Thursday 28 April 2011

DJ Bennett interview: Hamelin's Child

Hamelin's Child by DJ Bennett

Debbie Bennett is a middle-aged, boring civil servant with a secret life as a writer. She's worked in law enforcement for over 25 years, in a variety of different roles, which may be why the darker side of life tends to emerge in her writing. If she makes enough money selling books, perhaps she'll be able to afford counselling instead.

Can you sum up your book in no more than 25 words?

More of an intro than a sum up: Michael Redford died on his seventeenth birthday – the night Eddie picked him up off the street, shot him full of heroin and assaulted him.

What was your motivation for writing Hamelin’s Child?

I’ve spent all 25 years of my career so far in law enforcement in a variety of different roles both in the office and out on the front-line. One of my jobs was as a specialist drugs investigator – having seen first-hand how heroin is imported, I wanted to explore its effect further down the chain. I’m not sure where the story itself came from as it arrived in my head more-or-less fully-formed and I just wrote it down. What that says about me, I’m really not too sure. I don’t like to dig too deep into my subconscious.

Who designed your cover?
JT Lindroos. With a little help from your good self. J

How important is a good title?

Difficult one. I don’t buy books by title, so I can’t say a bad title would put me off. But I like titles that have some relevance to the book, even indirectly. My title Hamelin’s Child is supposed to make you think of the Pied Piper luring children away into a different world. I hope it works.

Do you have any other projects on the go?

Plenty. I have another thriller in progress and a couple of fantasy novels I’m about to self-publish. I also dabble in short stories and I’m a submissions reader for various ezines, anthologies and competitions.

How important is a book's central character?

Crucial. My writing is very much character-driven and I like to get right inside the main character’s head and explore what they are thinking and feeling and how that influences their actions. There are a couple of very dark and nasty scenes in my novel. I think they are essential to the story, but I hope that readers will care enough about Michael to live through them with him and see how they affect his life.

What are you reading now?

Fourth Day by Zoƫ Sharp

If you had to re-read a crime novel right now, what would you choose?

Does Matthew Reilly count? He’s more thriller than crime, but I just love his completely implausible plots and non-stop action. Or I’d possibly choose Chevy Stevens’ Still Missing – to see if on a second reading, I can understand what all the media fuss was about.

What do you look for in a good book?

Something where the ending is a natural result of the progression of events – deus ex machina is likely to have me throwing the book in the bin and vowing never to read anything by that author again. Something with strong characterisation, where I really care about the people and I’m right in there with them, living the story. Something that makes me look up and realise that it’s 3am and I have to be up for work at 7.

What are your views on eBook pricing?

At the moment, I’m quite happy for the big publishers to keep pricing their ebooks high, as it gives independent authors a chance at the market. My books are priced as low as possible on Amazon as I’m a firm believer that big sales at low prices will work out better for me than small sales at high prices. I just want to get my name out there and be read; there’s no point being a writer if nobody ever reads the words. I live in hope that I’ll sell enough ebooks for somebody to want to pick up paperback rights – I want to see my book on the shelves of my local bookshop and in my local library. Don’t we all?

What are the biggest problems facing writers these days?

Not being famous before they start. It’s so much harder for any writer who doesn’t come with a ready built marketing launch-pad to be “commercially viable”.  I find it frustrating to see media personalities saying they were “asked to write a novel” and given whatever help they needed to do so. As I haven’t slept with a celebrity nor been on reality tv, and I don’t have impossibly large boobs, I’m not sure how I am supposed to get noticed.

Ever tried your hand at screenwriting?

Yes. I tried adapting the novel a while back. I bought a couple of how-to books and very quickly realised that writing a script is very different from writing prose. I found it difficult to step outside of a character and write more visually. But I practised, I finished it and I learned a lot from the experience – although I don’t expect the results to ever see production. I’ve also recently written a commissioned (and paid!) short film script for a dark fantasy series that will be made for DVD by a small film company.

Ever tried your hand at poetry?

Only when I was a teenager and depressed. It’s awful.

Do you read outside of the crime genre?

My reading and writing roots are firmly in fantasy, having been involved in running the British Fantasy Society for over 20 years in various roles. I used to read a great deal of fantasy, both adult and young adult. I don’t read as much these days as there seem to be fewer authors in the genre who capture my imagination and I’ve moved into more mainstream thriller and crime territory – both reading and writing. But I also read what could loosely be described as “women’s fiction” – Jodie Picoult and the like – and have even been seen reading chick-lit on occasion. Plus whatever teenage-angst books my daughter is reading, any sf or horror I get sent for reviews, the back of the cereal packet and the instructions for the DVD player…

What was your favourite book as a child?

I loved Alan Garner. He’s a local author and I was lucky enough to meet him a few years ago to present him with an award, so I can say I have seen the Owl Service! I also enjoyed Susan Cooper’s Dark Is Rising sequence which had a huge influence on me as a reader and a writer.

Hamelin's Child by DJ Bennett


  1. Great book by a very talented writer. About time she was snapped up by one of the big publishers though!

  2. Great book, great interview. Good to see you here, honey!

  3. A wonderful book. You will read it in one sitting..because you just have see what happens.

  4. You have a great cover on your hands and the title suggests what you want it too. That 25 word summary sells it really well. I'm in.

  5. Great interview! I have just reached the end of the free sample on my Kindle and am now definitely buying the rest of the book - I think it's a bargain at that price and Debbie could probably price it higher once the word gets out.

  6. Deb, this is a great interview. I remember the book years ago on Authonomy. I was rather in awe of you. Still am.