Thursday, 1 August 2013

Ten facts about … Debbie Bennett

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
When I was about 8 or 9 when everybody in school would write a page of “story” and I’d write 10 or more … when I used to write really bad plays with a friend and act them out at Girl Guides when I was 12 … and finally when I was 15 and there was nothing at YA level to read after Nancy Drew and Macolm Saville – so I wrote something myself! A whole novel, handwritten in a fancy binder with cardboard characters and a completely nonsensical plot. I still have it in my filing cabinet to remind me of how far I’ve come.

How long does it take you to write a book?
In the past when I was going after traditional deals – doing the rounds of editors and agents – it’d take years of waiting around, querying, sending out fulls, even landing agents who still couldn’t sell my books. Now I’m my own master, it takes about a year, fitted in around a day-job, family and social life. Maybe six to eight months of writing and the rest is editing, polishing, getting beta-reads etc.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Depends on how much of a roll I’m on! There are times when I can write a couple of thousand words in a day – crammed into my lunch-break at work, and in the evenings when I stop talking to anybody and I’m living and breathing whatever scene I’m in. And then it will stall and I’ll have to take a step backwards, let it mature and fester a bit while I wait for the next bolt of lightning to strike. I can’t plan – I wish I could.

How many crime novels have you written?
Two completed: Hamelin’s Child and its sequel Paying the Piper. That was supposed to be it, but so many people have asked me what happens to my character Michael, and would I write a further book. So I did – it took me a while to come up with a plot that wasn’t a re-hash of what’s gone before and yet was a logical follow-on from events.

Which is your favourite and why?
I don’t have favourites. I guess I lived with Hamelin the longest and it’s certainly the darkest and most shocking thing I’ve ever written. But I love Michael dearly – I’ve lived with him for so long through so much, and I feel I know him inside out.

Where do you get your ideas?
I’ve worked in law enforcement all of my career in a variety of jobs. Having spent some time investigating heroin smuggling with lots of “hands-on” experience, I wanted to write about drugs from the street side rather than the law-enforcement side. I’m lucky in that I have access to people whose brains I can pick when it comes to things like police radio procedures. The ideas themselves are organic – I never know where anything is going to take me until I write it, which is a dangerous, but ultimately exhilarating way to write!

Who is your favourite character from your own work and why?
While, as I said, I love Michael to bits, my favourite character would have to be my street kid Lee. Apparently he’s made at least one reader cry. Telling you why would be spoilers.

Which character from the work of others do you wish you’d invented and why?
Matthew Reilly’s Shane Schofield aka Scarecrow, I adore Matthew Reilly’s books. Normally I hate anything with big guns and planes on the cover and his books are utterly ridiculous lad-lit, with implausible plots, impossible action scenes and chases that go on for chapters at a time, but the man can write like nobody else I know.

If you could have been someone from history involved in crime (good or bad) who would that be and why?
I’d have to say Locard – the father of modern forensic science. I find forensics fascinating – I’ve done several courses on things like fingerprint-lifting, hair analysis, blood-spatter measurements – not to mention a term at night school studying criminal psychology. Working at the police headquarters helps too. If I could have a career over again, I’d be a Crime Scene Investigator.

What are you working on now?
I’m about 2/3 way through Calling the Tune which will end Michael’s story (oh, yes it will). I’ve also got a couple of chapters down of a different crime thriller novel, tentatively titled Blue Flamingo, so I’ll be working on that next I expect.

I've worked in law enforcement for over 25 years, in a variety of different roles, both front-line and back-office, which may be why the darker side of life tends to emerge in my writing.

I was long-listed (top 25) for the Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger in 2005.

You can find more of my musings over at AuthorsElectric, a blog by professional writers, where I have a regular slot on 6th of each month and I write occasional posts for You're Booked - the online community for crime readers and writers run by Harrogate International Festivals.

My claim to fame: I once asked Stephen King to dance!

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