Monday, January 22, 2018

Q & A with J.J. Hensley

J.J. Hensley, a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service, joins us today for Q&A about his book, Bolt Action Remedy. Hensley, who is originally from Huntington, WV, graduated from Penn State University with a B.S. in Administration of Justice and has a M.S. in Criminal Justice Administration from Columbia Southern University.

Where did you get the idea for BOLT ACTION REMEDY? How did you know that was the book you wanted to write?

Ever since I finished my first novel (RESOLVE), which was set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, I knew that someday I wanted to write another novel that incorporated an endurance sport. I toyed around with concepts involving a triathlon or a cycling race, but nothing seemed to click with me. Then, one day it dawned on me that not only is the sport of biathlon fascinating, but all the competitors are armed. What's better than that???? So, I developed a story in which the investigator would have to try to solve an improbably crime by working his way through an unusual pool of suspects.

Why did you decide to write about biathlon?

I think I've been aware of the sport for most of my life, but in 2002 I was working for the Secret Service and spent a couple of months in Salt Lake City, UT for the Winter Olympics. I learned more about the sport and I think my initial admiration for the abilities of the athletes always stuck with me. However, it took me fifteen years to get to the point where I could draw upon that experience and write Bolt Action Remedy.

Have you participated in biathlon or any of the other winter sports?

I can't ski or skate and hate being cold. Other than that, I'm perfectly suited for winter sports!

Did you speak with athletes as part of your research?

I ended up getting a little help from former U.S. Olympic biathlete Curt Schreiner. He helped me understand some of the nuances of the sport and probably saved me from making some embarrassing mistakes.

Tell us a bit about Trevor Galloway. Where did this character come from? Who is he?

Galloway is the protagonist I wish I would have had the ability to create years ago. For this novel, I really needed to create an investigator with great intellectual depth and even deeper internal conflicts. He's a former Pittsburgh narcotics detective who has been asked to investigate the year-old homicide of a prominent Pennsylvania businessman who was gunned down on his estate in Central Pennsylvania. Galloway is stoic on the outside but has a fuse burning on the inside. To complicate matters, he has some PTSD issues and encounters the occasional hallucination. He probably should avoid any stress, so needless to say I threw him into incredibly stressful situations. I'm kind of a jerk to my characters. Ask around.

What made you decide to address drug addiction through Trevor’s eyes?

I never intended the addiction aspect to be a main part of the story, but I did want it to always be there, looming in the background. Galloway is a man who has his demons and the demons you can't see and can't predict are often the most frightening. When a character is constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, it creates a natural tension throughout the story.

How has your past experience as a police officer and Special Agent for the Secret Service informed your work? Do you your non-writing experience puts more pressure on you to get the details “right” in fiction?

I'm always calling on my training and experience when I'm writing. The funny thing is I don't think my readers are holding me to a higher standard when it comes to accuracy. However, I raise the bar extremely high and take few liberties when it comes to processes and procedures. The world of law enforcement is fascinating enough without having to turn it into a Hollywood production.

If Trevor was actually a real person, would you be friends with him? Why or why not?

I think I would. Both of us choose our words fairly carefully, but not always carefully enough. We both carry ourselves with a certain amount of stoicism. And neither of us are fans of idle chatter.

Damn. I guess I do like him. Now I feel guilty for putting him through so much.

You recently moved from Pennsylvania, where BOLT ACTION REMEDY is set, to the south. Has the move affected your fiction in any surprising ways?

I moved to a town outside Savannah, Georgia a couple of months ago, so I haven't written much since the move. However, this is certainly a fascinating area. It may be a while until I integrate my new surrounding into my writing, but I'm sure it will happen.

What is the best thing that has happened to you as a result of your novels?

I have a six-year-old daughter. She smiles every time she sees her name in the dedication of one of my books. Nothing beats that.

What was the last mystery novel you read, other than your own, that you LOVED? Why did you love it?

Method 15/33 by Shannon Kirk. I read a couple sentences of the synopsis on the book jacket and thought it might end up being the typical abducted girl waits to get rescued story. IT WASN'T. It's spectacular.

If you could be any character in a book, who would you be and why?

Part of me wants to say Jack Reacher. But, as much as I love the Lee Child books, when you boil it down he's an extremely violent homeless dude. I'm going to go with an obvious answer and say James Bond. Because... well... it's freakin' James Bond.

What are you working on now, and when can readers expect it?

2018 should be a blast. I just had a story called State of Decline published in Down and Out Magazine.

I've got a story in THE NIGHT OF THE FLOOD that comes out in March. It's a novel told in stories compiled by thirteen incredible authors (and me). And since I just mentioned him, Lee Child called THE NIGHT OF THE FLOOD "A brave concept brilliantly executed." Fine. I take back the "homeless dude" comment.

The second Trevor Galloway novel, RECORD SCRATCH is coming out in October.

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