An interview with bestselling author Bruce R. Coffin

Bruce Robert Coffin is the bestselling author of the Detective Byron mystery series and former detective sergeant with more than twenty-seven years in law enforcement. At the time of his retirement from the Portland, Maine police department he supervised all homicide and violent crime investigations for Maine’s largest city. Following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 Bruce spent four years investigating counter-terrorism cases for FBI, earning the Director’s Award, the highest award a non-agent can receive.

His short fiction appears in several anthologies, including Best American Mystery Stories, 2016.

Bruce is a member of International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. He is a regular contributor to Maine Crime Writers and Murder Books blogs.

Bruce is represented by Paula Munier at Talcott Notch Literary. He lives and writes in Maine.

Welcome Bruce. It is my great pleasure to talk with you today. I am sincerely honoured that you have taken time from your very full schedule to share your thoughts and insights with us.

James:                  When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Bruce:                   Believe it or not, I was eleven when I knew I wanted to be a writer. I’d just finished reading Stephen King’s novel, Salem’s Lot, and I knew. The story scared the hell out of me, but it also kept me hooked until the very end. King’s writing made the improbable possible. By writing about familiar places and people he lent credence to the idea of a colony of vampires growing in a small Maine town. After reading that book, I knew I’d found my calling.

James:                  How many hours a week do you commit to your craft?

Bruce:                   All of them. In all honesty, if I’m not actually writing I’m at least mulling over ideas and plot points. When I’m working on a new novel it’s pretty much a constant thing.

James:                  What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Bruce:                   Working out, hiking, and woodworking are my go to non-writing hobbies. It’s truly amazing how many good ideas I’ve come up with while performing a non-writing activity.

I used to spend my free time painting portraits in oil and watercolor, but I’ve given that up for the time being. My return to writing is satisfying my creative need.

James:                  Are you a full-time or part-time writer?  How does that affect your writing?

Bruce:                   Full-time. When I began writing again in 2012 it was purely a part-time activity, but now it is my job. And when I’m not writing I’m most likely traveling somewhere to talk about writing.

James:                  What are some day jobs that you have held?  If any of them impacted your writing, share an example.

Bruce:                   The only job to impact my writing was the twenty-seven plus years that I spent working as a police officer. I retired in 2012 as a detective sergeant, supervising all of the violent crime investigations for Maine’s largest city. Writing about John Byron, a fictional detective sergeant, allows me to draw on a bottomless well of experiences. Both good and bad.

James:                  Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?  If you write more than one, how do you balance them?

Bruce:                   I’m not sure I had any say in the genre choice. A more accurate statement might be that it chose me. One day I sat down to write, after nearly thirty years away from it, and John Byron just came spilling out.

James:                  Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Bruce:                   This is the first time anyone has asked that question. The short answer is yes, but I’m sworn to secrecy.

James:                  What is the source of your inspiration?

Bruce:                   I’ve been extremely lucky to have a true mentor who still inspires me. Kate Clark Flora has been my guardian angel when it comes to writing. I first met Kate in 2001 when she was co-authoring a true crime novel with Lt. Joseph Loughlin, my boss at that time. The novel, Finding Amy, is the true story of a murder investigation in which I played a part. Since my retirement, Kate has been a constant source of inspiration and encouragement.

James:                  Where do your characters come from?

Bruce:                   I wish I knew. John Byron’s character took me about three and a half years to perfect. In creating him, I thought a lot about the men and women that I worked with during my time in law enforcement. John personifies many of their positive and negative traits.

James:                  What advice would you give to a writer whose manuscript has been rejected several times and told he or she will never make it as a writer?

Bruce:                   Use that negative energy to your advantage. I was once told that I wasn’t talented enough to make it. And my work was still being rejected even as I was negotiating my first three book contract. Bottom line, never give up. Continue writing and improving. It can happen if you want it bad enough.

James:                  What is the most important tip you can share with other writers?

Bruce:                   Never stop reading. Write everyday, of course, but make time for reading. In addition to being entertained, good writing teaches.

James:                  What was one challenge you had to overcome to become an author?

Bruce:                   Self-doubt.

James:                  How did you overcome that challenge?

Bruce:                   Stubbornness and a desire to achieve my childhood dream. It really is that simple.

James:                  What question do you wish that someone would ask about your books, but nobody has? Write it out here, and then answer it.

Bruce:                   In all honesty, I think every imaginable question has been posed. Now that I’ve thrown down the gauntlet, I’ll await that original question.

James:                  Pick one excerpt from one of your books you would like to share with readers.

Bruce:                  He paused for a moment outside of the fray to take it all in. Someone in the crowd shouted while someone else wailed in agony. Byron knew the sound of loss. A person so aggrieved by the death of a loved one no words could ever comfort them. Homicide investigations were always intense, but never more so than when the victim is taken down by a cop’s bullet. He took a mental inventory of everything he saw. Crime scene tape was up. The evidence van was idling at the curb. Uniforms were holding people back, guarding the scene. Time to slow it down.