Bevan Stephen is an aspiring new author, having recently released his first book Death and the Detective. The prequel to a series centering around Detective Jennifer Kane, this book gives readers a taster for the series to come.
When asked about his new book, this is what he had to say:
What inspired the character of Jennifer Kane?
“Her initial concept was always there, I think – a little voice in the back of my mind, that loved to giggle at inappropriate humor and respond with a resounding “Hell yeah!” when watching a particularly awesome movie action scene. But what really drew that voice out and developed it was my complete disdain for TV crime shows.
Back when I was in my late teens/very early twenties, I used to watch a lot of them. Numb3rs, The Mentalist, NCIS, CSI, all their different permutations and the other letters of the alphabet I missed. I remember watching all of these and getting bored of seeing the same characters time and time again. The nerd, the serious one with gang activity in their past, the smartass who talks too much, the firm team leader with a heart of gold on the inside. You know the ones. They’re in every TV crime drama you pick.
They were all the same character, but I could deal with that. There were two things that I got tired of – how same-ish they all were was one, but what I hated the most was how in control they all were. We’re human beings: 99% percent of the time, we aren’t cool and collected and in perfect control: we’re juggling work and family and responsibilities and friends and everything else you can imagine. I saw these personalities on screen, with perfectly combed hair, pearly white teeth and everything figured out in life – and I disliked them.
That’s a big part of what inspired Jennifer Kane – that idea that even the best of us barely have things in control. We can’t relate to the woman with a million dollars in her bank account and a new dress every Sunday – but you bet we can see the woman struggling to support a job, hobbies, friends and family, and feel something for them.
Other than that though, I just loved the basic character of Kane. She was fun in my head and she proved to be just as fun on paper.”
What made you choose to write from a female perspective as a male?
“It was something about the challenge of doing it right. I saw a lot of examples of female characters written by male authors who evidently didn’t know how to write girls, and I thought to myself “I can do better than these paid professionals” and so I set out to prove it.
The way I see it, the best female characters are written by ignoring the gender part. I’ve always believed that people are people – a bunch of individuals with goals, dreams, fears, aspirations, and that everything else (to a certain extent) can be switched out with minimal fuss. Yes, there are unique things between individual genders, ages, and other groupings that that collective can relate to. But those important, character defining concepts are things that should always stay the same, in my eyes.
For a somewhat crude, but succinct analogy: Men and women can both be brave in the face of absolute terror. Men and women can’t both relate to taking their bra off at the end of a long days work.”
Kane gives a lot of detective advice. How did you come up with that advice?
“I know I got some of the mechanical stuff from those TV crime shows I so lovingly mentioned in the first question. Kane’s method of checking the path the murder weapon took when it entered the body to see if the attacker was right handed, for instance, I remember seeing in an episode of NCIS. It was during an autopsy scene where I saw it, and I remember thinking “Huh. Neat.”
Other than that, it’s a lot of thinking things through and a lot of search engine use. I ended up visiting a few fan sites online and picking up general advice for investigating. But some of it – like Kane’s lesson to Matt about not excluding other options/theories – it was a perfect character arc for Matt and I twisted the story a little to help work with that. I think it turned out great.
Slightly related, the search engine use did get a little weird at points, full disclosure there. Yes, I’m searching for information on butterfly knives and which parts of the throat would be lethal if stabbed. No, I am not planning on putting this into practice in real life. Remember, parents – if little Timmy is suddenly fascinated with the medical effects of hydrochloric acid on the human body, don’t worry – he might just be doing book research. Hopefully.”
Death and the Detective is a prequel. Can you give us a hint what will be in the next book?
“I plan to make the actual series longer, better, and hopefully in a shorter time frame if I’m lucky. ‘Death and the Detective Book 0.5’ was a scant ~25k words, and it took me 3 years to make. That’s not great stats for the amount of time it took. However, a lot of that is chalked up to me giving up on it at one point.
Since then, I can confidently say that my work ethic and general dedication to writing has taken a dramatic turn for the better. I’ve learned a lot more, wrote some more stories that taught me a lot about story-craft, and changed my entire process. For instance – the first draft of Death and the Detective was 25k words and took over a year. To compare, I recently finished up a first draft of the first book in an epic fantasy series I’ve had my heart on for a while. This one was 74k words and it took me under four months. Three times the length for a third of the time. I was pretty pleased with that.
The proper Death and the Detective series are planned to be full size novels, and be of a much higher quality than its introduction. As for any juicy details about the first book in the series… I can reveal with absolute joy that we’re getting a look into the personal lives and dramas of Kane and Matt. I don’t want to give away too much, but I can tell you this – it’s going to be a fun ride, with some unfortunately familiar faces on the way.”
Have you ever had writers block? If so, how do you deal with it?
“Unfortunately, yes. There was a point in the drafting and editing slog of the book where I was doing my day job, coming home, and spending all my spare time on the book. I didn’t read, I didn’t listen to music, or watch movies – any time I had must be spent on the book. I was
incredibly productive, I thought I was doing just fine – until I hit the wall so hard that it left me paralyzed. The well of creativity was empty, and I hadn’t seen it coming. I shut down on writing for about a month. It was a dark time.
Over that month I was agonizing about my lack of progress – “I’m not writing or editing, I’m so unproductive, I’ll never make it as an author” spun around my head a lot. I’ll be honest – it was hell. I thought I’d gone too far and that the well would be empty forever.
I didn’t realize the well could refill, and it wasn’t until the end of that month that I realized it – after I finished watching Avatar: The Last Airbender (it goes without saying that I’m talking about the show, not the live action movie). That show was emotional, powerful, and beautiful – and when it was over I just had to sit there and process the raw emotion it left in is wake. I felt inspired. And the next morning, I got out of bed and finished editing the fourth draft of the book. I was back.
Here’s my PSA to all artists out there, writers, drawers, musicians, what have you – we can’t create in a vacuum. You can’t just work on your art all day without break and expect it to be fine – you MUST consume art to refill your well. There is nothing wrong with taking a day or two off to watch a good movie or read a book – it’s highly encouraged. You’re the creator of these worlds you make – but the creator can’t work if they’re starving. Feed the creator, and things will be just fine.”
Death and the Detective is available on Amazon.
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