Glasgow-born thriller writer Gordon Bickerstaff has turned his hand to a plethora of interests, from biochemistry and garden maintenance to DIY and spying. Well, perhaps that last one is based more in his imagination than real life, but maybe not – read on to find out more…
What prompted you to start writing?
I’ve read thrillers since school when I read Ian Fleming. Over the years, countless times, I’ve read a book and thought, I would have made this happen; I wouldn’t have done it that way; I would have ended it that way. I love a book to a have a good ending so when I write, I always have a satisfactory ending.
How much does your background in biochemistry contribute to the plots of your novels?
I like to add realism to the stories. I wasn’t a cop or a soldier or a spy, so my touches of realism come from my background. Some of my characters have interesting conditions such as synesthesia. Characters can talk about cancer and spontaneous human combustion as well natural death and phenylketonuria. Always as two people talking in conversation rather than overloaded facts. In some of the stories, the biological part becomes a character.
Are any of the characters in the Lambeth Group Thriller series based on, or inspired by, real people?
Every character has elements in them of people I know or have known from family, friends and former work colleagues. But taken to extreme with names changed to protect the innocent.
Do you write to please your readers or to please yourself?
I know what I like and what I try to imagine what my readers will like. I don’t write for myself or a particular person. I think that would limit me. I like the characters I’ve created and I write about the issues they face and how they overcome them if they can. In a sense I am writing for the characters to give them a life.
Have you taken any courses to help with the writing process, or to help tackle the many technical aspects of being an indie author?
I wish I had, and probably my readers wish I had, but I haven’t. When I worked in education, I produced research papers and wrote a couple of textbooks, so the technical side of producing and formatting a manuscript doesn’t bother me. Over the last, six years I have worked with a number of editors and I have learned a great deal from them. For the current books, I used a professional cover designer. I think I’d like to do the next cover myself.
Your Lambeth Group series are very clearly branded. How did you approach cover design for the series?
I spoke to the cover designer and took her advice. I think she did a great job for the first 5 books, then she decided to try something different. I agreed at the time but now I’m not so sure. Recently, I’ve been looking at a lot of thriller book covers and it may be time for a new direction.
In terms of the development of your writing, is your latest book, Tears of Fire, different from the others?
Not with Tears of Fire, which still sticks to the same formula of Gavin and Zoe risking their necks to bring down determined and ruthless criminals and terrorists. In the next book, the 7th in the series, the drama has a profound impact on one of them, and it remains to be seen if they have a future together.
Do you have many unpublished novels/stories?
Interesting and timely question. On a Facebook group I support, they asked authors to contribute short stores of around 1200 words for the run up to Christmas. I’ve never done a short story before. I didn’t think I could tell a story in so few words. I wrote Close Encounter which was a vague scene I had in my head for Deadly Secrets but ditched because it would introduce a different genre. Last month, Writer’s Digest announced a short story competition so I entered Close Encounter. I’ll so know if it is any good or not.
How many hours a day do you write, and do you stick to a set schedule?
I don’t have a schedule of for example 2000 words every morning. I write on demand. I think of a scene I want in the story, and then write that scene. A scene can vary from 2000 to 10000 words. When I have a scene fixed in my mind, I write that scene until it is finished and out of my head. Depending on the scene, if it needs research underpinning or new character, it can take an afternoon, a day or a week.
If you were to write something other than thrillers, which genres would appeal to you?
At the end of Tabula Rasa there was potential for an end-of-world-as-we-know-it climax if the baddies had their way, and then an opportunity to start the next book in a dystopian world. I chickened out and the goodies saved the day. However, my mind is still conjuring up the dystopian possibilities, and when the Lambeth Group is finished, that’s where I’ll go.
How much of yourself do you put into your books?
There are elements of actual me, who I would like to be, who I think I should be, who I will never be, who I’d be if I were female, and who I might be in another dimension or parallel world.
What do you read for pleasure?
I like thrillers. I’ve read a lot of Lee Child, Tess Gerittsen, Patricia Cornwell, David Baldacci and James Patterson to name just a few. I’m trying to widen my horizons so I joined a book club to pull me into reading other genres.
What are you working on now?
The 7th book in the Lambeth Group series Die Every Day is coming along nicely. A first draft of the blurb is given below. Any feedback is much appreciated:
Die Every Day (for the rest of your life…)
A woman is murdered in a Glasgow hotel room. Police have everything they need to charge a man caught at the scene. He confessed and is filled with guilt and remorse.
Rumours suggest the man will plead not guilty, and tell his story. If he faces trial, the whole truth will cause international outrage and the government will fall.
Faceless mandarins in the corridors of power are determined he will remain silent.
Lambeth Group investigator, Zoe Tampsin, is ordered to make the man plead guilty. What she discovers about the man and his victim will shock her, and put her life in danger.
Who is pulling the strings? What are they hiding?
Check out Gordon’s Amazon author page for more info about the man and his books.
UPDATE Gordon’s latest book is due out soon: Die Every Day
Good questions Colin (and answers Gordon).
You probed essential info w/o getting too personal.
Best one: “Do you write to please your readers…”
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Thanks Ernesto – yes, I do think it’s important not to ask those really obvious questions that writers get all the time 😉
I enjoyed meeting Gordon and learning more about him, Colin.
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Thank you Colin. Love the website. It’s a rich source of support, news and interesting reading.
Thanks Gordon, much appreciated.