Today I’m thrilled to have the chance to sit down with one of my favorite authors of historical mysteries, Olivier Bosman. Bosman is the author of the DS Billings mysteries, among others, and if you haven’t read them yet, you should!
We’ll talk more about the books in a mo, but before that, let’s get to know the author a bit first, shall we?
JF: Right, so five quick facts about you. Go!
1. I am tri-lingual
2. My impossible wish is to have a time machine and travel back in time. Not to change anything. Just to see what things were like.
3. Last great film I watched: Hereditary (so creepy)
4. Last great book I read: The Public Image by Muriel Spark (such economy with words!)
5. I’ve been at my current home now for nearly 5 years. In 47 years of life, that is the longest I’ve ever lived in one place.
JF: Do you have a day job? If so, what is it? What other jobs have you held? Have they influenced your writing?
I teach a little English online to help make ends meet. It’s only this last year and a half, that I’ve been able to devote most of my time to writing. Prior to that I spent many years working in call-centres, which I hated, but it has taught me to persevere. It was that desperate desire to do something else with my life which egged me on to keep on writing in my free hours, and now I am finally able to enjoy the fruits of my efforts.
JF: What experiences in particular have inspired your writing?
I think growing up in Colombia has inspired a lot of my Victorian mysteries. Colombia is a country where the very rich and very poor live side by side. I grew up in a middle class neighborhood and had live-in servants, but had to pass slums and begging children on my way to school. The social structure, the rigid class system, the entrepreneurial spirit of a developing nation are things which Colombia has in common with Victorian Britain, and this has really informed my writing.
JF: Wow, that’s fascinating! What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Taking the dog for a walk, watch old films and Netflix series, and of course reading. But most of all, I enjoy sitting on the window sill, looking out into the distance and daydreaming.
JF: Now, a bit about your writing, if you please. Describe your process. Are you a plotter or a pantser, or something different altogether?
I do plot the whole story before I start writing, but the act of writing usually inspires new ideas, or exposes plot holes. Also, characters have an annoying habit of behaving in unexpected manners, which means that I always end up having to re-plot everything half way through the first draft.
JF: I can definitely identify with that. What about reviews? Do you read yours? How do you handle ones that are not so great?
Yes. People don’t relise how valuable reviews are to writers. Writing is a lonely profession and reviews are the only way for me to know how readers are reacting to my stories. Bad reviews don’t tend to bother me much. When I do get a bad review, it’s usually because the reader had different expectations of what the book would be. That’s why it is important for me to make sure that the book’s cover and blurb accurately convey the feeling and genre of the book.
JF: Are you traditionally published, self-published, both or neither? Why did you choose that path? What are some of the good things and bad things about doing it that way?
I’m self-published. Prior to writing my first novel, I spent years trying to be a screenwriter, and sending unsolicited scripts to production companies and agencies without result, until I reached a point where I just wanted people to enjoy my work, and I didn’t have the patience for the whole waiting game that comes with going the traditional route.
JF: What is the one thing you wish you’d known about writing before you started doing it seriously?
I have learned a lot since I started publishing; how Amazon works, how to find good cover designers and editors, how to look for your audience, how to market your book, how to do promotions efficiently – and I’m still learning. It would’ve been great if I’d known all of this beforehand, but learning is part of the fun of doing something new. And the industry is constantly changing anyway, so the learning never ends.
JF: Now let’s hear a bit about your work. Tell us about your latest book.
The DS Billings Victorian Mysteries are a series of detective novels set in late Victorian England. The protagonist, Detective Sergeant John Billings, is an honest and hard working man who has risen swiftly through the ranks to become one of Scotland Yard’s youngest detectives. But in his private life he struggles with the demons of homosexuality, loneliness and morphine addiction. He is a complex man who always tries to do the right thing, but often makes reckless and impulsive decisions which land him in deep trouble.
JF: Where did you get the idea for this story?
I was inspired to write a Victorian Gothic story after reading “The Woman in White” by Wilkie Collins. There is something irrepressibly appealing about dark gas-lit alleys, and sinister men in top hats, and shifty looking maids lurking in corridors, and enigmatic damsels with long dresses and hidden pasts.
JF: What idea would you like your readers to take away from this story?
Two things: One that the late Victorian era wasn’t really that different to modern times.
Two: that having a gay detective as a protagonist does not make this a gay novel. I see no reason why straight people cannot relate to a gay character the way gay people have been able to relate to straight characters for so many years. I really hope that in the near future we can have more gay protagonists in mainstream fiction.
JF: Me too! So, what’s next for you?
I am currently writing the fifth Billings mystery.
I also have a light-hearted romantic novel coming out on April 7 (see below).
You or No One.
Is the world ready for an openly gay king and his prince consort?
Joel is happy, confident and working class.
Eric is shy, insecure and a member of one of the oldest aristocratic families in Europe.
When they meet in university sparks fly.
They say opposites attract, but when Joel discovers that Eric is the crown prince and future king of Doggerland, he starts having doubts.
They want to get married. They think their greatest battle will be convincing the King and the Prime Minister to give their consent. But estranged relatives coming out of the woodwork, intrusive tabloid press, and the traditional, stifling lifestyle of the aristocracy conspire against them.
Are Joel and Eric secure enough in themselves and each other to overcome a world which is not as tolerant as they thought?
JF: Now that is one that I’m definitely going to check out!
Readers, be on the lookout for You or No One by Olivier Bosman, coming on April 7!