Bruce Robert Coffin and the Detective John Byron Mysteries
TRACEE: The third in the Detective Byron Mysteries, Beyond the Truth, released October 30th, so first off, Congratulations. BRUCE: Thanks so much! And for the invitation to guest on your site. TRACEE: Anyone who reads the John Byron series knows that they are classified within mystery as police procedural, and as a former law enforcement officer you are known for “getting it right.” I remember chatting with you at the Malice Domestic conference a few years ago when you were debating the theme for your next book. What struck me in our conversation was your complete focus on John Byron’s emotional trajectory. Is his story always central to how you approach the book? BRUCE: Yes. When reading a series I really get attached to the characters. In creating the Detective Byron mystery series I sought to create a character whose past was integral to who he is as a person. I wanted a character who fights constantly against his demons, while striving to become a better person. I knew where I wanted John Byron to be by the third novel even as I wrote the first. Byron’s development will remain central to every book in this series. TRACEE: Writing fiction is inventing things that sound believable enough to draw the reader into the story. Authors who arrive at any form of crime fiction without a law enforcement background check and double check details to get them right, aiming to sprinkle in enough to paint a scene accurately. Your perspective is the opposite. The details of the law enforcement side to crime solving is second nature to you. What are your dilemmas in terms of painting the scene or creating characters to keep the story in balance with your wealth of technical knowledge and experience? BRUCE: I think the most difficult part for me is the temptation to give the reader too much detail. While I do want to make each investigation as realistic as possible, I don’t want to bore or overload the reader with details that they don’t require. As with most storytelling, it becomes a balancing act. I also strive to give the reader the emotional aspect of the job. Whether we show it or not, every cop feels and carries the weight of these cases with them, even after we’ve retired. TRACEE: I’ve heard you speak about creating John Byron and making him real. He has struggles in his personal life and at work. In that context, you’ve said you are aware of balancing the trust of the colleagues you’ve worked with for decades in terms of painting a dark hero while at the same time you don’t want to sugar coat the realities of the burdens of their service. Could you talk a bit about that balance and how it impacts John and the problems he faces, and solves? BRUCE: I am often asked what my former colleagues think of my novels, the underlying question is whether or not they are bothered by anything negative that my police characters do. I think most people are surprised to learn that the police community as a whole is very supportive of the Byron series. The reality is that police officers are the same as everyone else. We have fears, weaknesses, biases, personal problems, things we do very well, and things we don’t. The job police officers are asked to perform can be extremely difficult at times, and the vast majority of cops do it very well. John Byron represents the best and the worst of policing. He is a diligent investigator who cares not only about justice but also his detectives. Where he falters is in his personal life. John’s demons are the demons commonly found amount veteran cops, firefighters, EMS workers, military personal, anyone who deals with life or death trauma on a daily basis. Maintaining a healthy marriage, a healthy lifestyle, and a healthy mind becomes harder as the years pass. Stress can manifest itself in many unhealthy ways until finally a choice must be made. I am taking John Byron on a journey, and hopefully, if I do it right, I take the reader along too. TRACEE: I’m not surprised that law enforcement is supportive. I think you aim for reality, not expose and anyone in a tough job knows that reality isn’t perfect. Before we close out, could you pull back the curtain and share a little about your writing process? BRUCE: My writing process is similar to every other creative endeavor. I constantly live with the current novel in my head. Whether I’m sitting down and typing or not, the story is constantly playing in the background. I work out plot points and character issues every moment I’m awake. I believe that is the key to writing a good novel. Much like an actor may insert themselves into a character for a year or more (see Daniel Day Lewis) I think writing novels requires that same discipline. As the story becomes more solid in my head, so too will it become real on the page. TRACEE: Maybe I should have interviewed your wife. Does she wonder if you are Bruce or John at different points in the day? At least Daniel Day-Lewis was probably on set for only a few weeks or months. As you mention, we writers are in the head of the character all the time. Thanks for joining me today Bruce, especially since you’ve been dealing with some flooding issues at home. In fact, I envision the waters rising right now. I hope everyone else is enjoying Fall weather and looking for a great book to spend the day with. Might we suggest Beyond the Truth? For more about Bruce: www.brucerobertcoffin.comAnd a direct link to purchase the latest in the series.