In writing a novel, every author has something special to add to their stories.
Mystery writing, especially thriller writing, takes special knowledge when building believable characters.
Every author has a unique history. However, the one thread that runs through all interviews is that even though an author may not wish to write from their personal background, and they try not to include themselves in their plots, a bit of them goes into each story they create. After all, what could you write if not from the bank of knowledge and experience that you already have?
What is done to make an exciting story is to draw upon some of your own knowledge and then take the experience to the limit in your fiction. What could have been worse in real life, you now make desperate and dire in your fiction.
Award-winning author, Mike Angley, has a fantastic background and uses his knowledge and experience in writing a novel.
Winner of the Silver Medal for fiction in the 2009 Military Writers Society of America‘s Annual Awards
MD - Welcome Mike. I’m happy to be interviewing a person with your background who chose mystery writing. Maybe during the interview we’ll be able to impart some story writing tips for others who may be writing a novel.
MA – Thank you, Mary. It’s my pleasure to chat with you and your readers today.
MD – Before we get into your experiences of writing your Child Finder Trilogy, would you like to tell us a little about your personal life, perhaps your family life?
MA – I’ve been married to the love of my life for almost 25 years. Evelyn and I met when I was brand new in the US Air Force at a mutual assignment we had in northern California. She was in the USAF then as well, and today is a high school Spanish teacher.
MD – With the busy life you’ve had, I need to ask: When did your serious interest in writing a novel, or novels, originate?
MA – I‘ve always loved to write, but I postponed my long-term goals while I pursued my Air Force career. In hindsight, I think that was a good thing because it allowed me to focus on my writing with the precision it needed.
MD – What are some of your accomplishments before you seriously put effort into writing a novel?
MA – I retired from the U.S. Air Force in 2007 at the rank of Colonel. I was a career OSI Special Agent and served on thirteen different assignments throughout the world. Among these were five tours as a Commander of different units, to include two squadrons and a wing. In my last assignment I was Commander of all OSI units and activities supporting Air Force Space Command worldwide. Basically, if it transited space, I had responsibility for it.
MD – This is extremely interesting. Please continue.
MA - I enjoyed an exciting and dangerous career, experiencing all things imaginable as a criminal investigator and a counterintelligence and counter terrorism operator. Following the 1996 Khobar Towers terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia, I was dispatched to command all OSI units throughout the Middle East, with responsibility for 23 countries.
Earlier in my career, while commanding an OSI unit in northern Japan, I conducted an operation that effectively blocked a KGB agent‘s efforts to steal critical U.S. technology, and thereby stymied Soviet military advances for years.
MD – Wow, Mike! That is so impressive and important work too. So your history provides some of your greatest strengths in writing a novel. Let’s talk a little about the first novel in your trilogy, the award-winning Child Finder. Give us the over-all feel for the stories.
MA – The trilogy is a mystery/suspense series with paranormal and religious edges. It features a protagonist, Air Force Special Agent Patrick S. O‘Donnell, who is as tough as 24‘s Jack Bauer, but with the endearing, family-values heart of 7th Heaven‘s Eric Camden. He‘s an early-thirties Air Force Major assigned to the Pentagon when the 9/11 terrorist attacks take place.
MD – What is the story of the first novel?
MA - In the debut novel, Child Finder, Agent O‘Donnell‘s haunting dreams about missing children reveal a hidden psychic gift which the government eagerly exploits, drawing him into a Top Secret program to find missing kids. But to make matters complicated, Uncle Sam has other ideas in mind for his unique paranormal talents…after all, there is a War on Terror underway. One thing‘s for sure—ever since joining this new, secret community, he is surrounded by murder, and the very real threat of harm to his own family!
MD – That really sounds like a contorted and interesting plot. Then, after writing a novel, was the second story easier? Can you say a few words about the second book, Child Finder: Resurrection?
MA - Child Finder: Resurrection has been released. It has been a year and a half since Agent O‘Donnell left the secret child rescue program after it went horribly off-track, resulting in murder and endangering his own family. And just when he thinks he‘s comfortably put this painful past behind him, he receives a call from his mentor. The murky, shadowy Top Secret community where he once was center-stage has been revised, revamped, resurrected!
The government needs his psychic skills more than ever. A sick, twisted, menacing child killer is on the loose, and no one but Pat can stop him. But Agent O‘Donnell soon discovers this new nemesis is more than he bargained for. Nothing can prepare him for the psychotic genius he must fight…and the life and death cat-and-mouse game that entraps him! Once again, Pat must call upon his faith and strong spiritual connection with God to sustain and guide him, especially during his darkest hours as he battles…pure evil.
MD – And how do you wind up the trilogy in the third book, Child Finder: Revelation?
MA - In Child Finder: Revelation (to publish circa December 2010), Patrick O‘Donnell is dispatched to Korea on a sensitive mission to crack the disturbing abduction of a high ranking U.S. official‘s children. What he discovers about their sudden disappearance — especially where they have been taken — shocks the foundation of international relations.
More intriguing is what makes these particular children so special. What O‘Donnell learns about them, and himself, involves sensitive government secrets he regrets ever knowing. These new revelations will rock his faith, his concept of life, and his understanding of his place in the universe.
MD – With your background, writing a novel, or at least putting a plot together must come easier than for someone with no experience. The ending to the trilogy sounds like a cliffhanger that could lead to writing a novel that would begin to serialize the stories. From where did you get the idea for your protagonist? How did you build his characteristics?
MA - I took a chance. I realized that most protagonists in this genre are rough and tough, and rarely show a soft side. I wanted both!
These contrasts come into play as he enters this Top Secret program – he finds himself pulled in many directions where he must make tough moral/ethical decisions (is everything he is asked to do actually legal?). He wants to save kids, but at what price? I also used his faith for contrast as well. He is a man who grew up with an unfulfilled sense of calling – is it the psychic gift and rescue of children? He‘s not sure, so he grapples with what it all means.
MD – Your protagonist is a very complicated man and that’s what mystery writing is all about. I’m curious. When writing a novel, how much of these stories is realistic, that is, taken from your life?
MA – The main reason I decided on this concept for the series was because of the number of crimes against children I worked in the Air Force. Every one of them literally broke my heart, and as a dad myself, it made it even tougher on me. In some respects, Child Finder is a kind of catharsis, enabling me to save some kids even if fictional.
MD – Child Finder won an award. Tell us about that.MA - Child Finder won the Silver Medal for fiction in the 2009 Military Writers Society of America‘s Annual Awards program. This was such a huge honor for me, and from what I have been told by the MWSA community, competition was tough this year with the largest number of fiction submissions in the society‘s history.
MD – Yes, competition is keen. Writing a novel, especially a mystery novel in today’s markets, is risky. However, mystery writing is second only to romance novels in sales when the stories pop. For our viewers, please tell us how you deal with rejection letters.
MA – I burn them in the fiery pits of hell! Okay, just joking. The first few I received were disappointing and a bit crushing. But I quickly got over all that.
A few agents took the time to give me some constructive feedback, so I eagerly gobbled that up and heeded it.
MD – Do you have any advice for anyone writing a novel?
MA – Patience, persistence, perfection.
Be persistent – don’t let rejection letters knock you down. Every author, no matter how famous he/she is now, has received rejections. It took me about 18 months to secure a contract.
Strive for perfection – polish your manuscript and all the documents you send in with a submission package. A poorly-worded document of any kind will stop the process with an agent or publisher.
MD – When you wish to end your career, stop writing and look back on your life, what thoughts would you like to have about what you’ve accomplished?
MA – Oh, I suppose I hope that I will have earned the name recognition of a Tom Clancy. I write to inspire and entertain. I love when I get feedback from readers telling me they couldn’t put the book down, or that the ending was a surprise and a shock. I had one reader tell me she stayed up an entire night and into the weekend without sleep because she didn’t want to put the book down.
MD – I’m grateful to Mike Angley for this interview that definitely reveals some tips about writing a novel.
For my readers: Are you ready to start writing a novel? What motivates Mike into writing a novel could well encourage many others into mystery writing or their genre of choice. At best, when studying a successful writer, a lot of story writing tips can be gleaned along the way.
Viewers may learn more about him at