Neil's Blog - Episode 1 - How it all began.
Picture a big house on Portugal’s Algarve coast, with no TV, only myself and my wife Elaine as guests and a log fire flickering in the corner. The area was still featuring in the news as the location for Madeline McCann’s disappearance and we found ourselves visiting many of the same places the young girl would have seen.
I had been writing magazine articles for many years, but had never contemplated writing fiction. Yet somehow, in the glow of that log fire, ideas for a story began to grow in my mind.
My “day job” at the time was as a Detective Sergeant on a Police Professional Standards Department, so, the concept of a Cop losing his career through a shooting incident was not unfamiliar. Even so, I had not consciously thought of it at the basis for a story.
Seemingly from nowhere, the idea of my ex-cop killing a second person began to grow. The second death became one of the kidnappers and the kidnapped girl became the only witness who could clear him.
Then, day by day, as Elaine and I visited different parts of the Algarve, my love of motorcycles and the Biker lifestyle worked their way into the story.
While in prison for shooting a terrorist, my ex-cop saved the life of a Biker Gang President. On release from prison, they all moved to Portugal for a fresh start, visiting the same places I was enjoying on my holiday.
As each evening rolled on, the synopsis of my novel grew and by the end of the week, I had a plot and two chapters.
Around the same time, a group of my friends toured Morocco by motorcycle. One of them, Dianne Heydon, kept a very detailed diary of her travels and with a little embellishment, this became the Moroccan section of my story. North Africa seemed the perfect destination for People Traffickers fleeing Portugal.
The gunfights and explosions are figments of my imagination, but much of what happened to my bikers in Morocco, is straight from Dianne’s diary. Even the theft of her necklace by moped riding thieves actually happened. The embellishment was that in my story, the bikers caught him and dished out a bit of summary justice.
The average length of my magazine articles had been about 2,000 words, or two to three pages. So I was used to simplifying the information and getting to the point.
Now, as my novel started to become a reality, I was faced with writing 30 chapters of 2,500 words. A grand total of 75,000 words seemed a huge mountain to climb, requiring far more descriptive detail than any of the articles I had written before.
Writing about the Biker world came naturally; I had lived the life for more than 30 years, I had read many biker novels and non-fiction accounts from those within the 1% Biker world. It was easy to put myself into the situations and slowly paint a picture of what I remembered or imagined.
The Law Enforcement aspects seemed harder to write. I had spent more than two decades in the Police, but routine Police work is not so exiting as Hollywood might have you believe. Five of my 20 years were in Counter Terrorism, but even this was far more preparation than action. I had two dilemmas; firstly, making something quite dull sound exiting and second; not giving away anything secret from the more interesting years of my service.
The Internet proved the perfect tool for checking what the public knew about. I had lots of things in my head, that I was far from sure I could write about, but knowing about them put me ahead of other writers. For instance, few people know that Operation Kratos is a Shoot to Kill plan, involving suicide bombers. I expected Kratos to be very much a Secret codeword, which I would be in trouble for using. Yet Google found a couple of newspaper references, meaning I was safe to work it into my story.
As I progressed with my story, I also read about other writers’ experiences. Their styles and tactics varied incredibly, with some starting with an empty page and cuffing it, while others would story board the entire novel.
My only long range plan was that the kidnapped girl had to be rescued, in order to clear my hero’s name. But I had 30 chapters in order to get there and no clue how it would happen. I was never more than three or four chapters ahead with my planning and the plan was never more than bullet points. But my story developed at a rate of a chapter per month and about 14 months from that first week in Portugal, I had a completed manuscript of Between Stone and a Hard Place.
I had no idea at the time, but that was the easy part. I now had to face the work of editing, proof reading and revising my manuscript. Then, came the hardest part, getting into print; but that is a story for another day.