MICHAEL A. BLACK – Veteran – Police Officer – Western Author

Michael A. Black is the award winning author of 50 books. A retired police officer, he has done everything from patrol to investigating homicides to conducting numerous SWAT operations. He wrote eleven novels as Don Pendleton in the Executioner series and many Westerns in the Gunslinger series under the name A.W. Hart. His recent novel is in the Trackdown series, Devil’s Lair.

Devil’s Lair – With witnesses falling and a federal case against the cartel in ruins, ex-army ranger Steve Wolf and Special Agent Lucien Pike head to Mexico, chasing both a traitor and an irresistible reward. But betrayal thrives in the heart of darkness, dragging them into a merciless battle where survival is a blood-soaked quest with no mercy given or expected.

When death comes knocking, there’s no quarter given or expected.

Do you write in more than one genre? Most of my stuff is in the mystery and thriller genres. I’ve also been published in other genres, including westerns, sci-fi, horror, pulp fiction, young adult, and sports. Mysteries and thrillers will always be my first love, but I also believe in genre blending. My Western novel, Gunslinger:          Killer’s Ghost, is a Western but also a monster story.

What brought you to writing? I’ve been writing all my life. I wrote my first short story in the sixth grade. I was always begging the teacher to let me write a short story. One Friday, she relented and told me I’d have to read it in front of the class on Monday. I struggled all weekend. After I read it aloud, the teacher gave me a “D—Poor Work” grade and told me never to do it again. I look back on this experience as invaluable. It foreshadowed my entire writing career: I got my first assignment, my first deadline, my first writer’s block, and my first rejection, all in three days.

What are you currently working on? My latest book in the Trackdown series is Devil’s Lair. It follows the continuing adventures of ex-army ranger Steve Wolf, who served time for a war crime he didn’t commit and has been trying to clear his name while working as a bounty hunter. He also has some very powerful enemies who set him up and are trying to kill him. In this entry in the series, he gets to strike back a little.

Who’s your favorite author? If I had to pick a single writer who influenced me more than most, I’d have to say, John D. MacDonald. He was a real pro.

How long to get your first book published? My first one never got published. Looking back, It was that bad—a lot of rookie mistakes. I’d gotten some short stories published, so I knew a bit about writing. I wrote a second manuscript and felt it had legs. I sent it off with high hopes and optimism and started a third novel. I’d written the opening line one morning: It had been a year of ups and downs… Then the mailman came, and I found my second manuscript had come back with a rejection letter. I sat down and stared at the computer screen for a long while, trying to decide if I wanted to continue. After a time, the second line came floating to me: More downs than ups. I liked the sound of it and made a solemn vow right then and there that I was going to finish writing the manuscript and I was going to make it the best I could, even if I was the only person who would ever read it. This one eventually became my first published novel.

Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? A few authors have done this, and I always thought it was a dumb move. I suppose you could make a case for your hero to die heroically, but it would pretty much end any chance of a continuing series. Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes and eventually had to bring him back.

How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist? It’s a simple formula: introduce conflict and make things worse as the plot progresses. Then, when it reaches critical mass… BOOM! You have your climax.

What obstacles do you face when writing about historical figures? The biggest problem is avoiding anachronisms. I just read a book set in 1913, and the author still had Maximillian as the emperor of Mexico. He was executed in 1867. Naturally, this ruined it for me, and I didn’t finish it. This unfortunate practice of rewriting history started a few years ago and needs to stop. It’s not only irritating, it breeds stupidity.

What is the best book you have ever read? I’d be hard pressed to pick just one, but I’d have to say James Dickey’s Deliverance is in my top ten. Dickey was a nationally recognized poet who spent ten years crafting the novel. The imagery is stunning, and the writing is lyrical. After I read it, I reread the opening and realized he’d foreshadowed the entire story in that first line.

Do you have any advice for new writers? You can’t be a good writer unless you’re first a good reader, so read all you can and learn from it. Take the time to perfect your craft, get feedback on your work, and try to write every day, even if it’s only one line.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? If you’re looking for a good thriller, I’d appreciate it if you’d check out my new one, Devil’s Lair. It’s got a little something for everyone—action, thrills, and romance. And many thanks to you, Big George, for this opportunity to be on your blog once again.

How do our readers contact you?

Give me a shout at DocAtlas108@aol.com

I’m a member of the VFW, the FOP, the WWA (Western Writers of America), and the PSWA (Public Safety Writers Association).

4 Comments

  1. Thonie Hevron

    A wonderful interview, George and Michael! I loved Michael’s tips on craft and his insights into process. I also have read many of Michael’s books and he’s the real deal.

    Reply
  2. Vicki Weisfeld

    Laughed out loud at your first writing foray. Very efficient getting to that rejection! Thanks, Mike and George!

    Reply
  3. Violet Moore

    The Westerns are my favorites too.

    Reply
  4. Marilyn Meredith

    I’ve read many of Mike’s books–he’s definitely a pro. His Western series i my favorite.
    He’s also the program chair for the Public Safety Writers’ Association.

    Reply

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THE MONA LISA SISTERS – Now Available on Audible

the mona lisa sistersThe Audible release of The Mona Lisa Sisters on October 9, 2023, marked my first foray into putting my work on audiobooks.

After listening to author Alec Peche talk about the number of books she has released as audiobooks, I reached out to Lois Winston for help understanding audiobooks. Lois took the mystery and fear out of ACX in about a half hour. I was able to begin the process.

After completing all of ACX’s questions—extremely easy— I uploaded my manuscript. When these tasks were complete, I began the search for a narrator. There was a simple choice among a mere 200,000 or so. What!

I found the project tool and narrowed the search to over one hundred.

Listening to maybe twenty narrators, I narrowed the search to six or seven. The three at the top of my wish list were all royalty-sharing listed artists. I listened again to all three and dropped one. I sent an offer to my top choice. Her response was, “I belong to SAGA/AFTA. I can’t work for less than $250.00 an hour.” I didn’t care for her response when I pointed out she was listed as available for royalty sharing. I hope she corrects that before another new author wastes time listening to her.

On to my second choice, Connie Elsberry, she accepted my offer. Connie was a dream to work with, responsive and always timely—a consummate professional. Her voice was perfect for my female protagonist. Connie captured the protagonist and the story as if it were her own. I especially appreciated how she was able to communicate and deliver the emotions where I envisioned them. Listening to her recordings, I had to wipe my eyes once or twice.

Will I do it again? You bet.

I created a new project for Robbers and Cops and have asked several narrators to audition.

The Mona Lisa Sisters at Audible is waiting for you.

1 Comment

  1. Michael A. Black

    Your fortitude in venturing into the realm of audio books is inspiring. Good luck with the new project.

    Reply

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JAMIE ADAMS – Writing Cozies and Beyond

Jamie fell in love with books at an early age. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott opened her imagination and sparked a dream to be a writer. She wrote her first book as a school project in 6th grade. Living in the Ozarks with her husband, twin daughters, and a herd of cats, she spends most of her free time writing, reading, or learning more about the craft dear to her heart.

 

Homicide at High Noon – Money is missing from the gold mine, and Lily is a suspect! The company auditor is determined to prove her guilty, but turns up dead, making Lily a murder suspect. Will Lily find the missing money and the killer before they set their sights on her?

Do you write in more than one genre? Yes, I do, but not at the same time. This past year, I’ve been working on cozy mysteries, which are fun to write. I’ve self-published several historical romances. I grew up watching old westerns with my dad and have a passion for that era. There are several genres I enjoy reading, and I can’t help but want to try them as a writer. I’ve been working on a time travel story for several years, off and on. It has been so much fun to work on.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? A year ago, I would have said plotting was the more challenging part of my writing process. But after having some help from my amazing publisher, I’ve learned to look forward to plotting before I write. My stories used to be very character-driven, but plotting has given the book more balance. Today, the most challenging part of the process is finding time to write.

What are you currently working on? I’m midway through the Ghost Town Mysteries series. It is a new genre for me, and I wrote all my other books in the third person. After reading several cozy mysteries, I discovered it’s almost a 50/50 split between telling the story in first person and third person. I’d always thought writing in the first person would be too difficult. But wanting to challenge myself, I tried it and found the story developed so much easier when written in first person.

What are you currently working on? As I write this, I’m working on book four of the series. Still untitled, the story continues with my main character, Lily, and her sisters living in a small town with a popular ghost town attraction. In Grady, California, everyone knows everyone. The tight community has a few skeletons in the closet, and one not so secret is a family feud, giving the book a Hatfield’s and the Mcoy’s kind of feel with a twist. The death of one participant reveals more family secrets, one of which puts a target on Lily’s back.

What kind of research do you do? Research is one of the best parts of writing a book. I love to read and learn new things, so while it’s necessary to do research, it can easily distract me from the primary goal. Digging deep to make the story authentic was entertaining for my historical romances. Cozy mystery writing has led me in different directions that have had me looking over my shoulder. I used the internet to gather most of the information I needed. For book number three of my current series, I had to research how to hire a hitman. One of these days, men in black wearing dark glasses may show up at my door.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? So far, they have all been fictional. Sometimes, I use a familiar area like the woods around our house and our long gravel road when describing details, but the setting itself has always been fictional. I sketch a rough-looking map to keep buildings and locations in order.

I love to hear from my readers. You can learn more about me and my books at:

https://www.amazon.com/Jamie-Adams/e/B00CNRNSRK/ref=aufs_dp_fta_dsk
https://www.facebook.com/JamieLAdamsauthorpage
https://twitter.com/Roosgal
https://jamieladams.wordpress.com/
Book two of The Ghost Town Mysteries, Homicide at High Noon, is now available in digital and print: https://www.gemmahallidaypublishing.com/jamie-adams

2 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you have a very orderly and disciplined approach to writing which should ensure your success. Keep it up and best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Jamie Adams

      Thank you, Michael! I appreciate that.

      Reply

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SARAH ELISABETH SAWYER—Choctaw Author and Story Archaeologist

Halito (hello), fellow authors! I appreciate George having me on his blog today. I’m Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer, a Choctaw author and digital course creator. My signature course, Fiction Writing: American Indians, equips authors to write authentic stories that honor Native American history and culture. I also teach a live Dictation Bootcamp for Authors that takes you through the process of mastering dictation through easy exercises that lead you to become the master of your fictional worlds.

As a tribal member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, I’ve written and published 16 historical fiction books. I’m highlighting pieces of my writing life in the hope you find them helpful on your journey.

Do you write in more than one genre? Historical fiction is my primary (and favorite) genre to read and to write. Something about digging into the past gives me a deeper connection to the present. That is especially true of my American Indian heritage. My books range from the Choctaw Trail of Tears in the 1830s to the Choctaw Code Talkers of World War I. I love a good old-fashioned western, which I get to share through my Doc Beck Westerns series set in the 1890s, featuring an Omaha Indian woman doctor. I write clean stories with close family relationships, fistfights and gunfights, and accurate cultural heritage.

What brought you to writing? When I was five years old, I had a story I wanted to share about being kind. But I was horribly shy and knew the only way to share my message was through writing it. My mama has saved that story to this day, and she continues to be my greatest fan and encourager. In my early twenties, I released a lot of the chaos in my life, wiped the slate clean, and handed the chalk over to God. He brought writing back into my life and let me know I was born to tell stories.

What are you currently working on? I released Fire and Ink, book 5 in the Choctaw Tribune series, in August and am outlining the final book in that series. There are 3 more books to go in the Doc Beck Westerns that are also underway. I have my first traditionally published nonfiction book coming out this fall, a biography on a WWI hero who was Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Cherokee — Otis W. Leader: The Ideal American Doughboy (Chickasaw Press).

How do you come up with character names? Authenticity is a significant component of my work. One of my methods for naming my American Indian characters is diving into historical records. Census, tribal rolls, and recorded stories are great sources for me to find authentic names for the people and times I’m writing about. Do you base any of your characters on real people? Absolutely. My novella, Tushpa’s Story, was based on a young boy who had a dramatic experience crossing the Trail of Tears in 1834.

Though the main character is fictional, the characters in Anumpa Warrior: Choctaw Code Talkers of World War I are the real men who were the code talkers and their commanding officers. I had the honor of interviewing descendants who knew these men and shared personal aspects that lent so much to the story. There are many historical figures sprinkled throughout my stories.

What kind of research do you do? I didn’t start off as a good researcher. I was scattered, but I knew research was vital because of the roles my work plays in the world. These books let readers experience authentic First American history and culture in an entertaining story. Through that, my stories are ambassadors. They are also a way to preserve this heritage for generations to come. My research has taken me down the backroads of Oklahoma and our homelands in Mississippi; deep into the secure vaults of the National Archives in Washington, DC; reading through stacks of nonfiction books and online archives; the WWI battlefields and cemeteries of France; sitting quietly and listening to elders.

Today, I love research and the treasures I discover of my ancestors that I get to share with readers.

 

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I’m terribly excited to get started on an action-adventure series set in the 1970s that stars a Choctaw artist who has to fight the bad guys and retrieve priceless historical American Indian art pieces. In between my own books, I’m actively teaching authors how to create authentic stories that honor Native American history and culture. I’m also gearing up for my live Dictation Bootcamp for Authors in October. Nearly 100 authors joined me in April of this year to master the skill of dictating their stories. It was a rousing success, and I can’t wait for the one this fall.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? The faith of my ancestors continues to inspire my writing life. They walked the trail for me, and I’m so grateful to share their extraordinary lives through my real and fictional characters so that you, the reader, can go on the journey with us.

Find out more about my books (and my mama’s art) over at ChoctawSpirit.com
Interested in the Fiction Writing American Indians digital course? Find it here: https://www.fictioncourses.com/americanindians
Want to join the live Dictation Bootcamp for Authors in October? That’s here: https://www.fictioncourses.com/dictationbootcamp

5 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    Although I was familiar with the Indian code talkers in WW II, I didn’t know there were some in WW I as well. It sounds like you have a lot to offer as far as both teaching and writing. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
  2. Marie Sutro

    Wonderful class to offer, and the new action adventure series sounds great!!

    Reply
    • Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

      Yakoke, thank you, Marie! I’m so grateful I get to teach authors on this topic. And thank you, I truly can’t wait to start on that new series!

      Reply
  3. George Cramer

    I am enrolled in Sarah’s online Fiction Writing: American Indians class. I highly recommend it to folks who include Indians, Native Americans, Indigenous People, or The First People in their writing.

    Reply

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NICK CHIARKAS – From the Projects to the Halls of Government & Award Winning Author

Nick Chiarkas is a Wisconsin Writers Association Board Member and the author of nine traditionally published books: two award-winning novels Weepers and Nunzio’s Way and seven nonfiction books. He grew up in the Al Smith housing projects on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. When he was in the fourth grade, his mother was told by the principal of PS-1 that “Nick was unlikely ever to complete high school, so you must steer him toward a simple and secure vocation.” Instead, Nick became a writer, with a few stops along the way: a U.S. Army Paratrooper; a New York City Police Officer; Deputy Chief Counsel to the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations; Deputy Chief Counsel for the President’s Commission on Organized Crime; Chief Counsel for the USATBCB; and the Director of the Wisconsin State Public Defender Agency. On the way, he picked up a Doctorate from Columbia University, a Law Degree from Temple University, and was a Pickett Fellow at Harvard. How many mothers are told that their children are hopeless? How many kids with potential surrender to despair? That’s why Nick wrote Weepers and Nunzio’s Way — for them.

Nunzio’s Way – “In this city, you can have anything you want if you kill the right four people.” ~ Nunzio Sabino
In Weepers, Angelo and his gang defeated the notorious Satan’s Knights with the help of his uncle Nunzio Sabino. Now, in Nunzio’s Way (a standalone sequel to Weepers), it’s 1960. Nunzio is the most powerful crime boss in New York City, protecting what’s his with political schemes, business deals, and violence.
Against this backdrop of Mafia wars, local gang battles, and political power plays in the mayoral election; an unlikely assassin arrives fresh from Naples after killing a top member of the Camorra. Nunzio has lived by the mantra; Be a fox when there are traps and a lion when there are wolves. Will Nunzio be a lion in time?

Who’s your favorite author? J. D. Salinger, his writing is beautiful, inventive, and skillful. For example, here is a sentence tucked into a narrative toward the end of his short story A Girl I Knew, “She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there, leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.” I find it breathtaking. On a personal note, in 1965, while I was in an Army hospital at Ft. Campbell, Ky, I received a kind letter from J. D. Salinger; subsequent exchanges inspired me to write.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? Yes. When I think about them as characters, they may slip into a caricature; however, basing my people/characters on real people, they come to life with all their failings and attributes.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? Although my novels are crime-thrillers, I write them as Roman à clef – a novel with a key – which is a novel based on actual events, people, and places overlaid with a façade of fiction. The fictitious names in my novel represent real people, places, and events, and the “key” and the fun are the relationship between nonfiction and fiction.

What is the best book you have ever read? This is hard; here are three: Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, The Godfather by Mario Puzo, and Yesterday and Today by Louis Untermeyer.

Do you have any advice for new writers? Before you write a first (bad) draft, tell your story to a recorder (10 minutes maximum). Just as if you were telling me the story sitting in a pub. Don’t tell me what it’s about; tell me the story. When you’re finished, please wait a few days before listening to it. Then listen to your story with paper and pencil in hand. You will learn three things. (1) Do you have a story and a plot; (2) Does it hold your interest; and (3) What research is necessary? If yes to (1) and (2), do the research and then write your first (bad) draft.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? Recently, at a book talk, I was asked, what was the primary inspiration for my novels Nunzio’s Way and Weepers?” My response was that I wanted to show that life was hard and dangerous when I was growing up in the projects, yet there was love and cohesion between families, friends, and neighbors. I added this brief story as an example:

It was late afternoon on a sunny day in 1957. I was 13 years old and sitting on a bench in the small concrete playground near my building. I was alone reading a Little Lulu comic book. Sylvester Green, tall, tough, and 16 years old, walked into the playground.
He said, “Whatcha readin’, Nicky?”
“Little Lulu.”
“Lemme hold your comic book.”
“No.
I had to say “no,” or I would be a punk. I put up a bit of a fight, but Sylvester knocked me over the back of the bench into brittle and painful bushes. He took my comic book and left. I got up and looked around; nobody saw what had happened. Good. I dusted myself off, wiped some blood off my face with my sleeve, and went home.
My mother met me at the door when I got to my apartment. She asked me where my comic was mbook was.
“Ah, I must’ve left –”
She said, “Zitto cetriolo.” Which means “shut up, cucumber” in Italian. Why cucumber? I have no idea. “I saw that boy, Sylvester; take your comic book.”
“It’s no big deal, Ma; I –”
“No big deal? Andiamo.”
You guessed it, Andiamo means let’s go. She grabbed my arm, and off we went to Sylvester’s building. This was not good news for little Nicky, but I was counting on Sylvester being out somewhere, enjoying my comic book. As I said, it was a lovely day, and it wasn’t supper time or anything—no chance he would be home.
My mother knocked on Sylvester’s apartment door. Sylvester’s mother opened the door. “Marie, can I help you?”
“Stella, your son took my son’s comic book.”
“Sylvester, give Nicky back his comic book,” Stella shouted over her shoulder.
She did not give Sylvester a chance to lie ; she just told him what to do. Sylvester came to the door, handed me my Little Lulu comic book, and looked at me in a way that made it clear that tomorrow would be a bad day for me since we went to the same school. My eyes and body language tried to explain that I didn’t say anything to him. My mom just saw what had happened. No use.
My mother thanked Mrs. Green. Mrs. Green thanked my mother. That was the end of it…except for me the next day.
When I think about that story, I realize no police were involved. The mothers took care of everything. Families knew families. Police were rarely called for anything. The benches were usually lined with women and out-of-work men. They all watched over the neighborhood. This was the inspirational string of the family and neighbors coming together to solve problems that tie my two novels together. And when they couldn’t handle something, they knew who to go to: Nunzio’s Sabino.

Despite the poverty, we (the kids growing up on those streets) felt loved and valued. Not just by our family but by our neighbors, not by the greater society, but by our neighborhood. The older women and men told us stories and shared life lessons. Lessons like: Don’t be a bully; Do what’s right even if you catch a beating; Be polite; Share; Help; Don’t self-pity; Accept responsibility; Don’t be a sore loser; If you win, don’t brag; Read at the Public Library; Be a stand-up guy. Mostly, I learned that it is not about what you get for what you do but what you become by doing it.

How do our readers contact you? They can use my email –  nick.chiarkas@gmail.com

10 Comments

  1. Victoria Weisfeld

    What a terrific interview! The last line is really worth thinking about and well-suited for one of those themes suitable to illustrate through fiction. The Little Lulu story was entertaining, but I laughed out loud where the introduction said the schools advice was, “you must steer him toward a simple and secure vocation.” Instead, Nick became a writer. So much for “simple and secure”!

    Reply
    • Nick Chiarkas

      Thank you, Victoria…maybe simple and secure would have been better…no way, I had to take the path I picked. No regrets, my friend.

      Reply
  2. Steve Rush

    Great interview. Your story exemplifies how much good parents and parenting make a difference and influences their children. Thank you for sharing it.

    Reply
    • Nick Chiarkas

      I completely agree with you, Steve. Thanks for your comment.

      Reply
  3. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    Nick, I don’t think it is deja vue, but I’ve read this story before. I don’t remember where but you told this before. I even think, you said what happened the next day, but I don’t remember. So, what happened the next day?

    Reply
    • Nick Chiarkas

      Ah, Joe, the next day I caught a beating. I put up a good fight but Sylvester was a strong and fast kid. But it was just one beating, one day, and he never picked on me again. That’s the thing about bullies, you have to stand up to them, even if you catch a beating.

      Reply
  4. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    Nick, I love this closing line so much that I want to put it in the mouth of my protagonist… but don’t worry, I won’t. You can feel the love you have for your childhood neighborhood. Clearly growing up there had a lot to do with who you are today. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Nick Chiarkas

      Pamela, thank you so much for your kind words. I thank the projects are still inside me and seep out every now and then. Thanks again, my friend.

      Reply
  5. Michael A Black

    Great interview and commentary, Nick. You are truly an inspiration. I stand in awe of your accomplishments and talent. J.D. Salinger was one of my favorites as well. And I loved Nunzios Way and Weepers. Stay strong, brother.

    Reply
    • Nick Chiarkas

      Thank you so much for your kind words Mike, they mean a lot to me, brother.

      Reply

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WENDY WHITMAN – From Comedy to Murder – What a Ride

Wendy Whitman has a unique background through her decades-long work as an executive and producer for Court TV and HLN, covering almost every major high-profile murder case in America. Through her knowledge of the most detailed aspects of the crimes, Ms. Whitman has become an expert on the subject of murder in America. Before attending Boston University School of Law, Whitman worked for comedians Lily Tomlin and George Carlin. After graduating from law school, the author embarked on what turned out to be a twenty-year career in television covering crime. She spent fifteen years at Court TV and another several at HLN for the Nancy Grace show, where she appeared on air as a producer/reporter covering high-profile cases. Whitman received three Telly Awards and two GLAAD nominations during her tenure at Court TV. Her debut crime thriller novel, Premonition, was released last year. The sequel, Retribution, will be out this July.
RETRIBUTION: After the shattering conclusion of Cary’s quest for justice for the victims of a suspected serial killer in PremonitionRetribution picks up with her cohorts continuing their investigation to hunt down the person responsible for the heinous murders. Who will be next? More importantly, who will come out on top in this deadly game of vengeance?

What brought you to writing? My passion for murder victims and what they have gone through drove me in large part to begin writing. After Court TV and then on Nancy Grace’s show at HLN covering high-profile murder cases, I always felt I had a book in me. I wanted to share my knowledge of the legal system with the public. Although I initially thought I’d write a non-fiction book, I realized I could do everything I wanted in a fictional novel. So one night, I sat down and didn’t stop writing until the early morning hours of the following day. My first crime thriller, Premonition, was a labor of love. I incorporated twenty-plus true cases throughout the book, which I think is unique for a crime thriller, and gave it that extra touch of realism. My second novel, Retribution, picks up where the first one left off. Since I began my writing journey, I have found ideas popping into my head all the time. I am already working on my third novel.

Tell us about your writing process: I didn’t have a plan when I began writing Premonition. The words just flowed out of me. But as the first draft progressed, I knew I had to make a daily schedule in order to complete the book in a reasonable amount of time. So I decided every day, no matter what came up, I would write a certain number of pages; usually, that was twenty or so. Often when I was out and about running errands, an idea would pop into my head, and I would pull over if I was driving and make a note of it. Then when I got home, I would continue to write until I reached my goal for the day. They say, “write what you know.” That thought guided me throughout each writing session. This technique worked well for me, and I completed the first draft in under four months.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? This can be a tricky question to answer. I think one of the most common questions an author gets asked is: “Am I in your book?” As I wrote my novels, I found that I automatically drew upon my experiences; my life. So in that regard, you could say every character has some basis in reality. However, none of my characters were based on one single person. They were either composites or, in some cases, completely made up. Although some situations in the book may be loosely based on actual events, the characters in those situations are not necessarily actual people. When writing fiction, it is especially important to distinguish your characters from the real people in your life: they are not one and the same.

What kind of research do you do? Generally speaking, when an author is writing a fictional novel, there is less research to do than if they were to write a non-fiction book. However, in the case of Premonition and Retribution, since I included references to many true cases in both novels, I had to be careful to get the facts straight. I chose certain murders to highlight in each book for different reasons. Some cases I chose had been neglected by the media; others because the protagonist or killer in the novels was fixated on them. I looked up each case to ensure I remembered the crimes’ details correctly so the books would be as accurate as possible.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? The answer to this is both. Again “write what you know” is a good guideline for any author. The best way to maintain true authenticity throughout a novel is to write about something you have firsthand knowledge of. My novels are set in Connecticut, in the general area where I reside. Although in certain cases, I modified the name of a town or business. Each was based on an actual place. In certain instances, I used the real name because I thought it was important for the setting. So my books have both real locations and fictional ones inspired by real places.

Do you have any advice for new writers? The first piece of advice I would give a new writer is twofold: the overused but critically important “write what you know” and write about something you are passionate about. That combination is a winning formula. Part of the reason I think it was relatively easy for me to complete the first draft of my debut crime thriller, Premonition, in under four months was because I had so much knowledge bottled up inside of me about a topic, i.e., murder. Readers can distinguish between an author who knows what they are writing about and one who does not. Trying to pen a novel about a topic you don’t have a handle on will go nowhere. You can’t fake it; write from the heart, and nothing can stop you. One last piece of advice: when writing, don’t stress about whether you will find an agent or a publisher. How will you promote the book? These are distractions that need to be put on the back burner until you have finished the actual task of writing. Take pride and pleasure in your creation; most of all, have fun with it.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? Writing my first novel, Premonition, was therapeutic for me for several reasons. Having covered some of the most horrific murder cases for decades, I wanted to find a release from the horror of it all. Writing turned out to be the outlet I needed. I wanted my debut crime thriller to pay homage to murder victims and their families. I think I accomplished that goal, and I believe that intention is what makes my novels distinctive from other thrillers. The tagline of my website is: Bringing True Crime Experience to Crime Thrillers. That is exactly what I tried to do with Premonition. The story continues with Retribution, and I am currently working on a third novel to complete the trilogy.

GROUPS:

*Facebook: Renee’s Reading Club; A Novel Bee; Global Girls Online Book Club; Peace Love Books; Wild Sage Book Blog
*Sisters in Crime National and Sisters in Crime-CT
*ITW (International Thriller Writers)
LINKS:
*Website: wendywhitman.com
*https://www.instagram.com/wendywhitmanauthor
*https://www.facebook.com/WendyWhitmanAuthor/
*https://www.amazon.com/author/wendywhitman
*Amazon Link: https://amzn.to/3IEbXqs

 

2 Comments

  1. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    Thanks for sharing all your expertise with us, Wendy. Your books look thrilling. Perhaps a bit too scary for me. I tend towards bad dreams. Do you ever find you scare yourself with your own stories?

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    Good interview, Wendy. And thanks for paying homage to the victims and their families. All too often they’re forgotten. Best of luck to you.

    Reply

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