Sunday, January 5, 2014

Tj O'Connor

As an international security consultant and former government agent, Tj O'Connor has conducted security consulting, investigations, and anti-terrorism operations around the world. Today, he provides independent security consulting to government agencies and private businesses.

O'Connor's new novel is Dying to Know.

Last month I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Time is precious these days—I’m a security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism by day and writer by very early mornings and late nights. I often find it difficult to find the quiet time for one of my passions—reading. I’m a mystery and thriller reader when I’m not reading technical material, the world’s news online, or “how not to get killed by terrorists” for my consulting practice. My reading always includes the oldies like Agatha Christie, Mickey Spillane, and Raymond Chandler. More modern is Nelson DeMille, Patterson, and Baldacci. Limited time keeps this list often dust covered.

My reading list had a real little hiccup this year. A few months ago, after my agent told me I had sold my first book as a series, I was stunned to find out I was a “cozy writer.”

My response to her was, “A whut?”

Sorry, but I have to admit I didn’t know what a cozy was until I wrote one. And that was a fluke. You see, I had been writing thrillers and darker mysteries trying to get an agent and get published. I wrote Dying to Know—a cozy mystery about a dead detective—after two decades of recurring nightmares about my own murder during an anti-terrorism operation in Greece. I wrote my dream and it grew into a novel. Despite two other thrillers and a darker mystery, I landed an agent based on Dying to Know. Then, we landed a publisher and a book series.

Poof, I was a cozy writer. A little research and I understood. Silly me. Sure, if it gets me a contract and readers like my work, I can be a cozy writer—hey, I can multi-task. Mysteries, thrillers… cozies.

The first thing I realized was that I better read a few cozies and see what this genre is about. Hence my hiccup. I had no cozies in my large den library.

I fixed that post haste.

So now, stacked on my credenza are an army of cozies I’m reading—several all at once. Now, I’m reading my new genre colleagues like Lizbeth Lipperman’s Heard It Through The Grapevine, Karen MacInerney’s Brush With Death, and Shannon Baker’s Tainted Mountain—all pals from my new best friends at Midnight Ink. They’ve all written newer novels, but I have to catch up first! I’ve also added a few not-so-cozies like Maegan Beaumont’s Carved in Darkness, Colin Campbell’s Jamaica Plain, and Terri Nolan’s Burden of Truth, too. With each of these books, I’ve read a few chapters and marked my place, moved to another and did the same. I’ve completed none I’m sorry to say, because I can’t find time to complete any one read. So I’m nibbling my way through two or three at the time.

What I have read of these stories is good stuff. Heard It Through The Grapevine is a fun read about sisters trying to solve a murder—Tessa’s—one of the sisters! A similar theme to my Dying to Know, but with a different format for the storytelling and Tessa’s dead character. Brush With Death is one of Karen MacInerney’s Gray Whale Inn Mysteries. These stories are traditional cozies set in Maine, and, at several pages, I expected Angela Lansbury to pop in for tea. And one of the new Midnight Ink authors with me is Shannon Baker with Tainted Mountain, a story rooted in Arizona, which blends in Hopi Indian lore with a well-crafted murder.

For the non-cozies, Carved In Darkness is a taut story. Maegan’s story about a former violent crime victim-turned detective is a nightmare-grabber from the beginning. I have to say, switching from the cozies to Maegan’s book takes a little practice and a lot of nerve.

Next on my list will be Jamaica Plain, a crime novel about a British cop careening about in Boston, and Burden of Truth about an investigative journalist hunting her boyfriend’s murderer. I am very much looking forward to getting back to finish these!

It’s tough working a 60-hour week and trying to caress a new opportunity as a writer. Now, it’s even tougher to squeeze in a couple hours here and there to read just for the hell of it. But I do find the time and my pals above have given me plenty of books to keep me busy. Now, if they’d just slow down a little so I can catch up on their books…
Visit Tj O’Connor's website, blog, and Facebook page.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Tj O’Connor & Toby, Mosby, and Maggie Mae.

My Book, The Movie: Dying to Know.

--Marshal Zeringue