Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with crime writing novelists Bob and Carol Bridgestock. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello Bob, Carol. I’m going to jump straight in and ask you about the formats of your books? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Bob / Carol: Yes, our books are available in paperback, all eReaders and ‘Deadly Focus’ is available as an audio book too. If the readers are on Audible.com they can listen to the MP3, Unabridged version (approx 8hrs), free too.
Caffeine Nights Publishing are readily available to us and involves us in the publishing process – yes, I know from other authors we are very, very lucky.
Carol: I must admit to only reading paperbacks. Maybe in a way I separate the process of reading our narrative, on the computer, as work and reading for pleasure from a paperback. Bob has read a book or two online though.
Morgen: Audiobooks are my favourite format because I can multi-task. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters?
Carol: I’m smiling as every book is my favourite when I’m working on it and Bob is always a book ahead of me in our writing process and he fuels that excitement too. Bob hasn’t got a favourite he says he loves them all! 🙂
Morgen: If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Carol: Morgen, I love this question as there are two particular actors who we would love to play Dylan and Jen (as these characters are very loosely based on Bob and myself). Brendan Coyle who plays John Bates the butler in Downton Abbey would be absolutely perfect as Dylan. We were watching the series when this question was asked before an interview. Brendan follows us on Twitter and he has also requested a copy of ‘Deadly Focus’ & ‘Consequences’ to read, as others were remarking how they saw him playing the role. Who knows for the future? Joanna Froggatt who plays Anna in the series would also be a brilliant Jen. Their chemistry together on set is just amazing.
Morgen: I missed Downton Abbey when it was first on but heard good things about it so watched series two then bought series one. I could see why people liked it. Which authors did you read when you were younger and did they shape you as a writer?
Carol: The Diary of Anne Frank as a young teenager changed my reading habit to biographies, autobiographies’ and factual works. Books for me have to have the element of truth in them. I have to believe to enjoy, and I think I get this element in fiction if I know a writer has ‘been there’. I guess this did bring us to writing as we do today with the element of truth in the feelings of the protagonist and his partner Jen whose feelings are an expression of Bob and myself, the scenes which are seen through Bob’s eyes as a former Senior Investigative Officer who has been in charge of numerous murder enquiries / major incidents, told in a factual tale. Bob very rarely reads fiction. He too likes factual works.
Morgen: You mentioned the support of Caffeine Nights Publishing. Did you choose the titles / covers of your books?
Carol: The titles have up to now all been our choice. Because Bob is a book ahead of me, he gets a feel for the story and gives it a working title. The only title we changed ourselves before we sent it to the publishers was ‘The Ground Beneath Your Feet,’ which is the detectives mantra to clear the ground beneath their feet before moving to the next enquiry. This changed to ‘Deadly Focus.’ The covers for the Caffeine Nights titles are the works of Mark (Wills) Williams with an input from Darren E Laws. They have created a themed look for the series and we love it.
Morgen: They are striking, and being similar must help potential readers identify with them as a collection. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Carol: I am working on my part of the fifth book which is called ‘Reprobates’ and Bob is working on two more, ‘When The Killing Starts,’ and ‘Exodontia’. I am also planning our schedule for our book signing tour of the north of England and Stratford Upon Avon with our publishers, which starts 28th April and ends 6th May. There is a lot of planning goes into a tour.
Morgen: I can imagine. Do you manage to write every day, or ever suffer from writer’s block?
Carol: I write something every day although that is not always work on the current novel. Bob writes en bloc. Once Bob starts on a story line he can’t get it down quick enough. His part of ‘Deadly Focus’ was written in long hand in six weeks – some 120,000 words.
Because of the work we do and did Bob runs with a story as if it is a body that’s been found or he is called out to in real life. Hence the enquiry unfolds just as it would do in real life. There’s no place for writer’s block in a murder investigation. 🙂
Morgen: 🙂 Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Carol: Once the body has been ‘found’ or the initial incident has ‘happened’, the story tells itself as in real life for Bob. However when I get the narrative which is written by a detective with a ‘mask’ on, I then turn that into a story. Drawing out of Bob his true life feelings and delving deep into his ‘deep rooted’ emotions and the sights he has long since buried. It can be quite an emotional time. Then as in real life, I write a story line for Jen and the family at home based on true incidents in our lives when Bob was ‘in the job’.
Morgen: You clearly write what you know. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Carol: I’ll let you into a secret. Each character is based loosely on people we know or have met, in the job and out. For instance one of our officers may look like someone we both know and have the character of someone else, again that we are both familiar with. This way we never forget what a character looks like and at least guess from their character how they would react. Each and every character really does live for us.
Names are one of the things that I often change when I am scripting my part of the ‘operation’. Bob often calls people names that don’t sit right with me and because those people at the stage that he is writing don’t mean anything to him it doesn’t matter. However, when I build the characters and the scenes they have to ‘feel’ real to me.
Morgen: And hopefully to your readers. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Carol: I guess we have a very unusual way of working. Bob does no editing at all. But as soon as I pick up his initial work I begin the editing process the work he has done and build on it. Then I pass it back to Bob to read once the ‘story’ is formed and the characters and scenes built. If there is anything that he doesn’t like we would discuss it. I then revise it and edit my work again. Again, one I have done this we both go through the narrative as many times as it takes us to be satisfied before sending it off to our publisher for consideration.
Morgen: The advantage of writing as a duo is that you always have that vital first reader. Do you have to do much research?
Carol: We are very lucky in that respect. Most of our research is done to update our knowledge of the police procedural / court / media / forensic / technology used nowadays, for example. This is work that Bob likes doing as he is interested. I do research on the background story when needed. For instance in book three ‘White Lilies’ (out on the 25th March 2013), Jen is pregnant and as it is over twenty-five years since I had a baby you forget, don’t you? Two of my friends were having babies so I asked them if they would kindly write down any little antidotes and things that happened to them which they did. Maisy Dylan is named after the first baby born Maisy Murphy.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking?
Bob / Carol: We always write in the third person – we’ve never actually thought about writing in anything else. Although I guess for interviews we write in the first person…
Morgen: Do you write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
Carol: Bob has dabbled a bit in poetry but only for our in house competitions in our writing circle www.iowwritingcircle.co.uk; twice a year we raise money for local charities and try to inspire others to read and write by running short story / poetry competitions. For these we also have an in house competition. He has won on a couple of occasions too.
We’ve both written a few short stories but neither of us enjoys it… we might not have much choice in future though as our publisher is wanting us to write a few short stories for Dylan!
Morgen: What a great publisher. Many won’t touch short stories. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Bob / Carol: Luckily as yet no, both us have the work ethic that if we start something we finish. So there are no works that are not completed. We live in hope that our publishers like what we are writing and as yet we are very pleased to say they do.
Morgen: I’ve interviewed over 700 authors (on http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com and https://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com) and many (even those with 30+ books to their name) still feel nervous submitting to their publishers. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Bob / Carol: When ‘Deadly Focus’ was finished (and whilst it still had the title ‘The Ground Beneath Your Feet,’ we sent it off to numerous literary agents / publishers. We had letters back from them all and some of them even took the time to hand write notes, but in essence they were rejections. So, not to be defeated we published the novel ourselves and gave it the new title of ‘Deadly Focus’. Having bought but a few copies we sold them to make money for three local hospices and started getting 5* reviews on Amazon from other authors, a scriptwriter, TV & film personnel etc. We sent subsequent purchased copies to book reviewers and again got the same response. Before long we had sold well over a thousand copies.
During this time because of the work we used to do we also attracted a lot of press interest and so appeared in Magazines, Newspapers, on the TV and Radio. Now we had finished ‘Consequences’ the second book in the series. We sent both titles to our current publisher who signed us up for the ‘Dylan’ series. Since then we have acquired a foreign literary agent who has just brokered us a deal in South Korea! From starting to write ‘Deadly Focus’ to present time is five years.
How did we deal with it? We didn’t take the rejection personally. Some letters were even apologetic that their monies were spent. There is no looking back, yes it stings for a bit but you have to keep going, move forward, your time will come.
Morgen: You do. Do you enter competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Bob / Carol: The only competition we do enter is our in-house Wight Fair Writers Circle Competition twice a year – although we do recommend their competitions. 🙂
Morgen: Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Bob / Carol: We have very little experience in this field but an honest opinion is in our experience look for a smaller publisher who will afford you the time that no bigger publisher ever could or would. We are regularly told by our published friends of ours who are already signed to them how fortunate we are.
We also have an overseas literary agent Monika Luukkenon who is an absolute gem. There is no way we would get the contacts that she has abroad – even though we now have use of the internet. Agents visit the international book fairs and usually have built up relationships and have worked in the literary field for a number of years before taking on the role. I don’t think literary agents are vital but Monika has definitely made our lives easier and our work will be in places we never dreamed it would be and published in other languages too. We can’t wait to see ‘Deadly Focus’ translated into Korean in 2014.
Morgen: Wow. How exciting and it must be thrilling seeing your book cover in another language. Do you do much marketing for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Carol: Yes, I don’t think it’s fair to rely on your publishers, after all no one knows your work better than you do and they have dozens of authors to look after not only you. We do book signing tours and talks ‘From Fact To Fiction’, the monies from these are donated to our local hospice The Earl Mountbatten. I try and ensure we get as much time on TV and Radio as possible and interviews with magazines and newspapers. This year we will be in The Sun Newspaper which has the largest national newspaper readership in the UK for the launch of ‘White Lilies’ and we have been feature in Best Magazine and Real People Magazine as well as many others. You don’t have to be on high profile radio stations such as the BBC all the time – just look out for your community radio stations, they will give you lots more air time and we’ve found they’re great!
We are on all the social networking sites including Facebook where we have an author page, a group page for ‘Deadly Focus’ and we run a blog http://blog.rcbridgestock.com where I interview other authors and people who have interesting jobs to me such as publishers, private detectives, film executives, other authors to give them a bit of promotion, etc. Bob also does what we call ‘Bob’s Rants’ which are usually him blowing off steam about policing issues. We have a poet who sends us short poems (and we will post guest poets here too). I have just started a FREE short story blog where authors from our writing circles will once a month publish a short story. They don’t get paid but they are ‘published’ and there is room for guests to publish stories here. Also I have a Life Coach – Maggie Currie does blogs from time to time regarding life and how to cope – ‘Life Happens’. I also do book signing tours blogs so everyone can see what an author gets up to on their tours – including pictures! And last but not least we do a ‘Keep Safe & Sound’ blog every now and again when appropriate – something for everyone.
We also upload interviews to YouTube – The Calendar TV one now has 1’785 views http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNx2wUf1-W4 and on our publishers YouTube interview where we talk about how we write together we have 434 views http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTsq3qw4EcI.
Morgen: No wonder your tours are so tough to set up, you really have your hands full. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Carol: There isn’t any writing that I don’t like doing. The key for me is that I have a variety of projects so can swap and change ‘if’ I do get bored… or run out of ideas. The distraction from promotion, social networking or work on our blog often clears my head.
Morgen: It clutters mine. 🙂 What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Bob / Carol: Keep going! Don’t ever give up and believe in yourself. If you don’t love your work how can you expect others to?
Morgen: Absolutely. If you’re bored with something your readers may well be too. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Carol: Our family always make for great entertainment around a dinner table and since we live a distance away I would always wish it was any of them that could make it! However, for this particular exercise I think my choice would have to be Isabella De Fortibus who named herself the Lady of the Isle of Wight. We recently worked on a DVD about 1000 years of Carisbrooke Castle which is on the Isle of Wight where we now live. Isabella came originally from Yorkshire (as we do) and what a formidable woman she was! I think Bob would love to get the chance to talk to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and last but not least I guess we would both like to meet with Emily Bronte – Hawarth Parsonage Museum was just up the road from where we used to live http://www.bronte.org.uk.
Morgen: Somewhere I’ve heard of but never been… yet. I have a book entitled ‘On the Writer’s Trail – 20 Literary Journeys’ but it only goes up as far as Cumbria. Hawarth is mentioned in The Oxford Literary Guide to the British Isles, along with hundreds of others. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Bob / Carol: Yes, we are presently working with Sally Wainwright and Red Productions on a thriller drama series which is called ‘Happy Valley’. The series was commissioned by BBC1 and is a 6 x 60-minute series.
Catherine Crowther is the sergeant on duty when flustered, nervous-looking accountant Colin Weatherill comes into her West Yorkshire police station to report a crime. He’s reticent about the details and Colin loses his nerve. The crime he was trying to report was Colin’s own brain-child, a plot to kidnap his boss’s daughter and keep enough of the ransom to put his kids through private school. And now local drug king-pin David Cowgill has put the plan into action, and Colin’s fantasy has become a grim and dangerous reality. The botched kidnapping of eccentric, angry Ann Gallagher and its fallout unfolds… Catherine is used to picking up the pieces of everyone else’s lives but the hunt for Ann Gallagher will get right under her skin. Catherine becomes convinced that only by finding Ann alive and bringing her captors to justice can she avenge the death of her daughter.
The executive producer for Red is Nicola Shindler and Matthew Read for the BBC. We plan to start filming in September.
We are also booked to do numerous talks which invariably relate to factual crime that Bob previously dealt with and fiction that we now write, how we write together as a couple and our novels.
Our next big ‘gig’ is the ‘Isle of Arts Festival 2013’ Ventnor, Isle of Wight on the 19th April. You can read more at http://artsisle.org/8-events/16-life-in-crime-fiction.
Morgen: How exciting. I watched Ann Cleeves’ Vera (also by the BBC) for the first time the other day. It had me gripped. Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Carol: When we started out we did find the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook very useful. This can be found in your local library too. On the web I tend to ask ‘Google’ for specific items that I want to research in relation to work I am doing but there isn’t any in particular. Our publisher does a mean blog though and a great newsletter – you can sign up for it @ www.caffeine-nights.com
Morgen: You’re on a few networking sites – how valuable do you find them?
Bob / Carol: The social networking sites are an invaluable marketing tool, especially for the sale of our ebooks. We use Facebook. Carol Bridgestock Facebook page has over 5,000 followers so is full. I therefore started a new page for RC Bridgestock and we have an authors’ page too. http://www.facebook.com/#!/rcbidgestockauthor?fref=ts Our ‘Deadly Focus’ Group page has 1,600 followers http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/57681551283/?fref=ts
We use YouTube to put our videos on display and our Calendar TV interview has 1,793 views to date http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNx2wUf1-W4 and here we talk about our unique husband and wife writing process. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTsq3qw4EcI
We also have authors pages on Amazon and Goodreads and we Twitter @rcbridgestock and we’re on LinkedIn @ http://www.linkedin.com/pub/rc-bob-carol-bridgestock/31/139/384
Morgen: It’s a shame that Facebook has a limit. I noticed that on another author’s page and she had to create a new one. I’m a way off yet (at 1,224). 🙂 What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Carol: I think your choice of publisher or agent is crucial for a writer to achieve getting their work published, just as it is them choosing to represent you. They must like your writing. They must like you and be able to work with you. Your writing will have to grab them at some level. They will have to engage with your characters and care about them. If that doesn’t happen it’s highly likely that you won’t make their list.
Bob / Carol: We have both self published and been published. Which would we rather do? There isn’t a contest, although saying that we know we are exceptionally lucky with our publisher and we work well as a team with them. We are very happy.
Morgen: I’m not surprised. Considering it’s only been five years (which to me doesn’t feel very long) you’ve come a long way, with a great team behind you. You’re very active online, where are the best places to find out about you and your writing?
Bob / Carol: We have a website which is www.rcbridgestock.com
- We run a blog which also features a poetry slot and a guest life coach spot as well as featuring new authors and a ‘Carol’s Close Up’ – where I interview a variety of interesting people.
- Twitter – @rcbridgestock
- Linkedin – Bob Bridgestock
- Email address – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook – RC Bridgestock
Morgen: Thank you, Carol, Bob. It’s been great chatting with you today.
I then invited Carol and Bob to include a synopsis of their latest book…
WHITE LILIES is the third novel in the RC BRIDGESTOCK DI JACK DYLAN SERIES in which Bob brings unique insight and experience from how real life cases are conducted into page turning gripping fiction, aided by his wife Carol, who also worked for the police. This combination adds authenticity rarely seen in British crime fiction, coupled with warmth, humour and humanity.
DI Jack Dylan’s promise to Jen is to spend more time at home in this latest novel; after all she is expecting their first child. However ‘the job,’ as in reality, takes over. Two fatal road accidents, an elderly lady found battered to death, two girls brutally attacked, a chief suspect found dead, a life threatening hostage negotiation and a stabbing all happen as a newly promoted attractive Sergeant is added to the mix, which is truly genuine in voice and substance. Whilst Dylan is confronted by a madman, Jen goes into labour alone only to find herself in hospital with her arch enemy at her side and the question is will Dylan make it to the birth in time and secure justice for the victims of the crimes?
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on the main blog) is free.
Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have this blog, https://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com, on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
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