Name: Gordon Bickerstaff.
Age: the wrong side of 60.
Where are you from: Glasgow, Scotland.
A little about your self i.e. your education, family, life etc
I am married with two daughters, and two grandchildren. I live with my wife in the west of Scotland where corrupt academics, mystery, murder and intrigue exists mostly in my mind. I have been retired for four years, and prior to that I taught biochemistry at the University of Paisley. I read biochemistry at Heriot-Watt University (Edinburgh), and did research in biochemistry at the University of Stirling. I also tutored science foundation and biology for the Open University.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My fourth book Toxic Minds is due in January 2016. This year I have made a major effort to become familiar with Twitter @ADPase. I have 5000 followers and the vast majority are readers and writers. Not on FaceBook.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing fiction when I was a student in the 1970s. Science fills your mind with facts, and your imagination with fantastic ideas.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve written a couple of academic books but they don’t count because fiction is so different from academic writing. The first three books I’ve published have been in gestation for about fifteen years. Only when I retired did I have time to bring them to fruition.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
When I was a first year student I went to a seminar with some friends. An American explorer gave a talk in which he presented evidence to support a theory. I won’t say what it was, and spoil the book but I didn’t believe a word of it. My imagination concocted an alternative theory, which formed the basis for a great story. I wrote the outline down and eventually finished the book, which became a trilogy.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I like to read thrillers with pace so my books are written with pace. As a biochemist I like to sprinkle some biomedical science into the stories to add realism. I like strong female characters with brains and skills to win the day, as can be seen from the covers of my books. I like to have well constructed twists, and I love it when my editor says ‘Wow! didn’t see that coming’. I like to make my stories topical. So the theme in Everything to Lose is sports drugs, and the consequences of sports drug abuse.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Some writers start with a blank page and see where it goes. I can’t do that. I start to write the story after I have the beginning, the end and the title worked out. I like to know where the story is coming from, and where it is going. I like to read books with a good end so I always have the end planned out, and I make the story journey to that end. The title can and does change if I see something in the story that is more relevant.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Books are written about life experiences so yes I do put in some simple messages but no preaching, teaching or moralizing. With every action there is a reaction/consequence so some messages unfold themselves. The fourth book Toxic Minds does have some big issue and topical messages.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
The books are fiction so the stories are invented but I do try to take what I think is real and merge it with a fictional story. For example, a key character is Zoe Tampsin, and I have made her a special forces SAS-trained captain. Do they have women in the SAS? I think they should, and maybe they do!
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
A good fiction story has to be believable but not everybody lives a life that can supply events, and characters that would fill a book. So, like many writers I have take ordinary events and people, and built them into larger than life characters and events. The original events, and characters are seeds that become unrecognizable when the plant is fully matured in the stories
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I don’t know that fiction has influenced my life. It has influenced my reading and writing. When I was at school I read Ian Fleming, and those books got me interested in thrillers, action, adventure and mystery. Now I read a range of authors such as Lee Child for thriller, Tess Gerritsen for biomedical themes and Patricia Cornwell for medical mystery.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
At this moment, I am reading Lee Child’s One Shot. I’ve seen the movie with Tom Cruise, and I am enjoying the book. On my TBR list I have Tess Gerritsen’s The Sinner, Stella Rimmington’s Rip Tide and Paul Finch’s The Killing Club. I have recently read and reviewed some indie books such as Jean Shorney’s Progeny of a Killer and will do more to support indie writers.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Until a couple of years ago I only read mainstream writers. Now that I am self-publishing I have started to read other indie writers. In addition to Jean Shorney, I have read a few others such as Bill Ward’s Revenge, Kim Cox’s Haunted Hearts, Rhani D’Chae’s Shadow of the Drill and I have downloaded Captured Lies by Maggie Thom and added to my TBR list.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
My fourth Gavin Shawlens thriller Toxic Minds is nearing completion. Editors have sharpened their pencils, and have started their work. The cover designer has her brief, and is starting to generate ideas. It should be available in January. The fifth book is starting to take shape. I have outlined the beginning and the end but I have not yet settled on a title.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Technology. I’ve tried to write by longhand. It takes me too long, and I couldn’t easily correct errors. I went through too much paper. Technology keeps me organized so I can find whatever word or idea or notion that I want to add to the narrative.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I’ve had a career and put 110% into it. Stephen King said “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well”. I am writing to add a little enrichment to my life, and hopefully to that of others who read my books.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
One of the great benefits of indie publishing is you can easily introduce new editions. I have made corrections and small changes to my three books. Some reviewers have said there is too much exposition in the early books while others have said they like the depth to the stories. I won’t go back and change them but I am now more conscious of giving too much exposition.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I was a university lecturer so I was always explaining/telling true stories about how this worked, and how that happened. My first book was a small (non-fiction) textbook Enzymes In Industry and Medicine. It is really a collection of stories about a group of proteins called enzymes, and the way they influence industrial and medical products and services. It was a natural progression for me to move on from true stories to fictional stories.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Toxic Minds In this story, Alexa Sommers is a modern woman with a successful career. Along the way, she made mistakes. Her family is in meltdown and her job is always first in line. Her research is controversial. Her success has attracted a group of aggressive placard-waving protestors who want her work stopped. Alexa ignores them, and a few activists prepare to take their protest to the ultimate level.
Alexa is head of a department, which is filled with intense hatred for her. A handful of colleagues want her career ended, and plot to destroy her and her family. One colleague, Gavin Shawlens, is prepared to defend her. He has nothing to lose – his train has already crashed and his career is finished. He is no James Bond or Jack Reacher. But he is all Alexa has on her side as a perfect storm of dreadful nightmares bear down on her, and her vulnerable family.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Editing. I have a tendency to leave more errors, when I go back in to add/remove or make a change. I have more than one proofreader to help me tidy up.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I can’t really say I have one favorite. For those that I like I haven’t bought everything they have written. I think Lee Child writes very consistently, and I like his stories but I have found that other writers fluctuate between great, good and less good.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I have certainly used previous visits that I have made to places to provide background. In Deadly Secrets there are scenes in Paris and Amsterdam that I recalled from past visits. In Everything To Lose and The Black Fox the UK settings are places I’ve been to visit. The only place I have visited specifically to get background for a book was Fort Augustus for The Black Fox.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
All except Deadly Secrets are produced by YOCLA Designs http://yocladesigns.com/
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Revising, correcting, revising again, editing, revising again, revising again and again.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
When I worked I gave my job 110% but I had a life, and free time for family and hobbies etc. Writing, when it is enjoyable, can take over your life, demand all your time, and isolate you from life. I am now well aware of how much time I give to writing, and I’m trying to strike a balance.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
When it stops being amazing fun and enjoyable – quit. No writer and no book can please everyone who reads it. Understand that some readers will not like your work. Be happy with a normal distribution of reviews i.e. 15% (1 or 2 star), 15% (5 star) and 70% (3 or 4 star). If you get 90% (5 star) – that looks suspicious. If you get 90% (1 or 2 star) there is a problem with the book.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I have two Tweets I send out regularly for all readers:
Found a book review on Amazon helpful. Click on the YES button and encourage more good reviews. pic.twitter.com/6cAUg1FCdK @ADPase
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Dr No by Ian Fleming.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
When innocent people have suffered pain, hardship and suffering; I can shed a tear. Monty Python’s Flying Circus was on TV when I was a student so anything ridiculous makes me smile.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
I’d like to have a family dinner with my parents and my grandparents.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
Haven’t given any thought to that. I’ll think about it when I’m ready to move on.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I do some aspects of DIY moderately well and other aspects not so well. I suddenly get very tired when it’s time to clean up the mess. I enjoy walking in the hills, 60s & 70s music, reading and travel.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Still watching GOT and The Walking Dead. Recently enjoyed Breaking Bad and Orphan Black as well as Fringe, Sons Of Anarchy and Stargate Atlantis. Going to the cinema to see the new James Bond movie Spectre.
Fiona: Favorite Foods/Colors/Music
I like Italian food and Chinese food. If I was super rich, I’d open an Italian Chinese restaurant. I like sky blue because it reminds me of summer days, and holidays. I love 60s & 70’s music and listen to it every day.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I would have owned, run and served in a DIY shop.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Amazon author page: http://goo.gl/0Wf3XO
The Black Fox
Everything To Lose
Free on Amazon Prime