Phil Bridge and I am the author of a series of fiction books about Lawyer turned Hitman Mark King and his quest to find his wife’s killers and uncover the mysterious and sinister secret society Invictus Advoca who have made it their life’s work to assassinate Mark.
I live in Hampshire, right on the edge of Southampton Water and I am currently working on book 4, ‘The Silent Service’ of the Mark King series.
When and why did you start writing?
I began writing when I was just a young child, writing mainly fantasy stories about dragons and wizards and magic, so I’ve always had the desire to write. After spending 13 years in the financial and legal industry, in 2013 I began the first book in the series ‘Hit’.
Actually it started out as a script for a TV series but I had very little interest from producers and directors and was talked into turning it into a book instead. It took me nearly two years to write it properly and I’d never written a fiction book before so it was a challenge to get started.
What inspires your writing?
I tend to do this weird thing of writing to music. The genre and style of the music tends to depend on the scene but somehow I find I can be more descriptive when music is playing in the background. It has to be atmospheric as well, almost like a soundtrack for a movie.
How would you define creativity?
Creativity is to me, like magic. You don’t know where or when it will strike you but when it does, it flows within you and becomes a part of who you are and what you do. It’s breathing life into something which starts off as just an idea, and grows into something incredible and real.
Do you have any writing rituals to get you in the mood for writing?
As I said, I write to music which is something that helps me be creative. I also have to get up in the morning and get washed and dressed before I write. It sounds weird I know, but it just helps me feel like I’m ready for the day, like going to work in the morning. But the mood can and does strike in the middle of the night too, which is why I keep a pen and paper by the bedside! I will literally wake up at 3am with an idea or a plot or a character and I need to record it before the vision is lost. That way, the next morning, I can go back to my notebook and take the idea, build on it and it could become anything from a chapter, to a character, or a twist in the plot, anything! It’s fun because sometimes if I’m half asleep, I don’t always remember what I’ve written, so it’s a fun surprise when I get the notebook out and read through the things I may have written during the night and it’s as much a surprise to me, as it is to the reader!
If you could, what would you go back and tell yourself as a writer starting out?
I would tell myself to persevere and not worry so much. At times I re-read something I’ve re-drafted 6 or 7 times and be unhappy with it for a while before my confidence comes back and I think to myself, ‘actually, that was pretty good’.
I’d also tell myself to know when to walk away from a completed manuscript. I have a tendency to want to keep adding and then I risk over-writing and adding too much dialogue. It’s happened a few times and, during re-writes, I’ve had to take out parts which took me ages to write, simply because it’s over the top or too descriptive.
What do you believe make for great writing?
Great writing to me is as a result of people being true to themselves and having confidence in their ideas. I’ve been rejected by several publishers when I first started and it made me feel really low, but then I realised it wasn’t that my writing wasn’t good, it was that different opinions are ok. Great writing comes from great self-belief and self-discipline.
Passion is also a creator of great writing. I get excited every morning when I wake up because I’m going to write and it’s a new adventure! Keeping the passion alive in writing encourages the author to produce great things.
Which writers have influenced your writing?
I grew up reading Brian Jacques and his series of ‘Redwall’ books about an abbey of warrior mice! My mum and I used to adore his writing and I was lucky enough to meet him a number of times and he gave me some amazing advice. I still read them now and love them just as much.
I also, a few years ago, discovered Scott Mariani and absolutely fell in love with his work. I think it was Scott who inspired me to actually put pen to paper with the ‘Hit’ series of books. The way Scott makes the reader tense up and breathe heavily and panic, it’s just a magical style of writing and I always come away from the book feeling like I have been there, with the main character, being shot at and fighting and running, it leaves me breathless each and every time. I admire him greatly and if I ever get anywhere near the calibre of writing that Scott produces; I will live my life happy!
How do you measure success as a writer?
If a book, or a written idea changes one life, or makes a difference, no matter how small, to one person, anywhere in the world, that to me is success. Author’s write for the love of writing but they also write to bring others a sense of joy, adventure, escapism and happiness. If someone is happy after reading, then it was worth it and it’s a success. It doesn’t matter how many books you sell, how much that one in a million publishing deal is worth, or how much publicity you get, as long as someone enjoys your work, then it’s definitely a success.
Have you ever hated something you wrote?
I have had a few scenes in ‘Hit’ and ‘Hitback’ which I didn’t like once I’d re read them. In fact, I left it a few days before I did my re-read and can honestly say I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote them or even if I was thinking at all! I utterly detested them and really beat myself up about it. I changed them considerably but even know I cringe at the thought of it. I just remember thinking to myself ‘Phil, you cannot let it go out like that. Writing that way, you don’t deserve to be anywhere near a book!’ I really beat myself up sometimes and I would encourage anyone who writes, NOT to do that.
What’s your biggest fear as a writer?
My biggest fear as a writer is to not write anymore. I think that notion scares me more than any critical review where my work is torn apart. I wake up every day excited by what I’m going to write, doing research on locations, creating characters and wondering what I’m going to do with my characters next. The day that doesn’t happen will scare me, but I doubt it ever will. I write because I love writing.
What traits do you feel make a great writer?
There are so many that are individual to the writer. My way may not be right for someone else but passion, self-belief and discipline are the ones I think help. If you don’t have these, your idea will forever remain just that, an idea.
The passion to get up in the morning, in the cold, the dark, the wet, and the discipline to stay in and write, even when you are in the middle of the beautiful summer weather and could so easily go to the beach instead, that strength of mind encourages great things to happen.
Describe your latest book to our readers
My latest book is ‘The Silent Service’ and it’s book 4 in the series. I’ve set out ideas for 16 books in total but I guess I could carry on after that.
‘The Silent Service’ is a covert, black-ops section of expert assassins in MI6 set up in 1997 to combat terrorism and threats to the UK national security. Mark King has been recruited by the Silent Service team thanks to his skills and expertise with a sniper rifle. In ‘Hit’ and ‘Hitback’, Mark finds himself on the wrong end of the law whilst dispensing ‘justice’ of his own. In ‘The Silent Service’, his talents are recognised so rather than killing him, the British Government decide to use his services instead. As far as Mark is concerned, this gives him the opportunity to target the secret society Invictus Advoca who keeps trying to assassinate him, whilst also trying to uncover why his former boss of law firm Leaver & Sons LLP (who Mark used to work for) has suddenly vanished.
I wanted to take on a more dark and sinister tone to this book. There is still the kind of humour and banter between the characters, but I am working on making it darker. Mark travels to a few places around the world and one is Sierra Leone. Conflict there is brutal and there are a number of child soldiers fighting alongside the regular armies so I wanted to highlight that aspect.
I also wanted to explore the psychological impact of Mark’s new life up to this point. Whilst he is an expert marksman and a pretty tough character, he bleeds like anyone else and to explore how it affects his mind is a really interesting journey for me. He does suffer from flashbacks, insomnia and anxiety more and has to have treatment for that, so he’s definitely not immortal.
What would you like readers to take away from your writing?
I like to think my writing can provide a form of escapism, the same way I escape when I read someone else’s writing. Also Mark King as a character highlights the idea of never giving up on something you believe in, no matter what obstacles are thrown in your way. Even when things get rough and it seems like no one believes in you and your own self-belief is a deserting you, the idea that the impossible can be achieved, is really important to me.
I also like to think my writing highlights hope. In fact, that was one of the reasons why Mark King’s daughter is named Hope. I put my characters through some pretty rough scenarios and hope is what keeps them going and that is kind of how it’s been in my life.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Never give up, even when it’s hard to focus your mind and create, keep at it. There is something good in everyone and the ability to keep digging until you find it, that’s key.
Remain true to who you are. Don’t let anyone try to tell you what to write. Write what’s inside of you; write anything, a recipe book, your memoirs, a self-help book, a how-to guide, anything. Write from the heart, that’s so important.
Absolutely and unequivocally do not, for one second think that your writing isn’t any good because a publisher or lots of publishers turn your manuscript down. I fell into this trap for a while and it made me feel useless. Just because someone says no, it doesn’t mean your work is no good, it just means they have a different view than yours and that’s allowed. If we all thought the same way, this world would be a pretty boring place!
Lastly, write, above all, because you love it. Even if no one ever sees your work, (which would be a shame so don’t hide it!), write because it brings you pleasure and it makes you happy. When you love something, you feel passion for it and it burns inside of you.
Can you give our audience a writing prompt to help get them writing?
Open your mind to where your creativity can take you. If you approach something with a completely open mind, you will surprise yourself and just what turns up on the paper. Look for inspiration around you but ultimately, look for it inside of you, because it’s there.
If you start writing that idea you’ve had for ages, or the one you’ve just thought of, even if you write a paragraph at a time, even if it sounds crazy and wild, write it anyway! It could be the start of something amazing.
Write something each day that scares you. Write about your insecurities; write about your fears or your worst nightmare. It also acts as a kind of therapy, an outlet to make sense of all the madness we sometimes feel when life gets on top of us.
What’s next for you?
Mark King certainly keeps me busy, the way his personality has grown, it could go anywhere! I would like to finish at least the 16 books I have ideas for, but my family and I recently discovered something exciting in our family tree concerning an aunt of mine who married into a very influential Jewish family before the Second World War. Sadly, that family quickly became a target of the rising Nazi party and so she began smuggling Jews out of Europe to the US between 1930 and 1939 as the Nazi’s came to power. No one’s told her exciting story yet so I’d like to write about that.
After that, I would like to re-explore whether my books would make a good TV series or film. That idea has always excited me and I’d love to see it on TV. Who knows, perhaps a producer will see it and take it on as a project? No one knows what’s around the corner but as long as I can continue to write, I will be happy. If people keep reading, I’ll keep writing!
The Silent Service
Lawyer Turned Hitman Mark King receives a mysterious package from an old acquaintance, a journalist who has dedicated his life since Marie’s death, to finding out the truth.
In this mysterious package, Mark finds details linking the now disbanded Invictus Advoca, to his former Legal boss Hugo Lever.