An in-house interview with teacher turned writer, Denver Murphy.
Following the success of his gripping trilogy, The DCI Jeffrey Brandt Murders, Denver has created a whole new series. We find out more.
TBF: What made you become a professional writer?
DM: I think all teachers have a fantasy job that is a complete contrast to being in the classroom. I’ve known some for whom it is long-distance lorry driving, others landscape gardening. Mine was writing. Rather than juggling many things at once, this very singular pursuit I find enormously satisfying.
TBF: You show a good grasp of police procedure. Where does that come from? Have you ever been on the wrong side of the law?
DM: It’s generally frowned upon for teachers to spend too much time behind bars, so I can assure readers I’m not drawing on personal experiences! Most of my understanding of police procedure comes from general knowledge combined with research about the finer points. The beauty of the internet is that information is just a few key strokes away. Despite my wife’s obsession with them, I try not to watch too many police dramas on television or read much crime; I want my ideas to be fresh rather than influenced by others.
TBF: How did you conceive of the policeman turned killer DI Brandt who features in your first trilogy?
DM: Brandt is a manifestation of the disillusionment I experienced in my own career, along with the cynicism that I’ve gradually developed during my 30s. Clearly, he has taken his frustrations to another level entirely but writing as him was cathartic in many respects.
TBF: Do you find it easier or harder to write female characters? What made you pick a woman detective for the new series?
DM: DCI Johnson happened to be a woman in the previous series because I wanted to have an obvious contrast to Brandt. With Ruby, it was more of a deliberate decision and links to her being a rookie detective. As much as things have improved in terms of equality, prejudice and stereotyping still exists and, whilst not being the central focus of the books, I wanted things to be a challenge for my new detective. But believe me, her character is more than strong enough to deal with any gender gap!
TBF: Spill the beans. Wife? Kids? What kind of woman stays with a man who dreams about serial killers?
DM: Wife and kid. I’m very fortunate in how supportive my family has been with this. My eight-year-old son is used to me sneaking upstairs to write a few extra words and frequently tries to give me new ideas. As exciting as they are, I’m not sure Ruby has enough experience yet to adequately deal with an alien invasion! My wife is both my biggest supporter and greatest critic. She always reads my first draft and if she enjoys it I know that there is some merit to the book. I’m also fortunate in that she doesn’t read too much into the actions of my characters. However, it is another matter entirely with my mother-in-law. Against my advice she got hold of the first in the Brandt trilogy and it took only a couple of chapters for her to be phoning my wife to che
ck if everything was okay in our marriage.
TBF: Is writing a solitary pursuit or do you share your ideas with anyone?
DM: In the early days I used to discuss ideas with my wife, mainly to see if the concept had any legs. Over time I’ve learned to trust my instincts and she would much rather read the finished item without too many spoilers. Discussing them with others is a bit like when trying to think of baby names – even if they tell you they like them, their facial reaction often suggests something different. The other problem is that I find many people want to give you an idea of their own, usually something that has been done countless times before or is so scant in detail that I’d struggle to get a page out of it, let alone a complete novel.
TBF: What do you do when not throwing acid in punters’ faces, or devising elaborate methods of evading police capture?
DM: I still teach part-time which helps me keep a foot firmly in the real world. Beyond work commitments, my son and I are season ticket holders at Arsenal and my Sunday mornings are spent watching him play rugby. As some readers picked up from my Brandt trilogy, I’m a bit of a petrol head – a gene that has rubbed off on my son, turning him into something of a F1 obsessive.
TBF: Give us a hint about how this series will progress?
I began the series on Ruby’s first day in CID because I want readers to see her develop both personally and professionally. The road over the next few books is going to be as bumpy as her investigations are varied. The trend will be for them to get darker and, although each book is designed to work in isolation, they will fit together as a whole. I already have plans for the first six and, if they prove popular, I can see them eventually spanning her entire career.