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Stories have arcs. Characters have arcs. Writers have arcs. We write, we get better at our craft. We read, we get better at our craft. We interact with other writers and our readers, we get better at our craft. Whether you are a professional writer or just starting out. Hobby or career. We are all in this together. Welcome.

Contact: Elena Hartwell - elenahartwell@gmail.com and visit me on the web at www.elenahartwell.com

Bruce Robert Coffin on Homicide Investigation, Novel Writing, and Working with the FBI

This week I'm hanging out with novelist Bruce Robert Coffin. Bruce is the bestselling author of the Detective Byron mystery series and former detective sergeant with more than twenty-seven years in law enforcement. 

At the time of his retirement, from the Portland, Maine police department, he supervised all homicide and violent crime investigations for Maine's largest city. Bruce also spent four years working counter-terrorism with the FBI, where he earned the Director's Award, the highest honor a non-agent can receive.


THE INTERVIEW

Before launching your writing career, you worked in law enforcement for twenty-seven years. With that incredible base of knowledge, did you find yourself staying completely accurate to police procedure? Or did you take any liberties for the story? What was difficult about knowing the real world of law enforcement so well?

I try to incorporate as much reality as possible into my novels so that they read true to folks in the law enforcement field and to those with no experience whatsoever. That said I will take liberties for the sake of good storytelling. For example it would be rather tough to build excitement if I made John Byron or Diane Joyner wait a year or more for a DNA comparison. (That would slow the pace a bit! I’m always amazed when I interview experts how long things take in the real world.)

As a Maine writer, how does your geography impact you? 

I think there's just something about Maine that makes for good mystery writing. It's a huge area with a relatively small population. People love to say it’s a small world. Maine quite literally is a small world where everybody knows everybody else. That closeness and familiarity can create great motives for murder. Plus as a mystery author it's fun to create chaos in the midst of Maine's tranquility. (And such a beautiful state!)

In your first Detective Sergeant John Byron novel, your victim is a police officer, in the second it's a lawyer, so you went with people who have careers that intersect with criminals. What made you choose those two professions for your victims?

I’m not sure it was a conscious decision to pick intersecting careers as much as a desire to explore societal opinions about those two professions. All of my stories are scooped out of the primordial ooze of what if. In the first John Byron Mystery, Among the Shadows, I wanted to tell the tale of a modern day investigator confronted with the unenviable task of delving into his own father’s past and uncovering secrets that were buried long ago.

In the second novel, Beneath the Depths, I set out to paint a picture of what it’s like to try and solve a murder when the victim is a despicable person. As I often tell people, police officers aren’t allowed the luxury of picking and choosing which homicides to investigate. Many homicide victims become victims as a result of their own vices and lifestyles. In cases like the Ramsey murder, detectives have to constantly remind themselves that no matter how bad the victim was there is still someone worse out there. The killer. (Great point. I’ve never heard it phrased that way, “there’s someone worse out there” … filing that one away! J)

In addition to the police force, after 9/11, you also worked alongside the FBI in counter-terrorism. How different was working with the FBI versus the police department?

Not as different as you might think, except for the travel. My FBI assignment dealt specifically with counter-terrorism (CT), which is of course very different from criminal investigations. Criminal cases are generally investigated after-the-fact, while CT cases are more intelligence based, directed toward uncovering or preventing a crime in the making. (A lot like mystery vs. thriller!)

But working with the FBI was just like working for my own department. Both agencies are comprised of the same type of men and women, people who want to make the world a safer place for everyone. I really enjoyed my time working with the FBI. Much like the PD, they treated me like family and I forged some lifetime friendships along the way.  

Do you believe there is a "type" of person who goes into law enforcement? Are there characteristics that all police detectives/FBI etc. have? What makes the best detective? The best beat cop?

I think many people believe there is a certain type of person who goes into law enforcement as a career. After serving in that capacity for almost three decades, and coming into contact with thousands of officers, I can tell you that the only thing we all have in common is the desire to help others. It truly doesn’t matter if talking about beat cops or detectives, taking control of a bad situation and helping those who are unable to help themselves is what it’s all about. If you can see yourself doing that then law enforcement might be for you.

What are you working on now?

At the moment I’m hard at work on the manuscript to Byron #3, tentatively titled BEYOND THE TRUTH. In this novel Byron will face his biggest challenges to date, both personally and professionally. It is my hope that this book will generate a lot of meaningful discussion.

Final words of wisdom:

And here I thought the last question would be the easiest. Stick with it. That’s the key to this business. Getting noticed is hard. There are many good writers out there already. Find something that you care enough to write about and then put your heart and soul into it. Repeat. That’s all there is to it. Work at it constantly. Tess Gerritsen once told me that writing novels is a marathon not a sprint. She’s absolutely right. If you’re not ready to put your heart and soul into it, then you’re not ready. Write on!

Great final words, Bruce. Great to have you here, I’m enjoying your first novel very much. 
Best of luck with the new book!


Three Thriller Writers With Three New Novels: Hollie Overton, Pamela Crane, and JL Delozier

Just checking in with a couple fabulous mystery/thriller authors. Looking for some new twisty-turning thrill rides to read? Look no further than these three...

HOLLIE OVERTON

Hollie Overton is an experienced TV writer currently working on the second season of Freeform’s “Shadowhunters.” She previously wrote for two seasons of Lifetime’s “The Client List,” and the final season of the CBS drama, “Cold Case.” A native of Kingsville, Texas, Hollie made her way to the Big Apple, where she studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Literature at Hunter College and mixology in Murray Hill.


Convinced her talents lay in telling stories; Hollie set her sights on Hollywood. In 2008 Hollie was selected for the esteemed Warner Brother Writers Workshop.  Her debut novel, Baby Doll was published in July 2016 and is an international best-seller. Hollie is repped by MetaMorphic Entertainment and WME.

THE WALLS By Hollie Overton


What if you could get away with murder?

Single mom Kristy Tucker works as a press agent for the Texas Department of Corrections -- handling everything on death row from inmate interviews to chronicling the last moments during an execution. Her job exposes Kristy to the worst of humanity, and it's one that's beginning to take its toll.

So when Kristy meets Lance Dobson, her son's martial arts instructor, she believes she has finally found her happy ending. She's wrong.

Kristy soon discovers that Lance is a monster. Forced to endure his verbal and physical abuse, Kristy is serving her own life sentence...unless she's willing to take matters into her hands. Perfectly poised to exploit the criminal justice system she knows so well, Kristy sets out to get rid of Lance -- permanently.

The Walls explores domestic violence, the morality of murder, and how far one woman will go to protect her family.

PAMELA CRANE

Pamela Crane is a professional juggler. Not the type of juggler who can toss flaming torches in the air, but a juggler of four kids, a writing addiction, a horse rescuer, and a book editor by trade. She lives on the edge (ask her Arabian horse about that—he’ll tell you all about their wild adventures while trying to train him!) and she writes on the edge. Her characters and plots are her escape from the real world of dirty diapers and cleaning horse stalls, and she thrives off of an entertaining tale. Visit her at www.pamelacrane.com

THE ART OF FEAR by Pamela Crane

A life no girl should endure. A father no daughter could love. A twist no one would predict.

From award-winning author Pamela Crane comes a terrifying tale of small-town secrets and murder.

Ari Wilburn’s life ended long ago—the day she watched her little sister die in a tragic accident and did nothing to stop it. Crippled with self-blame and resented by her parents, she stumbles through life … and onto an unexpected clue that casts doubt on whether the death was accidental.

Now a psychological wreck, Ari joins a suicide support group where she meets Tina, a sex-enslaved escapee who finds her long-lost father dead. Suicide, police ruled it. But Tina suspects foul play. As a bond develops between the women in their shared loss, they’re dragged into playing a dangerous game with a killer.

Faced with a murderous wake-up call and two possibly linked deaths, Ari’s investigation puts her next on the killer’s list. But she’s never been one to back down from a fight.

Needing closure, Ari must face her demons and the killer behind them … or lose everything she loves.

JL DELOZIER

Dr. Jennifer Delozier submitted her first story, handwritten in pencil on lined school paper, to Isaac in six years, which was followed by the blur of internship, residency, and the launch of her medical career. But she never forgot her first love.
Asimov's magazine while still in junior high school. Several years later, she took a creative writing elective at Penn State University and was hooked. She received her BS and MD degrees

When she sat down to write her debut thriller, she spent some time rediscovering her favorite physician writers. From the deductive reasoning of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to the cutting edge science of Michael Crichton, she remains inspired by facts that lie on the edge of reality: bizarre medical anomalies, new genetic discoveries and so on. These form the backbone of Type & Cross.

Dr. Delozier spent the early part of her career as a rural family doctor and then later as a government physician, caring for America’s veterans. She continues to practice medicine and lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and four rescue cats.

STORM SHELTER by JL Delozier

Dr. Persephone Smith is a psychologist with a genetic gift. Her enhanced empathy allows her to feel on a primal level the emotions of others, which helps with her job as a counselor for the Dept. of Veterans Affairs. But Seph’s gift comes with a price. Plagued by nightmares and insecure in her work, she absorbs the suffering of her patients by day and swills tequila by night.

When Seph is deployed to an abandoned air hangar turned medical shelter during a massive hurricane, her worst nightmares come true. One by one, as the wind howls overhead, staff and evacuees disappear into the dark recesses of the vast space. The missing return as mutilated corpses. The living, trapped in the shrieking metal structure by the storm, descend into varying levels of paranoia and even madness. Seph must become both counselor and detective to determine who, or what, is calling them prey. Is the panic and mayhem just “shelter shock,” as the lead physician, Anne Parrish, insists? Or is everyone, Seph included, in danger of losing their minds—and their lives?


Storm Shelter is a prequel to 2016’s Type & Cross, which was recently nominated for a “Best First Novel” award by the International Thriller Writers organization. Though fiction, it’s based on my real-life experiences as a disaster physician and features a subtle homage to Alice in Wonderland woven throughout.