Part 2 "Did you always want to be a writer?"

Updated: Mar 6

"Chronicling true crime takes effort my friend."


If you read Part 1 and are still going, you're our kinda writer or reader! The following is the second part of the questions we get most asked.

Do you write every day?


CHRIS: Purt' near.


PAUL: Monday through Friday. As I said, it’s my job now.


Do you have a writing routine?


CHRIS: I'm just not a routine-friendly person. I'm not much for schedules and I avoid like the devil having my day planned out ahead of me. The only thing routine is that I write almost every day, not that I plan it that way, I just enjoy it.


PAUL: Still trying to establish a solid schedule after our move down from Alaska, but schedule is what I like.


Do you block it all out or?


CHRIS: Yes and no, and that depends on my mood. Some days, I like the chatter and activity of buzzing coffee shop. The next day, I may opt for solitude. I routinely take myself to a simple cabin on the water and will put in a day or two or three, by myself. Every day is different.


PAUL: I could block out background noise if need be, but I prefer relative quiet.


When you're writing, do you listen to music? What do you listen to?


CHRIS: When in the mood, I usually throw on Pandora or Spotify. I like a pretty eclectic selection, from Delbert McClinton to Jean-Pierre Rampal, from delta blues to Sinatra classics, from smooth jazz to Foreigner and Loverboy. I love country music, Bonnie Raitt, Gary Allan (especially his "Nothing On But The Radio"), Vince Gil, Jennifer Nettles, Maren Moris, Chris Stapleton, Brett Young, Randy Travis, Eric Church... oh hell I could just keep going. I don't listen to it all the time when I write, it's a mood thing of course.


PAUL: I like music when I’m working in my shop, but not so much when I’m writing. I get caught up in the music and forget what I was trying to put down in words.


Are you outliners? Do you know where you're story is going from the start?


CHRIS: Paul might answer this differently than I. I did so much screenplay writing I developed habits that have carried over. Getting there quickly, I do like to have a plan, an outline if you'd like. (It didn't quite work that way in The Night Police however.) I like to know the story line and write to that. It doesn't have to be hugely detailed but it helps me develop characters, define arcs and probably more importantly if gives me a sense of peace about where we're going. In a first draft there's so much wiggle room, you know you'll be editing the shit out of it, but I still like the roadmap. I have a lot more confidence about what I put to paper with a relatively defined path in front of me.


PAUL: Not with this first Night Police book. We started out just writing up vignettes from various happenings in our law enforcement careers. It wasn’t until we had over 100,000 words that we started to weave the chapters into a storyline.


Characters, plot, dialog, what goes first?


CHRIS: That's a tough one, since this is our first book. We were pretty scattershot to when we started on The Night Police. We actually started with a group of short stories that we knew in our souls. We also knew the characters, in depth. They were our friends and our brothers. That I am sure was a huge benefit for us on this book. The dialog just poured out, knowing the characters so well. We had an advantage many don't, it sort of behooves us to make a good showing.


PAUL: I’m going to share a word from Team Berg/Smith with you - ornaments. In our previous efforts Chris brought his considerable screenplay writing experience with him. He was schooled in character arcs, story arcs, plot twists, and all the things that go into successful fiction writing. I on the other hand just wanted to write. I told Chris that he could build the framework, the Christmas tree if you will, and I would write the ornaments to hang on the tree. Somehow I tricked him into my lazy approach to writing and the first volume of The Night Police was born as a series of ornaments. I’m sure future projects will have an outline, character development, three acts, denouements, and the like…maybe.


Where do you get your ideas?


CHRIS: For us, the stories all came from our personal experiences as Night Policemen at the local and federal level. For our follow on books we have a strategy, which were not revealing right here, but it will still be based on true life, police adventures (and an occasional mis-adventure). How we put it all together was the result of many, many hours of brainstorming. And the demise of more than a few bottles of top shelf spirits.


PAUL: We both like true crime, cop stuff, and adventure writing, so we never stray far from that genre. We believe that we can work with those topics and bring insider knowledge and realism to our stories. One thing we are going to pursue with The Night Police books is visiting other veteran cops and hearing their tales about Night Policemen and Street Monsters as fodder for future books.


What keeps you at it? Is there a secret to finishing a book?


CHRIS: Well there seems to be a few secrets to finishing your first draft for sure. For me, the first is loving the writing process. I generally love writing, putting the words to paper. It allows for a great creative escape for me.


There's no doubt that sometimes you just don't feel it. When that happens, I just fold up my tent and call it a day. I don't push it. Within a few days I'll come around and be raring to go again.


It also helps to have a great collaborator and friend. Paul and I definitely feed off each other, and it doesn't take much to get the creative juices flowing. Frankly, I think about it all the time and when we wrapped our first draft at about 120,000 words, I was a bit gloomy about it. In short order I realized we were maybe a quarter of the way to the finish line (if that) and the melancholia lifted.


PAUL: Probably the same thing that kept me going to work everyday for 40 plus years. You take something on and you see it through to the end, and let’s face it, writing is fun. It’s not like making big rocks into little ones in the hot sun.


Your book will be published soon; where do you get off with website, blog, social media that speaks to an unfinished product?


CHRIS: We've been surprised to find the business of writing is way more demanding than we would've guessed. Once we started feeling we really had a product that could be successful, we started a paralell project of educating ourselves to the business. First takeaway... damn, it's a lot of work. Web sites, blogging, social media, SEO, marketing campaigns, blah, blah, blah. We've tried to take advantage of every piece of good advice. A lot of folks are very willing to help you succeed.


These are not suggested activities. Success requires the same attention to the business that it does to the writing.


PAUL: Its all part of the business of self-publishing. Anyone with a computer can do that now, but in order to be successful you have to reach a lot of people out there in the ethers. You have to create some interest in you as a writer and in your book.


This is your first book, aren't you afraid you'll fail?


CHRIS: Afraid? No. Do we wonder if this venture will be successful, of course. For us this book is different than anything we've worked on in the past. It's felt different, maybe not from the moment of inception, but it didn't take long for us to say to each other: "This feels right. I think this can work".


You don't become a member of the night police without a good dose of self confidence and ego; that alone pushes us forward. I will point out that while we were both very successful in the world of policing, we haven't achieved that with our writing. Yet.


PAUL: I believe that we have a good story that will be a good read for a lot of people. It will only fail if we don’t do all we can to get it out there.


Would you consider other forms of writing, other than an anthology? A novel perhaps?


CHRIS: Never say never, but I don't think we see a change in direction on the visible horizon.


PAUL: I wouldn’t even know where to start!


Do you have book recommendations?


CHRIS: Both Paul and I have long lists of favorite books which we will devote a blog post to down the road. For the near term, these are the books that set the stage for me.


Ernest Hemingway:


The Sun Also Rises (1926)

A Farewell To Arms (1929)


Joeseph Wambaugh:


The New Centurions (1970)

The Blue Knight (1972)

The Onion Field (1973)

The Choirboys (1975)


and


Leonard Clark

The River's Ran East (1954 )


Robert Ruark

Something of Value (1955)


Umberto Echo

Focault's Pendulum (1988)


Mark Helprin

Memoir From Antproof Case (1995)


PAUL: There have been many over the years, but here are a few standouts:


Daniel Defoe

Robinson Crusoe (1719)


Robert Ruark

Something of Value (1955)


Wayne Short

Cheechakoes (1964)

&

This Raw Land (1968)


Peter H. Capstick

Death in the Long Grass (1977)


Larry McMurtry

Lonesome Dove (1985)


Anything by Mark Twain



We hope you've found this valuable, interesting would be even mo' betta.


You can always reach us at thenightpolicenovels@gmail.com. Should you take the time to ask a question, pose an idea or make a suggestion, we will get back to you.


Thanks Paul and Chris



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chapter one of The Night Police!


© 2020 by Chris Berg & Paul James Smith.