Thank you so much for sharing your book with me and agreeing to do a Q&A for my readers.
Give us a quick summary of Kill Order!
When he sleeps, the forgotten terrors of the past come alive.
Grammy-winning pianist Landon Jeffers’s brain cancer has given him only a few years to live. But when he sleeps, the forgotten terrors of his past torment him. When he wakes, shameful memories come rushing back. Desperate for answers, Jeffers discovers that a brain implant intended to treat his cancer is really a device to control him, forcing him to commit terrible crimes. Now he’s being manipulated by an evil crime syndicate and a crooked cop.
What if free will isn’t? What if your every move is predestined? If you kill, are you guilty of murder?
What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome in completing your book?
The biggest hurdle is always finding adequate time. I’m a book editor by day and a novelist by night (and weekends), so the process takes longer for me than for full-time authors. After editing books, getting things fixed around my house, being a husband and father, and serving in my local church, there isn’t a lot of time left to get a manuscript done.
While Kill Order isn’t your first book, it is your first book in this series. Did you have any specific struggles writing this that you didn’t for your previous series, North Woods Chronicles?
Actually, I’d say the writing process was easier for the first book in this series than for my previous series, and let me explain why. For my first published novel, Fatal Illusions, I was very meticulous in my planning and pretty much had everything mapped out. With Kill Order, I sort of took off the training wheels and let the story glide wherever the story and characters wanted to take me. This was a fun but scary journey; I decided that if I didn’t know where the story would go, readers wouldn’t either. I hate predictable novels. The writing became adventurous and freeing, but I hit a snag with the ending. It took longer and required more work than I expected.
The novel features Landon Jeffers, a pianist suffering from brain cancer. What inspired such a unique and tragic protagonist?
My dad, Larry, passed away from brain cancer in 2011, and several aspects of his cancer journey kicked off the initial story idea. One key detail involved a medical procedure; the doctors agreed to remove as much of my dad’s brain tumor as possible and replace it with medicinal wafers intended to fight the existing cancer. My mind began playing the what-if game. What if the doctor implanted something else, something that could monitor or even control my dad’s life? The story’s premise grew from there.
The question of free will and choice plays a heavy role in this book. Why was it important to you to show this conflict in your novel?
I wanted the novel to be appealing to both Christian and non-Christian readers, and I felt themes of personal choice and control would appeal to everyone. A big thematic question that comes up in the story is, What is controlling you and your life? If this is a bad thing, how can you escape? All of us yield our time and attention to something. Is this something that can enslave, like drugs or pornography? Or what about bitterness and hurtful memories we hold onto and won’t let go? What hope does God provide for those who realize they are enslaved and want to be free? While my main character deals with literal people seeking to control his life for evil purposes, I believe the same principles of freedom apply to all of us, depending of course on our unique situations.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
The Internet. I’ve never known another time in my life when we had so many reasons to be distracted. At Facebook, I could push my books on unsuspecting folks all day long if I wanted to. Or there’s always that cute YouTube video of a canary singing opera. Before I know it, I’ve wasted so much time viewing fun videos or checking out what’s happening in my friends’ lives that I’ve forgotten about the chapter I planned to write.
How long did it take you to get this book published, from its initial conception to the release date?
About five years. Because I write evenings and weekends, I spend about two years writing each novel. Then I spent time seeking a literary agent. My agent shopped the novel around for about a year, and my publisher had an eighteen-month schedule for this project. I wish I could write more quickly than that, but that’s the reality for me, since this isn’t my full-time gig. I’m almost done with the first draft of the sequel to Kill Order, so maybe things are changing.
What is the first book that made you cry?
I’ve never read a book that made me cry, but several novels have made an impression. Probably one of the first was A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle. I read a lot of fantasy in junior high, and that one impressed me, even more than her Wrinkle in Time.
Many of our readers are trying to decide which avenue of publishing to pursue for their books. Since your book is published through a small press, could you share with us what you’ve enjoyed about this process?
It’s nice to work with a group of people who truly love what they do, which is to help authors be the best they can be on the written (and ultimately printed) page and deliver something memorable to readers. I doubt authors working with larger presses would experience this personal touch.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers looking to publish their first novel?
If you’re a writer who wants to be a published novelist, be patient and work hard, but keep in mind that doors will open for you only in the Lord’s timing. We can’t rush God. If He has prompted you to write, God gave you that desire for a reason. Explore what His will could be, but learn to wait on Him—perhaps even for a long time. When He’s ready, He’ll let you know. In the meantime, seek Him with your whole heart.
What other books and authors inspire you?
Authors write what they like to read. When I was a kid, I devoured Hardy Boys books—yes, even my sister’s collection of Nancy Drew. While growing up, I read Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Ray Bradbury, and Madeleine L’Engle. Eventually I gravitated to suspense fiction by authors like Steven James, Frank Peretti, Terri Blackstock, and Mary Higgins Clark. I grew weary of whodunits and preferred suspense novels. I like novels that grab me around the throat, keep the pages turning, and never let go until the final period. Suspense novels filled with plenty of action and conflict captivate me like no other books I read, though I also have a fondness for good literature, fantasy, history, biography, true crime, and science fiction.
What is your favorite book to recommend to others?
Watership Down by Richard Adams. I discovered this novel in junior high, and it has always held a special place in my heart. If you haven’t read it, you should.
Can you give us a hint of what you’re working on next?
I’m almost finished with the first draft of the sequel to Kill Order and hope to have something ready for my agent sometime this fall.
Thank you so much for interviewing me at your blog! I appreciate it.