I'm happy to welcome Tj O’Connor to the blog today. NEW SINS FOR OLD SCORES is murder with a paranormal twist.
TO: I get this question a lot! I certainly believe in the possibility and generally, believe that there are spirits both good and evil. I’ve had many unusual encounters with the unexplainable and as an investigator by trade, have always tried to debunk the events. Most often, I can. Too often, I have been unable to and the events remain on my unexplainable list.
As a child in Upstate New York in the Appalachian Mountains, I had several unusual events but as I grew older, attributed them to youth and imagination. Little did I know that I would have several other events in my travels. Things like seeing unusual people where they shouldn’t be and having witnesses tell me that sighting was a historic “ghost.” I’ve also had my Labs react to events in my home with no explanation, and I’ve had my granddaughter seeing and speaking with someone in her room that was well beyond “my invisible friend.” Nothing dangerous, mind you, just bizarre.
I will not say that I’ve encountered ghosts, but I will say that I’ve had encounters that others have dubbed paranormal.
Kathy: In NEW SINS FOR OLD SCORES a string of current murders are similar those of a World War II OSS operation. Are you a WWII history buff?
TO: I am. I love history, in particular US war history. My mentor of 25 years, Wally F. was one of the last Office of Strategic Services—OSS—operatives from World War II who operated in Northern Africa and Italy. He was also a former deputy director of the CIA. My maternal grandfather was a WWII vet with combat in the Pacific. My connection to them and my own military history has given me a learned insight to war history and I use it in a couple of my paranormal mysteries, in particular New Sins for Old Scores. Part of my mysteries is always a historical subplot. In New Sins for Old Scores, it’s Operation Paperclip, a real operation from WWII where the US brought German scientists and industrialists out of war torn Europe to work for our side. For New Sins, I simply asked the question, “What if someone was doing that in the Gulf Wars but for profit and corruption?” So I sewed in the murder of Capt. Trick McCall, WWII OSS operative, and had him connect 75 years later with Detective Richard Jax to find both their assassins (Jax was ambushed in 2011 at the very spot Trick was in 1944). They must also discover why they’re connected so many years apart, and poof, paranormal mystery. Throughout the story, the fact remains true—Murder, like history, does repeat itself.
Kathy: What first drew you to mysteries?
TO: I grew up loving books and using them to hide from a rough childhood. I began devouring books in the Fifth Grade with Mystery of the Witches Bridge by Barbee Oliver Carleton and Mystery of the Haunted Mine by Gordon D. Shirreffs. They led to the Hardy Boys and a host of others. I quickly outgrew them and moved on to adult fiction like Raymond Chandler, Christie, and others. The rest was set. Today, I read (books on tape mostly) whenever time allows but love the mysteries and thrillers. I’m a huge fan of British mystery TV like Midsomer Murders, Poirot, Foyle’s War, Murdoch Mysteries, and the like. For me, joining the genre and contributing some fun reads was a logical progression.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
TO: Yes, I’ve written three thrillers over the years and my first published one, The Consultant: Double Effect, will be out May 2018 from Oceanview Publishing. My professional background in anti-terrorism and counterintelligence drives these novels. Of course, I’ve also been a criminal investigator and those experiences are integral to my mysteries and help with the subplots of the thrillers, too.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
TO: This series is a traditional murder mystery with a paranormal twist. It follows Detective Richard Jax who is saved by Captain Patrick McCall, the spirit of a murdered OSS Operative from World War II. Jax was killed at the very spot Jax was ambushed but decades prior. Together they chase their assassins and try to solve a 75 year old spy-mystery that cost Trick his life and reputation.
My plans for this series are to continue Jax’s investigations with Trick snooping along with him. Trick is trying to learn what this modern American lifestyle is all about—as a forties man, he’s in the dark about the internet, cell phones, and the casual lifestyles—though, he’s having fun and quick to learn. He constantly reminds Jax about the golden rule of investigations—it’s footwork and people that make investigations, not gadgets and the internet. Each case will continue to have a historical subplot and intertwine real-world events with historical elements.
My first series was with Midnight Ink and was a paranormal series called “The Gumshoe Ghost.” Truth be told, I HATE that moniker but love the stories. The series follows the reverse of Jax and Trick McCall. In my Gumshoe series, the lead character is Oliver Tucker—a detective killed in the opening pages of book I. From there, he makes his way in the land of the living while not really one of them. He works with his wife, Angel, a historian, and his former partner, Bear Braddock, to solve his murder. It takes a couple books before Bear is on-board with Tuck being around, though. This series also includes historical subplots and intertwines a modern murder mystery with a historical mystery that connects through Tuck. Dead or not, he’s the lead character and makes no bones about running the cases!
With luck, my new thriller, The Consultant: Double Effect, will also lead to a series. This series will follow Jonathan Hunter, a rogue ex-CIA consultant who has been overseas most of his adult life in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere. Now, he tracks down bad guys, spies, and terrorists in the US and gets himself in wild adventures that test his character and his skills. He’s accompanied by his long-time CIA mentor, Oscar LaRue, who uses Hunter’s roguish methods to his advantage and works outside the government’s reach. Hunter is a witty adventurer with a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants approach. These novels tackle modern day threats and expose some of the underbelly issues that often people just don’t see. In The Consultant: Double Effect, Hunter returns home to witness his brother’s murder. He quickly learns his brother was involved with terrorists. While chasing the killer, he stumbles into a series of terror attacks around the Washington DC Metro area and discovers a grander, devastating attack looming. But as the attacks begin to unfold, innocent refugees and foreigners are caught between the terrorized and the terrorists—they become as much the victim as those killed in the attacks. The crisis explodes and average American’s begin to turn on neighbors because of their heritage—forcing us to ask the question, “Is this who we’ve become?” The story is fast paced and Hunter keeps things a little “fun” whenever he can—it’s his coping mechanism. He views the world a bit different than many and has no tolerance for ignorance or fools.
So as you can see, I have a big dilemma brewing. I cannot write three sequels a year! But, I will endeavor to write them all and not drag any out so long my fans lose interest in any of the series.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
TO: My favorite character is truly Jonathan Hunter from my new thriller. He’s not unlike Oliver Tucker or Trick McCall in that he is a bit sarcastic and a light-hearted adventurer. I guess that comes from me. But I like Hunter because he has a few quirks that are mine, too, like his love of old movies and trying to find humor wherever possible to quell the fear and angst the danger brings. That’s how I go through my life—and having had a few scary adventures over the years, jokes and keeping things “real” got me through it. I also like Hunter because, unlike many thrillers today, he’s real. He’s not one of the B-heroes—Bourne or Bond—and he’s no Jack Reacher, either. He’s normal. Sure, he’s a former Green Beret so he can get the job done, but he’s not infallible or indestructible. He gets his butt whipped here and there, he can’t shoot a badguy from ten miles away while sipping cocktails, and he doesn’t have very good luck with women. Not that Bourne or Bond or Reacher are bad—I love those stories! Hunter is just … normal. Real. I love his failures coming out at the worst times. I love his clumsiness in personal situations. Moreover, I love his relationship with Oscar LaRue and how LaRue keeps him in line and always off-balance. That relationship comes directly from mine with my former mentor, Wally F. whom I lost two years ago.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
TO: Yes. My own experiences over my years running investigations and anti-terrorism operations around the world. Those inspirations and my love of history drive my work. Each of the books, including my new thriller, are molded around events I’ve been involved with or people I’ve known, worked with, or bad guys I’ve perhaps chased or been involved with. I’ve changed details and events to stay out of jail or a courtroom, but inwardly, I know who they are! Most are a Frankenstein of two or three people I knew, so I’m good with it all.
For instance, New Sins for Old Scores has pieces of my mentor, Wally’s, from his OSS days and events he witnessed. My love of local Virginia history added the main plot of a detective ambushed at a historic old Civil War Inn. All of this is wrapped around bits and pieces of investigations I’ve run over the years and places I’ve been.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
TO: I’ve wanted to be an author since I was in the fifth grade. Over the years, I wrote four novels but
none were worthy of publication, and frankly, there wasn’t a mechanism to learn or be guided on how to publish like there is today through the internet. In those days, I was travelling a couple weeks a month non-stop and there just wasn’t time in life to try and chase my dreams.
Then, about ten years or so ago, after the company I was an executive with was sold off in pieces, I decided to work for myself as a consultant. With the ability to make my own schedule, I decided to chase my dream with a new book I had just finished. And poof, Dying to Know, my first murder mystery, landed me my brilliant agent, Kimberley Cameron, and my first book contract with Midnight Ink.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
Oh, I’d also have to have my long-time hero, James Grady hang around to swap stories with the others.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
TO: I just finished a couple great audio books while I travel. Sandra Brown’s Mean Streak, Vince Flynn’s The Last Man, and David Baldacci’s Memory Man. Great stories. I buy whatever my local bookstore has on audio in mystery and thriller genres and have them stacked up on my credenza for upcoming trips.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
TO: Absolutely! I love my Harley Davidson and ride whenever time allows. I also hang with my best friends—Annie Rose and Toby—my Labs. They are at my side (or under my desk) with every book I write.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
TO: 1. Good steaks.
2. Good wine.
3. Good bourbon
4. Good dog treats.
You can see I’m a very basic guy, and I take good care of my pals Annie and Toby.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
TO: Yes, absolutely. See my answer above under “Tell us about your series.” You said just a few sentences. I’m a writer. I cannot say “The End” in a few sentences. Sorry!
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
TO: Writing. I love telling stories. I also love talking to folks about writing and my books. Love the travel to events and writer’s panels and all of it.
But there are two things that really make this worthwhile—and no, I’m not making much money!
First, my characters and story plots come from my past. Writing the books allows me to relive my favorite real-life adventures and revisit with friends I’ve lost touch with. In one case, writing about fictional Oscar LaRue is like spending the evening with my mentor, Wally—I miss him every day. Writing for me is reliving life. It allows me to hold onto things I never want to let go.
Also, I’m honored to have had the privilege of living and working with some of the most amazing and talented people in the world in my past—heroes, SEALS, Green Berets, OSI Agents, CIA/FBI, Secret Service, cops, doctors, nurses … grunts, Marines, swabbies, and coasties. I am truly honored and humbled to have known these men and women whom I shared real-life adventures. Being an author allows me to tell stories that surround them. Again, it allows me to relive those great adventures and reconnect with lost friends.
And writers are amazing people, to, but in a different way.
With only a few exceptions I’ve met along my travels, authors are among the most engaging and truly supportive people I’ve ever worked with. They are fun, friendly, and always willing to lend a hand to help one another. Writing books isn’t a team sport, but you always have a team out there. Authors will help, share experience and ideas, even resources if you need them. We encourage one-another, especially those trying to get published. They are truly a part of the family wherever you are. If you’re anywhere and you meet another author, plan on drinks or a meal and emails and friendship. Even the big ones who are way out of my league like James Grady. James inspired me a teenage want-to-be author and over the years I kept his books in mind as I wrote. I’ve mentioned him many times in my writing blogs and talks, and one day he reached out to me—unsolicited—to congratulate me on a book and pass along a few compliments and encouragements. He didn’t have to do that. To this day, I will never forget his kindness—and I continue to do the same for other new authors whenever I can.
See, once again, I cannot write “The End” in less than a few paragraphs!
a Rafflecopter giveaway