John, please tell us about your book, A Cold Snow in Castaway County.
A former police officer and investigator from the Boston PD, Dell Hinton leaves the city after a controversial shooting. He moves to a small community in Maine where an old school friend lives. After building his home along the shore of a lake, Dell is convinced to run for the job of Sheriff in Castaway County. After winning the election, he meets with the prior Sheriff and learns of a cold case that has been haunting that man for ten years. The story line then centers on how Dell must learn the new duties of being a Sheriff and work to solve the cold case.
Considering your experience in law enforcement, I’m sure it helped you a great deal in writing your story. Did you have to do any additional research for your book other than what you already know?
Well, I was able to incorporate some stories from my career, as well as some of my training throughout the years. But I did have to research some law enforcement procedures with officers in Maine. While many might not realize it, there are often many differences in how the law enforcement function is handled from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, as well as from State to State. In Virginia, my county had a full- service Sheriff’s Office, while the next county East has a Sheriff’s Office and a County Police Department who split up the duties a full-service office performs. SO in just two, side by side counties, the duties are widely different. For that reason, I had to research some of the law enforcement techniques in Maine to make my fictitious Sheriff’s Office plausible.
Who or what inspired you to become an author?
One of the biggest challenges I faced was making a determination as to whether I could sustain a story line long enough to make it into a book. I was a little worried at first that I might only be able to write a book of short stories, but after the first few chapters I became more confident that I could sustain the story. The book is still a fairly short, easy read.
What is your greatest strength as a writer?
Since I am writing fiction, I think one of my best strengths is that I have always had a good imagination, even as a small child. As a kid I could make almost anything out of Scotch Tape and string and cardboard! Another strength for me is that I was gifted by my Mother with the ability to write and speak grammatically correct English and to express my thoughts fairly easily in writing. Thanks, Mom!
I have always found it easy to write. While I was employed at the Sheriff’s Office I wrote many articles for publications like the American Jail Magazine, and the National Sheriff’s Magazine. In addition, I wrote two training keys for the American Jail Association that were used by the National Correctional Training Center in Colorado for one of their jail administrator classes. When I retired from the Sheriff’s Office, I gravitated to the idea that I might try writing a book and using some of my experiences as story line incidents. That was pretty much it!
What is your next book project?
I am currently working on a second book in the Dell Hinton series. I have thus far completed the first two chapters and expect to get some serious work done on the project over the next month or two. I did take a bit of constructive criticism from one of the kind people who reviewed my first book and I will be writing the next one in the first person, from Dell’s perspective. I think it will enhance the character and make the book flow better. I’m quite excited about the project thus far!
Who is your favorite author and why?
I read a lot of westerns for relaxation. I love the old west, even though most of the books I read may romanticize somewhat actual daily life in a western town on the frontier. My two favorites for westerns are Louis L’Amour and William Johnstone. Since I have published, I have met various other writers through Twitter, etc. One author whom I met and have spent a lot of time talking to is Sinclair MacLeod, from Scotland. He has written a series of books, three I think thus far, with the primary character called the Reluctant Detective. I have read the first book and loved it, and have the next two on my Kindle to read over my vacation later this year in Maine.
What is your favorite quote?
One of my favorites, which has been used in a few western movies like Tombstone and Pale Rider, is from a Bible verse, Revelation 6:8. It reads in part, “And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.” I think the quote was used in the movies to illustrate justice; at least that is how I’ve always viewed the passage.
Another favorite quote is one that I penned and had printed upon the reverse of my Sheriff’s Office business cards. It reads, “ Any man who betrays his own word lacks integrity and is, therefore, of little value.” I always felt that summed up how I felt about truth, honesty and integrity as best I could!
What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
If writing fiction, my advice would be to let your imagination soar and allow some of your personality to live within your characters. I think giving them some of you, allows the character to be more easily identified by your readers. And I think readers need to be able to identify with a character, even if only in a small way, to find the character realistic. If writing non-fiction,
my best advice would be to research, research and do more research. Readers want and expect the truth, the facts and the story in non-fiction books. And they deserve to get it. And trust me, if there is one false fact, someone will find it and report it back to you. Best of luck in your writing!
Thanks Steph, for asking great questions and allowing me the privilege to have this interview.
John Hickman was born and raised in a small farming community in Pennsylvania. Following high school, he worked as a cadet at the Washington County Sheriff’s Department in Hagerstown, Maryland while completing his Associates degree in Law Enforcement. After serving for a year as a Deputy Sheriff in Hagerstown, he moved to Northern Virginia and took a job at the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office. He served Loudoun for 25 years, in various positions, including ten years on the Sheriff’s senior staff, as an Assistant Division Commander.
During his tenure, John penned various articles for the American Jails Magazine and the National Sheriff’s Magazine. He also penned several training keys for the American Jail Association that were used in a Jail Manager Training program conducted by the National Institute of Corrections in Boulder, Colorado. John has always enjoyed writing, and has written lyrics for various songs as well.
Following retirement, John decided to attempt to write a book. He wanted to create a main character who displayed the values of honesty and integrity, while solving crimes using common sense thinking. He decided to place the setting for the book in Maine, where he has vacationed since the age of five. His first book was honored by Indie BRAG with a 2012 BRAG Medallion. Since the publishing of his first book, A Cold Snow in Castaway County, he has already begun a second book to carry on the series.
John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife Jennifer. His son, Branden, is a professional drummer and drum teacher.
www.HickmanBooks.com – my book publishing web site
www.acoldsnowincastawaycounty.authorsxpress.com – my blog web site
www.loonymoosepublishing.com – my music publishing web site
www.BRAGMedallion.com – My book is a 2012 Honoree
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview John Hickman who is the author of A Cold Snow in Castaway County, one of our medallion honorees at http://www.bragmedallion.com. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as A Cold Snow in Castaway County merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.