Today we have the charming D.J. Swykert telling us about how he came to write his book ‘Children of the Enemy’.
The idea for the plot line in Children of the Enemy originated from an article I read in a Detroit newspaper that stated: Detroit Police only solve one-third of the homicides committed in the city. My first thought had nothing to do with the one-third they solved, but for the victims of the two-thirds that go unsolved.
Children of the Enemy is a story about justice. It’s about innocents caught up in the Detroit drug business, a story about victims and perpetrators, not a detective story. It’s about people working outside the system who can’t get justice within the system. Raymond Little is an ex-convict attempting to save Jude’s daughter who was kidnapped by a drug dealer. He knows if he goes through the system Angelina is as good as dead.
I write a book like you would watch a movie. It’s how I move the story along, chapters being scenes, the end result being me as a director, assembling the chapter-scenes into a coherent story consisting of characters, conflict and resolution. It all begins with the characters.
My protagonist Ray in Children of the Enemy was a man I saw who ran a salvage yard, which could also be accurately labelled a junkyard. He was sitting on a chair outside of a house trailer smoking a cigarette, with virtual mountains of scrap metal pieces and junk appliances surrounding him. I imagined in real life he was perhaps a cross between Dirty Harry and James Earl Jones. He just had this look about it that I found fascinating. Three-fingered Jack Davis is based on a man I knew as Three-fingered Jack, although he’s probably called Two-fingered Jack by now, the drug business is every bit as violent in reality as portrayed in the story.
Once I have a few characters I like I put them into a situation, this creates the conflict. The next step is to frame in my mind how I intend to resolve the conflict. The rest of the writing consists of chapters that point toward the resolution. Last, good writing always needs even better editing. I have been blessed with a good editor. A writer puts down on paper the essence of a story; the editor shapes the story into a book. Few writers can edit themselves. It really helps if you can find an impartial editor to help you with clarity in your writing and story.
If someone were to ask me for advice on how to improve their writing, I’d tell them to read Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing, which you can find on the internet. It’s the most concise and easily explained set of ideas on good writing I’ve ever found. I don’t follow them verbatim, but a lot of his essentials have always stuck with me.
Children of the Enemy is available from all the usual places Amazon.com, B & N, Kobo, and also on iTunes.
DJ Swykert is a former 911 operator. His writing has appeared in The Tampa Review, Detroit News, Coe Review, Monarch Review, the Newer York, Lunch Ticket, Gravel, Zodiac Review, Sand Canyon Review, Barbaric Yawp and Bull. His books include Children of the Enemy, Alpha Wolves, Sweat Street, The Pool Boy’s Beatitude and The Death of Anyone. You can find him at: www.magicmasterminds.com/djswykert