Chris Birdy is another Internet friend whose The Girl In White Pajamas has proved an essential contribution to the indie suspense/thriller genre. Having spent twenty-five years as an investigator, her professional experience provides the novel with an authentic narrative. Here’s a revealing look at this personable and intriguing author…
You’re a very private person for an author. I had to pull teeth to get your profile photo. Have you ever considered what life will be like when The Girl in White Pajamas receives the international recognition it deserves?
If is such a big word. Over the years, I’ve learned not to live on speculation. I would love to have a best seller, but I won’t change my life now in anticipation of that happening.
You’re also exceptional in that you’re not cranking out novels like comic books, like so many other indie authors. Are we going to be looking for a sequel or will you be exploring other genres?
The Girl was originally written as a trilogy. Each story has the girl in a different colored costume. As I began writing the fourth book, it seemed like a good idea not to advertise the books as a trilogy. The terms OCB and OCD came into my lexicon through my children. They claim I’m a neurotic perfectionist. I want my work to be the best it can be before it’s shown to the world.
The Girl in White Pajamas went through months of editing before going to the publisher. The first books that were printed had Chapter 14 doubled. When I found out, I felt like I was standing in a deep hole and sinking further into it. Then I did what I usually do in high stress situations – I went to sleep for about 10 hours then woke up and dealt with it.
I like mysteries so I might stick with them for now.
In your Amazon bio you mentioned you spent a quarter century as an investigator. Is Bogie McGruder a typecast of the people who inhabit that world? The narrative seemed far more analytical than sympathetic towards him.
Bogie McGruder is not much of an investigator. He’s a computer hacker. His partner, Rose, is actually the investigator. Rose enjoys solving puzzles. Bogie is more pragmatic. He just hacks into networks and gets what he needs. Bogie is not a “people person.” He doesn’t like schmoozing with folks to get crumbs of information. Rose does that and enjoys it. Bogie is good at strong-arming people, but that skill is not particularly useful in investigations.
Sadly, most of the investigators I worked with lacked humor and imagination. Most were men, former cops and military. They took themselves very seriously and worked from lists with pre-printed questions. I always thought of situations as a game. Of course, that’s probably why I almost got killed and they didn’t.
There seems to be a strong statement about how overlapping ties between broken relationships affect the individuals caught up in these situations. Was this common among people in the law enforcement community? Did you see the kind of True Detective thing where co-workers brought their family problems to the office with them?
I did investigative work in the confines of a law firm. A small firm doesn’t require more than one investigator and not even that. I did other things like developing cases, going to court, doing arbitrations and mediations and settling cases. I prepared clients for depositions and conducted depositions. When a case required investigative work, it was usually one that had its roots in a housing project or crack house neighborhood, never the suburbs. I was the only one qualified to go into those areas since I was armed (and dangerous). The deal was that I took over a case if I had to do that. I wasn’t going to risk my neck for someone else’s case.
People working in the same space eight to 12 hours for 5 or 6 days a week, get to know the ups and downs of each other’s lives. Everybody was busy working so it wasn’t a social gathering but people shared joy and sorrow. While I was working, I learned the worst things; my brother died, my godchild died, my mother was alone and hospitalized in another state. No matter how professional we all wanted to be, things happened.
We see how Bogie continues his career as an investigator despite having open-heart surgery. Is this more common than we would imagine in real life? Do law enforcement professionals find it that hard to leave the business?
As I said earlier, Bogie is more of a hacker rather than an investigator. His ability to work was not at all hampered by open heart surgery.
I’ve worked with investigators who were retired cops or military. Most didn’t carry firearms. They watched and reported, looked up information and went through records such as RMV (Registry of Motor Vehicles). You can actually get a lot of information doing that.
I was in sticky situations with some of them when I was the only one who was armed.
Most of us remember The Departed, which was based on the life and times of Whitey Bulger. Did you ever find yourself up against organized crime during your own career? Were there situations where you found yourself in a ‘no-fly’ zone due to political protection?
Thankfully, I never had to deal with the tentacles of Whitey Bulger and his people. He had a stranglehold over many of the white, Irish people of South Boston and Dorchester. The people I dealt with were mostly minorities who had their own gangs and violence. When drugs and money are involved, human life has little meaning. When I had to go to a crack house in Roxbury, I couldn’t get a Boston cop to go with me. They wouldn’t go on that street, said it wasn’t worth getting shot over.
You went from Pittsburgh to Palm Beach to Boston. Why did you choose Boston over sunny Florida?
I went from Pittsburgh to Erie, to Iran, to Boston then Palm Beach. When we came back from the Middle East, my husband got a job in Boston. I fell in love with the city from the first day I was here. I bought the place in Palm Beach several years ago. It was a refuge to relax and write. I’d work long, long hours then take off once every five weeks and go to Palm Beach for a few days to write and relax. Palm Beach is a great place and totally different from Boston. .
You mentioned a court case that planted the seeds for Pajamas. Has your writing career become a platform to make statements about the system? We see more and more investigative journalism these days, but it seems as if fewer insiders are willing to step forth.
I have no particular platform, I write what I know. Some people believe the first book is a biting satire on the legal profession and law enforcement. My answer: they are represented as I know them to be.
What was life like in Pittsburgh? Did you dream of becoming a writer in your early days?
I was born and raised (mostly) on the South Side (pronounced souside). It was a white working class area. The North Side was for the black working people. To me Pittsburgh was crowded and noisy with violence all around. People drank too much and took their show out into the street – drunken brawls, beatings…an action movie in living color that traumatized children for life.
I apologize if it sounds snarky but from the time I was young my dream was to get out of Pittsburgh. My life is a dream come true.
The Boston Marathon bombing undoubtedly affected everyone remotely associated with law enforcement in the city. Can we expect Chris Birdy’s reflections on the event sometime in the future?
Being a Monday morning quarterback.is not my style. The bombings had the kind of effect on Boston that 9/11 had on New York City…a sense of horror and disbelief. Cops were at the scene when the explosions went off. It wasn’t that they weren’t doing their jobs; they thought they were keeping order at a traditional event. They didn’t realize they would be witnesses to a tragedy.
Describe a fun day during a Boston weekend. If there was an authors’ convention, what places would they must not want to miss?
I love Boston and believe it is a beautiful, interesting city. When guests came to town, I’d walk with them on the Freedom Trail pointing out all the historic sites, take the trolley or duck tours showing them points of interest. I’m fascinated with history, but that’s not for everyone. Some people ridiculed me and said they wanted action. Those folks I took to a Red Sox game.
Check out Chris’ Amazon page…