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WIL MARA’S BIOGRAPHY:

Biography

Wil Mara has been writing books since 1988. He started with a manuscript about herpetology (a childhood hobby), which led to a job as an editor with TFH Publications, aka, ‘The World’s Largest Publisher of Animal Books.’ In the mid ‘90s, he left TFH to work for Harcourt-Brace, at which time he began his first foray into fiction, ghostwriting a title for Albert Whitman and Company’s popular ‘Boxcar Children Mysteries.’ By the time he did his fifth ‘Boxcar’ in 1999, he was also editing for textbook publisher Prentice Hall and writing extensively for the school-library market.

His first novel for adults, Wave, was released in 2005. The flagship title in a series of disaster thrillers, it chronicled a small island community’s reaction to the news that a tsunami would strike its shores in less than two hours. Wave sold through its first printing in a matter of weeks, went on to win the New Jersey Notable Book Award, and was picked up in both paperback and eBook by Macmillan Publishing.

Wil’s second disaster thriller, The Gemini Virus, was released by Macmillan in October of 2012, in hardcover, eBook, and audio. Gemini tells the chilling story of a supervirus that begins in the industrial Northeast and spreads rapidly through the rest of the world. It received excellent reviews from critics and consumers alike, stayed on Amazon’s list of ‘Top 20 Best New Medical Thrillers’ for fourteen straight weeks, and was picked up for overseas distribution within a month of its initial publication. The mass-market paperback came out the following August.

In July of 2013, Wil’s first novel featuring Jason Hammond, Frame 232, was released. Examining the possiblity of a final, decisive piece of evidence to the Kennedy assassination being discovered in modern times, the book immediately earned scores of excellent reviews, reached the # 1 spot in its category on Amazon.com, and was nominated for the 2013 Lime Award for Excellence in Fiction. The second book in the Hammond series, The Nevada Testament, is scheduled for release in the second half of 2014.

Wil has four other Hammond titles in development, as well as one standalone story due for publication in 2015. His disaster series will also continue with a new story, Fallout, that same year

AN INTERVIEW WITH WIL MARA:

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What are the challenges of writing a contemporary novel that delves into the mysteries of the past?

The greatest challenge for me was to make certain I didn’t violate any of the established facts. One of the aims of the Jason Hammond series (Jason is the recurring hero in all these books) is to fill in the gaps with entertaining-but-still-plausible fiction. Sounds easy enough, right? Not necessarily—you have to first make certain you know all the little details that have already rooted. None of the Hammond books attempts to rewrite history—I extrapolate reasonable possibilities from the truths that exist, then endeavor to write an entertaining story. And if a reader learns a thing or two along the way, all the better.

How did you select the JFK assassination as a central topic to Frame 232?

I’ve been fascinated by the assassination all my life—and even if I wasn’t, I couldn’t escape it because it has loomed over my generation with a long and foreboding shadow. The story itself came together in a matter of seconds after I heard about a mysterious figure called the ‘Babushka Lady.’ This lone woman was wearing a head scarf (i.e., a babushka) and standing about thirty feet from the president’s limousine when he was struck. Most assassination researchers believe she also had a camera in hand, quite possibly an 8mm that took motion pictures rather than stills. And yet, we’ve never seen the images she captured, and her identity has yet to be determined. That got me thinking, “What if she caught something that no one else noticed…and then her film turned up now and altered all that we thought we knew about the assassination?” I figured that was a pretty interesting premise, so I followed up on it.

What are your literary influences?

They are many and varied. Everything from the classics—Shakespeare, Flaubert, Chekov, Austen—to modern commercial fiction—King, Grisham, Koontz, etc. I don’t like to pigeonhole myself as a reader, and I don’t harbor that snobbish, literary hardening-of-the-arteries attitude, either. I’ll give almost anything a try, and if I find it intriguing and enjoyable, I’ll see it through to the end. If I had to pick a favorite writer overall, it would probably be Steinbeck; even his ‘lesser’ works are brilliant. But my favorite novel of all is still To Kill a Mockingbird. I would place that above even Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer in terms of American relevance, certainly in the latter half the 20th century. But please don’t interpret that as a knock against Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain. Everything that flowed from the end of his quill was magnificent.

What are tips for keeping a reader engaged, yet not overwhelmed, by too much suspense?

Keep things happening and keep them fresh. Spend time fleshing out your players and make them real people rather than ‘novel characters.’ You don’t have to have a James Bond-esque action scene every five pages, but you do have to demonstrate to the reader that the story has substance and is steadily growing and evolving. And when you reach the last quarter of the book, you better be sledding down the hill at full speed. When the hero is about to lower the boom on the bad guys, don’t have him stop at the convenience store for a bottle of Coke. Bad idea, that.

A NOVEL ON THE JFK ASSASSINATION:

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The time had come, she decided, to rid herself of this burden, to take the steps necessary to put the matter to rest once and for all. And the first, she knew—against every instinct and desire—was to watch that film….

FACT — Only a handful of people who were standing in Dealey Plaza on the day JFK was assassinated remain unidentified.

FACT — One of them, a woman wearing a head scarf who has since become known as the ‘Babushka Lady,’ was no more than thirty feet from the presdient’s limousine when he was struck.

FACT — Many assassination experts believe she not only had a camera, but a video camera, and thus probably shot the clearest and most detailed moving images of the horror that unfolded. However, her film has never seen the light of day.

WHAT IF — This film surfaced now…and showed something that no one except the elusive ‘Babushka Lady’ has ever seen…something that radically altered everything we thought we knew about the assassination…and became a dire threat to a few very powerful people…people who would stop at nothing to keep the truth concealed….

During the reading of her mother’s will, Sheila Baker discovers that she has inherited everything her parents ever possessed, including their secrets. A mysterious safe-deposit box key leads her to the answer to one of history’s greatest questions—Who killed John F. Kennedy? Not only does she have the missing film that exposes her late mother as the infamous ‘Babushka Lady,’—she has incontrovertible proof that there was more than one shooter.

On the run from people who will stop at nothing to keep their secrets buried, Sheila turns to billionaire sleuth Jason Hammond for help. Having lost his own family in a tragic plane crash, Jason knows a thing or two about running from the past. With a target on their backs and time running out, can Jason finally uncover the truth behind the crime that shook a generation—or will he and Sheila become its final victims?

Ten years in the making, Frame 232 is the new suspense novel from critically acclaimed, award-winning author Wil Mara, and the first in a new series featuring pivotal character Jason Hammond. It was released on July 1st from Tyndale House in eBook, hardcover, paperback, and large-print editions.

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QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS?

RED QUESTION MARK

Frame 232

Mara, Wil. Frame 232. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 2013.

SUMMARY:
frame 232Sheila Baker inherits a recording of the Kennedy Assassination that has the potential to change her life. The recording has the possibility to incriminate a new suspect – a suspect that does not wish to be found. As a result, Sheila and her new friend, Jason Hammond, are launched into an adventure that places them in heart-pounding peril.

A PENNY FOR MY THOUGHTS:
Wil Mara sends his reader into a mysterious adventure that results in white-knuckle-grip tension. The fast paced action is most prominent in the middle section of the book. A strength of the book is the evident research that was part of the book’s creation. Mara artfully weaves essential pieces of history into the novel that provide information the reader must understand; yet, that history appears in such a way that does not result in fragmented transitions. In an interview with Mara, the research that was part of the book’s creation is revealed:

HOW MUCH RESEARCH DID YOU DO FOR THIS PROJECT?
An unbelievable amount. I spoke with assassination experts, read literally hundreds of books and articles, pored over countless photos…you name it. My goal was to write a fictional story around the established facts rather than alter the facts to serve the story. Thus, I had to know pretty much everything. I ended up loading my brain with more data than I really needed…but I didn’t mind.

Another strong point of the novel is the apparent Christian faith that runs throughout the storyline and into the character’s lives. In an interview, Mara commented on this aspect of the novel:

WHAT ROLE DOES YOUR CHRISTIAN FAITH PLAY IN YOUR WRITING?
It is embedded throughout this story, in a fashion both subtle and direct. I was raised Christian and have been a firm believer all my life, so my belief system is threaded into just about everything I do. Anyone who carries even the most fundamental faith will recognize the important elements in this book. The most obvious example belongs to the main character, who recurs throughout the series he is suffering a deep crisis of faith, and the core of that crisis should be familiar to even the most devout follower. We are human, plain and simple, and as such we experience doubts about the Lord in our lifetime. So it won’t be hard for anyone to connect with him.

DESCRIBE THE ROLE OF FAITH PLAYS IN YOUR MAIN CHARACTERS, SHEILA BAKER AND JASON HAMMOND.DOES THIS CHANGE AS THE STORY PROGRESSES?
With Sheila, you’ve got a very goodhearted person who is experiencing a critical change in her worldview. She is coming out of the ‘money is the most important thing in the world’ phase and beginning to understand that there are much higher priorities. This isn’t to say she’s trumpeting the virtues of poverty (She still understands that it’s important to live within a certain comfortable and respectable standard). But she’s figuring out that money isn’t what a person should worship, it’s something altogether different. And there is a traceable and, I think, very satisfying arc to her story in this regard.
As for Jason, he suffered a tremendous loss years earlier, went through a protracted nightmare period, and is starting to come out of during the events of Frame 232. An encounter with a very unlikely source helps him to turn the corner and begin a path to renewed promise but even so, the journey ahead is going to present serious challenges for him. The good news, though, is that he has not abandoned
The good news, though, is that he has not abandoned the Lord altogether. If he had done that, there wouldn’t be any conflict within him in the first place.

Readers who enjoy Mara’s mystery that delves into the unsolved queries of the past, will look forward to the next novel in the Jason Hammond series that will be available in the summer of 2014.

MY RATING:
4 (out of 5) pennies

*I received a complimentary copy of Frame 232 from Tyndale House Publisher for my honest review*