I am absolutely thrilled to welcome Rebecca Bradley – Crime writer extraordinaire to my home on the web. We live in a reading world where eclectic tastes have blossomed. People no longer stick to a certain genre, and instead embrace multiple genres. Any kind of reading is still reading, afterall.
Seeing her debut Shallow Waters recently released, I couldn’t help but nag Rebecca until she agreed to answer some questions.
- Tell us a little about Shallow Waters
Shallow Waters is a police procedural crime novel and for a first novel it’s quite dark. It involves the abduction and murder of teenage girls, though I like to think that there has been a light touch when dealing with detail. Early reviews have agreed with this point so far.
It’s told in first person narrative from the point of view of the female DI, Hannah Robbins, so readers can feel as though they are a part of the investigation with the team. It is also the first in a series so it won’t be the last you see of Hannah Robbins.
- Being set in your home town of Nottingham, what features about the place attracted you enough for it to be your setting?
Nottingham has a lot going for it in terms of it being a setting for a crime series. It is a city that has a deep historical background, especially for crime fans. It’s cosmopolitan and lively yet lives side by side with the old historical side like the castle and also the caves that run underneath the city centre. Several years ago it was known in the press as Shottingham due to a gun problem in one of the estates just off the city centre when there was a spate of shootings between rival gangs. There are so many dark corners and hidden gems in the county that it’s a minefield of treasure for a crime writer. It also boasts the oldest pub in the country, though that fact is up for debate with another. I could go on forever listing what I know about Nottinghamshire but you’ll just have to keep reading the series to find out what is so great about it.
- How does DI Hannah Robbins (your central protagonist) differ from other crime protagonists? Does she have any unusual quirks?
We get to see Hannah up close and personal because of the first person narrative and this gives us a real insight into her. She’s good at her job and determined to do it right. She sticks to the rules and isn’t one to go off on her own, but we do see that she has a heart. She gets affected by things, confused, hides from family confrontation, she’s human, people will recognise her. She also has a difficult personal relationship to deal with and we see how she manages this with her job. There is an interesting back story hinted at that will cause some issues in later novels.
- How important is the villain in a crime novel? Did you find it difficult to get inside the head of a dark character?
I think the antagonist is as important as the protagonist. They are up against each other even if there are points in which they don’t realise it. This book was grim in places and yes some of the scenes were dark and hard work, so I had Hannah and her team react appropriately to them. They are human and even if they’re doing a job, they still have to balance that out with who they are and Hannah lets them vent when they need to.
- What research did you embrace when looking for authenticity in Shallow Waters? Did you do it all online? Are you influenced by the many crime shows on TV?
I prefer to watch the American crime shows. I think they can be a bit darker. I also love American crime novels, though there are of course some fantastic British writers out there who I do love reading. Saying that, I don’t like gratuitous violence, it’s not about that, it’s about perception, about what you don’t say and don’t show. I know a lot of police officers as well, so I had a lot of help there with that side of it.
- A lot of crime series have a duo, and perhaps it is that chemistry that hooks the readers. Does your DI have a partner, or have you worked things a little differently?
She has a team and during the novel she works with most of them, but she does have a DS who she works with a lot, DS Aaron Stone. He’s kind of her opposite. Where she’s led by her emotions, he’s analytical and only wants to work from evidence and facts, they balance each other out because he isn’t good with social context so he leaves that to Hannah.
- When did you discover your love for the Crime genre? It’s almost entirely an adult’s market – what made you pick up your very first crime novel?
I’ve always loved it. As a child I was reading The Famous Five and Secret Seven, then I moved to Nancy Drew before upping my game to Agatha Christie. After that the world was my oyster.
- I’ve read that short, snappy chapters make crime novels more appealing. Do you agree? Is this a writing technique you’ve used for your writing?
I love short chapters and yes, I have adopted this in Shallow Waters. I feel it helps keep things moving. You constantly want to know what is going to happen next.
- Crime novels make up a large proportion of the book buyer’s spending. What is it about this diverse genre that appeals to so many do you think?
I think crime is so diverse that you can cover a multitude of issues within it. It also gives the reader a real sense of good versus bad with good always overcoming the bad every time. There’s a sense of justice when in the world all around us we see so many things that are so unjust. Readers also have a fascination with policing, law enforcement, the people who get to lock the bad guys up for real and crime fiction vicariously puts the reader through that experience.
- Writing about death, murder and grim crime scenes must take its toll. How do you separate yourself from the dark nature crime novels demand?
I’m very good at compartmentalising. And I also know it’s not real. That helps.
- Excluding other crime novels, what other genres do you enjoy reading? Tell us a book that absolutely took you by surprise.
I have become a YA convert and love the genre. A book that took me by surprise was A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. I didn’t expect it to have me sobbing loudly like a baby, so much so that my son asked me to stop reading it.
- In your opinion, what makes a bad crime novel?
There are stereotypes that everyone knows about now and I think if you wrote a crime novel with a protagonist filling out all those stereotypes it wouldn’t get you very far. You need to come up with your own characters.
- At the time of writing, Shallow Waters is currently sitting at no.45 in the Kindle Murder charts. Reception of it seems to be very high indeed – how have you handled such praise?
To be honest, how well it is doing has taken me somewhat by surprise. When you self-publish a novel and put it out into the world you can’t have any expectations, so to see it doing well and gathering some good reviews has me smiling hard on a daily basis. I’m truly grateful and I’m taking each day as it comes.
- A little bird has told me that this is only the first in a series. How many books do you currently have in mind?
It’s an open ended series. As long as I have stories for Hannah and her team. I’ve finished the first and I already know the next three books, so I can’t see me running out of idea’s any time soon. I also have ideas for other crime books as well, so I need to start typing faster!
- As you may know, fantasy is a genre I specialise in. Let’s have some fun – write a short blurb for a great new fantasy crime novel.
Now you’re asking the tough questions! OK, let’s try this…
The date is 2352 and planet Earth is now inhabited by a new kind of human, an evolved human, evolved to cope with the extremes of nature they come across. A human that is attuned to the earth and can manipulate natural fibres like wood and plant life, only some humans use this ability to get themselves ahead, forging weapons and traps. Lenko Travis is wanted for multiple murder and now he has his eye on the highest prize, the Sphere of Armden which would provide him the power to manipulate the oceans. The Clements unit are an elite section of the earth’s law enforcement dealing only with those using their power against the planet and now their sights are set on Travis. A battle of far-reaching consequences rages as they go after him. Can they bring him in before he sets in motion a series of events that will send the planet over its tipping point after all these years.
How’s that? You can tell I have a thing for our environment can’t you? Also I struggle with the definition of fantasy and science fiction, so I’m not sure if I’ve hit the right tone…
Thanks for having me, Dan.
What great and honest answers, Rebecca, although, it sounds to me like you might be onto a story there – gap in the market, eh? eh? I wish you all the best with the book and the series as a whole.
About Rebecca Bradley
Rebecca Bradley lives in Nottinghamshire with her family and her one-year-old Cockerpoo Alfie, who keeps her company while she writes. Rebecca needs to drink copious amounts of tea to function throughout the day and if she could, she would survive on a diet of tea and cake while committing murder on a regular basis, in her writing of course.
Once a month Rebecca hosts a crime book club on Google+ hangouts where you can live chat about a crime book everyone has read. It’s great fun. Members join in from the UK, the US, France and Australia on a regular basis. As it is online, there are no geographical boundaries and you can sit in your home to join in
‘A gritty police procedural, with no-holds barred and a shocking insight to the reality of some. Dark and disturbing, yet exceptionally compelling.‘ – Mel Sherratt, author of Taunting The Dead.
‘Tense, compelling and utterly absorbing. DI Hannah Robbins is a force to be reckoned with.’ – Jane Isaac, author of The Truth Will Out.
‘I found it quite a creepy read, with the descriptions of a girl shut in the cage playing on my mind long after I closed the book, something that doesn’t happen too often, and that I can only put down to the writing which snuck underneath the hard skin of this reader.’
‘Shallow Waters is a complete novel but one that leaves you wanting to find out more, especially about Hannah which means that I will definitely be watching out for the next in the series.’ C Bannister, Amazon top 300 reviewer.
When the naked, battered body of an unidentified teenager is found dumped in an alleyway, post-mortem finds evidence of a harrowing series of events.
Another teenage death with the same MO pushes DI Hannah Robbins and her team on the Nottingham City division Major Crimes Unit, to their limits, and across county borders. In a race against the clock they attempt to unpick a thick web of lies and deceit to uncover the truth behind the deaths.
But it doesn’t stop there. When catching a killer isn’t enough, just how far are the team willing to push themselves to save the next girl?