Friday, January 14, 2011

Guest Blogger: Bill Bowen

Please join me in welcoming author Bill Bowen as the special guest blogger here at Thoughts in Progress today as he makes a stop on his virtual book tour.

Bill’s latest release is THE TARGET. Here’s a brief blurb about it: Mike Curran is an ordinary American – the son of a South Side Chicago cop, a Notre Dame graduate, an Iraq War veteran, and a LaSalle Street stock broker. When he is a victim of a dirty bomb attack at Union Station, he gives up on the government and embarks on a journey from despair and revenge to a striking demonstration of deterrence. In contrast to Osama bin Laden hiding in Afghanistan, Mike and a group of like-minded associates enjoy tremendous resources and freedom of action. His greatest problem is with his conscience.

Aisha al-Rashid, a moderate descendant of Arabian royalty and the sister of one of the Union Station bombers, serves as a thoughtful counterpoint, as her path exposes her to the Americans’ plot.

Bill stopped by to answer some questions about his writing and his book.

Mason: What inspired you to write this book?

Bill: During the Cold War we and the Russians understood that either side could destroy the other so neither attacked. The current situation is one sided and we seem to be waiting for a nuclear weapon in a container in New York or Long Beach. I wanted to get the thought into the global conversation that the combination of loosely controlled nuclear weapons and terrorists represents a threat to those things that are important to the Muslim world as well as to the West. Such a realization might influence the leaders of Pakistan and Iran as well as religious leaders.

Mason: Do you have a writing schedule?

Bill: I start with a master plan: an outline, biographies of the main characters, a statement of the major conflict that I want to address. Then I spend a month or two doing research: visiting locations, listening to dialogue, reading history and newspapers, wearing out Google.

Once I start doing the real work of writing I generally wake up early and think for ten to fifteen minutes about what needs to happen in the story, then write for two or three hours. I need to be fresh to let my mind wander with the characters and be in the story.

Mason: What type of research did you do for the book?

Bill: I lived in Milwaukee and Chicago in the 80s and 90s so I
understood the territory and the people but it was necessary to wander around the places where the story would unfold: Union Station; the Courthouse and a school building across the street; a couple of hospitals; downtown Ripon, Wisconsin; a rifle range. Many friends were helpful in capturing the flavor of Chicago’s South Side Irish, hospital emergency procedures, and the arming of nuclear weapons. 

The second portion of the book which takes place in Africa benefitted from my having lived for several months in Cairo, but it really relied heavily on internet research for an understanding of the local history and the natives and on Google Earth for a view of the terrain. 

Mason: What was the best/worst thing about writing?

Bill: The research is actually the most fun. People love to talk to you if you promise that you will treat them fairly in the story.  I could sit in a plaza for hours watching people, reading, and creating the story in my head. Research gave me the excuse to wander around the United Nations neighborhood in New York, ride back and forth on the Metra trains in Chicago, and hang out in a bar in Ripon.

The worst thing is copy editing. Actually, developmental editing was fun. I had a great editor, Ed Robertson,  who led me through a 30 % rewrite but I chose to do my own copy editing since I had the software. Never again. 

Mason: Did you encountered 'writer's block?' If so, how did you overcame it?

Bill: I never really had “writer’s block.” There were times that I wasn’t too motivated to write but I view writing like a marathon.  If I lost interest in what I was doing I could be pretty sure that the reader would also, so I would move to a different part of the book for a few days and come back refreshed.

Mason: What message would you like readers to take away from your book?

Bill: I would like world leaders to feel a shared universal need to control nuclear weapons. I would like to express admiration and support for the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a non-profit started by Senator Sam Nunn and Ted Turner to advocate for non-proliferation measures in the United States and globally.

Mason: What can readers expect next from you?

Bill: To retain my sanity in the Bay Area I write a weekly political blog at  I am also working on a book about a group of Texans who decide to exercise the option to seceed which the Lone Star State was given when it joined the Union. The story will present a range of perspectives about the state of politics and an undercurrent of conspiracy for and against. I plan to publish early in 2012.

Bill, thanks for blogging here today. Your book sounds quite intriguing.

Now for a bit of background on Bill. He holds degrees in foreign affairs from the United States Air Force Academy and Georgetown University. He has served in military intelligence and in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs … at the intersection of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the President’s National Security Advisor.

Bill lives in San Francisco with his wife, Sue, where he enjoys the political theater of local and state government and shares his thoughts at To find out more about THE TARGET, visit


  1. Bill, thanks for guest blogging here. Your story sounds quite intriguing. Wishing you the best of luck with THE TARGET and your writing.

  2. Bill, you sound like a guy who knows his stuff. Enjoyed reading about your writing process.
    Mason, it was a good blog post with some decent info.

    Tossing It Out

  3. Mason - Thanks for hosting Bill.

    Bill - Thanks for sharing with us how you went about writing The Target. I think you're to be commended for tackling very difficult and controversial topics and I admire the way you've used your own expertise to write. I wish you much success.

  4. Bill, I really enjoy research when writing too. It has such capability to layer a story with authenticity, to really develop characters who are believable. It's a great writing tool.

    Mason, thanks for another great guest post.

  5. Bill, that's exactly how I handle writer's block, which I claim I've never experienced. I just jump ahead to the next scene and play connect-the-dots later.

  6. Bill, thanks for sharing your schedule. I like when you say that if you’re bored then the reader will be to and move on to a different area. That is good advice.

  7. Lots of good advice here. And as a Texan, it will be interesting to see how you handle the secession question. We hear rumblings from time to time over one problem or another.

  8. Interesting! I know that many writers view it as a marathon. I do. And I hate editing as well. It's nice to know writers go through a lot of the same thing.

  9. Sounds like Bill has done an amazing amount of research to get his facts straight. Best wishes for his release!

  10. Nice to meet you, Bill. Your background certainly lends to your writing. I wish we could eliminate nuclear weapons, but alas, I think were stuck with them. Good luck on the book.
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

  11. I don't mind the editing, but I sure need help doing it correctly.

  12. I'm always interested in literature that seeks to give people a different perspective of the world. That's always something that I'm looking for. Thanks for doing this interview, Bill.

    And thanks for bringing this to my attention, Mason!


  13. Wow! Sounds like a terrific, intense read! :)


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.