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Dave Sivers: My Guest Author – A Day in the Life of Det. Insp. Lizzie Archer.
Dave Sivers is my Guest Author and we are going to explore
A Day in the Life of Detective Lizzie Archer with him, but first:
Dave, tell us about yourself, why you write, and why you write in this particular genre. What is your inspiration? What is your next project?
I grew up in West London and spent my working life in the civil service until I took early retirement from the day job a few years back. I’ve always been a reader and have been writing stories since I was about six, so during that first career – when I wasn’t moonlighting as a bouncer or a bookie’s clerk, or studying for my Open University degree – I was busy with a number of writing projects, with varying degrees of success.
When I found myself with more time for writing, I followed my dream of writing novels in earnest, and then the digital revolution offered me a business model where, as an Indie author, I could manage my own brand the way I wanted. I’d always had quite eclectic tastes, and this has been reflected in the fiction genres I’ve tried my hand at – but I’ve always been drawn back to crime – I think most people like a mystery.
Writers who have inspired me include Stephen King, who always does such a great narrative voice, Val McDermid, who really knows how to structure a crime novel and carry a series forward, and Stephen Booth, who first showed me rural crime doesn’t have to be cosy.
My next project is the fifth Archer and Baines novel, and then I might take a short break from the series to do something that’s been in my head for a while – but Archer and Baines will be back after that!
I’ve asked Dave to take us through a Day in the Life of Detective Inspector Lizzie Archer:
How does your character’s day usually begin? Let us know how your character might spend a typical day, working or being a parent, whatever it is they might get up to. Perhaps they have two jobs, or are retired?
Detective Inspector Lizzie Archer’s alarm is perpetually set for 6.00 am, weekends included. It’s a hangover from her days in the Met, before she transferred to Buckinghamshire’s Aylesbury Vale a few years ago. The area hasn’t turned out to be quite the sleepy hollow she expected, but it does have its relatively quiet patches. Even so, she just can’t break that early morning habit.
Her morning routine is longer than most people’s because she has to artfully apply make-up (as taught by a TV make-up artist) and arrange her carefully cut hair to conceal the crescent scar on her left cheek, a souvenir from a bottle-wielding drunk she arrested in a London pub. The hair and make-up help with her confidence, even though she can’t hide the droop on that side of her face where the facial muscle was severed.
That’s interesting Dave, giving her a scar. I have given Ms B a scar down her left leg because at some point, in another book, I can write about how she got it.
Right now, her team has one case on its books that’s a bit more urgent than the run of the mill car thefts, garage and shed break-ins, and petty drug dealing. Archer’s attention today will be focused on catching the piece of scum that, two nights ago, forced his way into an old lady’s bungalow and left her half-dead, all for a couple of hundred quid and a bit of jewellery that he’ll get next to nothing for, if he can even find anyone to fence it.
It’s a case that has enraged the community, and has the team determined to get the culprit off the streets before he goes for a repeat performance.
Fortunately, they know who they’re looking for. It really isn’t smart for a career criminal to leave bloody fingerprints all over the crime scene. By yesterday afternoon, they’d known they were looking for one Bradley Fane. But he hadn’t been at home when they’d gone looking for him there, and then someone must have tipped him off that the police had been round.
They haven’t found him in any of his usual haunts, either, but wherever he’s laying low, it won’t be for long. The team has spoken to Fane’s ex-wife, who hates his guts, and she’s promised to drop off a list of associates this morning. Archer would have liked it last night, but decided it was worth the wait to secure the ex’s co-operation.
Archer hits the office in Aylesbury nick just before 8pm. At 8.30 there’s a catch up briefing with the team – there’ll be a couple more during the day – and then, just as Archer is thinking about getting stuck into her mountain of paperwork, Melanie Fane turns up with the promised list.
Archer divides the names and addresses up amongst the manpower at her disposal. She decides to get DC Joanne ‘Joan’ Collins, who’s always first in the office and last out, away from her desk partnering DC Jason Bell. Archer has never been a hands-off, desk-driving DI, so she goes with DS Dan Baines. As usual.
At the second address they call at, the woman living there, Shelley Parks, seems decidedly nervous and is obviously stalling. They hear a crash at the back of the house. Baines shoulders Shelley Parks aside and charges through, with Archer right behind him. The rear door is still swinging on its hinges.
They catch up with Fane as he’s trying to scramble over the back fence. Baines drags him down, but Fane’s a big man. He shoves Baines to the ground and turns towards Archer, his face ugly. Whatever he intended to do to her, Archer will never know, because she kicks him full-on in the balls and all the fight goes out of him. His eyes are still watering as she snaps the cuffs on.
Even with the support of the duty solicitor, and even with his slim intellect, Fane doesn’t make much effort to deny what he’s accused of. He shrugs a lot when confronted with the obvious evidence against him and asks if he can get a lighter sentence if he pleads guilty. The infuriating thing is, he probably can, to avoid putting his victim through testifying.
By mid-afternoon, Baines is typing up the report and Archer is finally knee-deep in that paperwork. Tonight there’ll be a celebratory drink or two. And, unless anything horrendous happens in the next couple of hours, it might even be an early finish for a change.
Not that she has much to rush home to.
Does she juggle a career and a family? If she has either/both, does her career drive her to the detriment of everything else, home life for example?
Archer is a bit of a loner, although not by choice. Both her parents are dead, and her brother cut himself and his family off from her after their mother’s death. The man she thought she would make a life with broke up with her after she was disfigured in an arrest that went wrong. She was off duty at the time and her then lover witnessed the whole thing and then couldn’t stand the guilt when he looked at her scarred face. Since then, she’s had one disastrous affair. She doesn’t have too much of a home life, because she usually works long hours, but the house she bought in a small Buckinghamshire village has never felt too much like a home to her anyway.
Does Archer have a love interest? How does this ‘interest’ impact her story? Does this significant ‘other’ often drive the story, interfere with his character and his plans? Are they important to the story or just there in the background? If there are kids, how do they fit into Archer’s story?
Archer doesn’t exactly have a love interest, although one of the few friends she has is her next door neighbour, Dominic. She does fancy him, but she vowed at the outset that she wouldn’t get involved with him – she feels it would be too awkward for them both if it went wrong. They do cook for each other – Dominic does a mean curry – when she’s got a free weekend, and he’s one of the very few people she can relax and be herself with. He and Dan Baines are the only two people she really trusts. She has no kids, and isn’t interested in having any, although Dominic’s cat, Monty, has adopted Archer’s property as an extension of his territory.
When you first envisaged Archer’s character, did you have her whole life mapped out?
I wouldn’t go quite that far. I knew her back story pretty well from the get-go, and I have a story arc for the main characters roughed out over a number of books. But, whilst the plot for each book is mine, the story is theirs – and once in a while they can still surprise me. They nearly always do something unexpected, which will tweak the trajectory a little.
Does she have political views? Strong views about controversial topics for example? Perhaps you steer clear of involving your character in strong viewpoints, being vocal about them – why?
I guess she does have quite strong views – she has very strong feelings about justice – and they must include politics. It just hasn’t figured much in the stories, because there are bad guys to be caught and whatever’s happening in the characters’ lives to handle. If there was something controversial impacting on a story that Archer would have strong views about, I wouldn’t shy away from her expressing them.
Do you think Archer’s views might alienate her in some way from her readers, or perhaps stimulate their interest in her character even more, even though Archer’s views and opinions might be worlds apart from their own? Are you worried about writing anything too controversial?
I think any writer who doesn’t care about alienating their readers has a problem. But Archer, for all she isn’t perfect, is a character readers like. She might have some views that don’t coincide with theirs, but nothing extreme. I think she and the reader would amicably agree to differ.
What made you decide upon the physical attributes of Archer’s character? Is she the amalgamation of several people you know, or have you created her from scratch? Your perfect woman for example – someone you might/might not care for if you met them in real life?
I suppose there’s something of me in both Lizzie Archer and Dan Baines. But I insist to this day that both characters, and my mental image of them, came to me fully formed. Archer is quite tall, blonde and blue-eyed, but that’s all the description I’ve really given in the books. I think readers like to have their own mental picture. She has her disfigurement, obviously. I haven’t consciously based her looks or her personalities on anyone.
What made you decide upon Archer’s personality/character? Was her profession or personality the driving force behind you creating him? Is she a music fan? Which genre and why? Does he read? Which authors and why? Help us get to know something about DI Lizzie Archer.
The key to the personality Archer has at the start of the series is the incident that led to her being disfigured. Before then, she was confident, fearless and marked as a high flyer in a profession that’s in her blood – her late father was a copper too, and very proud of her. After the injury, she lost confidence, both because of her looks and their impact on her self-esteem, and because her sense that she could deal with any situation had been shattered. She fled London for the Met to try to rebuild her life, her career and her confidence. It’s happening, but slowly. I think she came to me in this form because I wanted two cop characters with strong back stories that influence their behaviour, but I didn’t want angst-ridden cops in the stereotypical sense. She’s not much of a reader, although she might pick up the odd crime novel. Her musical tastes are evolving. She’s just turned 40 and is playing a lot of the CDs that belonged to her father – Dire Straits, The Police. But Dominic is turning her into a bit of a country fan, too. She’s discovered the Dixie Chicks and now has everything they’ve recorded. You’ll find Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle on her iPod too. She gets that from me.
What are Archer’s character’s flaws/faults or failings? You’ve created her with these if she has them, why was that? Did you want a perfect all rounded lead character or a flawed one? Is she kind and caring or a bully, arrogant, cruel….?
She knows she doesn’t take enough interest in other people’s lives and their problems. She doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and isn’t very good at finding out whether the other person has a problem. She’s also quite driven, which can give her tunnel vision. But she’s not actually unkind or uncaring, and certainly not arrogant. She can be too defensive sometimes. I didn’t set out to give her these flaws. They just flow from her history. But then, I’d hate for her too be perfect.
Does your character, Lizzie Archer, convey a moral message or aren’t you bothered about that sort of thing?
I like to have a bit of a theme in my head for each book, even if only I know about it. I don’t really want to convey deep moral messages.
Does your story write itself or do you plan and outline in advance, every aspect about your character and their life and exploits? Was this difficult to write, especially if it was not part of your ‘plan’ for them originally?
The story usually has a spark – it could be a thirty-second news item or something overheard – and a ‘what if? or two. When I sit down to make a start, I know what happened, usually how and why, not always who. I can’t do a big outline – just can’t. I have to sit on the characters’ shoulders and watch them investigate. What they do is in character, as affected by the case and what’s going on in their lives. If the direction I’d thought their lives were taking has deviated by the end, that’s fine. That’s what real life is sometimes like.
Setting for a character and their story is important. What made you decide upon the setting you have chosen? Is the setting fictional or one you are familiar with?
The Archer and Baines novels are set in Buckinghamshire’s Aylesbury Vale, where I live. I grew up in West London, but I’ve lived here almost a quarter of a century now, and I know and love the area. I wanted to set a crime series here, and wouldn’t let suggestions that country crime is cosy crime put me off. Bad, brutal things can happen anywhere.
I agree. My Ms Birdsong Investigates is set in Oxfordshire, in the Vale of the White Horse, and is anything but a Cosy/traditional mystery often associated with beautiful rural locations. As you say, bad, brutal things can happen anywhere.
Is your life style similar to your character’s life style in any way? Similar background/family/occupation/profession, education?
Well, I live in the same part of the world! And Archer hails from a part of London not far from where I’m from. My family background couldn’t be more different, but I was a civil servant for a whole career, which I suppose gives me a sense of public service ethos and a public sector way of doing things – although a very different part of that sector.
Would you like to be your character? What do you like/admire about Archer the most?
Well, I’m the wrong gender to be her, but would I like to be a character like her? As I said earlier, I’m sure there’s a healthy dollop of me in her. I like the way she’s come through a horrendous experience and is gradually getting a new life on track, even though she makes a lot of mistakes, and is often disappointed, along the way. Sure, she ran away from her old life – but, having burned those bridges, it’s like she’s doggedly determined to lie in the bed she made for herself. I admire that about her.
Please write a little about your recent book/story involving Archer and why she is experiencing what is happening to her in this particular story. Is Lizzie Archer part of a series? List all your books featuring her.
DI Lizzie Archer is one half of the Archer and Baines duo of which The Blood That Binds is the fourth in the series. In this book, she’s come a fair way from the woman who arrived at Aylesbury Police Station for the first time in The Scars Beneath The Soul. The other books in the series are Dead in Deep Water and Evil Unseen.
In The Blood That Binds, she’s still self-conscious about her disfigurement, but it doesn’t define her so much, and she’s learning to trust people. She’s also trying to give members of her team a little more responsibility, to develop and stretch them, although part of that is necessity, because her quiet patch suddenly finds itself juggling several major investigations at the same time. A 12-year old girl has been killed by a hit-and-run driver, and now the two girls who were with the victim that night have both disappeared. The team also has the naked body of a women, discovered in woodland, to contend with.
Dave’s civil service career took him to exotic places like Rhode Island USA, Cyprus, Brussels, Northern Norway and Sutton Coldfield. Along the way, he moonlighted variously as nightclub bouncer, bookie’s clerk and freelance writer, as well as picking up a first class honours degree from the Open University.
Writing has always been his passion and, since giving up the day job, he has launched a second career as a novelist.
The Scars Beneath the Soul, the first book in his popular Archer and Baines crime series – set in Buckinghamshire’s Aylesbury Vale – and the follow-up, Dead in Deep Water, both hit the top three in Kindle’s ‘Serial Killers’ chart. The Blood That Binds is the fourth in the series featuring DI Lizzie Archer and DS Dan Baines.
Dave has also won prizes and publication with his short fiction, written for newspapers and magazines, and writes material for the amateur stage.
Dave lives in Buckinghamshire, England, with his wife, Chris.
You can discover Dave and his books here:
Goodreads: Dave Sivers
“Two intriguing cases – one twisted plot.” – Alison Bruce
“Stylish, skilful and packed with suspense.” – Sharon Bolton
SOMETIMES THE PAST IS BEST LEFT ALONE
The quiet Buckinghamshire village of Houghton is reeling. Soon after twelve year old Leanne Richards is killed by a hit and run driver, the two classmates who were with her that night disappear, one by one.
Jade and Becky said they couldn’t identify the car or the driver. Does someone want to make sure it stays that way? Or are other, darker motives in play?
As DI Lizzie Archer and DS Dan Baines search for the truth, buried pasts and secret loves begin to reveal themselves. But is time running out for the girls? Or is it already too late?
PRAISE FOR ARCHER AND BAINES:
‘You’ll enjoy this if you liked Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Gillian Hamer’s Gold Detectives series and Val McDermid’s Wire in the Blood’
– J J Marsh, author of the Beatrice Stubbs novels.
Thanks so much for entering into the spirit of this Dave. I have really enjoyed it and I am sure our readers will too and I hope this will inspire them to discover your books – if they haven’t already – and get to know Lizzie Archer more.
Do pop back to answer comments and likes and get to know the wonderful folk who kindly drop in here to meet new authors. I am sure there will be many new followers for you.
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