As part of the featured author Q&A sessions, I am very pleased to announce that the featured author for the current session is David Videcette.
Hi David, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background? Hello Laura and thank you for inviting me to pagerturnersnook Blog. I’m a former Scotland Yard detective and my background is in tracking down criminals. Over my twenty years spent in the Metropolitan Police, I’ve placed bugs on scores of vehicles, searched hundreds of properties, chased numerous dangerous suspects and interviewed thousands of witnesses.
Tell us about your books? My books are a series of crime thrillers, with a twist – they’re based on true events. The Theseus Paradox is my debut novel and is set against the backdrop of Operation Theseus – the police investigation that followed the 7/7 London bombings. I spent five years as a lead detective on the intelligence cell. It was a case that I could never let go of and one which would never let go of me.
What was the driver for writing your first novel? I went out to work one day and came home two weeks later wearing the same clothes and with fifty-six people dead. I felt I had a story that needed telling. Originally, I set out to write an autobiographical tale, but due to the Official Secrets Act, I realised that this was not going to be possible. However, I am allowed to use my policing experience in my crime thrillers. So, I can’t tell you the truth, but I can tell you a story.
Give us an insight into your main character. How does he make your books different? Detective Inspector Jake Flannagan is a wayward Cockney detective with the Metropolitan Police. He doesn’t always play by the rules, but he always gets results. As I always say, to catch the bad guys, you have to think like a bad guy, and that’s why the best detectives always have a dark side. As a reader you get to look over his shoulder. You get the clues when he sees them and you unravel the case at the same speed he does. With Jake on the case, you experience things just as you would if you were a real detective in a real investigation. As detectives, we don’t get to see the crime being committed, so why should the reader get to do so in books? With Jake, you’ll get to see an authentic police procedural and understand how, as detectives, we actually get from A-to-B. None of the made-up Hollywood nonsense. This is how things really work. This is as close to real crime, as crime fiction gets.
What is your next novel about? The Detriment is the sequel to The Theseus Paradox and will continue to follow Detective Inspector Jake Flannagan in his police work. It will also focus on another famous police investigation which everyone will remember – tying together three true events to reveal an astonishing theory. Jake’s girlfriend, Claire, who works for MI5, and Jake’s ex-wife, Stephanie, will feature much more heavily in the next instalment. The women in his life are getting their own storylines too!
How did you develop a taste for writing? Much of what we do in the police is write reports about exactly what happened in this crime or that accident. I guess you can say we are the consummate narrators. To be a good police officer, you have to develop an ability to communicate successfully through the page. For many years I’ve also been involved in dramas and documentaries relating to police and crime. I was a storyline advisor on organised crime rings for ITV’s The Bill for a while. I also worked as a cold-case advisor to the Crimewatch team and was involved in creating dramatic reconstructions of gang robberies. I also worked with the BBC on a documentary called ‘Burgled’ where they followed me with cameras every day for a year. As well as my TV work, I also wrote a blog for many years. I’ve always been interested in how the reality of crime conflicts with how it is portrayed in crime fiction. There’s a huge disconnect between what readers and viewers get to see and how things really work. I feel that readers are often short-changed. It made me hungry to get into books to redress this gap.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured? I have to write when I can! I work as a security operations consultant for high-net-worth individuals and I have two girls to ferry around in the dad taxi. A lot of my time is also taken up by TV and radio work, commentating on crime and terrorism. I write wherever and whenever I am able, even if it’s just on my phone sat in the car!
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you? I always have a police investigation in my head that I want to write about and because I’m using real life situations and experiences in my books, I know where I’m going. I use my own policing knowledge, and I always know what the conclusions are going to be – because the twist at the end is the reason why I am writing. I only write when I have a story to tell. A story that needs to be read.
How long on average does it take you to write a book? The writing is the easy bit. That takes months. It’s the research and the editing and re-drafting and proofing that take ages! My first book took around 18 months all told – the second will take slightly less.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively? I think that my writing is more emotionally based than it has been. I’m looking deeper into people’s motivations for doing things rather than simply looking at how they did it. And I’m more interested in the relationships in my lead character’s life, not just his actions. I want to discover what makes him happy and what tears him apart. And maybe even – how I can fix him, or whether he can never be fixed.
Apart from your own experiences, where else do you get your inspiration from? I’m a massive film buff. I go to the cinema at least once a week and sometimes more. Having worked with TV on various projects previously, I would say that I am influenced by a lot of visual cinematic influences in my writing – from blockbuster action thrillers through to documentaries. But by using real-life events and real police knowhow, I aim to give some authenticity to the entertainment.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers? Write from the heart, based on your own experiences, otherwise you lose that ‘believability’ in the situations you describe. Use your own knowledge and write to tell a story, not simply to put words on a page. Don’t let the whole book publishing process dent your motivation. It can be daunting. Look at it as a series of actions, like making a meal. First you decide what dish to make, then you might get some advice from cookbooks, then you buy and assemble the ingredients – that’s all before you start cooking. Break it down into manageable stages. When it gets to taste-testing, take advice if everyone is saying pretty much the same thing – but if you’re getting feedback that varies wildly from person to person, yet they all seem to enjoy it – then you’re onto a winner.
What are the positives in writing about 7/7 London bombings? I think that some of the themes in The Theseus Paradox are crucially important and needed to be explored before they are lost from our cultural history. The fact that we lost oversight of such a huge investigation, the fact that terrorism isn’t always as it’s portrayed in the media, and the fact that we often forget about the mental wellbeing of our emergency personnel. Over the past 18-months or so, I’ve been working with two charities: the 7/7 Memorial Trust, and the Police Dependants’ Trust. Sales of my books support the mental wellbeing of police officers who have been caught up in traumatic incidents, by providing funding for trained mental health counsellors.
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Amazon Kindle: http://hyperurl.co/KindleTheseusParadox
Amazon Paperback: http://hyperurl.co/TheTheseusParadox
Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview. Thanks again for having me, Laura. It’s been an absolute pleasure to be invited and I’ve really enjoyed answering your questions.