Hi, Roger! Welcome to Susan Finlay Writes blog site. Can you tell us a bit about your background as a police officer and as an author?
Actually, the writing began in college, before I was a police officer. I wrote a short story, a very rough first effort. But a professor encouraged me and that was all it took. I joined LAPD at age 22, worked as a training officer, vice, taught at the Academy, but my best assignment was running a community relations office out of Hollywood. Met a lot of stars.
Your book, I Was Once Lost, is a recently published historical book about John Newton, the composer of Amazing Grace. Can you tell us about the book? What inspired your to write it?
I like stories about characters whose struggle makes them into better people. The hymn “Amazing Grace” is somewhat of a biography of Newton. He was a really nasty guy, at one point a slave trader. He caused others to lose their faith, and was once flogged for desertion. At one point he was enslaved, and his keepers almost let him die. In the end, though, Newton surrendered to God, who had much bigger plans for John. He became a renowned minister, helped end slavery and wrote the most famous hymn of all time. It’s played thousands of times each year.
You must have done a great deal of research for the book. What was that like? Is there anything surprising that you discovered?
A great deal of research. Most of what’s out there is nonfiction, much of it written by Newton himself. There were letters, his biographical sketch of his work as a slave trader, and what led him to Christianity. Newton is interesting because of the battles he fought after becoming a believer. But he was very private, even guarded. Consequently the book is fiction, based on a true story.
Are you working on a new book or project?
I’ve had a number of pieces published in magazines, and that’s where I’m working at the moment. I’d like to write another book, but only if “Lost” gains traction.
You recently changed your book cover. Where do you get your covers? How much input do you have in their design?
I designed both covers myself. I’m embarrassed to say the picture — as much as I like them — were poached off the Internet. One is a compass, the relates to a moral compass, and the other a picture of a sailor being pressed into service. Newton was forced to serve and was later flogged for desertion.
What is your favorite review of I Was Once Lost?
The simplest reviews are the ones I appreciate most. The reader saying he learned something, or gave him a new perspective.
Have you done any book signings yet? Are you planning any for the new year?
Yes, I did one at Parable Bookstore here in Columbia. Nothing planned right now, but will when the book gets into some of the larger chain bookstores.
With your police background, have you ever considered writing a crime novel?
I think mysteries are great fun. They have such bigger-than-life characters and twist and turn, keeping the reader guessing. I’d like to do a Noir piece, without all the computers of today. Just good old shoe leather police work.
Do you have a writing routine?
Yes, make the story character driven, establish a good outline that becomes a clear map of direction the novel is going, and finally, get up and dressed early, and go to work just as if it was an eight hour day at the office.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of writing and publishing?
Proofing and editing. I’m not good at either one.
What books or authors have most influenced you in your own writing?
My favorite author is John Steinbeck. He had a simplicity and depth about his craft that captured the reader.
Please list any websites or social media links for yourself or your book. Thanks!
My blog: rogerdowis.com
Facebook: Roger Dowis, Author