Today, I’m honoured to have fellow writer, dear friend and former Detective Superintendent, Glyn Timmins, on the blog. Throughout his career, Glyn headed murder investigations and hostage negotiations all over the UK. He retired from Northamptonshire Police in 2012 and one of his final cases was the famous quadruple murder investigation which led to the hunt for the elusive suspect, Anxiang Du.
Glyn has now turned his hand to writing and in July he released his debut, an anthology of detective stories entitled, From the Diary of a Retired Detective. I thoroughly enjoyed Glyn’s anthology and definitely found a fresh voice in his poetic prose. He’s one to watch for the future to be sure! Let’s find out more about the man himself, his work and what he has planned next.
Hi Glyn! Great to have you on the blog today. First, tell us a bit more about your anthology.
Firstly, thank you for having me, it’s a great pleasure to be interviewed by you.
There are five stories in my anthology featuring the fictional detective Gary Farrow, the retired detective, whose diaries are the source of the book. Gary has recently been forced into retirement from his force’s murder squad. His plan is to make a living selling antiques under the guidance of his friend Mark Foster-Blythe. However, when an antique dealer of their mutual acquaintance is murdered in his own home Gary has to resume his old calling when he becomes convinced the police are on the wrong track to catch the killer. Dragging Mark reluctantly along with him they race north of the border and so begins their unofficial investigation into the murder of their friend.
That’s the starting point for the book. As much as Gary tries to put his old career behind him and focus on learning the antiques trade he seems fated to stumble across mystery after mystery, and old habits prove to die hard. Invariably poor old Mark, who is used to a much more sedate, and profitable, existence, gets dragged along on each enquiry, testing his friendship with Gary.
There’s not a body in every story, it’s not based in Midsomer after all, but Gary faces a few different teasers during the first months of his so-called retirement.
Has fiction writing always been an ambition for you?
I have always written. My earliest memories are of writing stories and drawing comics, until dad got a typewriter and things got serious! I produced a superhero type magazine when I was at school that was copied by the teachers and sold to raise money for school funds. For my pat I got to talk to the sixth form girls, and they say writers have no street cred! There were even a couple of school plays ‘what I wrote’! But then real life intervened, work, family, houses, mortgages, long hours, studying for promotion exams and two university degrees, you know the usual stuff! I still found time to write, but only as a pass-time and I dreamt of having the time to focus on my writing and really enjoy it. Now that time seems to have arrived. Better late than never I say!
Gary Farrow is your main character and is a retired police officer, much like yourself. Are there any other characteristics that you share?
At first I was very reluctant to write about anything even vaguely connected with my old job. Like Gary I wanted to make the break cleanly and focus my efforts elsewhere. Then people began to suggest that I should write crime fiction and others simply said ‘write about what you know’. So, like Gary, I was reluctantly drawn back to the detective world. However, I didn’t want to write police fiction, so I put Gary safely into retirement and let him fend for himself. But that’s as far as the likeness goes. He probably ‘speaks’ in a similar manner to me, as my primary character I suppose that’s inevitable, but otherwise he’s cooler and more tenacious than me, and he owns an Aston Martin! That’s the great thing about being a writer, you can make your characters whatever you want them to be, sometimes that might be the person you wish you were.
Will we see any more of Gary and his side-kick, Mark Foster-Blythe?
It’s early days to be planning sequels or new adventures, I’m still assessing how the stories are received. I confess that whilst I began writing their crime adventures a little reluctantly I enjoyed the project when it was underway, and I quite like Gary and Mark now. If there is an appetite for more I could see them bickering their way through a few more adventures, although I might need to put Mark on some strong medication for his ulcer first!
Which is your favourite story in the anthology, and why?
I can only repeat what I said on my blog a while back, reading your own story is a bit like hearing your voice on a recording for the first time, really uncomfortable. That said I’ve read the stories through about three or four times now and if I had to pick one it would be ‘The Coffee Shop Conundrum’. This story is more of a family mystery, no dark deeds as such, and that allowed to me undertake some character studies, which I found fun to do. I especially enjoyed crafting the accountant, Mr. Somerby and the local journalist, Rupert. I absolutely hated the first draft and I pretty much rewrote it from scratch, but in the end it turned out to be fun, and I think that comes across in the story, at least I hope it does.
Are any of the stories or characters based on your experience or people you know?
I think it’s fair to say that there are elements of people you know or have encountered in any writer’s work, I think it’s inevitable. I’ve been lucky that my career has introduced me to a wide diversity of people and situations, and that gives me a great palette upon which to dip my literary brush – sorry, that sounds ridiculously arty, but I know what I mean!
Do you plan to continue writing crime fiction or would you like to sample other genres. (I have seen some poetry on your blog.)
I don’t see myself as a budding Byron or Wordsworth and I don’t suffer the sublime agonies of the soul of the romantic poets. I can occasionally put a few reflective lines of rhyme together, but I don’t intend to make a habit of it!
As for crime fiction I didn’t really want to go there at all, I thought it was a flooded market and I didn’t want to be some boring ex copper clinging onto golden memories. However, I’ve warmed considerably to Gary and Mark, so they may be some additional mileage there. Otherwise I would like to diversify and undertake other projects. My next book is not a crime novel, and I’ve drafted a comedy script and a romantic fantasy short story (something else I don’t intend to make a habit of), and I have one or two other projects in some kind of draft form. Variety is the spice of life as they say.
You currently self publish your work. How easy have you found this undertaking?
I was very nervous initially. I read a lot about it. There are companies out there that offer to do all the hard work for you, but it seemed a lot like vanity press to me, and I wasn’t sure I was up for the marketing side of things. It’s ok being sent a suitcase full of beautifully bound books, but persuading book shop owners to take a few is probably beyond my skills.
I had seen the Amazon Kindle self-publishing tool on the Amazon site several months before I did it. I confess I was nervous about it but having made up my mind to go for it, it turned out to be a relative ‘breeze’. Again the issue is the marketing rather than the uploading of the book itself. That’s a lot harder! An author acquaintance of mine, one Jane Isaac (you’ve probably never heard of her, she’s an Unfamiliar Author – see what I did there?) impressed upon me the need to have an author platform. Now I’m on Twitter (@GlynTimmins) I use my Facebook account and I have a blog site (glyntimmins.wordpress.com). That all helps, and I believe it was on Twitter that the local newspaper picked up on me and contacted me for an interview, which ended up as a half-page spread. As an author you have to be ‘out there’, it doesn’t come naturally to me, but you need to get as many people as possible to read your book, that’s the challenge. Personally I find that the hardest part of this writing venture.
How do you plan to promote your books?
To continue to use social networking sites, and to exploit any opportunities that arise, such as the newspaper interview. I was contacted by a contact on the LinkedIn web site who said that my book was going to be reviewed by her book club. That’s scary, but also that’s great, somehow you have to generate readers for your work and get people talking about your book, hopefully in a good way.
I am halfway through an Amazon promotion of my e-book which has been wildly successful, 419 copies downloaded in 48 hours, 154 of them in the USA. I used my social networking sites and enlisted willing volunteers to spread the word, and obviously Amazon do their bit. It’s all very exciting, and quite different for me.
What can readers expect from you next, and when can they expect it?
I have had a book in draft form for some years now. It’s a ‘voyage of discovery’ kind of book set against the seven days running up to Christmas. The principal character is a woman, so writing from her perspective has been a challenge, but again you have to use an amalgam of those women who have had an influence on you over the years and hope you get things broadly right. The lead character finds herself drawn into a variety of situations which lead to their climax on the ‘big day’. I’m doing the rewrite now, with a view to publish in late September or early October.
What is your writing routine and how do you balance your writing with your other commitments?
I am fortunate now in having the time to devote to writing. I didn’t feel that way 18 months ago when I retired, I was a little disoriented if the truth be told, but now that I’ve adjusted I’m grateful for the opportunity retirement from the police has given me to pursue my dream. So the truth is that I write when the mood and the inspiration take me, often that can be quite late at night and into the early morning. I’m not sure I could handle a routine now, I quite like the spontaneity of ‘going with the flow’ – it’s the first time in my life I’ve had that luxury. So, whilst I would never knowingly let anyone down, my other commitments fit around my writing at the moment, not the other way round. It’s easier than it sounds when no-one likes you and you have no friends anyway!
Name one of your favourite books and how it has influenced your life.
I have to plump for Wuthering Heights here. I was encouraged to read it by an enthusiastic English teacher, who recognised my love of literature and writing. It is a dark, brooding but beautifully written story, which has such powerful imagery it has been seared into literary history. You can feel the desolation and imagery of the moors and the tragedy of the love between Heathcliffe and Cathy turning to hope a generation later. It is simply a truly English classic. I didn’t think contemporary fiction could replicate the beauty of such a story until I recently read ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Homenei. Fortunately great literature is eternal, and in this throw away society there’s not much you can say that about these days.
OK, here are the quick fire questions. I’ll be keeping a close eye on these ones!
Desert, Mountain, Forest or Sea? Forest
5 star hotel or backpack? 5* hotel
Espresso or latte? Latte
Favourite country? Italy
Favourite city? New York
Favourite culinary dish? Curry
Sports car, campervan or bicycle? Sports Car
Safari or Cruise? Cruise
Hmmm. A latte in Italy – now that sounds good! Thank you for joining me on the blog today, Glyn. It’s been a pleasure interviewing you. I wish you all the best with your new writing career.
I was born in West Bromwich where I went to school before leaving at 16 and getting a job in finance at the Council. At 23 I abandoned a career training as an accountant to join the Police Service. I served as a police officer in four Midlands Police forces in a variety of roles, eventually specialising in major and serious crime, including homicide and kidnap. I am a trained and experienced hostage negotiator and was a nationally accredited senior investigating officer for homicide and kidnap. I retired as a Detective Superintendent in 2012. Whilst in the Police I obtained an honours degree in cultural history and a Masters Degree in Community Safety.
My lifelong passions are The Beatles, West Bromwich Albion football club, Sherlock Holmes and classic radio and TV comedies. If I want to relax and unwind I play my Beatles Ludwig replica drum kit in the sanctity of my soundproofed garage. I try to keep fit at the local gym and I like to read and listen to music as often as I can. I play guitar badly and wish I could instill in myself the discipline to learn Italian, though how that beautiful language would respond to a Black Country accent is anyone’s guess!
I have two grown up daughters, one is an English teacher, the other a dance student. My partner is a child protection specialist in the police.