How did you find yourself writing a book? What’s the story behind your career? Really by chance. I got hurt at work and suddenly had a lot of time on my hands and, at the time, a lot of frustration. Writing has always been cathartic for me, and I started writing a story about a lot of the things I wanted to change around me at the time. I really appreciate the written word as art, entertainment, and inspiration, and I hoped to put a few stories together that other folks might enjoy reading.
What makes your subject interesting? Despite all the cop shows that saturate television and movie theaters, I feel most of them fail to address the three-dimensional realities of police work. Our jobs, normally, are about 99% mundane procedure and paperwork, and 1% sheer terror (my math might be off a bit, but it feels pretty close). I wanted to share stories about my personal experiences without unrealistically focusing on that 1%, but also give readers a little better understanding of why cops do certain things.
What makes you an interesting author? I’d have to pose that to someone who finds me interesting. If I had to guess on their behalf, I hope that my work as a cop gives the reader a far more thorough picture of what it’s like to be a cop in modern times. There’s so much more joy, grief, elation, and misery than an author can ever learn by shadowing a big-city homicide detective. It’s one thing to watch a cop put on a show than it is to actually live through our emotional roller coaster. I hope that translates accurately in the text in a way readers can understand and appreciate it.
How many times have you wished you’d started writing earlier? Actually, never. I wish I would have been more diligent and dedicated when I finally did start writing, though. If I’d started writing earlier, I wouldn’t have had the experience base to give readers anything different than what’s already in the marketplace, and I wouldn’t have had any great stories to tell.
Who are your favourite authors? I’ll buy anything by Tom Clancy, Dean Koontz, Vince Flynn, James Patterson, and Joseph Wambaugh. I’ve only recently gotten into Michael Connelly and Lee Child.
How much time do you spend writing? Not enough. I try to dedicate time each day to writing something, but life gets in the way. I keep hearing that five-pages-a-day finishes a story pretty fast. I should probably be writing right now…
What are you reading right now? I just finished “Tom Clancy-Full Force and Effect” by Mark Greaney, and I have three books in-progress on my nightstand: “Left of Bang” by Patrick Van Horne and Jason A. Riley (great book on situational awareness!), “Boston in the American Revolution” by Brooke Barbier, and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey. I normally work through two or three at once, and Kesey just replaced Greaney in the rotation.
What’s the biggest hurdle to getting words on the page and how do you overcome it? Initially, I had to feel inspired to write. Over time, I got better about writing on-demand, so now, the biggest hurdle is time. I need more hours in my day. Absent an ability to defy physics and the 4th dimension, I strive to intentionally make time to write, rather than waiting for time to make itself.
How do you feel about ebooks vs. print? I love the ease and convenience of e-books, especially for traveling, but I much prefer the feel and appearance of paper. I love the way books smell, and the look of a filled bookcase. Having hundreds of titles on a device is convenient, but there’s no emotion or romance in it for me.
If you could work with any author who would it be? Just one? Living: Wambaugh, he’s such a great story teller and a legendary cop. Time Travel: Henry David Thoreau, so I could, maybe, finally understand transcendentalism.
Night owl or early bird? Both. My cop schedule requires me to switch back-and-forth almost every week. When left to my own devices, I’m usually down around midnight and up around 0700.
Other creative outlets? Hiking, rugby, and mountain biking. Nature and competition are therapeutic for me, and there’s little medicine better than a few miles of solitary trails.
Favourite books from childhood? “Old Man and the Sea” by Hemingway, “1984” by Orwell, and “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams if you go back far enough. The first fiction I remember reading for leisure is “Hunt for Red October” by Tom Clancy.
Three favourite movies? Ready to laugh? 1) “Top Gun,” and, tied for second, “The Usual Suspects” and “True Grit.”
Favourite type of hero? Flawed and three-dimensional. I prefer reading about an ordinary person with the intestinal fortitude to do extraordinary things, who also experiences the full, broad scope of humanity.
Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from? My parents and grandparents. I think they started reading to him in the delivery room, and, as a kid, I used to have to write essays for punishment. So, early on, I suppose writing could have been a negative experience. However, after I finished an essay, my dad would grade it with a red pen and determine the rest of my sentence based on its quality. I quickly learned the benefit of better writing.
What cultural value do you see in writing/reading/storytelling/etc.? It’s everything. Science helps us understand the world around us, but storytelling helps us understand who we are. It documents our values and beliefs over time, and helps us understand our history.
What are some of the references that you used while researching this book? A lot of open source research on topics like geography, mapping, crime trends, and the recent history of hate-group behavior, recruitment, and propaganda. I completed most of the research online, but law enforcement intel bulletins inspired some aspects of the story.
What do you think most characterizes your writing? I hope readers recognize a unique authenticity in the characters and story. In contrast, I sincerely hope no one reads it and feels like they just read a stuffy, emotionless police report from 1968.
What was the hardest part of writing this book? Ironically, putting it out to the public. Parts of this story are so personal to me, which I think is probably a normal relationship with the characters and plots. But, some of the individual scenes are so closely based on my own experiences that I have an abnormally strong, emotional tie to them. The reality of bearing pieces of my soul and self-identity for public criticism has, by far, been the toughest hurdle to cross.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Partnering with my wife to attempt to better understand and write the female characters’ inner monologues and intrinsic motivations. Turns out I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. Next to that, knowing my family and friends believed in the project and my ability to produce something worthwhile.
Are there vocabulary words or concepts in your book that may be new to readers? Define some of those. I tried really hard to contextually explain the cop jargon scattered through the text, but a few that stand out are “FNG,” which could be explained one way as, well, “fairly new guy.” I imagine you can come up with another. In a surveillance scene, Detective Landon “has the eye,” which means he’s the one directly responsible for watching the “target.” “Targets” are usually people, but can also a house, a car, or any place where crime is expected to occur. Readers might also need to know a “wall stop” in our jargon is known as a “pretextual stop” in the courts; simply put, cop suspects a driver is involved in a crime but doesn’t have proof, so he follows the driver until he commits a traffic offense, pulls the car over, and tries to get consent or a justification to search the car for evidence of the suspected crime. The cops might’ve legally stopped the car for a broken taillight, but they actually want to search the car for illegal drugs.
What inspires you? People with a heart of service to others. I’ve had few experiences more rewarding than helping someone who can do nothing in return, and in being part of a community that is routinely sought and trusted to help. I believe the personal and social value of neighbors looking out for one another cannot be overstated.
What makes your book stand out from the crowd? With no intent to take anything away from successful civilian authors, I believe my experiences as a working cop add authenticity that’s hard to replicate otherwise. Realistic conversations, reactions, and nuances of cynical investigators are not easily fabricated.
What are your plans for future projects? I have several fictional cop series to write, along with a non-fiction memoir that details the stranger-than-fiction aspects of my professional life. Still deciding whether to change the names of the not-so-innocent…