Posted on April 26, 2019 at 8:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
Today we’re interviewing crime writer Ian Patrick.
Patrick is now a full-time writer after working as an actor, director and teacher in theater, film and television, followed by a long academic career.
His years as an actor, director and scholar play a modest part in his writing, he says: “My fiction is based to the best of my ability on research and field work. I have to believe the words my fictive characters speak, and the actions they undertake.”
SADYE: How did you come to see yourself as a writer, and what inspired you to seek publication?
IAN: My father was a highly regarded detective in the Criminal Investigation Division of the Police Services in Durban, South Africa. As a young child, I grew up hearing fascinating stories of his exploits.
He died when I was fifteen and I pestered my mother for some years thereafter to tell me more about my father’s work.
I contemplated for many years the kinds of crime stories I wanted to tell, all set in the locations where my father worked.
By the time I retired from a long career as an academic and then administrator in various universities, I was ready to write the kind of crime fiction that has fascinated me ever since.
At first I wrote simply for enjoyment, with no thought about future publication. Only when I had embarked upon my second book did I consider publication.
I was greatly heartened by an early very enthusiastic response to the manuscript of my first book from a major publisher, but after her initial excitement and encouragement, it was explained to me that the economics of publication would mean that it would be some time — possibly eighteen months — before my book might come to market.
In the interim, I discovered the revolution in self-publishing so I ventured into Amazon. I have never looked back.
SADYE: Tell us something about your writing process that’s unusual or that you haven’t revealed before.
IAN: Once I had embarked on writing crime fiction, I realized that I had insufficient knowledge about the day-to-day business of police work, the standard weapons used by police officers, forensics, ballistics, detection of DNA at crime scenes, and many other things.
So, I began to interview police officers and victims of crime, going into the field with detectives and observing them at work, speaking to them about matters of law and policing, weapons and ballistics, and many other things even down to questioning them about the minutiae of day-to-day life in the office.
For example: “Do the detectives in your office have their own hot-water urn for tea and coffee, and do you drink from polystyrene cups or do you have your own mugs?”
I then went further and studied two different university courses in crime scene management and DNA collection, blood-spatter analysis, ballistics and general forensics, etc.
I also did a further university creative writing course, which I found very useful.
SADYE: What have been the most surprising, rewarding, and challenging parts of your writing career?
IAN: Ian Patrick is my pen name, and my profile picture is not me on a horse. It is a photo I took of the statue of General Nuno Alvares Pereira at Batalha Monastery in Portugal.
He was the famous fourteenth century “Protector of Portugal” known as a crusader against criminals and a fearless upholder of what he saw as civilized values.
I use both the profile picture and the pen name because I do not want anyone to read my writing through the filter of conceptions about what I look like or what might be deduced from my personal life outside my writing.
I wanted readers to “know” me ONLY through my writing. Those few comments also explain surprising, rewarding, and challenging moments in my writing career.
I have been pleasantly surprised by the reactions of people who know nothing at all about the “real” me: They have responded to my writing without filtering their responses through assumptions about me.
I have felt it most rewarding to receive flattering reviews, positive comments, and constructively critical observations from people who owe me nothing but who have been kind enough to respond simply because they found in my writing something worth responding to.
I have also had a few challenging moments in preserving my pseudonymity.
For example, I once addressed a large audience in Oxford, UK, after being invited by the local Rotary Club to discuss my writing.
I’m pleased to say that the only person present who knew the “real” person behind the pen name understood immediately and promised to keep my secret.
To this day, not a single person from that gathering — apart from the friend in question — knows who Ian Patrick is.
SADYE: What has been the most touching or memorable piece of reader feedback you’ve received?
IAN: A reader on Amazon left this review:
"As a retired big city homicide sergeant I am careful of praise and often stop reading a book as I’ve already figured out the ending. This book, however, superbly dealt with the issues of police everywhere … I look forward to reading the rest of this author’s works."
It is most flattering to receive such a review about my detective fiction from a police officer who has been there in the real world and done it all.
SADYE: What advice, as relates to your writing career, would you give your younger self?
IAN: There are authors who prefer to map out a novel before embarking on the task of writing.
Some might prefer to write detailed and very specific back-stories for each of their main characters. Others might prefer to work out in advance every major plot development.
This is an entirely acceptable method, but it is one to which I no longer subscribe. In my early creative writing I was too concerned about writing back-stories and preparing extensive plot outlines and narrative structures.
Now I have an entirely different approach (and I am heartened to read that so many of the very big names in my kind of fiction entirely agree).
My own preference now is to discover more and more about my characters in the act of writing, as they grow together and nurture one another and tempt me to take them down paths I had not intended.
Who am I to decide, before the act of writing, the intricacies of these complex people and the nuances of their being?
How can I presume to know them merely by mapping them in broad outline before I commence my intimate journey with them?
I feel far more comfortable getting to know them as we proceed together through the complexities of their lives and their actions.
I like to think that through exploring rather than predetermining, I can create a narrative that is more organically in harmony with the personalities of the full cast of characters.
* * *
Know an author you'd like to see featured? Email us with a recommendation!
Categories: Author Interview