Interview With Author Stephen Bentley

Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

I’m Stephen Bentley, a former British police Detective Sergeant and barrister (trial attorney). These days I’m a freelance writer, author of many books, and an occasional contributor to Huffington Post UK on undercover policing, and mental health issues.

Besides my UK bestselling memoir, Undercover: Operation Julie – The Inside Story, I write crime fiction in the Steve Regan Undercover Cop and Detective Matt Deal Thriller series. I also wrote an award-winning short story, The Rose Slayer, which has now been published in an anthology of murder mystery short stories, Death Among Us.

When I’m not writing, I relax on the beaches of the Philippines with my family where I now live.

What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?

Operation Julie is still Britain’s biggest drug bust.

In March 1978, at the culmination of Operation Julie, fifteen defendants, including doctors, research chemists, a writer, and “professional” drug dealers were sentenced to a combined total of one hundred- and twenty-four-years imprisonment. This covert operation is still the point of reference for all British undercover operations and training. In 2011, the BBC claimed this massive and unique police operation was the start of the war on drugs.

I was one of four undercover detectives engaged on Operation Julie. Together with my undercover partner, we infiltrated the gang producing around 90 percent of the world’s LSD and uncovered a plot to import huge quantities of Bolivian cocaine into the UK. We operated in the era of no undercover training; improvising as we went along. We were pioneers left to our own devices.

The underworld knew me as Steve Jackson. I ‘lived a lie’ for the best part of a year and it had a life-changing effect on me.

What inspires/inspired your creativity?

I would say friends and family who kept telling me I must write down my undercover cop experiences. Eventually, I listened to them.

How do you deal with creative block?

I can’t say I struggle with a creative block. Sometimes, I can’t see where the story is heading so I take a break, relax, and usually the answers pop up in my head.

What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

Write badly, I guess, must be number one. Number two? Write boring!

Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

Get the professionals involved in covers. It need not cost a fortune. There are many reputable outfits offering pre-mades. Personally, I stay away from DIY covers.

As for titles, learn from my newbie mistake – never put a colon in your title. And, avoid the F-Word unless you want Amazon ads to refuse to carry your ads – (yes, it happened to me.)

How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

Now? I ignore them, mostly. But some can be a learning curve. The review may reveal something about your book you weren’t aware of giving you the chance to fix it.

How has your creation process improved over time?

A thousand-fold. I have now got to a stage where at least I think I know what I’m doing in the creative process.

What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?

The best and most surprising thing about my memoir was how rapidly popular it became especially in the UK. It was featured on national and local media. I also received something like ten film/TV option inquiries. I accepted one and there are realistic hopes of a feature film based on my memoir in the near future.

The worst part was having to cope with some early vitriol aimed at me after my book had been featured in certain magazines. I did learn to ignore those ‘keyboard warriors.’

Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

I balance the two. For me, the two go hand in hand. Without readers, an author is nothing. I like to entertain my readers so they come back for more.

What role do emotions play in creativity?

An immense role. If as a writer, you are unable to convey emotion to your reader then you are not a writer.

Do you have any creativity tricks?

Yes, and I relate it to the last question about emotions. I sit down before I write an emotional scene whether for example it’s anger, passion, or fear, then I recollect my own life experiences. It’s like a method actor – I get into the zone then write those emotions. I also find it useful to try and picture the scene like it’s a movie before I write.

What are your plans for future books?

I have a prequel and sequel for the Steve Regan Undercover Cop series lined up; book two in the new Detective Matt Deal Thriller series; another collaboration with the Death Among Us authors but novellas not short stories; and possibly a further memoir. I aim to be busy!

Tell us some quirky facts about yourself

In addition to working as a detective and barrister (trial counsel), at various times I have also worked as a hospital porter, sales manager, security consultant, London motorcycle courier, truck driver, and heavy plant operator.

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