John Wills has been both a regular attendee and presenter at the Public Safety Writers Conference and I'm proud to count him as a friend. I've read his other books, which I enjoyed, but The Year Without Christmas is outstanding. I asked him to tell me--and everyone who reads my blog--what inspired him.
Why I wrote this book:
Having read a number of Christmas novels over the years, I have always been moved by them. My favorite stories come from Dan Walsh, a Christian writer. He inspires me to write with emotion. This year I had the urge to write a Christmas novel myself, and I had a number of ideas in mind as I sat down to share my story.
In The Year Without Christmas, the protagonist, Officer Doyle, is a cop—a darn good one—on a small department in Michigan. He unfortunately gets involved in a tragic shooting. Despite having followed his department’s guidelines, and even though the outcome was ruled to be a justifiable shooting, the man begins a downward spiral that eventually causes him to become homeless.
His family becomes a victim of the shooting as well. (This phenomenon often occurs when police officers are shot.) They have no idea where Officer Doyle, a husband, father, and grandfather, is at. Their life becomes uncertain at best, as they struggle with their new reality. In addition, the very pragmatic problem of the breadwinner’s check being no longer available, impacts the family’s immediate future.
Officer Doyle’s homeless journey is as real as it gets. In the book, I described daily life on the streets exactly as I witnessed them when I worked as a Chicago cop. My contacts with the homeless, and what happens at the shelters is real. Some of the resources today are much better than when I worked the streets. For those updates I contacted a close friend to ensure I got things right.
The struggle the alcoholic faces is a minute-to-minute battle, one that turns a person into an unrecognizable stranger. Family and friends helplessly look on as the alcoholic slips further and further away. Depressing stuff to be sure, but remember—this is a Christmas story, it has to have a happy ending.
The Year Without Christmas—blurb
A small town family’s peace is shattered by a tragic accident that sends them plunging into the darkest times they have ever known. The members struggle with their new reality, as one of them goes missing and another faces a life-threatening disease. A tale about loss and unwavering hope, The Year Without Christmas demonstrates the power of love, faith and a family’s will to survive.
About the author:
John M. Wills is a former Chicago police officer and retired FBI agent. He is a journalist, freelance writer and award-winning author in a variety of genres, including novels, short stories and poetry. He has published more than 150 articles relating to officer training, street survival, fitness and ethics. John also writes book reviews for the New York Journal of Books and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. His book, Women Warriors, is available online and at the National Law Enforcement Memorial Gift Shop in Washington, D.C. John’s October 2013 release is The Year Without Christmas: A Novel. Visit John at: www.johnmwills.com, or at his blog, http://jwillsbooks.com, to learn about his other books, anthologies and an upcoming novella, Dancer.