Monday, May 1, 2023

Author interview with Russell Govan / Book review 'I know you'


This month's author interview is with the talented Russell Govan and it's quite a scoop as we're chatting about his book which isn't released until the 1st June 🥳🕮  But before we get into his novel, let's meet Russell:

'I’m married, a father of four and my home is in Oxford, where I’ve lived for the past eight years. I’m a Scot who moved temporarily to England for work over forty years ago and then never went back.

I was a voracious reader in my youth and studied English Literature at Edinburgh University – an experience that put me off reading to the extent that I barely read a novel for the subsequent ten years. My interests are family, friends, food, football (I’m highly alliterative), reading, current affairs, gardening, wine, music, travel and – of course – writing.'

I do love a bit of alliteration! He has created a tweetable intro for you too (tweet here):

'Russell Govan is a traditionally published (reluctant) author of thrillers. Now he has finally had a novel he enjoyed writing published – a joyous time-slip romance.


Russell was first published in 2020 and writes in the genres of thriller, paranormal romance and sci-fi (so far!). 'I Know You' will be his third traditionally published novel and it's a stand-alone story (although he's not ruling out a sequel!). It's available from the 1st June but you can pre-order now.

This book seems different from his previous two, so what inspired Russell to write this book?

'I had just finished my first novel – a thriller – which I hadn’t particularly wanted to write and found an incredible slog, so I promised myself I was going to write something that I would enjoy doing. 

I had a clear memory of what my daughters and their friends had been like as teenagers and thought it might be fun to create a contemporary female teen protagonist and pitch her into a world where social attitudes were very different. My own Scottish background and exposure to my late mother’s dementia were also elements that informed my thinking, if not quite inspirations for the book.' 

Did he find it nostalgic, writing a book set where he was brought up? 

'Good question. It caused me to pause and really think. I left Scotland over forty years ago and while I do go back to visit, such trips have become less frequent over time. There are things that I miss - some of the (unhealthy) food, being able to go and watch my favourite football team and particularly the sense of humour. 

But do I feel nostalgic about Scotland, or did writing about it make me feel nostalgic? I don’t really think so. Perhaps there’s a tinge of nostalgia for the place at a particular time in the past, but that’s probably as much about remembering my youth with fondness as anything else.' 

Aww, lovely answer! I adore Scotland and Russell set his Scottish segment in the fictitious village of Kilmadden - I could almost smell the clear air! I asked Russell for a tweet-sized synopsis, so that you get a flavour of the novel (tweet here):

'When 18-year-old Eilidh meets 70-year-old Walter one beautiful August morning, she has no idea that just 3 days previously she had encountered him 35 years in the past.

Isn't that intriguing! Eilidh is such a beautiful Scottish name (pronounced Ay-Lee) - how does Russell chose his characters' names?

'It varies – sometimes there’s no thought involved at all. Other times, for example finding an appropriate name for an Ethiopian woman in the 1970s, will involve some online research. 

In 'I Know You' many of the characters are Scottish, so dredging up names from my childhood then mixing and matching forenames and surnames was the order of the day. I also like to feel that the name ‘sounds’ right for the character – if that makes any sense.'

It does to me! What does Russell enjoy the most about writing?


 I had to laugh at that one. He continued,

'Joking aside, there are times when I’ve thought through where I want to go with a particular chapter and the words just flow. That’s a great feeling. 

I’m most comfortable with dialogue, which I find easy, and that’s when I’m most often ‘in flow’.'

And how about the hardest part?

'I’m not at all disciplined when it comes to writing, so often the hardest thing is to just sit down and get started. Other than the vaguest notion of the overall shape of the book I never have a clear plot in mind, so I often struggle to work out where the story is going next. 

Firing off query letters to publishers is just a chore, but it goes with the territory.'

I find this so interesting, as Russell's book involves time-travel, so not only does he have to ensure his history is correct, but he also continent-leaps, bringing local flavour to those scenes too. As a non-plotter, how on earth does he manage all that data and pull it all together?

'This might sound odd, but I have a rather ad hoc approach to things. For example, I’ll usually do the research required only when I reach the point where I need it to write the next chapter, or even the next paragraph. I know that sounds rather chaotic but there are a couple of factors that might help explain it. 

I don’t usually know where a story is going next before I sit down to write it. (As an example, I’m toying with a story just now and I know exactly how it starts and I’ve got a pretty good idea of the shape of the ending and the big plot twist, but I haven’t a notion what happens in the 80 or 90 thousand words in between).' 

A big gulp on my part here! He continued,

'The second factor is that, as recently as last year, it was identified that I have ADHD (inattentive subtype). It came as something of a surprise to learn that at my relatively advanced age, but it was also a real light bulb moment when it comes to understanding myself. 

In terms of writing, and indeed life in general, I’m okay at “the vision thing”, but I’m really poor at producing a detailed plan. So I set out in the broad direction I think I want to travel, see where it takes me and adapt and do whatever research proves necessary as and when the need arises. 

I actually use the manuscript as my main data management tool, and of course the internet.  I might have literally dozens of different tabs open on Google Chrome that I can refer back to, or I skim back through the manuscript to remind myself of particular things I’ve already written that whatever I write next needs to be consistent with.'

Oh my goodness, as a big planner myself, I can't get my head around this! What an astonishing man and wow, kudos for how he manages everything. It begs the question, how much research did Russell need to complete for 'I Know You' and was this something he enjoyed? 

'Reflecting on it now, I suppose there was more research than I realised at the time. Although the book is clearly a work of fiction and readers have to suspend disbelief for the time travel element to work, I think it makes for a better read if as much else as possible feels authentic. 

I spent a fair amount of time researching Ethiopia in 1984 - who the different factions were, numbers of refugees, the kind of tents that were typical in refugee camps - that sort of thing. 

Researching the details of the WWII blitz on Merseyside was interesting. I was familiar with the blitz on London because it’s so widely known about and I knew about the Clydeside blitz because it was the lived experience for the older generation I grew up amongst. But I wasn’t aware of the extent of the bombing in Liverpool until I started to look into it, and I learned a lot. 

Other bits of research were pretty straightforward, for example checking out what kind of retailers would be present in a US shopping mall in 2000. I do quite enjoy some of the research, particularly when I learn things and especially when I come across an interesting fact that I realise I can use to enhance the story.'

And if he could go back in time, just like his protagonist, what would he tell his younger writing self?

'I’d actually like to talk to my younger pre-writing self and tell him to start writing sooner. I’m an okay writer – not bad, not great – but I’ve improved the longer I’ve been at it. I wish that I’d started younger – then I might have become better than just okay.'

I think he's being modest here, as he's had phenomenal reviews for his books! Talking of which, does he read these reviews and how does he handle them?

'I do read reviews – I suppose that’s perhaps a sign of insecurity about myself as a writer. I’m naturally pleased when I read something positive, but then tend to forget about it. I’m lucky that I haven’t had too many really bad ones, although I do remember an absolute stinker on Amazon where the reviewer was cross that he was forced to award it one star, which was more than he thought it was worth!'

Yikes! I have to admit to being surprised he's received a one-star review for any of his work.

Does Russell have a favourite novel and why does he like it?

Chris Brookmyre’s debut masterpiece ‘Quite Ugly One Morning’. 

It zips along at a great pace, the plot is moreish, the characters compelling and the cruel Scottish humour is eye-wateringly funny. I can barely believe it’s more than 25 years old now. It’s one of very few books I ever actually read more than once.

That sounds like another one for my reading list then! I wanted to know if there was anything Russell would like to say to his readers?

'Thank you! There are millions of books for people to choose from, so I’m genuinely grateful to anyone who chooses a book of mine and persists with it to the end. 

If you enjoy my book I’m pleased (and would be even more pleased if you review it on Goodreads and Amazon!) If you didn’t enjoy it I’m sorry – but please don’t tell anyone.'

Teehee! Authors really do need our help with reviews though. If you're not sure about how to do this, please read my featured post here, as it's really not difficult (I promise!).

Finally I asked if there was anything he’d like to share before we closed?
I Know You touches on a few challenging issues, but it’s essentially a light, fluffy feel-good romance with a bit of time travel and paranormal spooks thrown in. If you like your reading light-hearted then this might be for you. Oh, and it’s got emojis. Honestly – real, live emojis. What more could you want?
If you’d like to pre-order the book I’d be delighted. You can do so here  Thank you!'

I asked Russell for a tweet-sized extract from his novel and he introduced it by saying, 'Ironically, these were the opening lines of the novel – until the editor persuaded me they should be the start of chapter 10!' You can decide for yourself: (tweet here)

'The sky is iridescent. Sea campion blooms in the poor soil among the rocks. It has no perfume now, but I know it’ll give off a scent of cloves at dusk. The morning is gorgeous, unlike my mood.'



I readily admit, I love a time-travel story and 'I Know You' definitely delivers. It starts with our protagonist, Eilidh, who has just found out she's passed her exams and is going to university but what should be a day of celebrations is ruined when her boyfriend dumps her. She's knocked unconscious and wakes up 35 years earlier, no longer in Scotland and now, somewhat bizarrely, in Ethiopia, but why?  

When she returns to the present day, she meets Walter, an elderly gentleman who is starting to experience dementia. A puzzling tattoo on his wrist means he travelled from London to Scotland by train but he doesn't know why, only that it's important he has to be here. 
Eilidh tries to decipher what's going on and realises that every time-travel jump revolves around Walter. She bounces around the world, experiencing love and war across the decades, her relationship with Walter strengthening with each visit. Poignantly we learn about his life through her visits, something present-day Walter isn't able to remember.
I really don't want to reveal much more, it's too much fun and you should read it for yourself, but I will add that we learn time travelling is a family trait and it's dangerous when she bumps into her own relative. She's up against the clock, struggling to put all the pieces together, whilst also juggling some present day worries, including a serious health concern.  
I really liked Russell's writing style and the start, with the teens chatting in their WhatsApp group whilst waiting for their exam results, felt very fresh. All the characters are well-drawn and I particularly loved the dynamic between Eilidh and Walter.

The bouncing around in time is signposted at the start of chapters, which is very helpful, and I loved Eilidh's confusion at the start of each jump. My only niggle is that sometimes her introspection made me impatient. I was busy putting the puzzle together too and needed her to jump again to learn more, but I'm a plot-first gal so I guess that's to be expected!

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and was disappointed when it ended - it had delivered in spades, I was just sad there was no more to read! The fact that Russell might write another is brilliant - I say, the sooner the better! Highly recommended for fans of time-travel stories and/ or intriguing tales with a puzzle at their heart. 

If you'd like to find out more about the author, please visit his link below and please note, he currently has a website under construction too (  


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