Tell us about yourself.
I’m a former Chicago police officer and retired FBI agent. After retiring, I became a freelance writer and award-winning author in a variety of genres, including novels, short stories and poetry. I’ve published more than 150 articles relating to officer training, street survival, fitness and ethics. I also write book reviews for the New York Journal of Books and I’m a member of the National Book Critics Circle. My non-fiction book, Women Warriors, is available online and at the National Law Enforcement Memorial Gift Shop in Washington, D.C., and my latest novel, The Year Without Christmas, is available now.
Tell us about the series you created, The Chicago Warriors.
I created The Chicago Warriors Thriller Series when I had my first novel published: Chicago Warriors Midnight Battles in the Windy City. Midnight Battles introduces my two protagonists, Chicago Police Officers Pete Shannon and Marilyn Benson. We find these two street cops working a beat together on the midnight shift, patrolling the mean streets of Chicago. In the second book of the series, Gripped by Fear, Shannon and Benson are promoted to detective, and are assigned to track down a psychopathic rapist who is preying on housekeepers in downtown Chicago. The third book, Targeted, involves the two detectives enlisting the aid of the FBI, as they try and stop a sniper who is murdering cops. In a unique twist, another story runs in tandem with Targeted, It describes the story of a Catholic priest who is on the run from the law. The two unrelated stories merge in the violent finale of the book.
How did your career in law enforcement impact writing this series?
My twelve years as a Chicago cop, and twenty-one as an FBI agent fully prepared me to write the book from an experiential and technical point of view.
How do you create and maintain dramatic tension?
I’ve never had a problem creating tension, whether it’s a part of the main story, or dealing with my characters. I ensure that there are many serious dilemmas to solve, both in the characters’ personal lives and in the cases they are working. I try to plant precursors and foreshadowing at selected places while the story develops. Some are quickly resolved, others may not be as easy, and some may be incapable of being resolved at all.
How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
I have a vague idea of who my characters will be, except for my main protagonists, who I’m modeling after real people. I think of my story line, write a brief synopsis, and then insert characters as needed. I try to use diverse people who have ambiguous backgrounds, even illegals and black marketers from foreign nations. I keep it interesting for my readers.
Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
Since my novels have a Christian theme running through them, one, however, that does not affect the realism or brutal nature of dealing with thugs and crime, my readers seem to include an equal number of men and women, as well as law enforcement.
What common misperceptions do you think people have about police work and the F.B.I.?
I don’t think that many people recognize that men and women in law enforcement are a microcosim of society. They are just like you and me, have the same likes and dislikes, and share the same problems that life throws their way. The additional burden they bear is that they’re expected to be role models above reproach. When law enforcement errs, it’s always magnified because of who they are.
You review books for the New York Journal of Books. How does writing book reviews help you grow and develop as a novelist?
I’m blessed to be able to review new novels before their release date. I read with a more discerning eye, being an author myself. I try to glean from the books the manner in which each author develops plots and characters, uses figures of speech, etc. Most of the authors I review are famous, best-selling writers. Therefore, I am learning from the masters, so to speak.
What was your journey as a writer?
After retiring from the FBI in 2004, I began writing professionally, focusing on writing law enforcement related articles for websites and magazines. To date, I’ve had more than 150 articles published. However, I’ve always had the urge to write fiction. I have hundreds of stories bouncing inside my head from 35 years in law enforcement. I procrastinated for a while, wondering if I could master the process, and fretting that perhaps I wouldn’t get it right. Finally, my wife told me to just sit down and start writing. That was all it took; I’ve been writing ever since.
What is your writing process?
I write “something” each day--an article, a blog entry, or a few pages of a book. I’m in the habit of doing this each day. Once you develop the habit of writing, you’ve stepped over the threshold.
Which authors most inspire you?
I like Richard Paul Evans, Dean Koontz, Michael Connolly, Dan Walsh, Noah Boyd, Stieg Larsson . . . is that enough?
What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?
How have you marketed and promoted your work?
I do virtual book tours, blog interviews, newspaper interviews, book signings at book stores, cafés, schools, and libraries. I also use Facebook and Twitter.
Tell us about your new book, The Year Without Christmas.
I loved writing this story, and experienced a gamut of emotions while doing so. Briefly, a small-town family’s peace is shattered when a tragic accident sends them plunging into the darkest times they have ever known. The members struggle with their new reality, as the husband disappears and his grandson faces a life-threatening disease. It’s a tale about loss and unwavering hope, and it demonstrates the power of love, faith and a family’s will to survive.
Thank you for hosting me and allowing me to get the word out about my Christmas novel. It’s a tough story, but one that will warm your heart and restore your faith in the power of family.
Go to www.johnmwills.com for further info and bio.
Buy The Year Without Christmas here: http://www.amazon.com/Year-Without-Christmas-John-Wills/dp/1610090756/ref=sr_1_sc_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1381057836&sr=1-3-spell&keywords=the+ytear+without+christmas
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