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A visit with author John Ouellet

Today my guest is John Ouellet, a former FBI colleague in the Detroit Division. John, I know you recently retired and just had your first novel published. That’s exciting news I’ll want my readers to learn about. Thanks for agreeing to be a guest on my blog.

Please introduce yourself and tell the readers a little bit about yourself:  when you began writing, your background, where you live, etc.

My name is John Ouellet. I grew up north of Boston and graduated from Northeastern University with a criminal justice degree. As an ROTC grad, I received a commission in the Army, first as an MP, then an Infantry Officer. I spent nine years there before a 23-year career as a special agent with the FBI, the entire career in Detroit. So I guess that would lead you to believe crime/mystery would be my genre.  Or maybe military history. Actually, my first novel was a love story, A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE. That was in the early 1990’s. It’s unpublished but I think it has some of my best writingjohn ouellet

Has your law enforcement background influenced your writing?

Yes, very much so. Besides knowing how to do a decent procedural, it gave me a character foundation whereby I could feel the motivations, hear the speech pattern, and put together some credible dialogue in scenes that don’t seem contrived. (In my love story I had to reach some. I mean, I love my wife but we would make a pitiful novel). In crime writing, a cop/investigator comes up with scenes, characters, dialogue, and motives effortlessly. I guess the trick for us as writers is to get out of our own skin and completely into our characters.

 I have several completed crime novels in my thumb drive waiting to breathe air. I particularly love writing the Caper which Lawrence Block (I believe it was Block) called the “How catch ‘em” as opposed to the “who dunnit.” The sub-genre is best done by the late Elmore Leonard. Here the character runs the show. What he or she does is secondary to how they do it. 

What inspired you to begin writing, and do you write every day?

I’ve always loved to write, and I think I know why. As a kid I played cowboy and Army. I didn’t just play; I acted out my own screenplays. I had others act them out with me. If I were alone, heck, I’d take on all the parts. Very (melo) dramatic. I was the only six-year old in the neighborhood to have a love scene played out just before the hero bought it. 

I was voted my high school class writer but it was a fluke. I wrote a horror short story that was published in the school journal my senior year. Other than the perv who scratched and scribbled in the boy’s bathroom, I was the only guy anyone could think of, and I didn’t beat the perv by much.

I’d love to write everyday but it doesn’t happen. But, John, you know how that works – when you’re a writer, you’re always writing, wherever you are, even in your sleep.

I know you have a new novel that just came out. Please tell my readers about it.Captive Dove

Yes, the plug. Thanks, John. THE CAPTIVE DOVE, published in November 2013 by All Things That Matter Press. It came to me from a FBI colleague who had read the short stories I had published in St Anthony Messenger (I mention this in the acknowledgments). 

Joe, his brother-in-law is of Palestinian descent. In 1964 when he’s six and his sister is 14, they accompany their grandfather to the village Dayr Ghasana in the West Bank from their home in South Chicago. His sister and grandfather soon leave, but Joe stays on until June 8, 1967, and is rescued by Israeli soldiers after being caught in Ramallah at the start of the Six-Day War. Joe is with his mentally handicapped cousin who is killed on the second day. It takes Joe three days to find his way back to the village where an Israeli captain takes him through hostile fire and bombings to get him to the Tel Aviv airport. True story. I added fictional characters and accounts to create a more compelling one. 

What intrigued me most about Joe’s story was the theme of war from children’s eyes where Joe witnesses heroes and villains on all sides. It is in first person point of view, and though it’s a flashback (where Joe can reflect as an adult), the perspectives of this new world all come from young Joe.

Tell us about your publishing experience.

I take it you’re referring to the act of getting published. As I mentioned, I have about ten complete and three incomplete novels. I send them out and get some feedback, but mostly boilerplate rejections. And by the way, I don’t count the rejections so that someday, someone will say, “Hey, you know that guy was rejected 74 times before he was published.” That’s like Miguel Cabrera counting the number of times he didn’t hit a home run. I count only the acceptances. One.

Back in the early 90’s, I was mailing out the query, synopsis, and three chapters via US Postal and FedEx. That cost bucks. Even though email submissions are cheaper, you still can’t shotgun them out. 

For THE CAPTIVE DOVE, I knew without a track record I wasn’t going to cut it with a major literary agent or Press. Been there, done that, and frankly, John, I wasn’t about to waste my time and efforts. So I went to the small, independent Presses. When I got a name, I ran them through the Predators and Editors website. Then I just Googled them for any good/bad reviews. All Things That Matter Press came off looking promising so I took the plunge. 

As you know, small presses have no budget for marketing so I’m still a babe in this area (glad you didn’t ask about my marketing experience ‘cause this would have been a very short block). 

Also, you won’t find a copy editor to dot your “i’s” so don’t rush through the galley as I did the first time around. It came out on Amazon, I bought 15 copies, advertised it on Facebook, then slunk back to tell folks to hold off on buying the “Oops” copy until I got it close enough for government work.

What is your most rewarding writing experience?

Getting published (somebody believes in it).

Do you belong to any writing groups, or critique groups?

I just joined the Public Safety Writer’s Association. Another plug, I started a group on GoodReads in the Mystery and Thriller section “Crimewriter how to.”  It’s advertised for crime writer’s (or novelists who are creating such scenes) who don’t want to rely on LAW and ORDER for their procedural and tactical law enforcement info.  I invite readers of this blog to join as expert advisors, as well those writers who could use this as a resource.

Are you working on a new project?

Always, John.  I do have a mystery series concept with the first book half done.

Is there anything you would like to share with our readers?

Thanks for reading this and THE CAPTIVE DOVE. John, I’m not proud. I’m not going to say writing is its own reward. The reward is the reader. Without them, we’re on the range shooting blanks

Please provide the readers with a link to your website, and a link to your book.

Oh, well, ah … I got no website. 

The novel can be found at:

THE CAPTIVE DOVE   http://www.amazon.com/The-Captive-Dove-John-Ouellet/dp/0989403246

Thanks for sharing your story with all of us, John. I wish you much success in your journey as a writer. I look forward to seeing you in July at the Public Safety Writers Association conference in Las Vegas.

Dialogue Tips

English: Exclamation Colon
English: Exclamation Colon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dialogue Tips

 

  • Dialogue should do one of two things: move the plot along or reveal character
  • “Said” and “asked,” are better than the multitude of other dialogue tags such as responded, agreed, etc.
  • Better still, use the character’s action as a dialogue tag instead. “No way.” Dan pulled out his gun.
  • Or use description as a dialogue tag. Cynthia’s silk skirt swirled around her long legs. “Are you coming or not?”
  • Go easy on the exclamation points. If the dialogue is exclamatory enough, an exclamation point is unnecessary. An Exclamation point should never be used in narrative. Elmore Leonard said, “Use only one exclamation point in a novel.”
  • Don’t ever have a character tell someone something that they already know to get information across. Maybe it is something that ought to be in narrative, but be careful of an information dump.
  • Though you want dialogue to be realistic sounding, don’t copy how we really talk such as: “Hello, how are you.” “I’m fine, and you?” Leave all this greeting stuff and comments about the weather out (unless it’s important to the plot).
  • When writing, start a new paragraph every time a new person speaks or does something. This will help the reader follow what is going on.
  • Even if the conversation is between two people, put a dialogue tag in every so often so the reader knows who is talking.
  • Never have one person speak for long periods of time. When we’re talking to one another, we interrupt, change the subject, etc.
  • Be sure the reader knows where the dialogue takes place.
  • Lastly, beware of talking heads. We need to see the characters and what they are doing during the conversation. No one sits or stands perfectly still while talking, and this brings you back to the fact that you can use an action as a dialogue tag. “Phil scratched his head. “What do you expect me to do about it?”

Courtesy of Marilyn Meredith, author of the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, under the name F.M. Meredith, and the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. http://fictionforyou.com

 

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