An Interview with Author Tim Wickenden
1. Please tell us about your work
I have been writing for many years. Up until last year, it was nearly all short stories, and I've spent years trying to master the art of storytelling. I still go to a creative writing class! A couple years back, I decided to create a detective and write a thriller. There were two reasons for this. One was it seems to be a genre that never goes out of fashion: people love to read thrillers, mysteries and detective stories. Secondly, I felt if I could come up with an exciting detective, it would give me a series of books. Then came the hard part! I had to come up with a detective that was my own. It took me two years of going through various ideas before I landed on Berlin Kripo detective, Max Becker. There seem to be a lot of maverick detectives, you see them on the TV all the time; and loners, or dysfunctional yet engaging detectives, and while many of these are appealing, I felt I wanted to head off in a different direction. I created a team of detectives with Max at their centre. They like one another, get on and work as a cohesive unit. Max is a family man and his wife, Anna, is a central character as are his two children.
The rest of the core team is made up of a young female detective, Otti Jäger. I created her because it was important to me to have a compelling feminine role to add balance to the team and as I wrote the first two stories, I fell in love with her and the opportunities she will provide me. There is, Bastian Döhl, the dependable Detective Sergeant, hard-working, smart, does not suffer fools but is haunted by his war experience. Many of the characters fought in the war, Max was a Panzer commander, of which we will hear more in future stories. The war casts a background shadow to 'Angel Avenger', and we explore what it is like to have been a decent person fighting for such a depraved and criminal regime and the guilt that brings. Within the team, there is comradeship, love, and a sense of professional purpose that is exciting to write about and I believe my readers will like and be able to relate to the characters. Creating stable, compelling characters is central to my work - a story with rubbish characters is seldom pleasant to read! Currently, there are 2 Max Becker stories out: 'Girl Hunter' is a short story (11000 words) that follows the detectives as they hunt a serial killer who is abducting and murdering young girls. It deals with the closing days of the case as the killer homes in on Max's own family - the final showdown is a thrilling hunt scene - fun to write and exciting to read. It is the sort of story you can take to bed, or on a journey and enjoy in a single sitting, and the ending will leave you wondering! The first Max Becker novel, 'Angel Avenger' is a darker story than 'Girl Hunter' and takes us into the world of revenge, trauma, survival and self-discovery. Despite its dark themes, it is a story full of hope and the characters, both detectives and others, carry the narrative in a balance of action, reaction and off duty moments. There is violence; a love story; the slow burn of getting acquainted with new people and it is well researched and pacey - I am sure it is a page-turner! By the time I completed the first two stories, the characters had got under my skin, and I am looking forward to taking them on the next adventures. To answer a question I get asked all the time: how long did it take me to write the novel? Six months. I set myself a target of 1000 words a day.
2. What are you reading now?
I read a lot of WW2 military, Cold War and 60s history books - research stuff, you know?. Currently, I am reading a book about everything that was going on around the world on the last day of Hilter's life - April 30 1945. I get ideas, etc from such books. This one has helped me to form a new character that will appear in an upcoming story, Tiergarten 4 - due out later this year or early 2020. I am also reading Graham Greene's 'The Quiet American'. A great author and story!
3. What is your next work in progress?
The next Becker novel is underway, due out late 2020 and will be called 'Lüdke's Game'. A totally different story to 'Angel Avenger' and sees a character from Max's past come back to wreak havoc on his life. It will allow me to delve deeper into the various roles and to evolve those that did not play such a vital part in the first novel. It will be a thrilling yarn, and I'm looking forward to writing it. I have two short Becker stories to add to the series: 'Tiergarten 4' and 'The Helmet'. The first takes us back to the war, how Max met Anna and how he got set on being a detective as he tracks down missing soldiers. The story reveals a dark directive from the Führer and is based, in part, on fact. The second is a retelling of a short story that I wrote last year to explore Max as a character and to see if I felt he could be turned into a long term prospect. The story is referenced in both 'Girl Hunter' and 'Angel Avenger', so it needs telling - several of my readers have asked about it thinking they had missed something.
4. What is your message for other writers?
Most writers have to write, so that is the first thing: don't think about it, do it! I can't recommend enough finding an excellent local writing group or creative writing class and joining that. It can be lonely writing, and by joining a group, you can explore new work in a safe environment and learn from others. I do believe that you need to start with great characters and then place them in a situation and tell your readers how they deal with it. They should carry your narrative. Before putting down one word of a Becker story, I wrote very detailed character sketches for my main characters - Max's ran to over 1500 words, and it allowed me to bring them to life and let the story flow around them. Keep writing and don't give up. You'll know when you've got a good book. Remember, don't just sell your book, sell YOU!
5. Where can we learn more about your work?
I have a website: www.timwickenden.com I am trying to put up more content when I can. After the summer, I plan to start putting interviews and podcasts on YouTube, and you can find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.