Val McDermid grew up in a small town on the East Coast of Scotland. At 17, she was accepted to read English at St. Hilda's College, Oxford. Not only was she one of the youngest undergrads to go to St. Hilda's, she was the first from a Scottish state school. "I survived the culture shock of arriving in a place where no one understood a word I said, and seized every experience I could get my hands on," she writes on her website, www.valmcdermid.com.
McDermid went on to become a journalist at a time when few women worked in newsrooms. While she worked as a reporter, she worked on some big true crime stories, such as the Yorkshire Ripper and Moors murders, but she does not use true crime as a base for her books. "I have a slightly queasy feeling about using real cases because they affect real lives. It's treading on the borderlines of exploitation of people's pain. As a journalist there are often times when you are driven by the story but as a human being you wonder what you are doing."
Since becoming a full-time crime writer, Val McDermid has explored the length and breadth of the genre, and shows no signs of slowing down. Her taste for crime is matched by that of her readers, as she says "In my experience, most crime fiction readers aren't in it just for the puzzle - they're interested in the unfolding of the story. The more mysteries you read, of course, the more likely you are to guess what the ending will be, but if the book is well enough written, that isn't always a problem."