Don't let his appearance fool you: in spite of his baby-face, Mike Angley is a serious adult. He spent 25 years in the U.S. Air Force as a Special Agent with the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) and not at a desk job, either. He also spent significant time in the Middle East, Japan, and South Korea neutralizing terrorist threats against the U.S. and other countries, as well as preventing theft of U.S. technology.
Clearly, your military past has provided much fodder for your Child Finder trilogy. Have you written fiction that wasn’t based on actual experience? What is your position on write what you know versus doing research and creating it as you go along?
My current trilogy is my first serious writing project, so I have no other major fiction efforts to compare it with, but I certainly don’t adhere too tightly to the notion that one must write what one knows. I like to think that my experiences in Air Force criminal investigations, counterintelligence, and counterterrorism inspired the Child Finder Trilogy – hard to escape the connection! But my next project could be so different, and I may not have sufficient personal experience to draw from, that it could require significant research. Even for Child Finder, I conducted a fair amount of research since the plot loosely follows certain historical events (like 9/11). I had to be sure I didn’t stray too far from reality.
How long have you been writing? What made you decide to write?
I have loved writing since I can remember. When I was very young, perhaps as young as eight or nine, I recall writing a lot of poetry. In high school, I wrote many short stories that my English teachers really liked. I also wrote lots of poetry in high school, but that was mostly to impress girls on whom I had crushes! A long-term goal in my life has always been to write novel length fiction, and since I especially like mysteries and thrillers, I gravitated toward that genre.
Do you have any daily routines, word/page counts, or Dos and Don’ts you’d like to share?
I’m a bit sloppy when it comes to writing routines – an odd character aspect for me because I am otherwise extremely organized and disciplined. I write when I feel motivated, and that is typically in the morning (have always been an “early riser”). If I don’t feel the motivation, I won’t write because the times I’ve tried to force myself into a routine, my writing has been terrible. When I approach a story, I have it in my head, more or less, from beginning to end. My first task is to outline the plot, chapter by chapter. I then set about drafting the chapters quickly without regard for how “clean” it appears or reads. Once I have a very rough manuscript, I go through a series of detailed edits…the fine tuning and spit polishing as I call it, to sculpt the story to make it as tight and as sharp as I can.
What is the biggest challenge you face as a writer?
The greatest challenge for me was not having a full appreciation of the work that goes into marketing and advertising. I think most authors approach writing with a lot of passion – the love of the art itself. That’s a great thing and should never be subdued. But the fact remains that the publishing world is a business, and agents and publishers look for talent they can sell. Increasingly, authors are expected to do more and more to promote their work and sell books, especially as the recession has tightened lots of belts! It was a hard mental shift for me to make at first, but now my head is in the right place and I approach both ends of publishing – writing and marketing – with equal vigor.
What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.
I am thrilled (pun intended) that my second mystery/thriller, Child Finder: Resurrection, released early! My publisher notified me that it is currently out (a month early), and available on Amazon. Signed copies will be available via my website once I receive a batch in the mail: http://www.childfinder.us. Other venues should pick it up within the next month or so. It’s the second book in the Child Finder Trilogy, and here’s a short blurb:
It has been a year and a half since Air Force Special Agent Patrick 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.
What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?
I’ve been plugging away at the third and final story in the trilogy, Child Finder: Revelation, which my publisher projects will launch circa December 2010. Now, I have to tell you, I get goose bumps as I write this story. As my website says, “The truth is not out there…it’s in here…and it’s not what you may think. Of course, it’s just fiction. It isn’t real…or is it?” In this story, Agent O’Donnell is dispatched to Korea on a TOP SECRET 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. But 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.
Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?
Persistence, patience, perfection. Be persistent and don’t give up after the first few rejection letters (or even the first several dozen). Be patient with the process of finding an agent or publisher – it can take years. My journey was about 18 months. Strive for perfection in every aspect of writing. This includes your manuscript and every document you craft for a submission package. The business is so competitive, that your excellence must stand out in every way.
Child Finder has received excellent reviews all around, especially from within the military and the Military Writers Society of America. How does the military, in general, respond when a retiree decides to “tell stories” about his/her military experiences?
The community has been very supportive. My years of networking in my professional career helped me establish a strong base for my books. I not only enjoy the ability to sell to them, I also have leveraged many senior officials’ support in writing reviews and blurbs for my stories. Since I come from the intelligence community with access to the nation’s most sensitive secrets and programs, there was some initial apprehension in certain quarters about my writing. The plots have an “authentic” feel to them, but every word is fictional. Once the community saw that, they relaxed quite a bit!
Take this opportunity to share anything you’d like or that my readers might find interesting or helpful.
I’m often asked what I want my readers to take away from my stories. My answer is inspiration. Plain and simple, I want them to be inspired by my protagonist and his exceptional moral grounding. I want them inspired by his love of wife and children, his love of God, his dedication and devotion to his country. I want readers to believe again in the goodness of people. And with regard to Child Finder: Revelation, I want them to challenge everything they have come so comfortably to believe about life. Is there some strange truth out there that Uncle Sam wants to keep under wraps? Does this book finally unleash this revelation? Of course, it’s all fiction…right?
FUN QUESTION: You have a very cute picture of your dog, Brynn, on your website. Which are better--dogs or cats, and why? [Second question, purely for the satisfaction of my personal curiosity: Beagles aren’t very macho dogs--like German Shepherds or Dobermans are—and which one might assume a military man would prefer. Why a cute, little beagle?]
Ha! I love dogs and cats equally, but I’m terribly allergic to the latter, so a dog it is. My daughter, thirteen years old at the time, wanted a beagle in the worst way. She even had a beagle screen saver on her computer. The old softie in me relented. Brynn is a very sweet dog, very loyal, and never leaves my side.
What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):
I encourage your readers to visit my website: http://www.childfinder.us for all kinds of information about my stories, my blog, my background, and purchasing information. It’s also the only way they can get a signed copy of the first two books (so far) short of visiting me at a book signing. I also have a newsletter they are welcome to subscribe to, which will put them in the running for a monthly free book giveaway.