Your detective, Dylan, did you base him mostly on Bob? Or is he an amalgam of several influences?
DI Jack Dylan is loosely based on Bob – although Bob had to ‘reduce himself’ in rank to take on ‘the character’ of the Detective Inspector. It took him fifteen years of his CID (Criminal Investigation Department) led career to reach the dizzy heights of rank of Detective Superintendent, so it was quite painful for him. J Subsequently all the feelings that Dylan has in our novels are Bob’s true feelings that he has experienced at some point at crime scenes and on enquires. The reader is privy to fact as well as fiction in our narrative. The truth is that the only way I could get him to drop his ‘detective mask’ was to focus his thought process though a fictional character. With regard to police procedural Dylan had to be an Inspector rank to allow him to do such things as interview suspects – even for murder.
In reality, it is seen to be too oppressive for the suspect to be interviewed by someone at the rank of Detective Superintendent. I don’t know if your readers are aware of the ranks in the British Police Force but above the rank of Detective Superintendent there are only two (or three in some forces) ranks to Chief Constable and they are, Detective Chief Superintendent (only seen in some forces), Assistant Chief Constable and Deputy Chief Constable.
Mysteries are divided into lots of sub genres from cozies through procedurals. Did you ever think of writing the more gory type that seem to be so popular?
No, one of things that we didn’t set out to do was to shock the readers of the Dylan series. People can see enough of that on the big screen. We wanted to tell it ‘as it is’ from the police man’s point of view and how his work and mind set affects his family whilst on major crime enquiries as well as about the enquiry itself. Bob would never write about factual cases. He always says it is the victims and their families who suffer the life sentence of a crime and he wouldn’t want to distress them further by putting such detail in the public domain. So we came up with a unique way of showing the drama in fiction. Our novels are written to be like watching a horror movie behind a cushion or splayed fingers but with real police procedure of how that enquiry would be run, and dealing with the investigation through the mind and the eyes of someone who has been there, seen it, and bought the T-shirt, as they say.
Do you, Carol, do the bulk of the writing and then have Bob go through correcting and changing wherever necessary?
Bob actually writes the whole fictional enquiry from start to finish in the same format he would deal with a factual report to him, as the detective, of a body found or a report of a major incident occurring. He works through the investigation as if it is a real life case with all the police procedure from the outset of the enquiry and subsequently throughout to trace the perpetrator and into interview of subsequent arrested persons. Of course there are always leads which take the officer nowhere in fact and fiction and Bob has plenty of real life ‘red herrings’ to draw from to use in our narrative. Once this process is completed he passes the manuscript to me. I read the story and at this stage build the characters to fit the somewhat ambiguous names Bob has given them! I’ll let you into a little secret. Our way of choosing some of our characters is by Bob telling me who he is thinking about when he writes them in, in terms of descriptions and whose character he has put to that person. At any one time we then both know who we are talking about or what that particular character would most likely do in a particular situation. This works well for us and our old colleagues and friends are always asking us if a character is a particular person – sometimes they’re right too! All our characters truly do live and breathe for us. I also write the descriptions of the scenes and at this point have to draw out of Bob sometimes deep rooted horrific scenario’s that he has long since put to rest but has been witness to over the years, to help me get it right for the reader. The easiest part for me is putting Jen’s side to the story as she is loosely based on me. Jen’s feelings about certain issues are my own and some situations are ones that I found myself in as the supportive partner of a police officer and to Bob in his role as an SIO. My part over the manuscript goes back to Bob. Now, instead of a factual enquiry he is faced with a fictional tale with characters that Bob, as the reader, can get to know. If either of us have any issues with a character, a storyline, or a scene this is when we discuss it but we have never argued, Bob has his role in the writing process and I have mine. Bob is always a book ahead of me so I am always intrigued as to what enquiry we will take on next.
Did either of you harbour childhood fantasies about doing something other than police work? For instance, a lot of little boys want to be engine drivers? Was that one of Bob’s ambitions? Or did you both always want to work for the police?
No not at all. Bob was a butcher for five years before he worked in a dye works for two years, only because the money was better. He left school before the mock GCSE’s, as they were in them days, because he was offered an apprenticeship. It was the way of the world. It was only the security of work and the free board and lodging – a police house or allowance, which tempted him to the role of a police officer. He had to take a 50% pay cut.
My mum found me my first ‘Saturday’ job in the hairdressers she went to when I was 14yrs old. I worked seven hours a week for £1.50 and my first weeks wage was £9. I think mum had a method in her madness, to get her hair done free! However, the job was laborious and I enjoyed teaching the craft a lot more than ‘doing’ the day to day shampoo and blow dry. The job I loved best was the civilian role in the police force which I held in the West Yorkshire Police for seventeen years – there were never two days alike.
Do you come from a long line of public service workers? Is police-work a family tradition?
Bob’s dad was a Railway Inspector who investigated rail accidents having served in Burma and Dunkirk in the second world war, but that is about as much of an influence as he had in investigation or the forces. It was either the Police or the Army!
Why did you choose to move to the Isle of Wight? Do you ever find living on an island brings constraints? And have you ever, because of bad weather, been marooned and unable to get to the venues where you’re booked to give talks?
As a child my family lived for some years in Milford-On-Sea from where you can see the Isle of Wight. I used to play with my friends on the beach and we would talk about the Island in a most romantic, fairytale, mystical way. We moved back to Yorkshire when I was a teenager and I always dreamed of living by the sea again. Bob and I retreated often to the Island for ten years prior to moving here so we had got to know it well. We bought the house nearly a year before we retired. As soon as you get on the ferry from the mainland it is as though all your worries float away with the sea; most definitely our home forever. We have never felt constricted living on the Island but it is costly to get to and fro across the Solent. I guess we’ve just become more organised because of that stretch of water and watch the local weather forecast. J
Now that you’re both retired from the police service, do you find it difficult to keep up with changes in that and forensics?
We are lucky enough to have friends who are in every field of the service and professional roles such as forensic, pathology, legal, media etc. so we have the up to date resources for research on tap. Things are changing and being updated often and we are only too pleased to do the research and keep up to date for our own interest as much as for our writing.
You’re now working on book four, I understand. I’m sure with the experience you both bring to the writing role you have no problems in coming up with plots. But series bring their own difficulties. How do you keep things fresh? Does it get more difficult with each book? And do you have a system in place so that you’re able to check established ‘facts’ about a character or location? Or do you, as some writers have confessed, only know you’ve got the remembering wrong when a reader writes in to tell you?
Being part of the police service brings its own methodology. We are used to being somewhat the ‘Analyst’. Anacapa charts are used to plot targets, mobile phone use and track individuals for example. We in effect ‘live’ in our office in the middle of the enquiry we’re working on! As I build the characters I use what we would call an MO form – each character has their own Modus Operandi, so hopefully our readers won’t catch us out. I’m sure we’ve set ourselves up now though! Procedural wise the story happens as it does in real life and we draw upon life experiences of things that do happen for the drama. From the family life side of our novels again we use life experiences. We find it easier this way.
What kind of research do you do for your procedurals?
Police procedural wise the most important thing for us is ensuring that the police systems/procedures that are used in the book are used as and when the books are dated. Although we try not to date the books, it is hard when the facts have to be correct for time and place in procedure. Apart from that the family saga research, such as pregnancy or a characters idiosyncrasy. I have been lucky enough to have friends who have been pregnant and giving birth at the time of writing ‘White Lilies’. They very kindly gave me some great notes to work from – you forget don’t you? I love researching for characters – you’ll get to meet some weird and wonderful people in our books as time goes by.
Have you written other things, like short stories, as a lot of crime writers do? Or did you launch straight into novels? And if so, why?
We have both dabbled with short stories for our internal writing circle’s competitions that we organise twice a year. These have independent judges I might add. But it is not something either of us enjoys, so we don’t tend to write short stories. Maybe it is because we write our novels together that our way of writing actually works… Who knows? Our publishers have put a request out to all their authors for a short story to introduce their protagonist to the readers on their soon to be formed short story page, but we haven’t done one… yet.
Your novels have been widely praised for their true-to-life depiction of police work. If you didn’t both have that background, is there any other genre that would hold appeal for you? For instance, I could imagine you, Carol, writing romances or Historicals. And Bob, thrillers.
Yes, you’re right I also think Bob could write some very dark thrillers. His true stories are enough to make anyone’s hair curl and there is nothing stranger than the truth to draw upon is there? Maybe it is one for the future.
I love historical novels and a good cry at a romance but I think writing them would somehow spoil the genre for the reading if I’m honest. Maybe one day…
Is Bob mainly responsible for any research that’s required? Or is it a shared job?
It’s shared. Again, we have just seemed to have taken on the roles as a natural progression to the storylines. Bob’s interest is in the research to come up to date of police/court procedure and forensic capabilities, to broaden and bring up to date his knowledge. For instance the turn-around time for DNA these days is like lightening to what it used to be only ten years ago and not as expensive for the SIO. Even murder investigations have a budget believe it or not. I probably do most research but I do tend to get wrapped up in it if I’m not careful.
Will Bob be writing his memoirs, one day? And what about you, Carol? Any plans in that direction? I’m sure that now, with the popularity of your police series, any such memoirs would find a very receptive audience. I’d be first in the queue!
I would love Bob to write his memoirs. This is how the whole process started. I wanted Bob to write his memoirs for the grandchildren and the great grandchildren we might never be lucky enough to meet. You see even our children didn’t have a clue as to what Bob actually used to do until they read ‘Deadly Focus’. When they were young they would be often concerned when they saw Daddy on TV. He was always serious where as other dad’s that were on the TV would wave at their kids and give them a ‘shout out’. We had to eventually develop a code so that they knew dad was okay and that he was thinking of them. If you ever see a TV interview with Bob, or an old press conference he would always straighten his tie, this was their signal.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received and who gave it to you? And what advice do you, in turn, give out to writing hopefuls?
Never give up! Just about every other author who has been published told us.
Start what you finish – I think this applies to everything in life though and was installed in us from both sets of parents.
A number of writers have decided to break away from traditional publishing and turn ‘Indie’ – I have myself. Is this something you would ever contemplate?
Ah, but you’re a genius Geraldine! J As long as we have Caffeine Nights publishing behind us we are very happy bunnies indeed. Darren E. Laws is an author in his own right and an excellent person work with. His work ethos is the same as ours and we think ourselves very blessed that he took us on.
Have you found that your publisher provides support and marketing? Or is that mostly down to you?
We have heard some horror stories about publishers but Caffeine Nights provide excellent support for their authors – we could ask for nothing more. They also have a great team behind them for marketing and book design too. They are dedicated and as passionate about your work as we are. However, personally I don’t think you can ever do enough promotion or marketing, so we do as many book signings as possible, as many talks and arts/literary festivals as we can and are part of the social networking sites. We love talking to our readers, listening to their views about our characters and storylines – it’s fantastic that they want to be involved and great fun for us. Dylan has a great female following! 😉
Are you happy with the price at which your publisher sets your books, especially given the often cheaper alternatives amongst Indie publishers? Is he fairly flexible and prepared to listen to suggestions.
Our publishers have just reduced the price of all their paperbacks this weekend from £8.99 to £5.99 in their bookstore – with an open letter you can see here to Mr Daunt and Mr Husain http://t.co/YtlPahKx at Waterstones about that very topic.
We as authors are very happy with whatever they decided. We wouldn’t have a clue so we trust them implicitly knowing that they do everything in our best interest.
Your covers are very distinctive and eye-catching. Did you and Bob have any input into their design?
‘Deadly Focus’ as you know is printed in two editions. The first was published by ourselves. There were only about 1500 copies printed of this edition so they are becoming quite rare even on Amazon. This cover was designed by Andrew Beckwith, our son-in-law who is also a very talented web and graphic designer http://www.andrewbeckwith.com/ He also does our website for us and has set up the blog for me to use.
The titles published by Caffeine Nights Publishers are all designed by the very creative Mark (Wills) Williams with input from Darren E Laws. We are always consulted but have no problem in leaving this in their more than capable hands. We think they are amazing.
Would you recommend new readers start with the first book or can they be read out of sequence?
Each title is a stand-alone book purposely but if the reader wants to turn a book into a saga it is best to start reading ‘Deadly Focus’ first. Here you get to know the main characters of the series a little better.
How long does it take you and Bob to research and write a book?
Probably about six to eight months.
What is the most productive time of the day for you to write?
Definitely the daylight hours, usually I start writing about ten o’clock but that can be promotional work, a talk, social networking etc. and I will write till about five or six maybe longer if the work dictates it. If I am reading the manuscript however I tend to do that at night.
Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer?
The bones for ‘Deadly Focus’ was written in six weeks, in long hand believe it or not – all 120,000 words of it. I know because I typed it and did a word count at the end. But now the work is all done on the computer, although we each have a notebook specifically for each book that we scribble down notes in. This way the notes we use are never lost either.
What do you draw inspiration from? Is it always actual cases?
Inspiration comes from different places. It could just be a character from the past or an incident that appears in the newspaper, to an actual appeal by the Police. We never use actual cases but we do draw inspiration from some that we have been involved in.
Do you set goals for yourself when you sit down to write such as word count?
Bob does, we were only talking about this the other day. He likes to reach 10,000 words and then aims to 20,000 and so on. I never look at the word count until I have finished what I am doing. I just let the story run its course.
What drove you to choose writing as a second career? A number of ex-Police officers have tried and found it more challenging than they expected. Did you?
We didn’t, it chose us. Neither of us had any inclination to write six years ago other than I had this feeling that I wanted Bob to write his memoirs for future generations of our family.
When we moved south nearly ten years ago, our newly made friends and acquaintances weren’t involved in the police at all, so were enthralled by Bob’s stories that sometimes made them laugh or cry. Karen Eeles from our local hospice ‘The Earl Mountbatten Hospice’, found out what Bob did for a job after we became involved with their fundraising events and let’s say the rest is history. ‘Come do us a talk to help raise money,’ she said. ‘Nobody wants to listen to my boring Yorkshire tales on the Isle of Wight,’ Bob said.
Days later he had his first gig that was a great hit. The talk was supposed to last an hour and they had to throw people out at tea time! A couple of days later there was an advert in our local newspaper the ‘County Press,’ offering a course at the local college to ‘Write Your First Novel,’ and it was during this course that ‘Deadly Focus’ was started and finished. The teacher couldn’t believe her eyes when he produced the full manuscript at the end.
How have you found it, working together? Has it gone smoothly or have you encountered difficulties that you hadn’t expected?
None whatsoever, I type up the final manuscript so there is no problem at all! J As in life we trust each other implicitly and respect each other’s judgement. It is just lovely to have such fun and experience new things together after spending so many years apart when ‘job was running’.
Was it love at first sight between you and Bob? Or was it more of a gradual thing?
The first time I saw Bob at work I actually said to my colleague and friend Margaret Hulme; ‘I wouldn’t want to cross him!’ He has this certain look that could curdle milk. He never once had to shout at the kids or smack them – he just had to cock his head to one side and raise his eyebrow. Behind that look however there is a heart of gold and when that winning smile crossing his face he looks like a mischievous little boy. We were work colleagues and friends before we became a couple – gosh was that twenty years ago now? How time flies when you’re enjoying yourself.
Do any of your children intend following in your footsteps, either as writers or working in the police service? And would you encourage or deter them from either?
Gemma our daughter works for the West Yorkshire Police force and has done for about eight years now, progressing through the civilian ranks after she gained a Law Degree at Sheffield Hallam. Her role is one of a few civilian ISO’s (Investigative Support Officer), in the Major Incident Team. The first time she told us she was going to a mortuary to witness a post-mortem Bob was concerned for her. To think that your little girl is going to see what one human being could do to another and to have to witness the consequences troubled him enormously, but she’s Bob’s daughter and where I would have run a mile she took it all in her stride and faced it knowing these things have to be done to catch the killer. John is an Electrician & property developer, Stephanie went on to be a model in Milan as is now a Director for Dorothee Schumacher and runs the Milan salon and Sam has a psychology degree and works on the Isle of Wight but we wouldn’t put any hurdles up if they had decided on a life in the police force it is a fantastic career. Ask Bob if he’d do his time again and he’d say straight away, ‘You bet!’
Does the so-called ‘Canteen Culture’ still exist? Or has it been forced underground by the politically-correct stance of the brass?
You’ll never eradicate the ‘Canteen Culture’ totally but since the arrival of political correctness it has probably been pushed, as you say, underground or into quiet corners. There has however been a vast improvement in eradicating it in our experience in recent years. Most definitely the ‘isms’ are now considered before people speak and not before time either.
Do you own an ebook reading device?
Bob has an iPad 2 which he is using more and more these days rather than his laptop.
Who are some of your favourite authors and what are you reading now?
We met you after Mum and myself had read a few of your books between us. She loves the crime novels especially the Rafferty and Llewellyn series and I enjoyed immensely ‘Reluctant Queen’. So you have two fans here! We are very supportive of the Caffeine Nights Authors – there is some fantastic new talent there and as they say their mantra is ‘Fiction for the Heart and the Head’ which it most definitely is. Bob has just read Ian Ayris’s ‘Abide With Me’ and thoroughly enjoyed it. Neither of us reads crime really anymore. Writing the genre has totally spoilt that for us although in the past I did enjoy Martina Cole. I also love the Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon.
Are there any particular writers who have influenced your writing?
For me probably Warwick Deeping, his book Sorrell & Son has to be my favourite of all time.
For Bob, he says not. He reads mostly factual books.
What do you think of book trailers?
We’ve never done one but I think anything to market a book is terrific and this is such a fun way to get the story across with the aid of music and pictures.
How do you come up with the titles of your books? Do you and Bob brainstorm with your publisher?
Our publishers have never suggested another title to the working title of our books so I guess they are happy with them. If they are then we are too. As he is writing the first draft Bob usually come s up with something that strikes him as significant or encompasses the theme that runs throughout the story. This has stuck with ‘Consequences’ & ‘White Lilies’ and I think will continue with ‘Snow Kills’, ‘Reprobates’, ‘When the killing Starts’ and ‘Exodontia’ which are the working titles of books four, five, six and seven. However, ‘Deadly Focus’ started out as ‘The Ground Beneath Your Feet’, which is the mantra of the detective to cover the ground beneath your feet and work outwards from the scene of a crime. It was felt at the time that this was too long a title and should be cut – although Bob still refers to ‘Deadly Focus’ as ‘The Ground Beneath Your Feet’ sometimes.
Have either of you ever done any other line of work, apart from writing and being in the police service?
Bob is a qualified butcher and he worked in a dye works for two years before joining the police force. I was a fully qualified hairdresser and beautician as well as a salon owner and teacher of hairdressing practical. My jobs in the police force as a civilian employee were varied from typing to accounting and file preparing for court becoming a supervisor for an administration department and the office manager for a government led vehicle crime initiative. Like I said there was never a dull moment!
Can you tell us a little about what you’re working on now?
At the moment Bob is reading his file for a talk he is doing tonight. We are both working on a crime fiction evening we are taking part in at the Isle of Arts Festival in April. I am working on the next Crime & Intrigue short story competition which we hold twice a year to try to inspire others to read and writer www.iowwritingcircle.co.uk (all proceeds go to local charities). Bob is writing ‘When The Killing Starts’ and ‘Exodontia’ and I am writing my part of ‘Reprobates’. Book three ‘White Lilies’ is out March 25th and ‘Snow Kills’ is with the publishers with a possible publication later this year.
We are also both working with the very talented Scriptwriter Sally Wainwright and Red Productions on a BBC 1 crime thriller series called ‘Happy Valley.’ Bob and I are very excited about it. We start filming later this year and we have others looking at placing ‘Dylan’ for a TV/Film series.
Wow! How thrilling is that!! I once had a sniff of interest on my second Rafferty novel when I was published by Macmillan from a Los Angeles film company. But it came to nothing. L
Tell me a little bit of something about you that we haven’t already learned.
The only new car that we have ever bought was delivered to a mortuary which was the first for the garage, the salesman and the mortuary!
Ha! Ha! That poor salesman won’t forget you two in a hurry!
Our website is www.rcbridgstock.com
Our blog which covers ‘Carol’s Close Up’s’ with authors, publishers, literary agents, TV/Film producers and International Private Detectives. ‘Reads Ramblings’ are weekly poems by Janet Read and ‘Life Happens’ are blogs by life coach Maggie Currie. www.blog.rcbridgestock.com but the blog can also be accessed through our website.
Twitter – @RCBridgestock
LinkedIn – Bob Bridgestock
Facebook – RC Bridgestock
Facebook – Deadly Focus Group Page
‘Deadly Focus’ has 32 5* Reviews on Amazon.co.uk (Two Editions)
‘Consequences’ has 17 5* Reviews on Amazon.co.uk
This is the latest piece for ‘White Lilies’:-
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?
Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/Z61Ykv Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/YSbeF5
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/U6Ze3A
Bob and Carol, thank you very much for a most enlightening interview. 🙂