Talking With Bernard Schaffer WAY OF THE WARRIOR
Blunder Woman Productions met Bernard Schaffer at ThrillerFest 2017 in New York. He participated on a panel where he discussed violence in books and what's realistic in a fight scene. We were impressed with his perspective, and after chatting with him, knew we wanted to read WAY OF THE WARRIOR. It's a terrific book that's used in police training, but it also offers insight into why cops operate the way they do. It's part biography, part philosophy, and all Schaffer. We picked up audio rights to it, and you can now hear James Patrick Cronin perform it.
Comment below and you'll be entered into winning a free download of the book from Audible.
Here's our chat with Bernard:
1) How long have you been involved in police work?
I've been involved with it, in some aspects, my entire life. My father worked for Horsham Township PD, the same town I grew up in. I'd sit in his police car with him on cold mornings, waiting for the school bus.
I never intended on becoming a police officer. Things just sort of fell that way. I entered the academy at 18. This is my twenty-first year in law enforcement, coming up.
2) When did you start writing?
Very young, and always out of dissatisfaction with other stories. The first thing I remember writing was WESTSIDE STORY 2: THE REVENGE OF TONY. I was probably six years old.
I was a struggling author as a young man and aside from appearing in a handful of small zines, completely unsuccessful. I continued writing, all throughout my marriage and early police career and becoming a father. It wasn't until I got separated that I became serious about pursuing it as a profession. I found myself living in a crappy little apartment with brown water running out of the bathtub spigot, truly lost for one of the first times in my life. Out of desperation to do something useful, anything to keep from going crazy, I wrote my first novel.
3) What inspired you to write WAY OF THE WARRIOR? (Was there a deeper purpose to writing it)
At the time I first published it, I was just looking to document all of the great wisdom that had been passed down to me from criminal investigators I admired. Over time, and with people always asking me to expand it, the book began to grow. Recently, law enforcement has come under severe scrutiny, and deservedly so. The problem is, cops are the worst when it comes to handling any kind of criticism. The moment you accuse a police officer of any kind of wrongdoing, everybody on the job goes bonkers. It's stupid.
WAY OF THE WARRIOR, as a whole, as it was written over a period of several years, is meant to tell the young officer just coming into the job that it is not about being a hard ass, it's about serving and protecting in a fair, humane way. It's meant to tell the older officer not to give up, because we still need you. For people not in law enforcement, I know it gives them some insight as to what we really do.
4) Are there any similarities between writing and detective work?
The way I do it, sure. It helps to be creative when you are doing a criminal investigation. And a novelist helps me to structure a case and write the reports to tell a linear story. There are probably a thousand ways the two compliment one another that I'm not aware of. I'm sure anything you do, whether you work at Walmart or teach Kindergarten, if writing is your life, it all ties together.
5) You have a new book coming out this summer published by Kensington. Can you tell us anything about it?
The THIEF OF ALL LIGHT is coming out in hardcover, August 2018. It's a thriller about an unlikely duo trying to stop a new kind of serial killer called an Omnikiller. The Omnikiller uses the patterns and methods of other famous serial killers, so he can't be profiled. The book explores the nature of real evil, and the toll it takes on the people who face it.
A few prominent authors have had the chance to read it, and if their blurbs are any indication, the book is going to be a monster. I cannot wait to get this into the hands of a whole new audience and show them what I am capable of.
It's my first venture into the mainstream publishing world. I worked exclusively as an independent author and publisher from 2011 to 2016, and had run that thread out as far as it was going to go. I decided to take all of my experience, all of the skills I'd learned about how to write a novel, and put them to the test.
Suffice to say, the test worked. Kensington gave me a two-book hardcover deal. I'm working on the sequel now.
6) WAY OF THE WARRIOR is written mainly for men and women in police work, but there is a wider appeal too. What do you hope listeners glean from the piece?
I'll get emails, or read reviews, from family members of cops who thank me for giving them an idea of what their loved ones are going through. Sometimes it can be hard for cops to open up to those around us. There's a lot of reasons for that. We don't want to tell you about almost getting killed, or about some awful thing that happened and our immediate reaction was to laugh hysterically, because it's not something normal people can really understand.
7) You’re a fan of Hemingway. What is it about his work that you admire?
He and I are kindred spirits. I think there's a lot we would find familiar about one another. He walks with me, sits across the desk from me, demands I do better. When I slack off, he drapes his heavyweight championship belt across his shoulder and tells me I'll never be worthy to take it unless I try harder.
I have an imaginary Hemingway. A proxy Hemingway. In my head he sounds like an old boxing coach, yelling at me. "Is that all you got? Get back in there and murder 'em! I showed you better than that. Hit like you want it!"
It's not normal. I know it. But when I meet other authors who are self-deprecating or insecure or worst of all, unmotivated, I just can't relate to them. My imaginary Hemingway tells me to run over all of them like a freight train.
8) What are you reading now?
I'm listening to THE SHIPPING NEWS by Annie Proulx on Audible, and reading ACROSS THE RIVER AND INTO THE TREES by Hemingway. It is not one of his better works. The dialogue is Christ-almighty-awful and he is so wrapped up in his own BS that the whole thing fails. That being said, it was this failure that prompted him to strip away everything and go back to basics. The result was OLD MAN AND THE SEA.
Actually, you are the reason I subscribed to Audible. I've always loved audiobooks, but didn't like any of the apps for them, so I'd always be going back and forth to the local library to borrow them on CD. After we talked about Audible at Thrillerfest, I decided to subscribe. You were right. It's an excellent service.
9) You’re also a sci-fi-fi fan. What is it about sci-fi-fi that’s appealing to you?
The best way I can explain it is like this. People always ask the Star Wars or Star Trek question, right? My answer is that I love Star Wars. I am thrilled by Star Wars. It is a part of my soul, the same as any other kid who grew up with it, and I am ecstatic to see it back again.
But Star Trek is why I am who I am. Star Trek is the basis of my political views. The basis of my humanistic views. It is central to the development of my interest in science, ecology, equality, and my belief that humanity will someday overcome all of our shortcomings and reach for something greater.
When you consider the vastness of space, the entirety of the universe, and the tiny, tiny, place our planet has in all of it, it's a humbling thing. And in all of that, we are unique. Even if there are a multitude of alien lifeforms out there somewhere, they aren't like us. This rich planet, which provides us with everything we need to thrive as a species, and all of humanity, who have created such an astonishing tapestry of art, science, literature, music, and more, is special.
Science fiction offers us a way to glimpse into the future, and what the result will be if we either rise to the occasion or succumb to our basest instincts. Maybe we keep going the way we are headed, and it's 1984 for the next century, until we finally pollute and nuke ourselves into extinction. Maybe we go the other direction, uniting under the banner of science and exploration, using our collective intelligence to solve the world's problems instead of exploiting them.
I'm rooting for the Star Trek future.
10) Anything else you want to share?
I'm guessing that anyone reading your blog is a fan of audiobooks already and aware of the excellent work Blunderwoman is doing in the field. I love this format, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to be part of this team. I always thought WAY OF THE WARRIOR would make an excellent audiobook. I'm looking forward to hearing what people think of this version.
Follow Bernard Schaffer here:
Social Media: www.BernardSchaffer.com
And check out performer James Patrick Cronin here, the voice of WAY OF THE WARRIOR.
Remember to leave a comment and we'll choose a winner for a free download of the audiobook.