Today I am pleased to kick off my fellow-author series where I interview writers about their lives, their writing, their passions…and I’m honored to have as my first guest-blogger, John Wills. John and I met via PoliceLink, a website for people in the law enforcement community. He introduced me to my current publisher – our shared publisher – TotalRecall Publications (TRP).
John, I consider us to be original plank holders in the TRP fiction family, and it is my pleasure to welcome you to my blog. Please tell my readers a little bit about your professional background…the prequel if you would to your writing career.
JW: Sure, Mike. I’ve been in the law enforcement business all my life. I started out serving a couple of years in the Army back in the late ‘60s. Afterward I came home and joined the Chicago Police Department. I had various assignments, including patrol, special operations, mayoral bodyguard, and some undercover work. I earned two of the highest awards given by the Department—The Award of Valor, and the Blue Star Award.
After twelve years, I left the CPD to join the FBI and worked all around the country. I was assigned to investigate violent crime, drugs, and again, more undercover work. I was an undercover agent in the FBI’s first steroid investigation, entitled, Operation Equine. For two and a half years, I traveled around the country buying steroids in gyms and on the street.
I eventually found my way to the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, where I supervised new agent training, taught street survival to new agents and in-service personnel. I also travelled internationally; teaching officer survival to countries that formerly comprised the Soviet Union.
MA: Well that’s an impressive career – and thanks for your service while in the Army and as a federal agent. So, why did you choose to write novels?
JW: Well, after I retired in 2004, I began writing professionally for various law enforcement publications, both online and in print. I’ve published over sixty articles, all related to training and street survival. Although I enjoy it tremendously, I must stay within certain templates, in terms of subject matter and word count.
I’ve always had the notion that I could write police thriller novels, but never actually sat down to do it. One day my wife said to me, “When are you going to start that book you’re always talking about?” I thought to myself, when, indeed. Within a few days, I was writing my first book: Chicago Warriors Midnight Battles in the Windy City.
MA: She sounds like my wife – really pushed me when I retired to do what I wanted to do, to write, instead of following the pack. Did your professional career inspire your writing? Are any of your characters based upon real-life people with whom you’ve interacted?
JW: My career definitely has influenced my writing. Without those experiences to draw upon, my books would be pure fiction, no pun intended. Many of the incidents that I write about are spawned from things that either I’ve done, or my colleagues have. Almost all of the characters in my book are loosely based upon people I’ve worked with or had interaction with. I think it makes them much more believable for the reader.
MA: I’ve read your debut novel, Chicago Warriors, and enjoyed it thoroughly. It was hard to keep a dry eye! Please tell my readers about it as well as your second novel.
JW: Chicago Warriors, is a police/mystery/thriller/Christian fiction novel. It involves two protagonists, Chicago Police Officers Pete Shannon and Marilyn Benson. The book follows the two beat cops as they work the midnight shift on the mean streets of the Windy City. There’s plenty of police action in the book, but there’s also a message of hope and redemption as their faith is put to the test in several different crises that arise.
When I started to write the second book, Gripped By Fear, I realized that my characters were leading me down the path to a book series. Thus, the Chicago Warriors Thriller Series was born. The second novel finds the partners promoted to detectives. They find themselves tracking down a serial rapist, who is targeting women who work late at night as cleaning ladies in office buildings in downtown Chicago. In the midst of it all, Detective Benson encounters a situation that tests her faith and loyalty to her job.
MA: I found your use of two protagonists to be an interesting approach, and it works very well. How did you develop their characters?
JW: Pete, my male protagonist is loosely based on a combination of several officers I’ve known. Marilyn, is based on an FBI Agent who I helped train and mentor.
MA: What are your heroes’ strengths and weaknesses?
JW: There’s no mistaking my heroes’ strength—it’s their faith. Throughout my novels, faith is a central theme. However, alongside that dominant trait is loyalty and integrity. I think the strengths overshadow any weakness, but you’ll find that there are a couple, especially in Marilyn’s past.
MA: What about a nemesis? Is there a particular “bad guy” in your book(s)?
JW: In each book, the reader will find several bad guys who do their best to throw our heroes off. A constant nemesis is Satan himself.
MA: Well, I can’t think of a worse enemy to fight, and you do a wonderful job of pulling the reader into the plot to experience this wickedness along with your protagonists. Did any of your professional experiences factor in to the plot at all? Is the main plot, or any sub-plots, similar to real-life experiences?
JW: Yes, Mike, but isn’t that what a writer does…writes about things he knows?
MA: So true! Beyond your first two books, what are your future writing plans?
JW: I’m presently writing the third novel, Targeted, which will be released in 2010.
MA: So will you continue to feature the same protagonists in future stories? Will any other characters migrate over to the other two books?
JW: Yes; I’ll continue with Pete and Marilyn throughout the series, as well as bring several others along in each book.
MA: That’s great to hear. They are endearing characters, so I am happy to hear you will continue to bring them along on future adventures. Your multiple genre approach is interesting. Has anyone ever questioned either the overlapping genres or the strong Christian theme you use?
JW: I’ve had a couple of people ask me…why Christian fiction, John? Why target only a certain reader? My answer is that I really didn’t make that decision unilaterally. I honestly feel that He directed my hand as I wrote that first book. Once I got started, it flowed, so I figure that’s what He wants me to write. Moreover, I enjoy it. I’ve had some wonderful feedback from readers who’ve told me that I’ve touched their hearts, or helped them through a rough patch in their lives. That’s the reward; that’s what’s priceless to me.
MA: Well, there’s no doubt your writing is inspirational. Chicago Warriors certainly touched me, so I can relate to the other readers who’ve given you similar feedback. I want to thank you for taking time out to guest on my blog today. It’s been a real honor for me, and a real treat for my readers. If anyone would like more information about John Wills’ books, please visit his website:
Feel free to post comments or questions to John on my blog as well as his!