Welcome to the TRB Lounge, the part of TRB that helps authors and publishers promote their titles.
Today, we are featuring Dwayne Gill, author of Written By Blood: Conviction for another one of our very popular feature, Author Interview.
About The Author
Can you please tell my readers about your ambitions for your writing career?
My starting ambition was simply to put my story out there for everyone to read, but a funny thing happened along the way. I separated one long book into separate volumes. By doing this, I knew I’d be losing a lot of content, so I decided to incorporate the extra content into short stories.
I published Cane’s Detour in February 2018 with little expectation and a lot of pride. It was awesome to see my book, my story, on my own Kindle. Of course, my family and friends read it and said they loved it, but the reception I began receiving from complete strangers is what first made me realize there may be more to this. There were readers writing me expressing how much they enjoyed the story and began asking me when the full-length novel would be published. A few readers turned into many, and by the time I released the second short story, Daniel’s Darkness, in May 2018, I had quite a substantial following. Little did I know that readers would like Daniel even more than Cane.
Daniel’s Darkness caused my following to multiply exponentially, which made me realize the potential in what I was doing. I knew if all of these people loved the two short stories this much, they’d love the novel.
Then, in August 2018, my wife gave birth to our first child, and my world changed forever. My wife and I were both working before, but shortly after Sampson was born, we both decided she would stay home to raise him. It’s what my wife always wanted. That left me shouldering the burden of being the sole breadwinner, which made me realize how badly I needed this author thing to work for me in the long-term.
I hope to someday be able to support my growing family as a full-time author. We’re not done having kids, so I better get busy!
What started as a hobby has escalated into a deep desire to entertain people, and to make an honest living doing so.
Which writers inspire you?
This may sound funny coming from a self-published author, but I’m inspired by the traditionally published authors who came before me. These authors didn’t have the luxury that I have today of being able to decide to put my work out there for the world to see, absent any gatekeepers. Authors Like Margaret Mitchell, John Grisham, J.K. Rowling, even James Patterson, were all turned away multiple times by publishers, yet they never lost hope. They kept writing. They didn’t have the alternative that we indies have today; they just had to keep submitting their manuscripts, hoping someone would believe in them. That inspires me. I hope that I’d have the same level of confidence in my writing to trust myself on that level.
Tell us about your book?
My book is, in a lot of ways, your classic action thriller. It has all the elements you’d expect to see: a scary bad guy, epically bad-ass protagonists, damsels in distress, high-level corruption, and heavy doses of action sequences. It’s set in the near-future and features genetically enhanced men to throw in a dash of Sci-Fi. Conviction is also obviously pointing at a soon-to-be apocalyptic-type event, which would give readers that enjoy that sort of scenario something to look forward to in future volumes.
The book features Cane, a rogue-assassin who was trained by the government. He’s ruthless, efficient, and because he was isolated from society from birth, unable to understand most human emotions. In one of the short story prequels, Cane’s Detour, you get to see him at his worst. He’s still an asset of the government program, before it’s shut down, and he’s on his way to kill an American citizen. He runs into Kristy, who’s recently escaped from a serial killer, and has to decide what to do with her. He ends up helping her, albeit in an unconventional way.
The other main character is Daniel, who you also get a peek at in the short story Daniel’s Darkness. He’s 7’5 and over 400 pounds and is locked up in a super-max prison, convicted of multiple counts of murder. While Daniel isn’t in the novel as much as Cane, he’s still a highly entertaining character.
There are lots damsels in distress; besides Kristy and Taryn, the two you meet in the short stories, you meet Natalie and Jordyn as well. Not all the women in the novel are in need of protection though; readers will get to see a lot of the female characters evolve and stand apart on their own.
The other supporting characters of note are Lynks, who is Cane’s best friend and former fellow trainee, Bowman, the man who trained Cane and Lynks, Calvin, Daniel’s best friend, and Agents Hart and Barkley, whose roles grow bigger as the plot unfolds.
The villain of the novel is named Amos, and he’s one of the seven terrorist leaders who are giving orders to the marked men. Years ago, men by the thousands began disappearing all over the country, then reappearing elsewhere. What made it stranger was that they all were ordinary, hard-working family men. They abandoned their families and careers and moved away, and every one of them now have a marking, like a tattoo, on their forearm. There are also some who commit seemingly unprovoked acts of random violence, leading many to be suspicious of the group’s intentions. The true nature and origin of these men become clearer as the novel progresses.
The centerpiece of the plot has to belong to Marcene, however. She’s a mysterious lady that directs Cane to save Natalie from the marked men, thus bringing them to his attention. She also leads him to Calvin, then Daniel. She’s instrumental in the novel.
The novel follows Cane’s journey to save Natalie, investigate the marked men, recruit Calvin, and extract Daniel.
It also follows Amos’s path of trying to corner Cane, and when he fails, he targets Kristy and her mother, the two people Cane cares most about.
It turns into a feud that will keep escalating until the final pages.
Anyone who likes thrillers in the vein of Rapp and Reacher will surely be entertained, but where my novel and series differ from most thrillers, I believe, is in the exploration of the characters’ own inner struggles. Cane and Daniel are two of the most unlikely hero-types you’ll ever find in a novel, but each have found a way to overcome their own limitations to be someone better.
And it’s just the beginning of that journey.
How long did it take you to write it?
I won’t count the original version of Written By Blood, because it was really long and ended up being segmented into different volumes. Because of the way I had to restructure the one long story, it’s hard to gauge how long it took to actually write Part One: Conviction. I began separating Written By Blood into different volumes in February 2018, which was a complicated process. I wanted each volume of the story to stand alone on its own, absent cliffhangers, so I had to add some plot and move things around.
The end product was Written By Blood Part One: Conviction, and I finished the manuscript in August 2018. In total, it took nearly four months of actual writing, once I had the plot worked out.
Are you working on any other project(s) right now? If yes, what are they?
Oh yes! I’m always working on other projects. Currently, there are three short stories due before the launch of Written By Blood Part Two. One features Cane, another is a prequel to Part Two and features Daniel, then the other features the third main protagonist of the series, William, who will be in Part Two.
Of course, I’m also working on Written By Blood Part Two itself, which I think readers will like even better than Part One.
Why have you chosen this genre?
I didn’t really choose the genre. In fact, I didn’t consider genre until after I finished my first short story. It turns out my novel really crosses genres; it’s best described as a technothriller, but it could fall into a number of others as well.
When did you decide to become a writer?
I wrote my first book when I was about five years old. It was called, The Thing, and it was awesome. My sister helped me make it into an audiobook, in the form of a tape cassette recording. In fact, I would read a page aloud and she’d press the side button of a walkie-talkie to indicate it was time to turn the page.
Seriously, though, after that phase of my life I gave little thought to writing. However, all through school I excelled in English and Grammar, and my ninth-grade teacher was so impressed with my journal entries that she presented me with a special award at the school end-of-the-year awards ceremony. She also told me she wanted a signed copy of the first book I wrote. I plan on following through on that promise.
I still didn’t quite fancy myself a writer at that point, and it really wasn’t until I wrote the first version of Written By Blood that I yearned to become a writer. It was more of a pipe dream then, but as I got older and the publishing industry became more indie-friendly, that dream became a reality.
Why do you write?
I started writing because I had a story burning inside of me. I didn’t sit down to write it until I was twenty-eight years old, and it was for fear of the story being lost somehow. I knew when I died, the story would die with me, unless I put it in writing.
So I did. However, I didn’t actively pursue publishing until I was thirty-nine years old. I had talked about it, people had encouraged me to go for it, but it took many years to pull the trigger.
However, Written By Blood isn’t the only story in my head. In fact, I have entire books, or stories, start-to-finish, sitting in my mind, waiting to be written. Dozens of books in many different genres, and I plan on writing them all.
I write for two reasons: One reason is the love of the story, for seeing the movies in my head come to life in written form. There’s no bigger thrill for me than that.
The second reason is for my fans. No one ever warned me about what it would be like to have fans that turn into dear friends. I have met so many great people in the past year, people that began as casual readers who took a chance on me. I’m so thankful for the relationships I’ve formed, and my readers mean everything to me. I vow to always be accessible to fans; I answer every email and have months-long conversations going with people.
Where do your ideas come from?
I’ve always had a very vivid imagination. When I was a young boy, I’d play entire movies out using G.I. Joe men or stuffed animals. I’d even set a timer to make sure the length of the “movie” stayed in a certain time-frame. As I got older, even though I’d abandoned my toy props, I’d still play movies in my head. My favorite time to do this was on the school bus; because I lived in a rural area, I rode the bus for over two hours to and from school. In the mornings, I would lie on the back seat, close my eyes, and let the film roll in my mind. During these trips to school, the concept of my series Written By Blood was born.
Even at age thirty-nine, I still have the same, active imagination, although I rarely use stuffed animals or action figures. I’m inspired by anything I watch on television, anything I read, and I’m greatly inspired by music. I can listen to an emotionally moving song and have a movie trailer, of my making, playing through my mind by the end. I also use complete silence to brainstorm. One thing’s for certain: I never force an idea into a book or plot. It all comes very naturally, for I could only write stories that move me personally.
How do you prefer to write? On computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?
90% of my writing is done on a desktop computer, however, I’ve been known to type out portions of my books using my phone. I use MS Word and save my work on OneDrive, so my phone can connect seamlessly to any document that I need to edit on the fly. In fact, I do a lot of my proofreading on my phone.
I’ve yet to master dictation. I’ve tried a few times but so far it doesn’t seem to suit me.
What are your 5 favorite books and 5 favorite authors?
Five Favorite Books:
- Tough Customer by Sandra Brown
- American Assassin by Vince Flynn
- Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
- The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
- Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
Five Favorite Authors:
- Vince Flynn
- George R. R. Martin
- John Grisham
- Dean Koontz
- Sandra Brown
Each of the books and authors played a great role in me becoming an author. I don’t claim for any of the books or authors to be a top five list of the best, but the impact they each had on me was substantial.
How do you deal with Writer’s Block?
I’ve honestly never experienced Writer’s Block, but that’s likely because all the writing I’ve done has consisted of stories that I already know from beginning to end, and everything in between. I’m sure at some point I’ll inevitably hit the wall, but so far there’s been no issues.
What advice would you give to new aspiring authors?
The most important piece of advice I’d give is simply to write. That may seem like a no-brainer, but I think too many aspiring authors out there don’t consider themselves true authors. I think this rings truer with Indie authors; we tend to only think of ourselves as an author once we see one of our books published. However, being an author starts long before any of your writing is published, so we should act accordingly. A true author writes, and does so every day. Set time away and make content your priority. By writing daily, you’re honing your craft, finding your voice, and becoming a better author.
The second piece of advice would be to grow your audience, and to do it immediately. This ties into writing everyday as well. Produce content, whether it be blogs or short stories, and get that into the hands of readers that will value your work. And keep producing! Give free material away all the time to your faithful readers to keep them engaged.
Decide whether you’re writing as a hobby or making it a career endeavor. If you’re writing as a hobby, you don’t have too many rules or guidelines you need to follow. But if your aim is to make a living from your writing, there’s certain things you’ll need to do if you want to be successful, and it will cost a few dollars. Don’t think you can put out quality work completely on your own without spending a dime. While you absolutely can publish at virtually no cost, your chances of long-term success are pretty low. Get a professional editor and cover designer, at the very least, and if you’re really looking at getting your name and novel out there, consider researching marketing. Learn how to write a professional blurb, learn categories on Amazon or wherever you’re publishing. Consider Facebook and/or Amazon Ads.
Lastly, join communities, whether it be other like-minded authors or readers in your genre. Goodreads has a ton of groups. Join one, or three. Get to know other people in the industry.
If you want to be successful, visible, and to stand out, you’ll need to do things other authors aren’t doing, because let’s face it: there are thousands of authors out there that no one knows, so if you want to avoid being just another name thrown into the mix, go the extra mile.
Have confidence in yourself and your writing. Accept criticism; it’s more important than you realize. Have fun. And most importantly, value your faithful readers. They’re the ones who will always have your back. Keep them happy, and never take them for granted.
Thank you, Dwayne, for all the insightful and exciting answers!
About The Book
Written By Blood: Conviction
Abandoned to a secret government program at birth, Cane was trained to be the world’s most skilled assassin. For years he excelled in the field, bringing dangerous terrorists all over the world to justice and making even the most protected villains lose sleep. But since the program was shut down four years ago, he’s been forced into hiding, doing odd jobs to keep himself busy, and struggling to find a place for himself in society. The years of social isolation and, seemingly, his own brutal nature, have made him question whether or not he possesses the ability to feel certain emotions that most others exhibit effortlessly.
Cane’s only hope of normality in a lonely life rests in the warmth of his friendship with Helen and her daughter Kristy, the latter of whom he rescued five years earlier, from the clutches of the evil Blue Rose serial-killer. Cane lives with his friend Lynks, with whom he served in the disbanded “Red Delta” assassin program.
Cane finds a cryptic message from Marcene, a mysterious lady who knows more about him than she should. He soon finds himself thrust into the middle of a mystery that’s been at the center of the country’s attention for the past several years: ordinary men around the United States have been disappearing by the thousands, leaving their families and careers behind, only to turn up elsewhere in the country. Even more curious are the markings, which look like tattoos, that each bear upon their return. Conspiracy theories have abounded for years, but little has ever been known about these men, until now. Marcene claims the missing men are not only dangerous terrorists plotting a major attack on U.S. soil, but that they’re also genetically enhanced, and she aims to prove it to Cane through a series of instructions.
First, Cane is to save a college girl named Natalie, who, without her knowledge, is being targeted by the marked men. Guided more by curiosity than information, Cane and Lynks agree to help the girl, but after succeeding, they find only a new web of mysteries to unravel. The marked men are receiving their orders from seven dangerous men, and Cane remembers one of them by name: Amos. He’d been on Cane’s radar in the past, though he remained out of reach. Amos’s re-emergence gives Cane added motivation, so he looks to Marcene to continue pointing him in the right direction…
She leads them to the next, and most important step: find and recruit Daniel, a mountain of a man with a long history of violence.
There’s only one problem: he’s a convicted murderer in a super-max prison.
Cane and Lynks enlist Calvin, Daniel’s old friend, and Bowman, the man who trained Cane, to help orchestrate a plan for extracting Daniel. But Amos and the marked men are watching and making plans of their own, and they’ll use any tactic available in order to ensure their sinister plans remain in place, including hurting the few people Cane cares about.
It’s not only the marked men hot on their trail; FBI Agents Hart and Barkley, who’ve been hunting Cane and Lynks since the dissolution of Red Delta, are getting closer as well. But the nearer they draw to Cane, the more they learn about Amos, the other six terrorist leaders, and the marked men. And what they discover leads to even more terrifying scenarios and a deeper web of corruption than anyone expected, including a conspiracy involving high-ranking U.S. officials and the Russian government.
If Cane can just save Daniel and set him free, he’ll have a valuable ally: Daniel stands over seven feet tall and weighs over four hundred pounds, and he has his own bitter history with the marked men.
What started as curiosity for Cane quickly turns into something personal when Amos targets Helen and Kristy, sending him on a frantic race against time, pitted against enemies that far outnumber him and his friends. It’ll be a struggle to balance saving Kristy, rescuing Daniel, all while battling his own demons and self-doubt.
To succeed, it’ll take determination.
It’ll take focus.
It’ll take CONVICTION.
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