Chatting with Bruce Robert Coffin about his John Byron series
TRACEE: Bruce, thanks for joining us on Miss Demeanors today, particularly since I know you are deep into edits for your next book. I promise we’ll get to that later. First, the question that has been on my mind since we first met. As a homicide detective, your professional life was deeply rooted in murder. What made you decide to write about a closely related setting? BRUCE: I’m not sure this was a conscious decision on my part. I hadn’t written fiction for nearly thirty years when the writing bug bit again. One day I sat down and started banging away on my iPad and a crime novel began to spill out. It really was that simple. I guess John Byron was trying to get out into the world. TRACEE: Did you first conceive of your protagonist, or did the series evolve from a particular issue you wanted to confront? BRUCE: John was really my way of projecting many of the qualities, both good and bad, that I observed in the men and women I worked alongside throughout my career. I wanted my protagonist to be representative of what it is like to be a homicide detective while trying to hold together a personal life outside the job. As for the series, I had hoped to insert as much reality as I could into a murder/mystery series while still taking the reader on a thrill ride. TRACEE: Did you have a ‘line in the sand’ in your mind when you began writing the John Byron mysteries? Meaning subject matter either in the lives of the officers, or in terms of the crimes you would portray that you wouldn’t touch? BRUCE: Not really. I think my rule at the beginning was if I was comfortable writing it then the readers would be accepting of the subject matter. But as writers we tend to develop and reach for more. I think the longer a series runs the more risks in subject matter we are willing to take. My goal continues to be to write this series honestly without becoming preachy. I guess my only steadfast rule has been to avoid writing about actual cases. I figure if I wanted to do that I’d be writing true crime. And after nearly three decades on the job, I’ve had enough true crime. TRACEE: You’re known for using your know-how in creating characters, dialogue and the scenarios in your books. It seems to me that ‘civilians’ have a fixed view of some professions. When you write about police situations do you write with an eye and ear toward presenting reality of policing within a story or do you consciously or unconsciously adapt the reality of police work for a broader audience? BRUCE: I think we all tend to stereotype professions based on what we see representing them. My goal is to try and allow the reader a look behind the veil of policing. Police officers and detectives are real people. They work crazy hours and are expected to solve all of societies ills while remaining impartial and incorruptible. I want to show the struggles each character faces on a daily basis, and the feelings that they are forced to suppress, or confront. While I strive to give the reader a realistic portrayal of the stresses, horrors, and occasionally the humor of the job, I try and avoid writing scenes that are overly graphic. I’d rather set a situation up for the reader and let them imagine the rest. My goal is to pen novels that put the reader in the middle of the action, and keep them there. Striking the right balance for the broadest possible audience is always the hardest part. TRACEE: Before I ask about John Byron’s next case, I have to mention that you are also a very talented artist. I have a host of questions about this, but since we’re here today to talk about your books I’ll stick to how do you choose your subject matter? BRUCE: As for subject matter: My subject matter generally evolves from an idea. Having attended hundreds of death scenes I have a vast collection of memories from which to draw detail and feeling. Thinking about those scenes in combination with the “what if” ideas all authors use allows me to go almost anywhere with a story. In Among the Shadows the overarching theme of the story was Byron’s own past combined with a murder that might not be what it seems. I like the idea that both the reader and the protagonist might misdirect themselves by jumping to conclusions. In Beneath the Depths I wanted to explore the homicide investigator’s struggle when dealing with a victim who they despised. That idea that no life is worth less than another is sometimes a difficult thing for people to wrap their heads around. The thing detectives are forced to keep in mind when investigating the murder of a despicable person is that there is the possibility of somebody worse out there. The killer. TRACEE: Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what’s next for John Byron? BRUCE: I am currently finishing up revisions on Byron #3, tentatively titled Beyond the Truth. Without giving too much away, I can tell you that this case will test John like no other. His ongoing relationship with Diane Joyner will be tested, as will his faith. TRACEE: Thanks so much Bruce. Fans can link to more about you and the books below! Bio:Bruce Robert Coffin is the bestselling author of the Detective Byron Mysteries 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. Following the terror attacks of September 11th, Bruce spent four years working counter-terrorism with the FBI, earning the Director’s Award, the highest honor a non-agent can receive.
Among the Shadows and Beneath the Depths, the first two novels in the Detective John Byron mystery series, have been well-received by fans and critics alike.
New York Times Bestselling Author Gayle Lynds called Among the Shadows “A first rate novel. Suspenseful and highly entertaining.”
Award-winning author Hank Phillippi Ryan had this to say about Beneath the Depths “Terrific! Fast-talking, smart, and cinematic, this entertaining page-turner is so knowingly authentic only a genuine cop turned storyteller could have written it.” His short fiction appears in several anthologies, including The Best American Mystery Stories 2016. Bruce is a member of International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. He is a regular blog contributor to the Maine Crime Writers and Murder Books blogs.
He lives and writes in Maine. You can learn more about Bruce at: brucerobertcoffin.comTwitter: @coffin_bruceFacebook: @brucerobertcoffinLinkedIn: Bruce Robert Coffin