Under The Spotlight at UKCBC

So I stepped under the spotlight yesterday, over at The UK Crime Book Club, where I was interviewed by the ever wonderful Tee Gee. Below, you can see our chat, but please do take the time to head over to the UKCBC and join their group on Facebook. It is the place to find out about all the best British crime authors out there at the moment. With over 20,000 members, video interviews with authors and a rather splendid quiz once a month featuring some of the best authors in the business playing along (and myself) what more could you want?

https://www.facebook.com/groups/ukcrimebookclub

Under our author spotlight this week, is our admin Ben Bruce who seems to be wearing multiple hats at the moment. He’s our online group quiz master, (A pub quiz that’s just not in the pub!) he also produces our newsletter. If you’re new to the group and would like to go on the mailing list, then just let him know. Ben also wears another hat as an author. I’m reading his book The Regulators at the moment which has completely taken me out of my comfort zone, but I’m really enjoying it. So over to you Ben.

Tell us all about Ben Bruce, where you live, pets etc.?

All about Ben Bruce? Dear lord, I don’t think anyone wants to know all about it. My mum is in this group. She’d blush. It’s a sordid tale. How about a little overview? I live in the midlands, in Hinckley, having been brought up over the road in Nuneaton. I’m married, something I still find quite amazing, with two kids. We’ve not got pets at the moment, but by the time this is published that might have changed. It’s something we’re working on. Animals are great, they bring a lot of joy to a house.I work mainly in the TV industry, but it’s not all that glamorous, contrary to what you might believe. Weeks in a Premier Inn watching progress bars across the screen, watching hours of rushes, eating poorly and getting fat. If I can sell enough books I reckon I could have a six pack within a year, so those of you who want to see that, you know what to do.

Do you have a routine for writing?

I did, and I sort of still do have, but I don’t really enact it at the moment. I don’t know if I’m big on feng shui and things like that, but I definitely believe in energy and that translating into moods and rhythms.I had a great routine. Being freelance, I could balance my work with writing, taking blocks of time between gigs to finish what I was doing, or spending evenings once the kids had gone to bed on it. I had a cracking office set up, I was in my zone, turned out two books in eighteen months of starting the first. My days were chunked out, there was an excel spreadsheet and everything, it was all rocking…Then we moved in late 2019 and the first few months of any new house are all about setting up and finding your feet, something made especially difficult that first year with Christmas happening a few weeks after we moved. Then of course, 2020 “happened” and any semblance of routine just evaporated before my eyes. I’ve tried to recapture what I had before at the old house, but the space I work in just isn’t the same at the moment, and whilst the plan is there to have a purpose built office space in the house, the money isn’t there at the moment (so go buy my books,) and I can’t shake that feeling of a lack of permanence in my current surroundings and I can’t seem to connect with that side of my person or spirit or energy, whatever you want to label it, that allows me to write consistently for sustained periods of time.All of those things can be overcome however. Now we’re settled, the world is settled, the kids are settled and it’s on me to get back to what I do best. I need to own that routine and so far in 2022, I’ve got a bit of the old mojo back. Sustaining it is the key, but I reckon I’m there.

Favourite food/drink/hobbies?

When you have kids, hobbies sort of take a seat for their younger years so you can attend to theirs. Right now, weekends are taking kids to dancing, or football. I’ve even ended up coaching the lads football team, which was NOT on the agenda this time last year, but we do what we’ve got to, to ensure they get the opportunities to be happy.I do sort of insist on a bit of time on Sunday evenings during the American football season. That’s become my big sporting love over the last decade. Go Birds. I also watch my local team Nuneaton, but again, that becomes an all encompassing thing, because I can’t just watch something. I have to be involved in it. Currently I’m coaching their under 7s, and I’m occasionally doing commentary on their radio service, when parenting and coaching allows. Which isn’t as much as I’d like.I used to play guitar, and, trying not to sound like a broken record, when I jack in the day job and go full time writing, I’m going back to that, but I’m going deep on it. I’m studying it properly this time, not just faffing around with power chords, trying to be some sort of Gallagher wannabe, to blinded by his own middle class status to realise why that would never work. I want to really learn the guitar, and other instruments, and I want to create something from that. I really buy into the idea that you should never, ever stop learning or improving yourself. I never learnt to swim as a kid, but the last three years, on and off – world events allowing and all that – I’ve been doing lessons. It’s really empowering to take a weakness in your person, something that’s been there your whole life, and to say, no more. I’m doing whatever I can to change that.It’s an important attitude to have. Self-improvement. In my 20s, like most young men, I thought I knew it *all.* What a nonsense. Swallowing my pride, and working to be the best version of me I can be, not *the best* which is what I probably thought I was, has been liberating. I hope it never ends.What was the question? Hobbies? Nah, not got time for them.

Where do your storyline ideas come from?

I’ve always had a vivid imagination. My mind does not exist in this reality. It’s in it’s own, shaping things differently all the time. The world we’re living in, isn’t really the world I’m thinking about. As such, ideas can happen and ferment at any time. I’ll find something I can get a little bit obsessed about, and I have to put my tag on it. The Regulators originally when it was first hatched, wasn’t the Regulators. It was me wanting to give 24 a proper send off, because the show hadn’t done that. Kiefer, if you’re reading, call me. I’ve got you.That of course never happened, despite me trying. But I liked the plot I’d got and wondered if I could work back a decade or so and create my own series that would one day reach a similar plot line. Thus, The Regulators was born. I don’t think I’m going to ever end up at that same end point. This series has it’s own life now and it’s taking me in different ways. We’ll see what happens though, you can never rule it out.After The Regulators, I’ve got three things I’m wanting to write. I think most storyline ideas come from questions. The genesis of those questions might be different and so the story ideas have all come from different places. One of them is me wanting to go out and make a social commentary, and that’s probably what’s coming next because there’s an urgency to that book and it’s pure crime, as opposed to being thriller. So the story there was borne out by what I wanted to say as a theme and message. That was more constructed than “this would be cool,” which is the general planning process for The Regulators.What I find more interesting as I develop as a writer, is the themes that we can interweave into those storylines. That’s where the real value in writing comes from. We can entertain, we can tell a cool little story, but if any writer wants to keep fresh, I think you have to look at what it is you’re saying beyond the top level of the narrative. What other story are you telling alongside your main plot? What’s the message you’re trying to convey. For me, post The Regulators, that’s what I’m spending a lot of time investing in during the planning. What am I trying to say within my story? What is happening in this world alongside the narrative? We don’t just live in a world where there’s one thing happening at once, and as writers, I think we have to reflect that in what we do.

Would you care to tell us about your day job and does it influence your writing at all?

You’d think working on blue light TV shows, so that’s things about our emergency services, would feed directly into my writing, but it doesn’t. Not directly anyway. I’ve nicked a few lines about policing here and there, things that have stuck out, but I think the real thing I’ve learned from working in TV is about character and how great characters make compelling stories and not the other way around. It’s the craft of story telling that has fed into my writing from the day job. I always thought I wanted to work in drama or film, but I ended up in documentary, or factual-entertainment. It was the best thing that happened to me. I learned how to create narratives that make every day people and every day stories leap out of the screen and grab an audience. I learnt about casting and believe me when I say if I write a character and I find they start to bore me in a book, they get cut.

Do you self publish Ben, or have you a traditional publisher?

I self publish. Part of me would like a publisher and an agent, someone to do all the sales side of it, because I hate that part. I’m no salesman. Working in the pub trade, having a bit of a knack for customer service and that side of things, I’d often get people suggesting I should go into sales. I had people leave me their cards, saying they were hiring and they’d love to interview me for the role because I’d have been a natural. No chance. I was good at customer service, because I enjoyed talking to people, I liked to know that you were having a good time. As a sales person, that isn’t the role. You want people to part with their money for this specific product. My mind doesn’t work like that. If you want to buy something, buy it. If you don’t, that’s also cool. Whatever makes you, the customer, happy. Far be it from me to tell you what you’d like. So yeah, in that respect, I’d love a publisher and an agent, to do that side of it, because I hate asking people to part with their money to buy my books. Even though you should.However, and this is where I’d probably be a pain in the rear for any agent or publisher, so fair warning if you are one reading this, I also like to do my own thing. I like writing, it’s fun. I reckon if I did it full time, I could crank out three books, maybe four a year. No problem. But the moment anyone slapped a deadline on a book, that would be it. The fun would be gone. You’d have made it work. And heaven forbid anyone want me to write a certain sort of book. My mind changes about what I want to do next, in the run up to me actually getting started. Once I’m locked in, great, but until there are words on a screen, there’s no way I’m committing to a genre, let alone a plot. I could have a really good meeting with someone, flesh out an idea, which they might love, then on the train ride back, day dream about something else, and be so over the other idea that it never sees the light of day. So I think any agent or publisher would have to be on a book by book basis, or they’d have to just accept that what I write is what they get when they get it, and I’d assume you’ve got to be some sort of level of special to get to that point, and I ain’t there.

Have you any WIP at the moment, or anything due to be published soon?

The Regulators: Dead Line is done, it’s just being edited. That’s the third in the series and ends the story arc which has been brewing over the previous two. The Regulators isn’t done. I like the universe, but I want a little time away from it. I know the next book in that series, but the world isn’t ready for it, so it’s time to try something else. And to be honest, I want to write something that extends me in a different direction. Something that showcases more of who I am as a writer, because writing popcorn thrillers is one side of me, but I’m a dodecahedron at least. I mean, I’ve tried to show that in this last Regulators book. I’ve tried to bring in a bit of a procedural feel to the opening act of the book, more investigative work than perhaps I’ve shown previously. To balance it out, the last act is perhaps the most techno-thriller of all the three books so far, but I think there’s a nice balance between the two, and it’s another fun instalment in the series and nowhere near as dark as perhaps the subject matter of the second one was.After that, as I’ve mentioned, I’m moving onto pastures new. I’ve a historical crime thriller in the works, set in 1960s London, dealing with issues of race and power, and feeding of the discussions we’re having here and now, and framing them within the context of what was happening back then. I think there are some fascinating discussions taking place right now about how policing fits within the community and where accountability and responsibility should lie, and I’ve been inspired by the voices that are finally getting the platform they have long deserved. We’re in a period of massive flux and I think a lot of the discussions have been framed in a way to make it seem like the two sides are opposite ends of the spectrum. I don’t necessarily think they’re as disparate as some will make out and if we could strip away a lot of the noise, things would look a lot better, but without that noise, nothing ever gets started. That said, I’m sure there will be people who see this book as more noise.Head to www.benbruce.co.uk – you can find all my books on there, including a free short story. Come find me on Twitter as well at @TheRealBenBruce

BEN BRUCE LINKS TO BOOKS

The Regulators – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B079YVQSKD

Shadow of Malice – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07N2NT51P

Origins: Reuben (Free Short Story) – https://benbruce.co.uk/book/the-regulators-origins

Website – www.benbruce.co.uk

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