Mark Leggatt is a busy man. As well as being the author of an impossibly fast-paced series of thrillers featuring rogue CIA technician Connor Montrose, he’s an IT project manager, supporting businesses in banking and the oil industry.
His latest book, The London Cage, sees Montrose team up with super-hacker Kirsty to get to the bottom of an apocalyptic cold war-era secret.
Lynn Reynolds caught up with Mark at his Edinburgh home to talk about the march of technology, the practicalities of writing, and the demands of balancing two careers with a thriving social life.
You have a tech-based job, and the plots and characters in your books are strongly based on technology. Do you rely on technology to write?
Hardly at all – only at the end.
Paper and pen has always seemed the natural way to write, and for one good reason; I can’t type and think of stories at the same time. My brain can type, or it can write. But not at the same time. And this is an important thing to me; I love the act of writing with a pen or pencil.
It’s a physical manifestation of my thoughts, and it endlessly entertains, me, in an unabashed childish way. So I mostly use pens, pencils, and A5 notebooks to scribble ideas down.
Once all the ideas are out of my head, and I’ve organised them into some sort of synopsis, I’ll dictate it in the laptop, using Apple voice recognition or Dragon. Anything to save typing.
The only trouble there is the inability of most software to cope with a Scottish accent! Dragon gets it right about 90% of the time, which isn’t bad.
So much for the high-tech novelist! But you must have seen some fascinating IT developments in your day-to-day career. What has been the most significant?
The growth of cheap(ish) communications, and the growth of the internet, has allowed banks and the oil industry to centralise operations, yet have a truly global reach.
For example, I once fixed a laptop in Azerbaijan from my desk in London, straight through the internet.
I didn’t need anybody on site in an oil rich desert, days away from civilisation, to help me out.
In banking, my team are generally in India. I’ve never personally met them, but they’re lovely folk, and we do everything over email and audio calls.
It’s the same in oil. It’s the ability to instantly communicate and transfer information that I think is The Big Thing.
Yes. The internet helps us all stay connected across international borders. Does this apply to your social life, too?
To a limited extent.
Personally, I enjoy tech, but I’m not addicted to it. I only use what I need to use; I’m not a first adopter. I get enough tech at work, so I’m very happy to ignore it when I get home.
I’m on a mac now, but my last laptop lasted for 10 years, and was running XP.
My iPhone is my only travel essential, with e-tickets, online taxi booking, WhatsApp for keeping in touch with pals, and Twitter if I get bored.
I only joined Twitter and Facebook because of my writing, as it’s something you have to do to connect with readers and the writing community, but I wouldn’t miss it.
I only have Twitter on my phone, as Facebook can always wait until I get home. I do use Skype for meetings with Americans on writing subjects, and that’s really handy.
Generally, I use the minimum of tech, but really value that stuff I do use.
Which items of tech couldn’t you do without?
The only must-have tech item for travel is my iPhone.
It’s also great for tracking international time zones, but I never use it as I have a 25-year-old Seiko LCD watch that does exactly the same thing, and does it very well!
It’s very old school, but still cool.