Hello Readers and Writers!
Today we would like to introduce you to a Military and Historical Fiction author whose start in journalism helped him learn to write concisely and grab the reader’s attention. His upcoming release, We Are Broken, explores themes that discuss how we react to others’ visual differences and seeks to remove the stigma around the topic of disfigurement through vivid story telling.
Introducing Paul Coffey!
When did you start writing as a career?
I was lucky enough to get a journalism apprenticeship when I left school in the late 1980s. I became a qualified journalist and then worked in newspapers for 18 years before moving into media and communications for law enforcement agencies.
What's your current work in progress?
I’m currently editing a completed police procedural thriller about a female serial killer who ‘selects’ victims she believes have ‘had it coming’ – it’s working title is
‘Eat, Sleep, Kill: Repeat’
You write Military Historical fiction. What led you to write in this genre?
I’ve always been fascinated by military history, especially the First World War. For me, there’s a fascination (some may think morbid) about something so catastrophic that changed the world order. Empires crumbled, western society changed irrevocably, technology advanced hugely in that four year period and, of course, it sowed the seeds for both the Second World War, the Cold War and ultimately our world today.
Tell us about your new book coming soon, We Are Broken.
We Are Broken tells the story of two disfigured First World War veterans, Charlie Hobbs and Freddy Lucas. Both are struggling to adapt to civilian life, carrying deep psychological and physical scars. Hobbs wears a lifelike mask to cover his face – these masks were actually made by artists and sculptors at the time and were the inspiration for my novel – but his friend Freddy sees that betrayal. The story weaves together a grieving mother, a little girl, an elderly widow and builds to a nerve jangling and shocking climax.
How does your book rebel against the status quo?
It explores themes about how we react to others’ visual differences, how disability and disfigurement were something to be hidden away or shunned.
Your first book, Shadows of the Somme, was released in 2019. How has your writing changed since then?
I’m immensely proud of my debut novel but in some ways, it’s a tangible affirmation that I could write a book with a compelling and readable story. Looking back, there are things I’d do differently but I’ve learned so much since then and my writing has improved considerably because of it.
Do you have any plans to write outside of your current genre?
Yes, as my current work testifies. I’ve got ideas for more contemporary novels – historical fiction was always going to be an area I explored given my interests but I’m keen to move into more commercial fiction territory.
Talk to me about the path you chose in publishing.
I decided on self publishing with my debut novel pretty early on. I wanted to prove to myself that I could write and produce my own novel and the genre was not one I’d suggest was that commercial. I continue to seek representation but decided to independently publish We Are Broken. Again, I’ve learned so much from my first experience and have been much more aware of the broader areas of self publishing – marketing, promotion, etc.
You worked as a journalist for almost 20 years. How easy or challenging was it to change your writing style for fiction writing?
I know several journalists who have become or who are authors. Journalism gives you a great grounding in being able to write concisely and grab the reader’s attention. I’ve also considered myself pretty creative too so if you combine those professional writing skills with that side of my character, then for me personally, it was relatively easy. I’ll let others judge that though!
What advice would you give to an author who is discouraged by the strenuous process of writing and releasing books?
Firstly, ask yourself why you’re writing? One of the most rewarding aspects for me with my debut novel was simply completing it. Add in the fact that there were then people who wanted to read it and enjoyed it, and that opened up a new perspective for me completely. It’s hard, I mean really tough, going solo – you don’t have any of the machinery or assistance that comes from having a traditional publishing deal – so you have to be everything; author, editor, proof reader, designer, promoter, graphic designer, the list goes on. And that can be relentless and a little soul destroying too – especially as most authors, me included, have pangs of self doubt where you wonder whether what you’d created is actually any good. But I’d encourage writers to stick with it. Because ultimately, whilst we’d all like to get a deal and sell a ton of books, if you can create a compelling, interesting story that people will invest their precious time to read – and they actually enjoy it – then that’s the ultimate reward in many ways.
What are you reading currently?
Stephen King’s Bag of Bones – one that passed me by at the time and he’s always hugely readable, both for his stories and the education you get from reading his work.
What can readers expect from you in the future?
A move into a modern day contemporary stories and hopefully stories more readers will want to explore and enjoy.