Interview with Ray Sullivan
Author of Bronze
Ray Sullivan is a British author born and raised in north Wales. He completed a 24 year military career in the Royal Air Force before returning to north Wales to work in the public and private sector. He is currently a lecturer in aeronautical engineering when not writing. Ray's writing is impossible to pidgeon-hole - his novels range from sci-fi, to military adventure to comedic. His latest book is Hotel California, a dark comedy thriller.
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Quick description of the book for a new reader - what should they expect?
- Bronze is an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and Bronze Age expert who also consults for law enforcement. North Wales police consult him when ancient artefacts are found spread around the corpse of the victim of a violent killing. Bronze identifies the artefacts as having originated in the Balkan region, a region he worked in as an army EOD specialist, demining mass graves in Kosovo.
The investigation takes Bronze back to Pristina and to unfinished business, before returning him to the UK to try and work out who the killer is, and whether Bronze is the consultant or the bait.
The book digs deep into the processes and dangers of demining, improvised explosive devices and contains a number of nail biting chapters where Bronze is literally defusing dangerous situations where one mistake is all that it takes to end his existence.
What was your inspiration for this book?
- The book is based on two individuals I've had the honour of knowing. One of my oldest friends, Doug Simpson, is an EOD specialist and has been found demining and clearing land of ordnance as far away as South Korea and the Falklands in addition to his military career which included clearing land mines and IEDs in Kosovo.
The other inspiration is Simon Dunning who is a very forensic detectorist - a person who uses metal detectors as a hobby. He is also very knowledgeable about stone and bronze age history. The main character, only known as Bronze, is an amalgam of these two men with a little of my artistic license added.
Can you tell us a little about the locations in your book?
- Most of the book is set in north Wales, mainly in and around the Flintshire town of Mold. The region is a mix of the industrial and rural and provides a rich backdrop to the story. Bronze lives in a duplex apartment near Mold created from an ongoing refurbishment to a mansion - the building is fictitious but there are similar developments in the area that provided inspiration.
Part of the story is based in modern day Pristina with an extended flashback to the end of the Kosovo conflict in the same location.
Is Bronze a stand-alone story?
- It is intended to provide a series of books based on the characters created in Bronze. Like all good stories the central characters - Bronze, Detective Inspector Starling and the medical examiner from the local hospital in Wrexham, Steve Loham - developed and formed a life of their own that will continue throughout the series.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
- Set your aspirations high, your expectations low. It's a tough gig, this writing business.
Could you talk a little about your writing process?
- This was a little different to my normal process which is to write in a generally linear mode a couple of hours a day, editing the previous day's work before commencing on new material. The idea for Bronze was provided by another work colleague, Jason Roberts, who was driving behind Simon Dunning and declared in work that he had a great idea for a TV series - Bronze the detective detectorist based entirely on observing Simon in his Alfa-Romeo Spider.
As a concept it was a little thin so I proposed a beefed up synopsis of the story that has become Bronze and decided to write it in full view. I wrote it chapter by chapter in a public part of my cloud and shared a link to my colleagues who followed the story as it developed and provided feedback. It felt a bit like standing in the street in my underwear, with errors, typos, uncharacteristic lines all exposed before I had the chance to self-edit them, but also quite fun. I think all writers should try it at least once.
Which character has had the greatest impact on readers?
- Bronze is on pre-order as I write this, but my beta readers all have enjoyed the Bronze character. It really is all about Bronze.
If the book were to be adapted for TV or film, who would you see in the lead role? Who did you have in your mind’s eye ?
- Tough one because the physical image of Bronze, including many of his mannerisms and temperament were directly based on Simon, with some of the more subtle characteristics based on Doug. I think Simon would like George Clooney to play the part of Bronze, but I'd be happy for George to play any part including the janitor in the police station just for the kudos!
How have readers responded ?
- The beta readers have loved the story - it's fast paced, exciting and has twists and turns at every step. Apart form some typos and awkward phrasing issues being identified, which is always welcome from a beta reader, the response has been very positive. I'll update once the book goes live and get comments from outside of my personal circle.
Where next? What are you working on now?
- Bronze - Aftermath. The title reflects the personal situation Bronze and DI Starling find themselves at the end of Bronze, but also points at the next crime they work on which starts as a missing person enquiry for Starling while on phased return (spoiler alert -the ending to Bronze is a tad violent). the missing person is a maths lecturer from the local college, but the story takes a dark turn and Bronze is brought in to help.
When Dylan Evans finds a murder victim surrounded by ancient artefacts in one of his fields he calls in the north Wales Police. A detectorist and EOD consultant named Bronze is recommended to Detective Inspector Mark Starling as a local expert in the type of artefacts, which appear to come from the Kosovo region. The murder inquiry raises issues related to Bronze's time in the Balkans as an EOD specialist with the army, and in particular with a Serbian bomber called Misko that Bronze had been hunting at the end of the Kosovo conflict who was implicated in murder of Bronze's lover over twenty years ago.
The trail takes Bronze back to Pristina, where his detailed knowledge of disarming Misko devices is brought back into play, before he returns to north Wales and finds both he and his partner Ingrid are targeted by people who don't want him to survive. The trail culminates in a fight for his life as he attempts to disarm a massive Semtex bomb strapped to an innocent man in the bowels of his accomodation.