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Michael Brookes Interview, June 2013

1. Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?

I’m Andrew Barrett, a Senior CSI living and working in West Yorkshire.

2. What first inspired you to start writing?

Reading. I loved being immersed in a story to the extent that coming back to reality was always a hard thing to do. I wondered if I’d be able to create my own stories, after all it couldn’t be that difficult could it? Well, it was, for me anyway. My first effort was called Lord and Master and though I thought it wonderful back then, I now know it to be utter rubbish. There was so much to learn and I was so naïve.

3. And what attracted you to writing darker tales?

Life. Around ’96 I began work as a Scenes of Crime Officer, and I began to see what lies beneath the surface of our perceived reality. Most of it isn’t very nice. And this is around the time I began to write what was to become my first serious novel, and one that was a huge improvement over Lord and Master. It featured Roger Conniston, a man exposed to this seedier underbelly of life, and partly deformed by it too.

Everyone, including me, loves a good comedy, but I also find the darker aspects of life more alluring, more interesting, and more threatening. They may be harder to deal with, but they’re more rewarding too. And so I chose to write that kind of book because I find there is much more to explore the deeper you dig.

On top of that, I could offer an insight into crime scenes, and maybe add a touch of realism to my stories too.

4. Of the books you have written so far, which is your favourite? And what makes it stand out for you?

A year ago I’d have said Stealing Elgar because it goes deeply into the persona of its two lead characters: Roger Conniston (the good guy) and the bad guy, Hades. But in 2012 I finished The Third Rule which has surpassed Elgar by some considerable margin. It’s my favourite so far, and it stands out for me because I gave myself a free reign to write as much as I wanted and delve as deeply as I wanted.

For this book, I chose a new, well-warped CSI called Eddie Collins, and his adversary was the government and a new law they had introduced. It’s a complex tale that deals with Eddie’s failings as a human being, his frailties, and ultimately his determination to make bad things good. The book deals with some hard topics, including the loss of a child, and to write this effectively, I had to plunge to the darkest regions of my mind and write down exactly how I would feel from Eddie’s point of view, and that of his wife, Jilly. It was very hard going at times, and quite depressing, but I insisted on getting the details correct as much as I could, and now, looking back on it, and having validations from people in the psychology field, I feel I did a reasonably good job. It was very satisfying for me.

5. If you could work with any author, who would it be and why?

The short answer would be: No one. I write exclusively alone. Actually, that’s a bit of a fib. I am very good friends with a guy called Graeme Bottomley; we wrote scripts for television together quite successfully for a few years. We have so much in common that when I’m with him, it’s like being with my twin. We get along great and write in similar styles and share the same viewpoints (it’s quite scary sometimes) so I would happily write alongside him.

If I were forced to write with a famous author, then I would find working with Neil Gaiman very interesting – can’t say we’d get too much work done though.

6. What is your favourite song lyric?

This is the hardest question so far!

I love music and easily get lost in it. I grew up on Queen and spent 20 years listening nothing else, so I was torn between Bohemian Rhapsody’s opening salvo, or the haunting words in Teo Torriatte, and then there was All Dead, All Dead, and It’s Late, and In The Lap of The Gods. But, so far as lyrics rather than ‘tracks’ go, I’ll head on down to Nevermore from Queen II, just because I like it:

There’s no living in my life anymore

The seas have gone dry and the rain stopped falling

Please don’t you cry anymore

Can’t you see

Listen to the breeze, whisper to me please

Don’t send me to the path of nevermore

7. What advice would you give new and aspiring authors?

It’s to do with what I spoke about in question 4, and how you should apply yourself unashamedly to feeling what your characters would in order to do the scene justice. Stephen King calls it coming to the page with honesty. No one’s asking you to kill someone to experience how it feels just so you can write it correctly, but you’d better imagine it well and write it truthfully. If you can’t or won’t do that, then you should take up knitting.

And a lesson you could learn from me here is believe that whatever you’re writing now is the best you can ever do. I guarantee you’ll look back in twenty-odd years and surprise yourself with how far you’ve come from your own version of Lord and Master.

8. What are you working on at the moment?

I recently finished Black by Rose and thought I’d take a break from crime. I began a horror-type novel. Twenty four hours later I scrapped it and began a new Eddie Collins novel. I can’t keep away from the guy. I think this one will be another dark story where we test Eddie’s mettle again.

9. Tell us about your latest work and how we can find out more.

Ah yes, that’d be Black by Rose, and it went live in May, and I’m very happy to say it has some wonderful reviews already. Black by Rose is a story of a Scenes of Crime Officer, Eddie Collins, who goes up against a Leeds gang with some unexpected consequences.

Here’s the blurb from the book, which I might add, should be out in paperback soon: Black by Rose is the key to it all.

When Eddie Collins gets pulled off a job, and resigns because of it, a series of life changing events begins; but not only for him.

Then Eddie finds a gangland murder suspect dead in his house. He thinks life can’t get any worse, until he’s tied up in woodland with a gun at his head. And no way out.

The Major Crime Unit’s Operation Domino is the investigation into gang boss, Slade Crosby, and his connection with the death of an undercover officer. But tampered evidence halts Domino’s progress, and with Eddie out of the way, Slade is in the clear.

There’s only one way to get Slade in cuffs…

Please pop along to Michael’s Blog site – it’s like an Aladdin’s cave in there, wonderful!

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