Part 1 "Did you always want to be a writer?"

Updated: Mar 6

This started way before The Night Police came to be.


Even when your first book is still to be published there are still a lot of questions that folks ask. They seem curious about the book, but they also have questions about the process and frankly about the authors and how they even got this far. We've been compiling a list of the most oft asked question:


Did you always want to be a writer?

Image by frejka from Pixabay

A hangout for one of our favorites from the Lost Generation.



CHRIS: A lot of people ask that question. I did not actually want to be a writer from birth, but for a long time it's sort of been in my blood. In high school it sort of came to me that I could put words to paper more easily than most of my classmates. College sealed the deal for me.


I would have much preferred slugging back a few Mickey's Big Mouths and fervently wasting time instead of doing a term paper or basic college academics. Even with the least amount of effort possible, I still got to a point where I realized that writing just wasn't a struggle for me.


My very good buddy, Tony Sei and I started penning our "Idiodinkranary" in 1972 as an homage to the idiotic and the absurd. It still exists today and silly ass things still occasionally get added to it for our personal amusement. As crazy at it seems, that was the spark that led me to understand that I really did enjoy massaging the written word.


PAUL: Short answer: No. I can’t say the idea of being a writer ever crossed my mind in my youth. Much like Chris, BS-ing on paper was never a struggle. When I figured out that the sciences were really hard, I chose a much easier major to ensure graduation… criminal justice. Briefing cases, writing legal opinions…no sweat. I had been a prolific reader even before high school. Though not always sure of the rules of grammar, I knew what looked right because I read a lot.


I guess one of the things that drove me toward writing was my mother of all people. She had only gotten as far as the 10th grade in school before the needs of a family farm trumped more schooling. Despite a truncated education, my mom wanted to be a writer, and somewhere along the way I remember her taking correspondence courses about writing. She was known among her friends and our relatives for her letters that were collectable stories about normal life. Her style was folksy, humorous, and self- deprecating. I guess you could say I inherited the writing bug.


Who's inspired what you write?


CHRIS: There are so many writers I admire, but for me Mr. Hemingway and Joseph Wambaugh led the way. I actually was fully taken by Hemingway's work in high school. Part of it was what he was writing about, but how he layed down the words captured me. I can remember loving his sense of adventure and to be honest I loved his fascination with drinking and carousing as well. He was an artist, maybe the first I ever recognized as such. It was such a pleasure reading everything I could get my hands on, that had Hemingway on the cover.


Joe Wambaugh's characters grabbed me by the throat in the early 70's with The New Centurians, The Blue Knight and The Choir Boys. My father was second generation law enforcement and I always thought that might be a good career for me. After spending hours with Bumper Morgan, Roscoe Rules and Spermwhale Whalen I was sure I wanted to be the third generation.


PAUL: My big moment came on a Secret Service detail. I was guarding Lloyd Benson’s Washington DC townhome. The residence was empty because Lloyd was out on the campaign trail, and I had the night shift. To pass the time I was reading paperback books as fast as I could find them. Finally I read one so bad that I told myself that I could write something better. I can’t remember the author’s name, but he was my inspiration. I spent the remaining weeks writing in my spare time. It was horrible of course. Since those days I have written short stories about various situations I have found myself in. My mom’s southern fried gift for story telling guided me toward the humorous, the sardonic, the self- deprecating. I received lots of positive comments from family and friends. Believe me, that keeps you writing!


How long have you been writing?


Writing books, not so long. This is my first and Paul and I have been at it for almost two years. Truth be known, he pulled me into The Night Police project. Over time he got me to that incipient moment many writers have experienced, namely the "Ah what the fuck, let's give it a try"; the famous aha moment.


I've written in other formats since the late seventies. I've done short stories, screenplays and lyrics/poetry. While perhaps not in the same creative vein, I can tell you I've written a law library of police reports, search warrants and affidavits. Hey, they count! I'ts putting pen to paper.


PAUL: I guess I answered that earlier, but for those who don’t remember who Lloyd Benson was, he was running for vice president on the Dukakis ticket back in 1988. So late summer of 1988 was the infancy of my writing career.


Where do you like to write?


CHRIS: I'm pretty flexible, I can enjoy writing in a lot of different environments. A coffee shop works. Hell for a shortish while, I can do a fair bit of work in cozy tavern, with a very limited number of adult beverages. I fairly regularly go to a local cigar shop, sit outside with a glass of wine and smoke a Romeo y Julieta or a 6X60 Ashton Sun Grown while hammering the keys. I will say that a club chair and a fireplace draws me like a moth to flame.


PAUL: Where I like to write, and where I actually write are very different. During my working years opportunities to put pen to paper were few and far between, and in those days it was pen and paper! Work assignments away from home provided some unusual venues and opportunity. One summer I worked on a team that surveilled and apprehended marijuana growers on public land. This often involved days of waiting in a camouflaged position in the forest. One quickly tired of watching the bugs diddle, so I would break out my notebook and scribble away. One other notable location was the Khwar al Amaya oil terminal in the Northern Arabian Gulf. My reserve unit had the job of protecting it at the outset of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. When Iranians in their pesky little blue gunboats weren’t bothering me, I had time to write. I now want to build the ultimate writer’s lair complete with woodstove, humidor, pipe rack, world globe and a decanter of something special. That will be a future blog!


Is collaborating difficult to do?


CHRIS: When you have top shelf writing partners, I'd have to say no. There are logistical issues that have to be overcome, but that's all doable. I've experience collaboration prior to The Night Police when I was writing screenplays with another terrific writer I met on the job. I found it a lot of fun with Jerry and it was really great to have another to bounce ideas off of and to get valuable critical feedback. We're still friends, and who knows maybe we'll collaborate again some day.


With Paul, I knew that once we settled on what we were going to write about, it would be a pleasure. If you think that working with a collaborator might work for you, remember this: Paul and I were brothers in blue, Night Policemen and partners. We have a bond that few outside of law enforcement will ever have. We are often each other's Radar O'Reilly. The bond is unbreakable and it allows us the freedom to create together with zero bullshit getting in the way. We've shared every truth about each other over the years and it just carries over.


PAUL: Collaborating is not hard, and our work is enriched by what each of us brings to the table. Our biggest challenge was settling on what story to tell. We fell back on the old writer’s standby, write what you know. The words came easy after that.


What are the mechanics of collaborating?


CHRIS: I can't speak for others, but for us it definitely takes effort to make it work. First Paul and I are seperated by geography. And by geography I mean about 900 miles and a couple of states. Not only that, like everyone else we have lives going on all around us that often interrupt the flow of creativity.


We write a lot apart. We agree on what's next in our progression and who's got what, for lack of a better word, assignment. We scurry off to our appointed writer's lair and type like madmen until it's time for an in depth discussion on the phone. We augment that with texting like we're 17 year old girls getting ready for the Junior Prom.


We also like to get together face to face every 90 days or so for a week or close to it. Last time we met by the sea and hunkered down. We worked on The Night Police for 13 or 14 hours a day only stopping to grab a bite or an occasional beer. That's when we get the most done, especially as it relates to the business of the book. The writing is more conceptual in nature, we tend to leave the heavy lift for when we're by our lonesomes.


We do use collaborative software, like Google Docs and a few other tools such as Scrivener and Pro Writing Aid. On the business side, especially as it pertains to SEO, we use a handful of other aids including Google Ads Keyword Planner that help us both be smarter.


PAUL: Chris is the tech guru between us and he has been the pioneer when it comes to finding software that can ease the job of putting a book together from long distance. I have to plug another piece of writing software that he discovered, and we use it to make it appear that we understand grammar and clean sentences. Pro Writing Aid, or PWA as we refer to it, smartens our work up considerably.


How long do you write at a time?


CHRIS: I'll just give you today as an example. I sat down at 11AM, it's now about 1130 PM and I'm still at it. I took time out for dinner, to scratch Jake behind the ears (yes, Jake is a dog) and watch an episode of Billions, but I've been back at it for the last couple of hours.


Don't get me wrong, this is NOT a typical day. I tend to write in spurts, but I try to get to the keyboard every day. Sometimes it's just a few notes or perhaps some time on blog postings. Most of the time, I settle in for 4+ hours at a whack and work on our book. I try to do that at least three or four times a week. It wouldn't work for everyone, but for me I need the flex and the variety.


PAUL: In the past writing was only done after everything else was taken care of. Now that I am recently (finally) retired from organized work, I see writing as my day job. Most days I’ll write 3 to 4 hours, usually in the early morning. As a retiree my days are divided into the coffee portion of the day and the booze portion. Writing works better during the coffee portion. I will however scour the computer doing research for hours at a time during the booze portion of the day. So far I’ve been able to keep the two straight.

Part 2 of "Did you always want to be a writer?" is coming soon.



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chapter one of The Night Police!


© 2020 by Chris Berg & Paul James Smith.