I first met Greg three years ago when we enrolled in the same Creative Writing course. Though our writing paths have since taken different directions, our mutual obsession for reading and writing crime fiction has remained the same. I had the good fortunate of reading an early draft of Bordertown when Greg enlisted me as one of his beta-readers. A good plot is an essential element to every crime novel, but it was Detective Robert “Bo” Campbell that kept me turning the pages.
Bordertown follows Detective Bo after he accidentally shoots and kills his best friend and partner during a bungled inner-city drug raid. Exiled to a remote post on the border until his troubles blow over, Bo finds himself in the middle of a cover-up as the corrupt police force conceal the fact that half a dozen indigenous women have gone missing. Bo has to ask himself whether he is willing to risk everything in order to save this broken border community.
- Was your earlier career as a Detective the reason why you chose to write a crime novel or were you always a fan of the genre?
Not necessarily, but obviously I have an interest (even now) in crime. I still love watching it, reading about it and even listening to it (podcasts) even though I’ve lived it for the last 25 odd years! Back in my teenage years, I loved an author by the name of Robert G Barrett. His protagonist, Les Norton, was an anti-hero and was largely on the other side of the law. These days, I can’t get enough of Michael Connelly and his character Harry Bosch.
- Did your experience as a Detective make writing Bo’s story easier or harder because you are so familiar with this job? Did you find that you needed to do much research?
I think that it made it easier in a sense because I knew the police procedure. I have a pretty good idea of how things work, obviously, and how things are generally done. This is an area where some crime fiction writers can get it wrong. I always tell those authors to visit their local detective. You might need to get past the grumpy ones and find one that will help! But Bordertown is set in the early 1980s, a time when I was still at school. So, yes, I had to do quite a bit of research about what was happening in those days; the uniforms, appointments, vehicles and the like were all different. The political climate was different. In my view, it’s important to get these things right.
- How long did it take you to write Bordertown and how does the finished novel compare to your initial ideas/drafts?
I started Bordertown in 2013 when I was in the process of learning the craft of fiction writing. And, it is a craft. I often hear people say that they’d “like to write a book” and “should write a book” which is great. But one has to learn the craft of formulating a novel. You’d be a freak if you could just do it without any knowledge! I know that I spend many years doing courses (online and in class), going to conferences, talking to published authors and reading/researching the craft of writing. I learnt along the way, and the result was the first draft of Bordertown. Not much of a novel at that point, but a draft nonetheless.
The finished product is quite different from early drafts, although the basic premise is the same. A large amount was cut, at least one major character was deleted completely (on the advice of a publisher) and many, many changes made. This was the hardest part of the process for me. Re-writing and re-writing. Moulding and massaging the story. Changing dialogue, tightening the plot and changing direction. Looking back on it, writing the first draft was definitely the easy part!
I launched Bordertown in March 2019, so six years from start to finish is a good estimate. But being an author, much time was spent on other projects, work and life and the story sat idle for some time. I also spent at least 18 months trying to get a publisher.
- Do you have a writing routine, if so, can you tell us about it?
The short answer is no. When Bordertown was crafted I had a fair bit of time on my hands, not so much anymore. I used to write when I got into the “zone” and keep writing. Into the future, I hope to dedicate a day to a day and half a week on the next novel. I don’t write every day like the guru’s recommend. I’d love to, but it’s not practical.
- What do you know now about writing a novel that you wish you had known in the beginning?
Just how bloody hard it was going to be! But how proud I am of myself to see my written work in print, and to have people enjoy the story. Again though, if you want to write a good novel you need to know how. There are plenty of courses out there to help you.
- What advice do you have for other writers interested in self-publishing specifically or publishing in general?
These days, anyone can write a book and self-publish it. My advice is; just do it! Get that book written first though, and get it to a standard that is the same as published books. It’s not going to be cheap, but it will be worth it. Editing (structural and line editing), book design and printing cost a lot of money, but the end result will be something you are proud of. There are also quite a few people to hold your hand through the process (at a price of course). You need to decide whether you need this or will go it alone. In any case, get advice.
One last piece of advice: write the story you want to write. Not what might sell. Not what is popular. Not what publishing agencies are suggesting. Write a story you want to read. You’ll find others want to as well.
To order a copy of Bordertown, or to find out more about Greg, please visit the links below: