Former Police Detective Desmond Ryan talks me through how his time in the force has influenced his writing.
Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime and thriller writing?
Crime fiction lends itself well to the type of writing I have been doing for the past thirty years as a police detective. I used to joke with my colleagues that I would be that guy who sits in the corner of the pub and tells police stories to any poor soul who has the misfortune of sitting down anywhere near me. And then I retired. Sensing that a semi-permanent seat in the pub wouldn’t serve me well (on so many levels), I decided to take some of those stories, give them a bit of a twist, and write crime fiction instead. I love noir and the classic sleuth novels and try to incorporate a bit of that flavour into my work.
How do you draw on your experience as a detective when writing?
A lot of my storylines are loosely based on bits and pieces of events that I’ve been involved in either directly or indirectly. I find that the characterizations of both my protagonists and antagonists are where I really draw upon experience. My characters tend to be a compilation of the people I’ve worked with or had dealings with. This makes writing so much easier, doesn’t it? Especially for crime fiction. I mean, at the end of the day, a crime fiction novel tends to be about someone murdering someone and then getting caught. Not much fun in that. It’s the juicy bits that make it fun, and I think those juicy bits are the characters.
Please tell me about your books and what you believe draws readers to them.
The six books in the Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction series are police procedurals that follow the life of Detective Mike O’Shea over a number of years on and off the job. My readers like the books because they are reading authentic stories filled with believable characters. The dialogue, the little details, the plot twists and turns- all bang on because I know what I’m talking about. I have lived that life. And, as a writer, I assume that my readers are not only crime fiction fans, but also clever readers who enjoy complex characters, a gripping storyline, and reading well-written material.
Are there any particular mediums or narrative troupes you like to use in your writing and why?
As I mentioned earlier, I expect my readers to be intelligent and informed. I know that they don’t want to be spoken down to or presumed to be incapable of understanding the complexities of a police investigation. I use dialogue to create an authentic experience and direct engagement between the characters and my readers. I use a lot of police jargon, but not for the sake of it. Every piece of it is intentional and establishes the mood of the scene. I also use a lot of profanity because that is what I have heard and said (but don’t tell my mother!) as a real police detective. As a reader, I enjoy novels—regardless of genre—that draw me in completely. As a writer, I believe that it is my obligation to provide that experience for my reader, who has given up however many hours out of their busy day to read my books.
What do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?
I kind of binge-read. I will find an author and read as much as I can from that author and, regardless of the genre, will draw some clever bit out and apply it to my own writing. For example, I recently went through a slight Peter Temple phase. I loved one of his books and did not enjoy another as much, primarily because I didn’t like the protagonist in the second book. Both books held my attention and I would recommend them, but I much preferred the first over the second. What I learned from that as a writer is that it’s okay for your reader to not love your protagonist as long as the story is strong.
If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?
I have just discovered Simon Brett (I know, what rock have I been living under, right?) and absolutely love his writing style. I seriously doubt that he and I will ever co-author a project, but I’d gladly settle for sitting down with him for a few pints!
Have you got any exciting new plans or projects coming up that you’d like to share with me?
I am so glad you asked! As well as an outrageously rigorous writing and publishing schedule for the Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction series (Book Two will be out in February 2019, followed by Book Three in June 2019) I have a cosy series on the go. I know. Who writes police procedurals and cosies? And, the main character of the Mary Margaret Mysteries is Mike O’Shea’s mother! There will be some crossovers of characters and dialogue (and room for so many inside jokes referencing the series). I am really looking forward to it and am anxious to see how it all comes together.
Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to later in the year?
My bedside table at home often looks like a game of Jenga. Ivan Coyote’s Tomboy Survival Guide, Catherine Hernandez’ Scarborough, Aldofo E. Ramirez’ The Purple Cloud Project…the list goes on and on and on. I’m looking forward to a book by a friend of mine, Christine Newman, a debut author, later this year (I hope!).
Anything you’d like to add?
I’d just like to thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with your readers. It is a privilege to be a writer who is read by others. And I hope that you enjoy reading 10-33 Assist PC as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Thanks for taking the time, I’ve really enjoyed hearing from you!