The original title of ‘Author Interview With Author J.M. Northup” sounds like I could be interviewing Julie Northup. Maybe I will one day. No, the fact is she recently interviewed me and the result is below. So, it is an author interview with Stephen Bentley, me, by author J.M. Northup. Permit me to add at this juncture, these questions Julie posed were designed to make me think. They did! Possibly that is why there is such a clunky intro to this post 🙂
I always appreciate authors and readers taking time out of their busy lives for me. It’s an honor! I am, especially, interested in interview you today, Stephen, as you have such a fascinating tale to tell us all.
1. I always kick off my interviews with the same question. Therefore, please tell us how you’d describe yourself?
Hard working – most of the time – diligent, don’t suffer fools easily. I am told I am a friendly type. That may surprise some as I will stand my corner if I believe in a cause.
2. For this first set of questions, I would like to discuss your past life as a former UK undercover detective and barrister since this has such a bearing on your writing. I’d like to find out how this career path led you to where you are today.
Your police service lasted from 1966 until 1980. What lead you into this type of work?
My father was a decorated police officer. I admired him.
What made you decide to resign?
The full answer is to be found in my memoir. Essentially, the impact of undercover work badly affected my mental health.
You worked undercover to infiltrate the largest LSD manufacturing/distributing network, which your book UNDERCOVER: Operation Julie – The Inside Story is about. How did you get involved with such a dangerous case?
I was head-hunted by the operational commander.
Did it influence you in any way to resign your post as Detective Sergeant? Why, or why not?
No, that did not arise because I was seconded to the secret undercover operation, so I kept my rank throughout my time undercover. In fact, I was promoted to Detective Sergeant after the operation was successfully concluded.
How do you maintain your safety after such a ploy?
Those were pioneering days so there were none of the features available to modern-day undercover officers. I relied on my wits and my undercover buddy to ensure my safety.
Did this have any bearing on your decision to become an Ex-Pat, retiring to the Philippines? Why, or why not?
No, not at all. I retired and chose to become an expat in the Philippines for a number of reasons. You will have to read the full autobiography to learn of all of the reasons. I hope to write it and have it published by 2018. One radio station presenter in the UK told me it would be fascinating, as I have lived “many lives.”
Between 1980 through 1993, you worked various jobs while studying to become a barrister. What made you decide to pursue this career path?
I became redundant and “recharged my batteries” when driving large trucks. I decided then to obtain a law degree at university as a mature student. Law was something I knew something about, owing to my earlier career in law enforcement.
I know you specialized in criminal law, defending cases involving things like rape, murder, drugs… Did your past as a Detective dealing with similar topics help or hinder you?
Helped me enormously as I knew the “inside tricks.” That assisted me in cross-examining police witnesses, and spotting irregularities in their reports and testimony.
Yet, I did have one former colleague, who was jealous of my success, telling accused persons that I was an ex-cop, and not to be trusted!
As a barrister, did you ever come across defendants who you had previously met as a police officer, and if so, how did you handle that scenario?
No, and if I did, I would have had to recuse myself, owing to a conflict of interest.
Why did you opt to end your career in law?
Wait for my autobiography as the truth still hurts. Let me just say at this stage I had some issues with the tax authorities in the UK.
How did your old positions translate into being a writer? I mean, what made you go from cop to author?
I always wanted to be a journalist at school. Following my resignation from the police, many people were fascinated by my undercover experiences, and told me to write a book. I did, but it took a long time to finish it.
3. Now that we are discussing your writing, let’s discuss your writing. LOL . I’m sure you can guess the nature of this next group of questions.
How did you get into writing? Was it always something you had done, or did your interest develop over time?
Always enjoyed writing at school. When I started to seriously write my memoir, I started blogging to hone my skills. Then, I wrote and published a tome about my expat experiences to give me the hang of self-publishing.
Are you an avid reader? If so, do you think your love of reading fed your interest in writing, or did your writing create your love of reading?
I was an avid reader from an early age, thanks to my parents. I would have to say my love of reading led to my interest in becoming a writer.
What made you decide to become a published author?
I thought I may as well try and make some money from my writing, and I thought in the memoir I had a book people would enjoy reading.
How did you publish (i.e. literary agent, small press, or self-published), and how did you find this avenue?
Self-published, and I researched it and taught myself what was necessary.
Why do you feel it is a good fit for your publishing needs?
Self-publishing gives me more control. I like that.
I know you aren’t just a novelist, but you are also a blogger. How did you get involved with blogging for The Huffington Post – UK?
I submitted a few blog posts until one “hit the spot.” HuffPo UK then invited me to become one of their team, and I have now had three posts published.
Did you begin blogging because of writing, or vice versa?
I believe I have already answered that. Blogging is just another form of writing, and it helped me with my writing voice and style.
How do you plan and execute your blog posts?
I don’t. If something or someone piques my interest, then I will write about it.
You also maintain a personal blog, correct? How does this differ from your Huffington Post blog?
I actually have two personal blogs. One is devoted to my expat life in the Philippines, and the other is my author website.
I know you have delved into investigative journalism. What can you share about this aspect of your writing career?
At this stage, I can only say it is about exposing online scammers.
What do you think of the literary world today? Do you feel it is easier to publish, or do you think the new publishing avenues have added new hurdles to the whole industry/process? Why, or why not?
It is easier to publish not only because of Amazon but also the other POD and eBook companies that make it so simple to publish. I am a strong supporter of indie authors, and it’s great that the traditional publishing world id looking over its collective shoulder. The only issue that concerns me with some self-pubbed authors is (a) quality and (b) price. Some books out there are poor; badly edited or no editing; amateurish book covers. They give the indie community a bad name. As for price – what’s with the plethora of free books? I expect to be paid for my time and effort. You will not find me giving my books away for nothing!
5. Your extensive travels to various countries, and hence, your exposure to different cultures must have had some impact on your writing. Let’s focus the next questions around this topic.
How do you feel your travels have influenced your writing?
My travels have broadened me as a person. That surely has to influence my writing.
Do you see law differently after being exposed to other cultures and beliefs? If so, how, and why?
Good question! I don’t really because the fundamentals underpinning laws are essentially the same the world over. Most laws are there for the good of society and built upon the tenets of many faiths, whether they be Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or many other beliefs.
That question makes me wonder… What impact did working undercover have on your view of law? Having gotten into the mind a criminal, so to speak, has your view altered in regards to what’s right and wrong? Why, or why not?
I believe any good detective has to think like a criminal, whether they are undercover or not. Thinking like a criminal does not equate to acting like one in as much even most criminals know the difference between right and wrong.
Are you fluent in languages other than English? If so, what are they, and do you read/write in them?
I was reasonably fluent in French when younger. At school, I read La Plague by Albert Camus, the French language version. It is a heavy philosophical work, and difficult enough to understand in my native language, so I am pleased to know my French was once good enough to comprehend it! I am still able to read in French.
6. What can we expect to see from you over the coming year?
Publication of my first novel and some exciting news about my undercover memoir. If that comes to fruition soon, then you can add the news as a bit of “stop press.”
Do you maintain an annual writing strategy or do you sort of “wing it”, based on the characters and stories that dominate your mind?
Wing it! No real strategy, except I know what my next writing projects are.
What is your current WIP?
My first novel with a working title of ‘Sixth Sense’. It is a spin-off from my memoir, and is a tale of an undercover detective. Who knows, it may not end up as a “stand-alone.”
Thanks again for sharing your story with us. You have led quite the life, my friend. I wish you continued success and happiness in all you do!
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