Thank you, George, for having me on today. I’ve been writing now for twelve years and have to admit it; I enjoy writing. I guess it’s the storyteller in me. My background has helped me come up with ideas, as I spent nearly thirty years in the Air Force in a career field with a mission very similar to the FBI. I spent another eight years as a financial advisor before becoming a full-time writer. Both jobs gave me a lot of insight into people’s behavior.
In all, I’ve had sixteen books published, two more that I’ve self-published, and one that I co-authored with three other writers. I’ve also had a few short stories published in anthologies. Most of my work has been in the mystery or thriller genres. However, I have four fantasy, adventure books published in the juvenile fiction series.
I have never found writing in different genres difficult. It might be because for years, I wrote short stories for my three daughters as they were learning to read and then for my grandchildren.
In the Air Force, I wrote or reviewed hundreds if not thousands of criminal and counterintelligence investigative reports. While none of my books are based on true crime or actual intelligence reports, my experience gave me thousands of ideas and plots.
I have a fairly strict writing process that includes leaving home before eight each morning, finding a spot inside or outside a coffee house, and writing for about an hour and a half. If I can keep this pace, I find that I can produce a 70,000-word book in around nine months. My first book took longer as I lacked discipline and confidence. My advice to any beginning author is to stay with it, despite any initial disappointments. My first book is admittedly my worst edited. I’ve learned since.
Writing at home has always been difficult for me as I find myself too easily distracted by the refrigerator, the television, or some other project that comes to mind. The noise around me at a Starbucks, for example, I can ignore. In fact, I sometimes describe a character after a customer that catches my eye. I sometimes wonder if a lot of authors aren’t people watchers, too.
I never start with an outline, although I often find myself reading what I’ve written after about sixty or seventy pages and taking notes to ensure I haven’t changed names or descriptions of characters or gone too astray in my plot. After that, I try to remember to add to my character list as I go, but I still find myself mixing up who did what or names. When I finish the entire manuscript, I read the entire story and make a number of changes. About the third or fourth time, I feel the story is good enough to have other people read it to identify mistakes or recommend improvements.
My protagonist in my Jim West mystery series, my first series, is a retired Special Agent from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. While I am too, that is where the similarities between Jim and me (or any other person) ends. Giving Jim a background I could relate to, and have him living in a state where I also lived for years, made the stories easier to write. After writing five books about Jim, I started my second series: the Clint Smith thriller series. I alternate now between the two series.
The Treasure, my newest book, is the fourth book in the Clint Smith series and is set to be released in April. Clint is a “hunter,” the nice word given to him as a job description that more accurately should be government assassin. The small office to which he belongs is so buried under layers of classified cover mission descriptions that only a few in the government know what they really do.
In The Treasure, Clint heads to Las Vegas on vacation after a successful mission in South America to dig up a stagecoach strongbox he had found in the desert earlier but had left unopened. Upon inspection, he finds several well-preserved old documents. He gives the contents of the strongbox to a lawyer to find buyers. One of the documents, unfortunately, creates a maelstrom of violence and murder, and puts Clint squarely in the crosshairs of some Chinese assassins. Clint leaves Las Vegas to keep out of the spotlight, only to find himself going to Alaska in an attempt to rescue a female police officer assigned to protect him in Las Vegas.
I have always been a big reader and have really enjoyed the works of many authors. Some like Ian Fleming, Rex Stout, John D. MacDonald, Robert Ludlum, I grew up reading. Their work still influences me, while I have since moved on to more contemporary authors.
I will continue to write until my eyes, or my fingers go. I do enjoy it, and if your followers choose to read one of my books, I’d love to receive any feedback or comments they may have. My website is www.bobdoerr.com, and I have an author page on Facebook (20+) Bob Doerr – Author | Facebook
Thank again – Bob Doerr
What does an emerita professor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison do when she no longer leads a research lab? She writes!
Most efforts to recruit women and minority students to science majors are minimally successful. Thus, I was fascinated when a woman professor reported a number of minority and women students majoring in biology claimed they first considered a career in science after they’d become fans of the kooky Abby on NCIS television program.
That’s when I decided the heroine in my mystery and thriller novels would be a woman scientist. I quickly decided I didn’t want my heroine tied down to a laboratory but wanted her to have skills that would make her a valued consultant by a variety of agencies. Hence, my heroine Sara Almquist emerged as a globe-trotting epidemiologist who dislikes the constraints of university departments and loves her Japanese Chin dog Bug. Sara and Bug have been together now in eight novels in my Science Traveler Series, even though Sara’s human love interests have evolved over time.
The first, The Flu Is Coming, explores the psychological effect of a police-enforced quarantine on an upscale, gated community where a new type of flu virus kills nearly half of the residents in less than a week. The Centers for Disease Control recruits epidemiologist Sara Almquist to find ways to limit the spread of the epidemic. As she pries into the residents’ lives, she finds promising scientific clues, but violence ensues when she learns too many of the residents’ secrets. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0578423251
In Murder…A Way to Lose Weight, the second novel in the Science Traveler Series, Sara helps police discover who killed the diet doctor—an ambitious partner, disgruntled patients, or old-timers with buried secrets. Sara consults on public health issues in Bolivia in Ignore the Pain and tries to increase scientific cooperation between Cuba and the U.S. in Malignancy. However, in both countries, she learns too much about the international drug trade and is nearly ambushed by drug dealers several times.
I’m fond of the fifth book in the series I Saw You in Beirut because it allowed me to write about my experiences as a science consultant in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. In this thriller, Sara must examine her past to find the clues needed to extract a nuclear scientist from Iran. https://www.amazon.com/ dp/0960028544
My sixth book, Riddled with Clues, is based “loosely” on a friend’s notes (a CIA operative in Laos during the Vietnam War) and my experiences working with homeless veterans as part of a pet therapy team with my real dog Bug. In this mystery, Sara is attacked after listening to the strange tale of an undercover drug agent recovering at the VA hospital in Albuquerque. As she fights to survive, she keeps receiving riddled clues from a homeless veteran. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1938436237
I think A Pound of Flesh, Sorta has one of the most mischievous first chapters I’ve read in a thriller. A box of animal guts is delivered to Sara’s home. Did I mention the box is ticking and contaminated with bacteria that cause the plague? The police and Sara can’t decide if the box is a threat, a plea from a rancher fearing another round of plague in his livestock, or a clue needed to solve a series of mysterious “accidents.” https://www.amazon.com/ dp/0960028560
My latest novel is Dirty Holy Water. In this psychological mystery, Sara’s world is turned upside down. Instead of being a trusted FBI consultant about to vacation in India with her boyfriend, she’s the chief suspect in the murder of a friend. Sara soon realizes the difference between a villain and a victim can be alarmingly small. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0960028587
I try to make my readers feel like they are part of the action in my novels in several ways. The settings are real. I’ve visited the foreign locations mentioned in my books, and I pay attention to details. Even the foods served in restaurants are consistent with the restaurants’ menus. The characters have carefully researched backstories, sometimes based on those of real people. There is a theme in each novel that reflects a current issue. For example, scientific patents and immunotherapy for the treatment of cancer are featured in Malignancy, and water pollution is a focus point in Dirty Holy Water. I include two pages called “The Science Behind the Story” at the end of each novel. It’s a way to assure my readers that the scientific facts mentioned in my books are accurate. Two of my books (Malignancy and Murder: A Way to Lose Weight) won the annual contest conducted by the Public Safety Writers Association. Many have been finalists in the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards competition.
To learn more about me, visit my website: http://www.jlgreger.com and my Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/J.L.-Greger/e/B008IFZSC4%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share.
THANKS, GEORGE, FOR WELCOMING ME AT YOUR BLOG SITE.
Scott Decker’s first book is a true crime memoir,
Recounting the Anthrax Attacks—Terror, the Amerithrax Task Force, and the Evolution of Forensics in the FBI (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018). I attempted to write it as creative non-fiction (see, creativenonfiction.org).
“The book is fascinating and absolutely authentic—a behind-the-scenes account, never before told in such detail, of the FBI’s forensic detective work into the chilling anthrax bioterror attacks after 9/11. Decker, who ran the “dark biology” part of the FBI’s investigation, recounts how agents and scientists used cutting-edge tools of biology to narrow down the search for the perpetrator and finally focus on one suspect. I don’t think the world realizes just what the FBI accomplished or how they did it, or the pitfalls and difficulties of the investigation, but Decker tells us the story from the inside.” —Richard Preston, NY Times Bestselling Author, The Hot Zone and The Demon in the Freezer.
Do you write in more than one genre? No, just one genre, memoir, as narrative non-fiction. I am a stickler for historical and technical accuracy.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I converted the spare bedroom at the end of our house to an office. I have a 27″ iMac that allows me to have two or three documents or Internet sites on the screen at once. I have a printer hard-wired to the Mac and a hardline phone next to it on an antique desk with an antique NYC Public Library table forming an “L” shape.
Distractions are numerous. Probably my two rescues, a beagle mix and a miniature pinscher, are the biggest. They really are high maintenance. They keep me company, sleeping on a day bed next to my desk, but if I ignore the pinscher when I am lost in the writing, he pees in my office. Then I have to stop typing and clean it up.
What are you currently working on? These days I free-lance for Security Management magazine and Knife Magazine. I am also researching for a second memoir. The working title is Papermaker—A Memoir of the Ups and Downs in an American Industry. Papermaker will discuss the dangers of working in a paper mill, one that an entire community depends on for their livelihood—the maimings and fatalities notwithstanding.
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? I have to give a shout-out to the Public Safety Writers Association. I joined when my book was in the very early stages. Over a couple of years, my writing improved with the help I found attending their annual conference. They also held a writing workshop the day before the conference, and it included the opportunity to submit writing samples for critique. I submitted my first book, two chapters, which had undergone numerous revisions. The instructor had only one minor suggestion for my dialog. I entered my unpublished manuscript in their annual writing competition. It won first place in the non-fiction book category. At that point, I felt I was ready to query publishers in earnest.
Who’s currently your favorite author? I’ll list two. The first is Linda Greenlaw; she has authored three or four memoirs about fishing the Atlantic. Linda is portrayed in the Warner Bros movie, The Perfect Storm as the woman swordfish captain opposite George Clooney’s character. The second is Colson Whitehead. He has authored both fiction and non-fiction books and is an excellent writer.
How long did it take you to write your first book? I began in 2012, and Recounting was published in March 2018. During that time, I got married, my wife and I moved three times, took two family estates through probate, and put the family farm in preservation. I stayed busy.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I am an outliner. I begin with a timeline of events. I then go down the timeline and make chapter breaks at places I think will lend themselves to a cliffhanger. Following that, I write one-half to two-thirds of a page summarizing each chapter. The chapter outlines will comprise a large part of my non-fiction book proposal. A book proposal is mandatory for publishing non-fiction—all publishers require it.
A proposal is a fair amount of work in itself, but I find it makes writing the book easier. I take each chapter outline and fill in between the sentences to build a chapter.
What kind of research do you do? These days most is over the Internet. Sites like fold3.com and the National Archives (archives.gov) contain loads of information. Even the FBI has a ton of case histories available on their site, vault.fbi.gov. I read books on the same subject I want to write about; these books become part of my book proposal’s “Comparable Books” section. I request books through the Inter-Library Loan process at my local public library or buy them outright.
What is the best book you ever read? I’ll list two again, first is John Conroy’s Belfast Diary—War as a Way of Life (Beacon Press, 1989). The second is Craig K. Collins’ Thunder in the Mountains: A Portrait of American Gun Culture (Lyons Press, 2014). Both are narrative non-fiction memoirs.
The second, Thunder in the Mountains, had a great effect on my writing and encouraged me to embrace writing about myself in the first-person—memoir. Collins’ book showed me how to speak to my audience in a personal way, which I think appeals to most readers.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I’ll continue to free-lance for Security Management magazine and Knife Magazine and research for a second memoir. I have partnered with an established producer who optioned my book. We are pitching networks on both a documentary series and a scripted narrative series.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Don’t give up on publishers versus self-publishing. Going with an established publisher, even a small house, has advantages. The first version of my book, or rather my non-fiction proposal, was rejected over and over by small presses. I finally sat down and rewrote it using much more first person and ending each chapter with a cliffhanger. I submitted the revised proposal to a dozen small presses and received three contract offers. I went with Rowman on the advice of a fellow author. Working with both my editor and production manager at Rowman was great.
How do our readers contact you? Your website, blog links, any links you want to be posted? Readers can contact me through my Internet site: www.rscottdecker.com. The site’s “Contact” page is forwarded to my email address, which I check several times a day. The site is low cost, and I edit it myself. The Authors Guild (authorsguild.org) hosts it.
Scott Decker with Robert Mueller