“Write what you know.” Officer Scott Bzdak took that advice to heart, feeling compelled to write his first novel after working on a homicide investigation. He wasn’t concerned about sales, he just wanted the story to be told. It’s a pleasure to have you as my guest today, Scott. Please tell us a little about yourself.
I currently live in Fauquier County, Virginia, which is a suburb of Washington DC, with my wife and three children. I’ve just completed my fifteenth year as a Law Enforcement Officer in Northern Virginia and enjoy the fast pace environment it creates. On my days off I enjoy playing beer league ice hockey, mountain biking, and running half marathons.
Talk about the book you’ve written. What was the first seed of an idea you had for your book? How did it develop?
No Screams in Silence was first conceived while I was working as a Narcotics Detective for a rural sheriff’s office in central Virginia. When you work for a smaller department, you’re sometimes called away from your area of expertise to help out on the bigger cases. In December of 2006, I was pulled off of narcotics to assist with a homicide investigation, which would eventually be the beginnings of my novel. The actual investigation led me up and down the east coast and I met some extremely interesting characters along the way—including two mass murderers. Needless to say, it was too good a story not to put pen to paper.
Writing from your experience and expertise is great. How did you celebrate the publication of your first book?
After I hit “upload” on Create Space, I drove home and got ready to go to work. I don’t even own the first copy of the book.
What? You really are dedicated to just telling the story! How would you describe your writing process? Do you outline? Let the muse lead you? Or something else?
For this novel I sat down and outlined what I wanted to say in each chapter. Since this was my first attempt at writing, I had a tremendous learning curve. Over the last fifteen years I’ve written numerous police reports, but those are down and dirty, only the facts with no dialogue, narratives. With the help of my content editor, I learned to add more detail and to capture how people talk on paper.
How has writing this book changed you?
It’s made my police reports a lot better, but other than that, I still don’t get recognized at the local grocery store. Oh, and my bank account is still hovering around zero.
Was there a scene that was more difficult than others? One that you pondered whether or not to include it? Talk about that.
When you’re dealing with murder, especially the murder of small children, you always have to determine how much detail you want to put in, or leave out. I had a publisher all lined up, but they told me I had to leave out a particular chapter because the content was too strong. I struggled with this for a while, but ultimately decided to leave the chapter in the book (hence the reason why my bank account is still hovering around zero). In my line of work, you see things that stick with you forever, and I wanted to convey that to the reader. Unfortunately, the chapter in question was an integral part of the story, so I decided to leave it in and lost my publisher.
I admire your dedication to the story. Walking away from a publisher is hard to do. How do your characters influence your writing? Do you have disagreements with them?
My two main characters are actual people that I work with, so yes, we disagree all the time. Since I already knew their personalities, I knew how they would react when faced with adversity. When I got stuck on a certain scene I would ask myself, “What would tick Adam or Bernie off at this exact moment?” It would usually work itself out from there.
I guess Adam and Bernie know they’re characters in you book now. What is your research process like? Do you enjoy it?
The only research I had to do was finding a setting for the story. After researching the coal fields in eastern Kentucky, I knew I had a winner.
Have you ever had to do major rewrites? What was your approach?
Oh man, did I ever. Initially I wrote this story as a bucket list thing and I never intended for anyone to read it. Eventually, I was persuaded to let someone read it. They saw the potential in the story and got me in touch with a content editor. From there it was nothing but major rewrites. She taught me a lot and helped me shape the book into what it is. All totaled, I’d say that I pulled 100 or more pages from the original and added 150 or more.
How do you handle spicy sex scenes and relatives? Are your family and friends supportive or do they choose not to read your books because of its sensual nature?
I didn’t want those scenes to be the defining moments of the story, so I didn’t go into finite “romance novel” details. My approach was more of a “It happened, and let’s move on,” style.
What food or beverages do you turn to while you are writing? Are you a stress eater on deadline or a “lack of inspiration” eater when ideas are not flowing?
Coffee…… Lots and lots of coffee……
What do you keep in mind as you write? An overarching question? A theme? The last line of the book?
I just did my best to write a good story. I tried to avoid using police jargon or lofty diction so it was an easy read. Mainly, I hoped that someone would pick-up my book and enjoy themselves as they read it.
When you get the edits back from your editor, how do you work through that process
My poor editor had the difficult task of editing a first-time writer’s garbage and molding it into something readable. So I made sure I put my ego on a shelf and took the criticism constructively.
Has writing changed how you read books now? How so?
Little known fact about me. . . I don’t like to read.
“You? Seriously? No, seriously, you wrote a book?” And my personal favorite, “Out of everyone in this room, you’d be the last one I would’ve picked.” What can I say, I surround myself with supportive people.
Is there an aspect of writing that you favor over others, e.g. dialogue, exposition, description of a scene, setting, or character, etc.? Is there one that is more difficult for you?
It took some time, but I really enjoy writing dialogue. I think the best way to convey how the characters are feeling or what they’re thinking is through good constructive conversation.
What books have influenced you as a writer?
I don’t read a lot (see previous answer) but when I do, I really like the Harry Bosch series by
What are you currently working on?
Currently I’m working on Murder in Coal Country which is the sequel to No Screams in Silence. I have three or four more chapters to write before we start the editing process. Hopefully I’ll have it completed by the end of the year.
How do you balance writing, marketing, promoting, bookkeeping, family and work?
This has never been about seeing how many books I can sell. When I set out to do this, my main goal was, and still is, to tell a good story. If one person comes up to me and tells me that they enjoyed the story, then I’ve done my job. I write when I can and when I want. I don’t put deadlines on myself or get upset when I don’t get time to sit down to write. I truly enjoy my life and want to experience as much as I can before my body gives out on me. When I’m confined to an easy chair I’ll start writing more.
What is the best piece of advice about writing that you have ever heard or read? What would you tell aspiring writers today?
DO NOT GO BACK AND EDIT WHILE YOU ARE WRITING!!! Get the story on paper from start to finish before going back to rewrite. I learned this the hard way.
What is the biggest chance you’ve taken as a writer? How did that work out?
I think that simply publishing your work is the biggest chance you can take as a writer. You’re putting your hard work and hundreds of hours out there for people to critique. So far it’s worked out okay. I’ve sold over 600 copies and only have one negative review on Amazon. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.
Do you keep a notebook in your pocket, briefcase, or on your bedside table to write down ideas that come to you right away so you don’t forget them? Have any of these ideas developed into a successful piece?
I have a legal pad that I keep in my office for notes. I use it primarily to keep my thoughts in order.
What surprised you as you wrote this book? What amused or angered you?
The biggest surprise to me was that I had the focus and drive to finish it. It was a four-year process with many ups and downs, but in the long-run, I’m happy I stuck with it.
How did writing this book change you or change how you look at the world?
I’m a Cop, I still don’t trust anyone…. Speaking of trust, where were you last night between the hours of 11:15 pm and 1:30 am?
Yikes! I’m starting to sweat here!! Is there anything else you would like readers to know about you?
I’m just your average Joe who happened to write a book. I’m not a professional by any means, but I do hope you enjoy the story. All of my contact information is inside the front cover if you would like to reach out to me for any reason.
I wish you all best with both of your books, Scott.
No Screams in Silence is available at: