Today, I am introducing my first interview. J. D. MICHAEL PHELPS is well-known on the Amazon forums by both writers and readers. He is one of the few—if I can borrow a term from the entertainment industry—triple threats: He’s been a best-selling traditional author, is presently an Indy author, AND a voracious reader. He is a friend to all on the forums, no matter reader or writer. To me—and I believe others—he is a unique individual in this newly forming world of Indy authors who interact with their readers on a daily basis, not only because of his writing and reading, but his humanity toward everyone he comes in contact with.
Welcome to my blog, Michael. It’s a pleasure to have you here, not only because you are my first interview, but because of the kind of guy you are. Hence, my wish to interview you. All of us who know you from the Amazon forum, “Shameless Promotion for Authors”, are already deeply fond of you. It’s not because you give a wide variety of authors good reviews, but that you are so keen to read their work, live in their worlds, and interact with each person as if they were truly special. With this in mind, I will begin my assortment of questions.
1) Just from reading your short biography, it’s clear you’ve had an amazing life. As you know, we share a few things in common; police officer, US Air Force during the Vietnam era, so I can relate somewhat on a distant level with you. But your experiences far exceed my short sojourn into those worlds. What first possessed you to become military police—and later, civilian police—and how did that transition into becoming an investigator for a law firm? What kind of things did you investigate?
A. I followed my two older brothers by enlisting in the USAF. However, I had a good friend (Tom Lovell) who was a Patrolman on the Indianapolis Police Department. I had a few “ride-alongs” with him (totally unauthorized), so I knew I wanted to be a Police Officer. Military Police provided invaluable experience. After leaving police work, the job as Chief Investigator was mostly luck. At the law firm I investigated (for the Defendant’s DEFENSE) several high-profile cases ranging from fraud, embezzlement, armed robberies, D.U.I.’s, and two murder cases – a “cold case” and a double homicide.
2) I understand that you co-authored “DAVID JANSSEN-MY FUGITIVE”, with Ellie Janssen, Janssen’s first wife. Could you tell us how that came about? Why would you want to write such a story?
A. I had met David and Ellie in October of 1965. Dave and I developed a close friendship (we had a lot in common). He soon learned that whatever we discussed would not be plastered all over the tabloid’s front pages the next day. We spoke frequently over the last fifteen years of his life. (After David’s death) I had a chance encounter with Ellie at The Jockey Club (a world renowned private club in Miami), when she was relocating to Miami from Las Vegas. I suggested she write a book about her love for David and their marriage and divorce. It was a hard process, which we ended up doing together. Originally published in December 1994 (hardcover) by Lifetime Books, Inc., and with Paperback Editions released in 1995, 1996 & 1997, the book sold in excess of 1.2 millions copies world-wide. When my debut novel, “THE EXECUTION OF JUSTICE” was published in January of 2009, there was renewed interest in David Janssen-My Fugitive. Ellie & I each own 50% of the copyrights, so I decided to release the book again, in hardcover and at the original 1994 publication price. I am currently working on “DAVID JANSSEN-PRIVATE-Our Conversations”. In this book I will relate hundreds of conversations between Dave and me over the last fifteen years of his life. I can now tell his Fans what the REAL David Janssen was like.
3) How did you come up with the idea for Detective Walsh, and why did you decide to tackle a novel as your first narrative writing experience, rather than, say, a short story?
A. The “Mike Walsh Detective Novels” series was created as a result of “THE EXECUTION OF JUSTICE”. This novel is based on the true story of the murder of a close friend and one-time mentor of mine, Detective Sergeant Jack R Ohrberg, Robbery & Homicide unit of the Indianapolis Police Department. In the novel I place myself in as Jack’s rookie partner. I was never a detective, just a uniformed cop. Every crime incident related in the book actually occurred. The second in the “Mike Walsh Detective Novels” is based on a “cold case” murder I worked on for the law firm. “The Jockey’s Justice” will be available on Kindle within a couple of weeks (I hope)(August 2011). Being of Irish/English decent, “Mike Walsh” just sounded like a good name for my protagonist.
4) Another area in life that we have in common is our desire to experience a multitude of things firsthand and (apparently) for both of us, not so concerned with danger. How do you approach, what for most people would be out of their realm of consideration, things like police work, and investigating possible life-threatening situations?
A. I’ve been shot at and I’ve been stabbed (cost me one third of my liver). I’m sure you know the old saying “Once a Cop – ALWAYS a Cop.” Well, it’s true. Even as a civilian, I’ve caught four “muggers” on the streets (3 in NYC and 1 in Miami), all were armed. It is just that when you see something happening, you react, your training (you never forget that) kicks in and you hope it all turns out right.
5) Chatting with you online in the Amazon writing forums, myself, and most everyone else (dozens of people, writers, and readers) have come to know you as the voice of reason, with clear conscience, and civility. Everyone, hands down, respects you. Your unabashed support of writers is unparalleled. There’s not a false note in you when it comes to your online presence. If you’re gone for a day or two, everyone notices. What makes you an anomaly to me, is that in my experiences, people who are exposed to harsh reality over the years—like police work—more likely than not, become embittered, callous, and cynical. You are the exact opposite. How can this be?
A. First, I would attribute my character to my Mother. She taught my siblings & me to treat others as we would like to be treated. Then, I had the good fortune of being taught by Detective Tom Lovell and Detective Sergeant Jack Ohrberg that to treat everyone with respect (regardless of color, or station in life), I would receive respect. They taught me NOT to JUDGE others. As police officers, they taught me to treat even the “bad guys” with respect – most of the time it worked. In cases where the “bad” guy did not want to be respectful, we knew how to “kick A * * , cuff ‘em and book ‘em.”
6) Can you tell us what you plan on writing next? Also, now that you’ve racked up a lifetime of experiences and have read and are still reading a wide variety of stories, have your new found discoveries into so many new genres (for you) caused you to consider writing in one of these genres? Is so, which one(s)?
A. When I first developed my love of reading, I always read police procedurals, detective novels and true crime. After the modest success of DAVID JANSSEN-MY FUGITIVE is when I decided to embark on the new career challenge of being a Writer. Don’t get me wrong – I fully expect to become a “Best Selling” Author and become an instant millionaire in the process. My novel “THE JOCKEY’S JUSTICE” is based on a “cold case” murder of a horse racing jockey. Our firm represented the widow – and we won. It was a hard case to investigate (in Kentucky). The third in the “Mike Walsh Detective Novels” series is a double-homicide case in Miami Beach. Our client (we were appointed by the Court as Defense counsel) was definitely guilty, but it was a great case to work. We kept our promise to him – “Please keep me out of the electrical chair.” He pleaded to me repeatedly. First trial ended in a “hung jury”. Second trial ended in convictions of lesser charges.
YOU, (Stuart) with your exquisite novels, “ORIGINAL BLOOD” and “SHADOW HOUSE”, and our British Author friend from Shameless, ALISON BUCK with her novels, “ABIDING EVIL” and “DEVOTED SISTERS” really opened my eyes and my mind – I have now been “hooked” on the HORROR genre of novels. I seriously doubt I could come close to you or Alison in the imagination and talent required to write such dynamic novels as the two of you. I will buy anything you and Alison write. I just finished “THE HUNT” by LINELL JEPPSEN. This is a Vampire novel, and a really fun read!
7) Having now read so many new and experienced novelists, do you, as a reader, have any advice they may apply to their writing?
A. First, a hard lesson I learned (& I paid a Professional Editor a princely sum for “Execution of Justice”) is PROOF READ and EDIT your work. Even if you pay a professional Editor – PROOF READ it for typos and obvious grammatical errors. Then, and this is the most important part: MARKETING – MARKETING – MARKETING! I find writing to be fun, but Marketing is HELL! IF you have the resources to hire a professional PR firm – DO IT! Otherwise, you will spend more time MARKETING than writing your next “Best Seller”. Also, COVER DESIGN – Important. Your (Stuart) cover designs for your novels are excellent!
I have been amazed at the QUALITY of the books I have found on Amazon by “Unknown” Authors; you, Alison, James A. Anderson, Barbara Ellen Brink, Joan Hall Hovey, Michael Tabman, Dennis Batchelder, Judith Ann McDowell, Rebecca Forster, Rebecca Stroud, John Patrick Davey, and so many more. I have not set foot in my local Barnes & Nobel where I used to go every Saturday and spend three or four hours and walking out with at least a couple of hundred dollars of books by “Best Selling” Authors like Patricia Cornwell, John Grisham, James Patterson, Janet Evanovich, Sue Grafton among others. Now you know why B & N is losing money. I am positive there are many Authors here on Amazon that we will see as “BEST SELLERS” in what’s left of my lifetime.
8) One of the blessings of the Internet and this new wave of Indy writers is meeting writers and readers we would have never had to the chance to meet just a few short years ago. Not only do you and I walk in completely different life circles, but literally live on opposite sides of the planet. Our chances of meeting before were in the astronomical range. I ask you this last question because you are truly planted in both camps, as reader and writer. You are the only one I know who is actually reading so many of the newest voices of today, fresh off the virtual presses. What do you make of this communion of writers and readers today?
A. The Internet and Amazon has changed the publishing industry and the way people buy books today. I believe the E-Books are here to stay and they are great. However, I am one of the “old fashioned” people who love the feel of a BOOK, and to see my library shelves FULL. I have bought 24 Kindle Editions in the past few months. If I really enjoyed the book (“ORIGINAL BLOOD”, “SHADOW HOUSE”, as examples), then I will buy the hardcover or paperback edition to HAVE forever in my library. I think the Amazon forums are a great tool for authors to meet each other and meet readers. I would not be surprised to see top Literary Agents and Editors from the major, traditional publishing houses trolling the Amazon forums looking for their NEXT “Best Selling” Author.
Thank you, Michael, for taking the time to be interviewed—as well as being my first interviewee—and sharing some of your personal stories and insights. Before you leave, would you please make a hyperlink list below so people can find your books and other information about you you’d like to share.
I can be contacted direct at: