Today we'd like to introduce you to the biggest Rebel we have met in the Crime Fiction business so far. This three times published author vigorously works against the crimes of trope writing and cliched book themes. His stories bring questions to the forefront of your mind that you may not have been willing to think about, until now.
Introducing D.R. Bailey!
RL: When did you start writing as a career?
DRB: I started writing as a career early in 2019. However, I wrote my first story when I was about nine. I’ve had bits and pieces published since then over the years both fiction and non-fiction, including a serialized computer crime story. Last year I finally got serious, penned and published three full-length novels. The DI Gallway Series. Each of these is a sequel to the ones before.
RL: What's your current work in progress?
DRB: I am currently writing my fourth novel in the DI Gallway series, which is a sequel to the third novel. I can’t tell you much more about it other than it’s set in Rome, to avoid spoilers. All the others are set in Ireland. I only write one WIP at a time and try to focus on that entirely. Other ideas get written up or at least put into notes, so I don’t lose them, but I never distract myself from the main event.
RL: Your genre is Crime Fiction. What led you to write in that area?
DRB: I’ve always liked it, and I always wanted to write it. I’ve read quite a lot of crime in my time, as well as Sci-Fi, Georgian Romance, classics like Jane Austen, and much more. I suppose I’ve had an eclectic reading career. I particularly like Cadfael the detective monk from the Middle Ages and novels by Peter James, although latterly his murders became so gruesome, I couldn’t read them anymore. I have also watched an inordinate amount of crime series, particularly the British ones. One of my most favorite of recent times has been Broadchurch.
However, that being said I almost fell into writing crime by accident. Last year I suddenly had an idea for the very first scene of the very first book in the DI Gallway series. I started writing it and the entire series and all the characters came from that. I just enjoyed writing it, and I still do. I fell in love with all my main characters, there are several, and became involved in their lives. They kept me wanting to write about them. The books are as much about them as they are about crimes they have to solve. I also enjoy the procedural aspect of crime-solving. Working through clues, hypotheses, seeing through the lies of suspects, and so on. It all makes for a great mix to write about. I’m proud that I achieved what I wanted to achieve, and that is to be a crime writer.
RL: How do your books rebel against the status quo in that genre?
DRB: Crime in both novels and on TV very often tends to fall for a number of tropes. A particular one which irks me is the idea that all police and detectives are dysfunctional in some way. They drink too much, they only work, they think about the case twenty-four-seven, they have no other life and they can never ever have a decent relationship. Apparently, in order to qualify as detectives, they can’t just be normal.
My own characters go directly against this. Seamus is not a drinker for a start, he’s a normal guy trying to do a good job, he has a life outside of work and he can form a proper relationship. He’s a good leader, his team all like him. Like most of us who do have a successful relationship you just have to find the right person first. Does Seamus find the right person? Do any of them? That would be telling. The other team members all have their own unique traits but none of them really conform to the usual kind of tropes I mentioned above, they have quirks like normal people, character traits and so forth. Just like ordinary people they make mistakes, recover from them, and move on. My characters develop throughout the books, they grow and change, as do any relationships they have. They are not one dimensional at all. I like that about them. I would like someone to read about a character and think, that could be me.
Another trope which is irritating is the one where the big boss is usually someone who tells the hero detective to pursue some stupid line of questioning which is the opposite of the one which will lead to the murderer. A big argument follows, the detective disobeys orders and the big boss then ends up suspending the detective who apparently can’t solve the case until this happens. It’s amazing how many suspended detectives with no police resources or weapons at all end up solving big cases. Then there are other things like when the hero never calls for backup when it’s obviously needed but puts themselves in danger instead, which are intensely annoying because it just wouldn’t happen in reality. You know, there is a thing called police training which mitigates against that kind of stupidity.
Seamus’ boss DCS Brogan is immensely supportive as readers will find, but he has his own quirks and a sense of humour. He’s quite volatile and some fans find him very funny, which is intentional on my part. If team members were not to call for backup when needed, they would get into serious trouble with Seamus, and generally, they follow proper procedure.
Overall, I don’t fall for the tropes or subscribe to them. My books also contain a mix of everything I like to find in a novel. There is humour, romance, sex, as well as murder and mayhem. They also have a dark side which is related to the crimes which they are investigating. I’ve written the novels which I want to read, and I do enjoy reading them back. I also explore aspects of sexuality in my books, so nobody should expect or assume it’s all vanilla, or that everyone in the novels, including the MC’s, is necessarily straight. I also like to do what I term a switch. Where you might think the dynamics of a relationship is one way, and then find out it’s completely the other way. Readers may find they get to know the villains. There are dichotomies where everything isn’t completely bad or completely good. Life is like that too, it’s not black and white, it’s shades of grey.
In short, I want to write something that’s believable and could happen in real life, not a parody of it. At the same time, I acknowledge that some of the things in the novels probably wouldn’t really happen in life, that’s why it’s called fiction.
RL: What made you focus on crime in the church for your DI Seamus Gallway series?
DRB: It came about because of the first scene in the first book. It involved a priest in the Catholic Church, and it evolved from there. The Catholic Church is interesting because of the history it has, some of it very dark, particularly in terms of abuse. I’ve seen a lot of documentaries about this and I’ve been aware of certain people’s personal stories about abuse in Church in the past. I grew up in an era where this was common although I found out about it much more retrospectively. I suppose there’s also a bit of fascination with the Catholic Church which has been the subject of humour as well. Everyone knows Father Ted, for example, although the humour in my novels isn’t particularly like that. I think my novels in a way have made me able to write about and expose some of the excesses of the church but temper these with humour. When I’ve watched documentaries about abuse in the church, my scenarios, as bad as they are, don’t even come close in some cases.
The interesting thing about Catholics is that once brought up a Catholic it tends to stay with a person for the rest of their lives whether they adhere to it or not. The teaching is very strong in that sense. I’ve heard this from many Catholics I’ve known. Having the church as a setting or background adds a different perspective and flavour which it might not otherwise have. It also allows me to add some interesting and different characters to the books. I think it creates a richer tapestry and gives coherence and focus to the stories. With a series, it’s good to be able to have a theme, a setting, and I think the addition of crime in the church or associated with the church provides fertile ground for fiction, particularly my brand of fiction. I like to feel my fiction isn’t like anybody else’s it’s unique to me.
RL: Which one of your books is your favorite?
DRB: This is a hard one because they are all my babies in effect. I think perhaps the second book, Deathbed Confession, at the moment, is my favorite because it has two distinct stories running in parallel as well as a rich humorous vein in parts. It is also about some of my favorite characters and found some of the writing very emotional when I wrote it. It wasn’t uncommon for me to cry through a scene I was writing in this book. I think that’s an indication of the emotional investment I put into it.
RL: Talk to me about the path you choose in publishing.
DRB: I decided to publish through my daughter’s publishing label, Twisted Tree Publications. I wanted to self-publish or at least try it, but it’s a lot of work and she already had a vehicle set up. Once she had read the first book and liked it, she was happy to publish my DI Gallway Series. I prefer to continue with this route for my Gallway series because it gives me control over the content for one thing. They are also big books, averaging about 200k and traditional publishers don’t usually want to publish this length of book. It wasn’t meant to be as long, but they just turned out that way and now I write each book in the series to that length for consistency. One thing about having such a long book is that I can give the reader much more of each character’s story than otherwise and still give them the overall story too. I can also control the launch of a new book, the cover and many other aspects which a traditional publisher will have control over. I prefer it this way. I will continue to publish all future books in the DI Gallway Series through Twisted Tree Publications. It gives me a lot of latitude.
My sister, who is a prolific and very successful writer, has done both self-publishing and traditional. After seeing her experiences and talking them through with her, probably a hybrid approach is a good idea. Perhaps with a shorter book, I could try the other route and I may. The one would feed off the other as it were. I think every writer has to do what they think is best for their books, there is no one size fits all.
RL: How do you manage writing time? Authors often complain about not having enough time to write. Is this an issue for you?
DRB: It’s usually not an issue although at the moment I’m not working full time. I am looking for a job and so this may change. I’ve been studying for a doctorate for the last four years which I’ve finished, and so I managed to also write the novels at the same time. I am a very fast writer when things are flowing so I can write a lot in a short space of time. The fourth book has taken longer and gone in fits and starts. I think that this is because sometimes the ideas weren’t flowing or there were a lot of other distractions. When I feel it’s going well, I can even write while my wife watches TV in the same room. If possible, I write every day, that way it gets done. It’s not so much about time, but just doing it at some point in the day, and then doing what you can in the time you have.
RL: Where do you see your writing career going from here?
DRB: Well, I wish I could see the future and predict that my books would become best sellers or something, but the truth is I don’t know. What I do know is that I want to keep writing and keep on putting them out there. I’ve got some really good fans now who love my work. That is a huge deal to me. It keeps me grounded for one thing and when I’m writing I’m thinking of those people and that I want them to love this book as much as the last ones. I just need to get a lot more really good fans, I guess. It would be nice anyway.
I think DI Gallway would make a fab TV series, but I’m sure every writer thinks the same about their work. I would love to see that though, and once I’ve got this fourth book out, I might make some moves in that direction. I do think my work has the potential because I write in a cinematic way. I write with the scenes playing out in front of me and the books play out a little bit like a series with lots of different other stories going on within the main story.
In the main I want to keep being successful, getting more readers. These things take time though, and so I’ve no illusions about it. I’m not going to stop writing that’s for sure.
RL: What do you like to do for fun?
DRB: I enjoy writing, so that’s fun. I like watching movies, going out for dinner. In New Zealand, there are lots of beaches and the opportunity for getting outside. I must admit we’ve done less of that this last year. I also like reading but I don’t read as much as I would like to. We also like to go on holiday, although of course, we manage probably one big one a year. We’ve been twice to Vietnam and we love that. It’s one of our favorite places. Seeing new cultures and absorbing them is mind-expanding, it’s good for the soul.
RL: What can fans expect from you in the future?
DRB: Once book four is done, which will be soon, then I’ve another series in mind. There will be a short break from DI Gallway, but the characters will be back with a vengeance after. The new series will be based around a character from the Deathbed Confession, I’m not saying more than that. I don’t want to spoil the surprise. I think it will be good and a little different. DI Gallway and his gang will continue for many more books to come, so fans need to not fear on that score.
I would be interested in reading his Di Gallway series. I like that he stays away from the expected detective personality, drinker, workaholic, dysfunctional relationship. Oh and of course the too gruesome that he had to stop reading was me all day. Great interview.