Carol and Bob Bridgestock have combined over 50 years service in the West Yorkshire Police Service. Bob as a detective dealt with 26 murders and 23 major cases during his time as an officer. Their first book was released in 2009 but has now been reprinted with a commitment to 2 more in a series focusing on Detective Jack Dylan. They took some time from their busy schedule working on two more novels for quick release to answer a few questions for Book Reviews and More.
1. As a writing couple, how did you decide to both be full time writers and to write together?
Neither of us had any inclination of becoming writers. Having left the police family in West Yorkshire behind, on retirement, our intention was to move to a sedate way of life by the sea, three hundred miles away on the Isle of Wight. Our new groups of friends were no longer from a police background and thoroughly enjoyed Bob's stories of his thirty-year police career. Many suggested he should write a book. Initially, the suggestion fell on deaf ears until he saw an advertisement in the Isle of Wight County Press advertising an evening class called, 'Write Your First Novel.' Within the hour Bob had enrolled on the six week course in which time he had written one hundred and twenty thousand words in long hand. Thereafter, we enrolled on the subsequent course to, 'Re-Write Your First Novel.' Writing we found was, and still is, addictive and enjoyable. We were asked by a London literary agent to decide whether we were writing for enjoyment or whether we intended to become serious writers. If the latter was the case she suggested that we would need to write regularly to avoid disappointing our readers. Whenever possible we now write daily. The decision to become co-authors just happened. We feel that we complement each other's work. Bob writes the story outline then passes it over to Carol. She then develops the characters and enhances the novel by developing the storyline, whilst also seeking out the true emotional feelings from the man who has been in charge of too many murders than he cares to recall. In fact in his last three years alone as a Detective Superintendent Bob took charge of twenty-six murders, twenty-three serious incidents including shootings and attempted murders as well as over fifty suspicious deaths. He was also a Hostage Negotiator dealing with hostage situations, extortion, kidnaps and suicide interventions. Carol is also able to detail firsthand the emotional turmoil for the Senior Investigative Officer (SIO) and his partner caused by the demands of the job.
2. How do you translate your experiences with the Police force into fictional novels?
Bob was a detective for 28 years of his 30 year police service and has performed every role of a detective in the Criminal Investigation Department during that time. As you can imagine he has a lot of incidents to choose from. He was a senior detective for 18 years. We are fortunate that whilst working for the police force we worked from the same Division. We worked with the same people and Carol was well aware of the high profile cases Bob was in charge of and the demands that were thrust upon him when an incident occurred. We are therefore able to use real life experiences of crime scenes and characters but we mix them up to use them in a fictional manner. Well versed in police procedures we are able to take the reader with us in our novels from the initial contact informing the SIO of an incident and through Bob's eyes they travel with him to the scene, the mortuary and through the enquiry feeling the emotions of all those connected with the investigation.
3. As fairly new authors, to the publishing market, what advice do you wish an artist had passed on to you early in your writing career, which you only learned through experience?
Keep going. Sometimes writing is like wading through treacle but by working through the 'sticky bits' you will get to the end. Take a notepad with you wherever you go. There is always a memorable setting to take note of or an amusing incident to record that you might use sometime in a story.
4. If you could only recommend 10 books to a reader looking to be a well rounded and whole person what books would you suggest?
Not in any particular order but the following perhaps:- a. The Bible b. A Short History of Nearly Everything c. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy d. Flying without Fear e. Never Hit a Jellyfish with a Spade: How to survive Life's Smaller Challenges f. Beyond Earth g. Around the World in Eighty Days h. Lost for Words: The Mangling and Manipulating of the English Language i. Delia Smith Complete Cookery Course j. The Wine Bible
5. Which books or authors had the greatest impact on your work?
The book that had the greatest impact on Carol was 'The Diary of Anne Frank.' However, our style is very much our own that we take from personal experiences. Every crime scene Bob writes about he has seen. Every post mortem is etched in his sub conscious forever: all he has to do is draw on the memory of the incident. He will never forget.
6. What does your writing process look like as a team? Takes us through the
steps from idea to publishing?
Bob writes the storyline of the crime fiction novels. Carol puts the flesh on the bones to the idea that's been with him for months, maybe years or sometimes something that just comes into his head one night. Bob knows how long the story should be - how the story will play out - how it will end. But he doesn't scribble down ideas, sentences, paragraphs on sticky notes like some writers do. It's all in his head. Because, having run high profile murder enquires and being in charge of serious incidents, the memories don't go away easy. Carol then takes that first draft and develops the characters and storyline. Liaising with Bob whenever there is a scene or character that she feels needs further work. What Carol wants from him as she feels the reader will want to know is how it feels to go to a murder scene? What does a mortuary look like? How do you feel at a post mortem? How do you and others cope? Carol feels it is important for the reader to sense the emotion and visualize what the man in charge has to encounter in his daily working life. Once Carol has completed this task, Bob then re-reads the narrative before they both sit down together and go through each word, sentence, paragraph and page until they are satisfied with the content and flow of the novel. Only then will they send it on to Caffeine Nights, their publishers and await the response.
7. How many drafts or major revisions are part of your writing process, and what is your goal or timeline for each?
About five before it goes to our publishers. Once the narrative has been subjected to scrutiny by them further re-write(s) maybe required. As yet we haven't had deadlines to achieve. We set ourselves targets but those vary. We now have quite a big following on facebook and Twitter. Our Deadly Focus group has around 1,144 members and it seems to grow daily. Lately, we have been asked and e mailed constantly for book 2 which we have named Consequences. By the end of this summer we hope to have two more books in the Dylan series with Caffeine Nights Publishers, for consideration.
8. Your first novel Deadly Focus is being rer-eleased this spring and a second novel Consequences later this year. Rumor has it there will be two more books in 2011, are they both going to be Detective Inspector Jack Dylan novels?
Yes, DI Jack Dylan continues his fight for justice in books three and four. Our aim is that the reader is able to read them in isolation or as part of a series. Hopefully, Dylan has a long fictional career ahead of him.
9. Do you have any other projects in the development stage?
Book 5 is in the development stage and Bob has ideas for many more. As part of our writing circle that Carol Chairs, we run local writing competitions for charity. Carol has just been awarded £1,000 in sponsorship money to run a 'Crime & Intrigue Short Story Writing Competition' on the Isle of Wight to encourage youngsters to read and write. Bob does talks to various groups to raise monies for our local Earl Mountbatten Hospice about his career.
10. Do you use a playlist when writing? Are certain books written while predominantly listing to the same music?
Carol's office is above the dining room where Bob works at the sitting room table on his laptop. The white noise is a necessity to writing creatively for Carol. Bob writes with the radio on but to no specific playlist. Once focussed he's not easily distracted.
11. It is early in your writing career but I once heard Madeleine L'Engle state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family, she said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated "Meg just finished her PhD." Are your characters real to you, do you ever get glimpses of what they are up to now, or once you finish a book is that it?
Madeleine is quite right. The characters you create do live and breathe but the nice thing about fiction is that if one becomes too troublesome or boring you can get rid of them! It's strange that whilst writing the novels some of our minor characters have taken on a life of their own. They grow without any intention on your part. DC Vicky Hardacre is a prime example, in our novels.
12. Your book is not available in electronic formats but with ebooks comes bootleg distribution. What are your impressions of ebooks and the distribution of them through torrents and other illegal means?
Deadly Focus and Consequences will be available on e books this year our publisher tells us. The criminal world always finds ways to copy, distort or otherwise make money from others hard work. The film industry is an example. We feel there should be deterrents and harsh penalties to dissuade the criminals. Evolvement of books will happen and in the future digital books will become the norm once all titles are readily available. Technology whether we like it or not forges ahead. However, hard-back books were the norm once until along came paperbacks and they are still about. We have seen records be taken over by cassettes and then CD's. Video cassettes superseded by DVD's so as long as there is a market place in this electronic era for instant accessibility we have to move with the times, don't we? Hardbacks and paperbacks won't simply disappear and the evolvement may take over a decade to take a grip. In the meantime let's enjoy the feel of the paper in our hands, whilst we can.
13. Some authors monitor torrent sites and have their publishers contact them to remove their content. Do you do so are have someone do so for you?
At the moment as you are aware we are new writers that are only just becoming involved in the mysterious workings of the literary world and publishing. This is something we will discuss with our publishers. As you would expect we don't support the pirates.
14. What are some of your favorite books and authors in your youth?
The Famous Five - Enid Blyton Malorey Towers - Enid Blyton The Diary of Anne Frank Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien Lord Of The Rings - JRR Tolkien
15. What are some of your favorite books and authors now?
Geraldine Evans - Rafferty & Llewellyn Crime Series Darren E Law - Turtle Island Nick Quantrill - Broken Dreams Jacqueline King - The Inconvenient Corpse Peter James - Looking Good Dead Martina Cole - The Take
16. Completely off topic but what TV shows or movies do you enjoy?
Movies Far & Away The Last Samurai Ghost Pretty Woman Bourne Supremacy Meet Joe Black
Carol is an avid viewer of Coronation Street and Emmerdale Farm - long running soaps in the UK We both like adaptations of historical novels such as Wuthering Heights, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice.
17. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read
again and again, what books would you want with you?
R C Bridgestock - Deadly Focus Cross Stitch from the Outlander series - Diana Gabaldon Harry Bowling - As Time Goes By Josephine Cox - The Journey Lyn Andrews - Love And A Promise Danielle Steel - Message From Nam Frank Mc Court - Angela's Ashes Harper Lee - To Kill A Mockingbird Stephen King - The Stand The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Muriel Spark
18. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists?
If you don't know how to get started writing then look out for a course at your local college. Finish your novel. That in itself is an achievement. Take rejection letters with a pinch of salt. You may be able to decorate a room with them before you've finished but, if you believe in your writing then one day you'll find an agent or a publisher who will love your work just as much as you do, and they are the one you want to publish your work. Never, ever give up.
Thanks you both for taking the time to answer these questions and I look forward to reading more of your books. Best of luck