Today my guest is writer John Wills. We met recently at a writers’ conference and I was very impressed with him. He won several awards at the conference.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up one of six children on the south side of Chicago. Our parents worked long and hard to afford to send all of us to Catholic schools. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that education was priceless.
What kind of childhood did you have? Were there siblings? Where were you in the birth order? Did it affect you?
I am the second oldest of six kids. We didn’t have a lot of money, as would be expected in a large family. All of us wore hand-me-downs, even my oldest brother. He got them from cousins. I had a wonderful childhood—lots of neighborhood kids to play sports with. We rode our bicycles everywhere: school, parks, the store, and as long as we were home when the streetlights came on, life was good.
When did you first realize you could write? Did you always enjoy it?
It was early on in grammar school. I did enjoy it, particularly, the process of writing—putting pen to paper and actually writing, not typing. When I got older, creating a story, whether fact or fiction, appealed to me.
What other jobs have you done during your life? Did they influence your writing?
I served in the Army during Vietnam. It was a difficult time in our nation’s history and an unpopular war. A military career did not seem attractive to me at that point. I came home and joined the Chicago Police Department and served for 12 ½ years. I left the CPD to become an FBI agent, and retired in 2004.
Writing was an important skill in the Bureau. Being able to document a complex case from beginning to end, in a concise, complete manner was absolutely essential. Once the arrest was made, it was time for prosecution. The U.S. Attorney’s office had little time for agents who had poor writing skills.
What was your first book? Was it published? Is it still in print?
Chicago Warriors Midnight Battles In The Windy City. The book is still available and is the first in the trilogy of the Chicago Warriors Thriller series, featuring Chicago Police detectives Pete Shannon and Marilyn Benson.
Many of us (yours truly included) have a stash of unfinished or simply older manuscripts siting around. Do you?
No, but I did have some short stories taking up space on my hard drive. I decided to collect them, and some poetry, and create an anthology. I named it after an award-winning story I wrote. The Nightstand Collection is available on Amazon.
How did you come up with the protagonist in your latest book?
He is based on a friend of mine, as well as some of my experiences throughout my law enforcement career.
How do you name your characters?
Since much of my writing involves real-life, I often use friends and family in my stories. If the character is a nationality I need to fit a certain role, I will usually use a name generator engine on the internet.
Does the setting for your book resemble where you live?
Yes, and I have a wide range of venues to choose from since I’ve lived in the Midwest, the South, and the East Coast.
Do you include any of your family members or friends among your characters?
Yes, and they seem to enjoy the effect.
Before you leave, tell us a little about your new book, The Year Without Christmas.
I shed a lot of tears writing this one. The book tells the story of a small town family’s peace being 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 demonstrates the power of love, faith and a family’s will to survive.
Thank you for stopping by today. We look forward to seeing you again in person. See my review on Amazon. Lorna
John M. Wills is a former Chicago police officer and retired FBI agent. He is a freelance writer and award-winning author in a variety of genres, including novels, short stories and poetry. He has published more than 150 articles relating to officer training, street survival, fitness and ethics. John also writes book reviews for the New York Journal of Books and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. His book, Women Warriors, is available online and at the National Law Enforcement Memorial Gift Shop in Washington, D.C. John’s October 2013 release is The Year Without Christmas: A Novel. Visit John at: www.johnmwills.com.