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Coffee – Cake and Crime Event With Jon Breakfield

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What would you do if you were the first female police officer in Glasgow with a PhD?
Could you survive if you were raised in a posh neighbourhood of Edinburgh and learnt about crime from a book?
Would your PhD in psychology clash with your newly assigned detective inspector who grew up in the slums of Glasgow’s East End and learnt about crime from the street?
Would you royally piss off this new boss of yours if you were ‘all about rules’ and he was ex-Marine and ex-SWAT in America for ten years, and had brought back the aggression and attitude of a cowboy cop to Glasgow?
DEATH BY GLASGOW teams up the education, sophistication and brains of Detective Sergeant Fiona Lyon-Jones with the street sense, balls and gall of Detective Inspector Fleet Sharkey.
A double-barrel with a posh lilt, partnered with a bad boy with an impenetrable accent.
Colliding cultures.Colliding accents.Colliding egos.
A marriage made in hell.
It’s a week before Christmas. If they don’t get their act together—fast—neither one will live to see Hogmanay

Other Books by Jon Breakfield

Key West
Naked Europe

1. How did you get started writing
When I was in high school, I landed a summer job at a radio station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I was hired to be a ‘news intern’ and was excited to write news and learn the ins and outs of broadcasting in a major market. When I arrived the first morning at 6AM, I reported to the News Director in the newsroom. He showed me around, gave me a typewriter, then said I had an extremely important duty each morning. Well you can imagine I was over the moon, would I be writing headlines or sports or humorousessays? Then he spoke these words which are emblazoned on my soul: ‘First thing every morning, clock in, then hustle up to Krispy Kreme and bring back about a dozen doughnuts. That will be your assignment every morning.’Eventually, I was allowed to write small news items (and eat a doughnut), then I relocated to California, wrote news at two different radio stations and moved into writing TV in Hollywood. During this time I wrote anything I could to gain experience, from articles in magazines, fillers for newspaper, lyrics for songs and foreign correspondence when I was travelling.

2. What drew you to crime fiction?

Oh, oh, was hoping you wouldn’t ask that question. If you don’t mind, I will just whisper this next bit. I’ve travelled around the world a fair bit. Somehow did it without much money. That was the problem. I always used to end up in real dives located in the worst areas of cities like Hong Kong and Rio and Beirut and Hamburg and Istanbul and even Honolulu. I would gravitate to sleazy bars and make friends (I have exceedingly low standards). Are you getting the picture here? That coupled with some of my family and friends were cops, including Strathclyde. Having said all that, by day, I was writing Bill Bryson-esque travelogues, but by night, I was readingTartan Noir. As a writer I was always told to WRITE WHAT I KNOW … and that meant, whispering again:Crime.

3. Which crime writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?

Ian Rankin made me think about presenting the city as a character. Alison Bruce weaves her storylines exceedingly well and leaves you hanging to virtually the last page before blowing you away and tying everything up. From Lee Weeks I learned to not be afraid to scare the living you know what out of readers. Dennis Lehane made me think about giving my characters a flaw and multiple layers. Alex Gray put in my mind that writing a series was prudent … and makes publishers giddy.

4. Did you find it quite easy or quite difficult in writing DEATH BY GLASGOW?

I found it easier than difficult. A good friend was a Detective Inspector with Strathclyde Police and my brother was a US Marine. Having said that, it helps to have a paradigm to hang your story on, a blueprint, if you will. Writing for film and TV gave me a basis for theAristolean three-act structure, and the elements of: inciting incident, superior position, character relationships, objectives, setups and pay-offs, plot points, etc.

5. Do you think that the amalgamation in April of the Scottish police force in to one organization could affect your books in the future?

Indeed, it will give a lot of people more time to skive at work and read Tartan Noir.

6. Were you surprised by the success of your book?

I’m always surprised when people aren’t asking for their money back, so yes.

7. What drew you to write a book set in Glasgow?

It’s a city I know well and love deeply, so that was a start.I’ve lived in Glasgow (my favourite city of them all!Sound just like Michael McIntyre, don’t I?) off and on for 23 years. Glasgow has more parks than any other city in the European Union, it was the European Capital ofCulture in 1990, but it also has an underbelly that makes your toes curl. Its citizens are kind and have a wonderfully unique sense of humour. Glasgow isatmospheric and haunting, charming and sinister, all at the same time. A crime writer’s dream. In my peregrinations around the world I picked up about five languages, so, and I mean this in the nicest way, adding Glasgow patter to them was not much of a stretch.

8. How did it feel to be Shortlisted by the Crime Writers’ Association for the Debut Dagger award?

Orgasmic. I would go on to say it was mind-numbingly glorious to have been acknowledged by my peers, but I’m not far enough along in the game yet to call them my peers.

9. What kind of research did you have to undertake for your book?

It is my raison d’être. From the dialect to the architecture to the far-ranging ethnicity to the sectarian subtleties. I even talked my way into the Glasgow City Mortuary, so that I could describe the smells and creepiness of it allfrom my own perspective (not a horizontal perspective)

10. Are the characters in your books based on any real life people?

Detective Inspector Sharkey is based on a combination of a former Inspector with Strathclyde Police and as I mentioned above my brother who was a US Marine. Lyon-Jones is based on a combination of a police woman I know, and a crime writer friend who understands both Gucci and gangsters. Eddie the Hat is based on an underworld figure that got me out of a jam once.

11. Since you have started writing crime novels have any known authors given you any advice?

Yes, Alison Bruce – she is amazing – always willing to take the time to answer a question, Lee Weeks believed in me enough to stick her neck out and help my career, Karen Campbell gave me advice on ‘sense of place’, and Alex Gray showed me respect in regards to my writing and made me feel welcome even though I only had a twitchysize-ten foot in the door.

12. Do you see any of your characters’ personality in yourself and vice versa?

It’s like looking in a mirror … at the fun park. Warped. Bits and pieces of my personality creep into my characters. Some of it is in the form of a sense of humour,some of it is a bit dark and violent. A lot of it is wishful thinking.

13. What do you see for the future of Detective Sergeant Fiona Lyon-Jones and Detective Inspector Fleet Sharkey in your books?

I am well into the sequel and Sharkey and Lyon-Jones are in it for the long haul. There is a series planned and I will need them fighting fit to help me pull it off.

14. When you first started writing how hard was it for you to get published?

Nearly impossible. My one redeeming trait is that I’m not a quitter. When I tried cracking Hollywood. I would go to 20 th -Century Fox and pitch ideas, and be politely asked to leave. Then I would see the ideas I’d pitched in a TVdrama a few months down the road. I was being ripped off. THAT wreaks havoc with your self confidence! Same with book publishing, years of rejection (without the being ripped off bit), followed by more years of rejection. Then I was shortlisted for the Debut Dagger and agents and publishers came to me. Of course by then I was just a bit jaded, aggressive, loopy and an alcoholic. Just kidding, I’m not an alcoholic.

15. As a blossoming crime writer do you have words of advice you can share?

Read. Read. And did I mention read? Read everything you can get your hands on in the genre. Good books, bad books. Read. But start small with your writing. Start with short stories, don’t attempt a 95,000 word crime thriller right off. Get your feet a bit wet, otherwise you just might end up just a bit jaded, aggressive and loopy. Just kidding.No, I’m not. But do read. Find out where your book would fit in the bookshop. Write what you know about. Research until your eyes bleed. Hang out in salubrious locales.You’ll probably see me there, so you won’t feel all alone.

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http://www.jonbreakfield.com/

Amazon Author Page

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jon-Breakfield/e/B007B09DCS

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2 responses to “Coffee – Cake and Crime Event With Jon Breakfield

  1. It’s so interesting how different writers interpret ‘crime fiction’. And the idea of a place as one of the ‘stars’ of a novel is one I particularly like!

  2. Chip Bennett ⋅

    Great interview, Mr. Breakfield. I’ve known you for 31 years (I just did the math) and yet I learned a bit more about your humble start, and your process, than I previously knew. The interview also whets my appetite for much more “Glasgow.” You do the City justice!

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