IndieView with Ray Britain, author of The Last Thread

I’m often frustrated by the inaccurate and improbable representation of crime investigation in the many television dramas on TV. Whatever the complexity of the crime they’re always solved within impossible time frames and, seemingly, with the most sophisticated technology immediately available. 

Ray Britain – 23 October 2017

The Back Flap

Accused of pushing a boy to his death, DCI Doug Stirling is suspended from duty. Attacked in the media and haunted by the boy’s enigmatic smile as he let go of Stirling’s hand, he must look on helplessly as an incompetent colleague intent on destroying him investigates the boy’s death, supported by the vindictive Deputy Chief Constable, McDonald.

Weeks later, a man is found savagely murdered. Taking a professional risk, ACC Steph Tanner throws Stirling the lifeline he needs to restore his reputation and appoints him to lead the investigation. But with no witnesses, no forensic evidence and more theories than investigators, Stirling’s investigation has far too many “loose threads” as he uncovers a complex, interwoven history of deception, betrayal and sadistic relationships. Still traumatised by the boy’s death and with time the enemy, does Stirling still have what it takes to bring the killer, or killers, to justice before McDonald intervenes?

Things are already difficult enough when DC Helen Williams joins the investigation, a determined woman intent on rekindling their past relationship. And is Ayesha, the beautiful lawyer Stirling has grown fond of, somehow connected to the murder?

About the book

What is the book about?

The Last Thread is in the genre of Crime Fiction> Police procedural with some adult content.

When did you start writing the book?

I made a serious start on it two years ago, put it away when the sun started shining last year and returned to it over the winter of 2017/18. I’ve spent much of this year proof reading, editing, and then having it converted to e-reader formats.

Where did you get the idea from?

I had a very successful and interesting career in the Police in both uniform and detective roles. I completed my career in a high rank but, throughout, the investigation of crime and the camaraderie of detectives was my preference. As a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) I led complex crime investigations. I was a police Negotiator too, on top of ‘the day job’.

I’m often frustrated by the inaccurate and improbable representation of crime investigation in the many television dramas on TV. Whatever the complexity of the crime they’re always solved within impossible time frames and, seemingly, with the most sophisticated technology immediately available.

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

Not in the writing so much as the proof reading and editing which is incredibly tedious, but essential.

What came easily?

I enjoyed crafting the plot’s twists and turns and laying down false trails to keep the reader engaged in the story and to challenge them in trying to work out the solution until close to the end.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

Apart from drawing on memories of my Father for the lead character of DCI Doug Stirling, the rest of the ‘cast’ is entirely of my imagination but they are drawn from my experience as a professional investigator over many years and working with some wonderful professionals.

We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?

I’ve read avidly since I was a child and it’s hard to say one author, alone, influenced me. If pressed to name some who stand out in my memory, they are: Steinbeck, H E Bates, Sebastian Faulkes, George Orwell and Stieg Larsson who was an exemplary crime writer. So sad that he died before he became famous.

Do you have a target reader?

Readers who enjoy intelligent crime fiction which is grounded in the reality of investigating crime and who enjoy a love interest threaded through it. My book does have some adult content.

About Writing

Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?

Yes. I spend a lot of time plotting my story in mind-mapping software to capture all my ideas, my thoughts, and any research that is required all in one place, to make sure I can ‘see’ the connections or create them as required. It helps me avoid getting sloppy and so avoid inconsistencies. That’s underpinned by a timeline to ensure sequential integrity and to maintain an accurate sequence of events, just as I would have done in a real investigation.

Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?

I didn’t in my first book, The Last Thread and I wrote far too much. In my second book which I’m writing now, I’m approaching it in a more structured way with a set number of chapters and an approximate word count per chapter. Hopefully, it will make the editing process much more manageable.

Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?

As I go, to a point. However, when I go back and make changes I invariably re-introduce grammatical errors and typos so the main proof read is at the end.

Did you hire a professional editor?

No. I edited it myself before and after some ‘test readers’ read through it. Professional editing is very expensive for a new Indie author who has no guarantee of selling sufficient copies to recover the outlay.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?

Classical music and cool jazz, usually.

About Publishing

Did you submit your work to Agents?

No. I made an early decision to self-publish through Amazon. Later, I discovered Smashwords and I have published through them to reach Apple iBook readers, KOBO and the like.

What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?

I’d heard stories from friends and others of people spending years trying to get a publisher to pick up their manuscript, let alone publish it. Self-publishing is exceptionally hard work, particularly in getting yourself noticed, but it is a cost-efficient route to market.

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?

I hired a professional photographer. We arrived at the final image through a collaboration of shared ideas and his technical skill.

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?

I’ve done a lot of research on the web and found some successful authors who are incredibly generous in sharing tips based on their, often painful, marketing experiences. That led to me developing a professionally composed and presented publicity ‘flyer’ which I emailed to numerous book reviewers and bloggers. It undoubtedly gained their attention and confidence that they were dealing with someone who was serious about working with them and would make it as easy as possible for them to ‘introduce’ me.

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?

Be prepared to work hard at getting yourself noticed. The easy bit is writing the story.

About You

Where did you grow up?

I’m a UK citizen, more specifically, English.

What would you like readers to know about you?

I had a very successful and interesting career in the Police – in the UK – in both uniform and detective roles. I completed my career in a high rank but, throughout, the investigation of crime and the camaraderie of detectives was my preference. As a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) I led complex crime investigations. I was a police Negotiator too, on top of ‘the day job’.

Why have you adopted a pen name?

For privacy mainly, but also for family security. I locked up many criminals during my career, some of whom were unpleasant characters with long memories and failed to appreciate it was their actions which led to their imprisonment. And later in my career I was increasingly involved in discreet, national law enforcement capabilities so discretion remains important.

 You were a police negotiator?

 Yes, for about fifteen years. The full title is Hostage & Crisis Intervention Negotiator, a voluntary role in addition to one’s day to day responsibilities. And for no financial reward, either, which often meant being ‘called out’ of a warm bed in the middle of the night to drive many miles to support police colleagues facing a variety of difficult situations.

 Why did you want to be a negotiator?

 To help people and because it’s endlessly fascinating. You never knew what you would be facing next. Often it was within a firearms incident where negotiators try to achieve a peaceful resolution such as a controlled surrender to armed officers. More usually it was responding to an incident where someone was threatening to take their own life and then spending time, sometimes many hours and often in precarious situations whilst persuading them to step back to a place of safety and to get them help. Less often, fortunately, it was negotiating the release of frightened hostages by someone holding them at gunpoint or using other weapons.

End of Interview:

For more from Ray, visit his website, follow him on Twitter, or like his Facebook page.

Get your copy of The Last Thread from Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *