Q: From what I understand, most of the books that you have written are a part of a World War II mystery series. What drew you to this particular genre of book?
A: As the son of a WWII vet, I’ve had a lifelong interest in the history of that conflict. When I began to think about writing a mystery series, it seemed natural to combine these two interests. With my protagonist as a military investigator working for General Eisenhower, I am able to place him within a real, historical context to solve fictional crimes; an example of using fiction to explore the nuances and contradictions inherent in historical events.
Q: How does writing a series of books compare to writing standalone books? Do you prefer writing one over the other?
A: I have written several standalones and it’s a pleasant diversion. The main reason is my series is written in the first person, and I tend to use the third person in standalones. It’s freeing not being constricted to a single POV (point of view), but I always enjoy returning to the characters I have come to know so well when I start a new series novel.
Q: You’ve written quite a few books. Do you have any favourites? Or perhaps you have a favourite character?
A: It’s always the book I’m about to write. Because all the possibilities are wide open. Doing the research is exciting, and thinking about all the possible plot points is a fun exercise. My main character, Billy Boyle, is my wise-aleck alter ego. I do like him. No idea how he feels about me.
Q: What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
A: The last quarter of a book, when everything comes together and the climax gets closer and closer until it’s a mad dash to the finish.
Q: When you’re not writing, how do you like to spend your time?
A: I’m always writing. Walks with my wife, kayaking, running, and enjoying a nice meal at an outdoor venue are all high on my list.
Q: Do you read many books? If so, do you have any favourites?
A: The research I do for the Billy Boyle novels is daunting. It takes up much of my reading time, and I often don’t get to read as much fiction as I’d like. I just finished a book about a little-known Danish Resistance group from the Second World War. That’s the kind of reading that excites me – unearthing a hidden story that needs to be told.
Q: Are there any books or authors that you think have influenced your writing?
A: Absolutely. Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo. I read it in college and it always stayed with me. It taught me the power of the internal voice. The entire story is told from the POV of a man, horribly wounded and disfigured in WWI, who cannot communicate. We are inside his head and it is a helluva ride. I think that book had a lot to do with my first-person choice for the Billy Boyle series.
Q: Are you working on any writing projects at the moment? If so, is there anything that you can tell us about them?
A: I am wrapping up edits on the 2020 title in the Billy Boyle series, The Red Horse. I’ll be starting the 2021 title soon, and I’m working on a fun short story in between.
Q: Do you have any writing advice that you think other writers might benefit from?
A: I got some solid advice from the writer Rachel Basch (she was teaching a course on novel writing): “The story has to move down as well as forward.” Bingo.
Q: To conclude this Q&A, can you tell us a little bit about one of your books?
A: When Hell Struck Twelve is the latest (#14) in the Billy Boyle series. It takes place during the Liberation of Paris and features betrayal, love, murder, and an unhealthy dose of Nazi speed (Pervitin, their brand name for methamphetamine). It’s a wild ride.
We’re very grateful that Jim Benn took the time to feature in an author Q&A with us. You can show your support for him by checking out his published works, or by visiting him on social media! In the meantime, we’ll be back next week with another author Q&A!
You can find out more about When Hell Struck Twelve, the 14th book in the Billy Boyle series, by following any of these links: