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Author Interview: J.M. Adams

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Katie Specht is talking with J.M. Adams, author of Second Term: A Novel.

FQ: Your 15-year career in journalism is quite impressive, including being nominated for an Emmy as well as reporting on location from Kuwait and Iraq while No Fly Zones were enforced by the Air Force in Iraq, and going on sea patrols with the Navy after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, not to mention on location reporting from natural disasters across the United States. What led you to shift gears from this very successful career in order to publish your first novel?

ADAMS: I will be dating myself here, but when I was journalist, the Great Commandment was OBJECTIVITY. The standing order was to get both sides of the story and under no circumstances should a reporter interject their political leanings. As the years went on, there was a shift in the industry towards sensationalism and subjectivity and I decided to try something new. This led me into the realm of social media content strategy that opened up a whole new world of communication possibilities.

FQ: During your career as a journalist, is there any one story you recall covering that was especially memorable, and could you share why it was so memorable to you?

ADAMS: There was one particular police raid I went on outside of Roanoke, Virginia where the police were taking down area drug dealers who were dealing OxyContin also known as "Hillbilly Heroin." It was about five in the morning and the police were pulling a woman out of her house with her five-year-old son screaming and crying on the steps. She kept yelling back, “Don’t you worry, I’ll be home ‘fore you get out of school!” I can’t shake the image of that little boy out of my head. It was a snapshot of the opioid epidemic that I saw on a weekly basis for my entire career and how it carves an endless path of devastation across rural America.

FQ: What was the inspiration behind the political thriller Second Term? Did any of it derive from experiences you went through in your career?

ADAMS: Early in my career, a majority of my stories dealt with Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Georgia. I got to travel with them overseas, participate in terror drills, cookouts and see what the challenges the military presented for them and their families. Many of these experiences helped shape the character of Cora Walker in Second Term. As for the politics, I have attended more public meetings, protests and government hearings than I care to remember.

FQ: It was quite refreshing to read a thriller with a female protagonist, especially one focused on the male-dominated world of politics. How did you come to this decision, and what was your reasoning for doing so?

Author J.M. Adams

ADAMS: Selling a novel with a strong and fearsome female protagonist was an uphill battle from pitch to publication. I pitched to multiple agents and publishers, many of whom told me that if I swapped my main character out for a man, they’d publish my book in a heartbeat.

That was never going to happen.

I was raised by strong women, surrounded myself with strong women and eventually married one. My wife’s struggles and ascendance in corporate America is just one of the many motivating factors that led to creation of Cora Walker.

FQ: As a male author, can you describe how it was for you to develop the female main character of Cora Walker?

ADAMS: I spoke to women in the military and some of the alphabet intelligence services and listened to the challenges they grappled with on a daily basis in a male-dominated work culture. It’s the same in corporate America, females across the board talk about the ‘hearing shut-off valve’ many men seem to have when a woman is speaking. I also worked in the public and private school system in New Jersey working with a wealth of talented and overworked female educators listening to their ideas, hopes and concerns. Adding family life to the mix adds several additional layers of complexities to their challenging life styles. I think the key to developing an effective female protagonist is always listening and always learning with empathy.

FQ: When I read the last sentence in the book, I remember flipping to the next page, expecting (and hoping!) to see another chapter begin. While some events in the story did definitively conclude, others were left somewhat open-ended. Do you have any plans to write more books to continue the story of Cora Walker?

ADAMS: After seven months of research and traveling, I can confirm that Cora Walker’s next adventure is already under way.

FQ: What would you say was the biggest surprise to you during the process of writing Second Term?

ADAMS: I would have to say that Cecilia Danforth, the President’s Chief of Staff was a revelation for me. She was sort of a villain or maybe I should call her a rogue? Pitting her against Cora Walker with her self-assuredness and intelligence was an unexpected treat for me. Cora and I had no idea what to expect from her from one moment to the next and that was a fun process. She really wrote herself.

FQ: Are any of your cast of characters modeled after people you know in real life?

ADAMS: I tried to separate my daughters from Cora’s daughter, but I found that to be a challenging process. My daughters always have an enlightening comment or observation that leaves me shaking my head and smiling.

FQ: Is there anything you hope Second Term imparts to your readers? Specifically, did you intend for Second Term to be a “warning” of sorts for what could happen one day politically, or is it all just a purely fun, fictional thriller?

ADAMS: I would call Second Term a warning about the inherent dangers of authoritarianism. A small group of rebels rejected the rule of a monarch (George III) in the 1700’s giving way to the birth of our nation. A president was never meant to be a king and when a nation falls under a cult of personality, it tugs at the fragile strings that hold our democracy together.

FQ: Your bio asserts that you are an avid history buff. Did your historical knowledge give you an advantage when writing the political story behind Second Term, or did you need to conduct some level of research?

ADAMS: The research for Second Term was never-ending. However, combining the fifty years of historical data floating around my head with a life-long obsession with presidents, politics and the military made the extensive research process a very memorable and pleasurable experience.

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