Retired detective sergeant Bruce Robert Coffin is enjoying his retirement by reliving his career through fictional character John Byron, a second generation police officer in the City of Portland.
This month he closed a three book deal with Harper-Collins Publishers. He started writing his novel six months before he retired in 2012. He wrote about what he knew. Police work.
Byron started off as Coffin, he said. Often saying all the things Coffin had wanted to say, but couldn’t.
“It’s cheaper than therapy,” Coffin joked. “I was able to relive a lot of stuff we carry around with us.”
Coffin went to college enjoying telling stories, but he had a teacher tell him that he would never be a good writer. He always loved reading and grew up on Stephen King. Writing was a natural progression, he said. He never did get his degree, but had “more secondary education than I can imagine.”
Needing the creative release, he turned to painting and the art world. “A lot of it was a surrogate for writing,” he said. His art has won many awards. Once he started writing, he said, “Writing dedicated a lot of time and mental effort. I was at functions half in the room and half working out a plot point. It’s like being bi-polar.”
There’s a lot of internal dialogue in police work, and Coffin is happy he gets to put it on the page in his novels. “Sometimes you feel like an observer watching it happen,” he said. His writing style has been described as a “wintery police procedural, dark and cold with humor.”
Coffin does most of his writing first thing in the morning. “As anyone who exercises would know, it could be a good day or you could feel a thousand years old,” he said. Sometimes he’ll jump out of bed with a great idea and write 3,500 words in one day or other times he’s lucky to get 200 words. The standard is to do 1,000 words a day so that in three months you’ve completed a novel, he said.
“If you do it every day it gets easier,” Coffin said. “Now that I’m a published novelist it’s freeing. It gives you street cred.”
He wants his stories to be entertaining and enlightening. “Who has a better understanding of what it takes to be a police officer?” he asked. “There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what we’re do.”
The John Byron Mysteries will be release in early fall as a digital first edition with the paperback being released at the end of October or beginning of November.
“I don’t want to be a one hit wonder. I want a major publisher and all the bells and whistles,” he said. “I have three chances to build an audience or land a bigger deal.”
Coffin has attended many conferences, mostly crime related, some as a speaker, but more recently as an author. He has met a lot of authors from Maine who write what he does. They became his mentors, especially author Kate Flora. Two years ago, he found his agent Paula Munier from the Talcott Notch Literacy Services at the local Crime Bake conference.
Coffin is also cheered on by his wife, Karen. The police officers at the department have been very supportive, he said.
This is not Coffin’s first sale. He has a short story that is part of two different anthologies. "Fool Proof" is in the Best New England Crime Stories 2016: Red Dawn, from www.levelbestbooks.com. And in October “Fool Proof” will be in Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Best American Mystery Stories 2016.
Coffin is on Twitter at @Coffin_Bruce, on Facebook as Bruce Robert Coffin Author, on the web at www.brucerobertcoffin.com.
THE REAPING by Bruce Coffin
For weary 20-year veteran and second generation Portland cop Detective Sergeant John Byron, every day on the job is another day in hell. But it’s a fresh hell when two retired cops—his late father’s colleagues—are found murdered, and Byron realizes that he may not have known his father at all. He ties the murders to an old case, an armed robbery that left three suspects and one officer dead—and $1.4 million missing. To solve the crimes and stop the killings, Byron must question everything he thought he knew about both his father’s suicide and the department for which he now works. And the closer he gets to the truth, the greater the danger for him and his fellow officers.