the writers and to readers. I’ve always enjoyed meeting readers through festivals, bookshop events and libraries, but since publishing Driftnet as an ebook, I’ve got to interact with readers on line, read and contribute to blogs such as this one, and pitch in ebook forums. The world is changing, but it’s an exciting change.

Driftnet by Lin Anderson


  1. Hi Lin,

    I just read a book, Sugar and Spice, also inspired by Black. I'd never heard of him before now.

    I just downloaded your book and I'm looking forward to reading it.

    Al-thanks for bringing so many writers who are new to me to my attention.