The mysteriously prolific H.P. Bayne
H.P. Bayne's first ghostly mystery, Black Candle, was unleashed in 2018. Since then, the by-day crime reporter has published six more novels in the Sullivan Gray series, plus a stack of standalone stories featuring the same characters. The books frequently appear in Amazon's top 100 in categories like ghost suspense and psychic suspense, and it's easy to see why. Her writing is clean, her plots taut, her characters real. Read on and discover the mysterious Bayne below.
Welcome, HP. You come by your fascination with mysteries honestly; I understand you are also a crime reporter. Can you tell us a bit about how factual writing turned into fiction?
Hi, JC, and thanks for the invite! I’ve been a crime reporter for two decades now, but I’ve been writing fiction far longer than that. Crime reporting has definitely helped big time when it’s come to my fiction. I don’t write about the cases I’ve covered, although they can inform my books in various ways. Most notably, I’ve spoken to numerous victims of crime and their families — particularly those impacted by homicide — so I’ve gained a perspective that’s enabled me, I think, to paint a picture not only of the crime itself but of those touched by it. I’ve also been lucky enough to get to know numerous members of law enforcement and the legal/judicial community who are always willing to answer questions for me related to my fiction. At the same time, I feel that novel writing has vastly improved my feature writing at my reporting job, so the two really complement each other.
This isn't just fiction, however. It's also about a tortured soul who sees ghosts. How did you develop the concept, and why ghosts?
I’ve always been a fan of gothic novels and shows. Since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by ghosts and read or watched shows about them whenever I could. That said, I never really considered seriously incorporating ghosts into my crime fiction until a few years ago when I came up for the idea of a mystery series featuring a guy who sees the ghosts of homicide victims. I had actually planned to finish up a trilogy in a more standard police procedural/thriller series, but I instead opted to write and release the series related to my ghost-seeing amateur detective. The time felt right for it, and I’m glad now I went that route.
Talk a bit about the two main characters, Sullivan Gray and his brother Dez. How do they work together?
The two main characters are Sullivan “Sully” Gray (the fellow who sees ghosts) and his foster brother, Dez Braddock. At the start, Dez is a police officer and Sully’s a bartender. As the series continues, Dez eventually loses his job, and he and Sully start working for a private investigator. By the time the spin-off series begins, they’re fully entrenched in that career.
As far as the characters themselves go, I’m a huge fan of “buddy cop/soldier/investigator” novels and shows, and I struggle to find series focused specifically on this type of relationship. The most recent (and highly successful) obvious example are the Winchester brothers on Supernatural — a show I really loved. Many of the other series I’m writing have a buddy element to them, and I thought it would be fun to write a pair of brothers, sort of like Sam and Dean, who are super-close but tend to peck at each other sometimes as well. Unlike the Winchesters, my guys focus solely on homicide cases with ghosts involved, but the brother dynamic is a commonality — one I’ve found my readers really love.
How many Sullivan Gray novels have you published? What's next for Sully and Dez?
I now have eleven books out — seven in the now-complete Sullivan Gray Series and four in the follow-up series called The Braddock & Gray Case Files. The initial series contains a standalone mystery in each book, but at its core, it’s about a young man coming to terms with what he can do, the light and dark parts of himself and the growing abilities he possesses. I actually had intended to simply end the series there, but I had enough interest expressed by readers that I started the follow-up series. These are purely standalone books, designed so I can continue to gauge interest and, if it wanes, I can wind it up without worrying I’m leaving the story hanging. I currently have the next book more than half written and more planned, as long as readers continue to be interested in the guys.
You're known for being very prolific, particularly considering the demands of your day job. Tell us about your writing process, and how you find time for it.
There are definitely people who write much more quickly than I do, but I am pretty quick thanks to a day job involving writing to deadline on a daily basis. Honesty, I wish I could write faster still, but I’m quite pleased to be churning out four books a year — particularly given how often my parents used to have to bug me to finish writing books when I was a teenager. I am quite terrible for coming up with ideas, getting started and then getting distracted by something else, so I’ve had to force myself to be more disciplined.
Given the demands of the day job, I had to figure out a time and a way to write that would allow me to hammer out between 1,000 and 2,500 words per day. I tried doing it in the evening, but I often found I was far too physically, emotionally and mentally drained at the end of the day to turn on my creative brain. Instead, I get up between four and six every morning (I don’t set my alarm anymore, I just allow my body to dictate when it’s ready to wake up) and write. I’ve actually discovered something about myself I never would have believed — I’m a morning person! The best part is that by the time I start my day job, I feel great, like I’ve accomplished something awesome already that day. During the pandemic, it’s really helped keep me sane besides.
Were you inspired by other writers? And what do you usually prefer to read?
I can’t honestly say this series is particularly inspired by anything I’ve read, although I loved the brother relationship in the Cal Leandros series, for example. As far as what I enjoy reading, I have been devouring Robert Crais’s books (a buddy PI series!) and I’m a massive fan of various British crime authors — my long-time fave being Ian Rankin. I’ve also got a bookshelf stocked with the classics. I love the Gothic elements of novels like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, for example. In the next life, I’d love to sit down and have a chat with the Brontë sisters.
What's next in your fiction career? What are you working on?
I’m always working on something! I’ve always got a Sully book on the go, but I’ve got several other series I’ve been toying with — one for years, which features Regina, Sask.-based police detectives. I have rejigged and rethought the opening trilogy so many times, I sometimes think I’ll never get it done. As everything else I’m writing is non-paranormal, I am likely to publish those either under my own name or a pen name. I’ll continue to work on them until I have a few books ready in each, then gauge which is likely to be the best to market at that time. I like to have a small stable of books ready to go so I can quickly establish a regular release pattern that won’t be overly taxing for me going forward (particularly since as an indie, I do all my own advertising, marketing and promoting as well).
Other authors might be interested in your marketing approach. I know I am.
I maintain a mailing list, as well as a Facebook page and a group for particularly serious readers of the books. I try to respond to everyone who emails me, messages me or comments on my various posts or ads. As for advertising, I’ve tried a few things, but haven’t had much success with Amazon ads to date. My biggest focus is on Facebook ads. It was a process trying to find the right combination of images, copy and targeting, and I actually ended up eventually taking a cover design course (thanks, Stuart Bache/SPF!) and redesigning my covers from scratch. That really helped my ads take off, I think, and my sales increased quite soon after. (I incorporate images from my book covers into the ads.)
I also managed to secure a coveted BookBub feature deal (international, not US) last summer on my first box set, which gave me another brilliant boost. And Amazon has run a number of monthly features on my first-in-series, which has also given the other books a nudge. As well, I’ve used a variety of promo sites and have had success in particular with Freebooksy and ENT. I only ever advertise/promote my first-in-series, my first box set, the first Amazon series page or my Amazon author page, counting on read-through to look after itself — which it does.
I didn’t start properly marketing and advertising until I had three (or was it four?) books out as I wanted to capitalize on read-through, and I’m glad I did it that way. For me, more money has come with simply having more books, and making sure the books are what my readers want. I’ve got a stellar ARC team and a brilliant editor who are great for keeping me on track.
Where can we find your work?
All of my books are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited so are Amazon exclusive. They’re available at Amazon stores worldwide. I’ll post universal links to the series pages below. Thanks again for the chance to be a part of your awesome blog, JC! I’m in great company here (plus I love your books — especially since they’re set in my home province). All my best to you as always. I hope you know what an amazing support you are for other authors.
Awww, Bayne. Thank you so much. Check out HP Bayne’s incredible series at the links below.
The Sullivan Gray Series:
The Braddock & Gray Case Files: