Dead Blind was published earlier this month, and to celebrate, Rebecca Bradley invited me to ask her a few questions. This post is written with thanks to Rebecca for her permission to host a Q&A and for taking the time to answer my questions.
Have you always wanted to write?
I’m not sure I can say I always wanted to write, but I was one of those people who said she would love to write a novel one day. I did try – before the real process started. I sat and tried to write a first chapter. But, because I had no idea where the story was going and because I had no real drive in me, I got no further than a few paragraphs or sometimes, once, even a full first chapter. It wasn’t until I approached a significant birthday that I decided if I wanted to do it I had to do it now.
At the time I did make the jump into writing I was actually studying with the Open University and was coming to the end of my level one courses (which had taken me two years) so I had managed to get into a routine of sitting down outside of work and focusing on a subject I was interested in. I told myself I would give myself a year to see if I could write and then go back to the OU. The rest… well, I never went back. (I would love to but I just don’t have the time or energy to do both.)
How does your previous work as a police officer inform your writing?
It’s incredibly helpful as you’d expect it to be. The problem is, I have to tread a fine line and try not to put too much knowledge in the story, I have to not overwhelm the story with procedure because even though readers who read a police procedural want authenticity, what they don’t want is a police manual. They do actually want a good story. I have to remember that at every point I go to include procedure. Most of the time I think I manage it.
What does your writing process look like?
I live with a genetic condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome which means I live in constant pain. I have an unstable neck which is excruciating. Because of this, my process has to work around my health. I have, over time, found a way that works for me and that now is working in fifteen minute bursts. When I first started doing this I could only write about 320 words per 15 minutes. Now I can write between 5-600 words per 15 minutes. So throughout the day I can still manage to write a good 2,000 words. I do have to know what I’m going to sit down and write though. I have to be a plotter for this process to work.
How do you begin to construct your characters?
That’s an interesting question. I start by giving my character a flaw. If your character has a specific character flaw then all their actions are defined by this. I also give them a backstory as to why they have this flaw and from there they grow and shape and have breath. For example, with Ray Patrick, my protagonist in Dead Blind, his flaw is that he lies and keeps secrets from those who trust and care for him. This decides a lot of what happens in the story. How he acts and others react to him.
What was your inspiration for Dead Blind?
I had heard of prosopagnosia (face blindness) quite a while ago and one day the idea for the story just slipped into my head, what if a cop had it and what if he witnessed a murder? I did know there were some movies where a witness had face blindness and couldn’t identify the killer, but I could up the tension by making my witness the actual cop whose case it was. Then I had to do some research into prosopagnosia to see how you ended up with the disorder and if this scenario was at all possible and it was, you can become face blind later in life with a head injury or stroke.
Who are your favourite writers? Are you influenced by them?
My favourite writers are David Jackson, Karin Slaughter and Sharon Bolton. All three write very character driven stories and yes, this does influence me. Dead Blind is the most character driven story I have written to date. I also love Sharon’s beautiful way of describing a place without taking up half a page with purple prose. I read her books and try to soak up how she does this. You just feel as though you are there when she writes. I think it’s important to read if you’re a writer. It’s one of the ways you continue to learn. We learn from reading, from each other. There’s always something you can pick up because we all do it differently.
If you could invite three people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be and why?
Shonda Rhimes and Aaron Sorkin because they are amazing writers and if I’m giving them dinner then they might decide to help me write better! And Barack Obama because he’s simply one of the best humans on the planet. And he’s not bad to look at either!
DI Ray Patrick has face blindness. How did you research it and did you enjoy the process?
As I mentioned above, I did some initial research online at first, to see if the story could work. When I found that it could I contacted the Faceblindness UK charity and two wonderful people agreed to meet up with me and talk to me about what it is like to live with the disorder. I met up with Jo and Bob separately. Jo was born with it and Bob acquired it later in life. I am so grateful for the help and support, for their generosity with their time and personal information.
I also contacted the leading consultant in this area by email (provided by Bob) Dr Brad Duchaine and he clarified a couple of points for me.
I absolutely loved doing the research for this. In fact, I think I need to write another book about a subject that fascinates me and that I know little about because I enjoyed it so much.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
My spare time is spent not doing a great deal because of the pain I live with. It really is a restrictive condition for me. But, I love to read and get through a lot of books. Audiobooks in particular are helpful because if I’m feeling really ill I don’t need to read the words off a page, so I get through a lot of audio credits. I also have two adorable Cockapoo dogs who give me an awful lot of love and they mean the world to me. In fact, writing is the one thing that keeps me happy and motivated when the pain is ruining my day. It may be a job but it’s a job I can do part-time and one that I love wholeheartedly.
What is next for you?
I have lots of plans book-wise. I have already done the first draft of DI Hannah Robbins 4. I have now put that to the side before I read it and edit it and have started another standalone and when I have done these two I plan on starting a new series which I am very excited about! It should be out early next year – if all goes to plan…
You can purchase Dead Blind on Amazon.