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Author Interview: J.D. Cunegan

J.D. Cunegan introduces Behind the Badge, the third installment of the Jill Andersen series, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that re-introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism and a lifelong love for writing. When he's not writing or reading, Cunegan is also an editor, using his years of experience to help other authors fine-tune their manuscripts before publication. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, enjoys reading, and is an avid auto racing fan.

Bounty: Jill Andersen is one of Baltimore's best and brightest detectives, but she harbors a dark secret -- a secret that threatens to come out when the body of Dr. Trent Roberts is pulled out of the Chesapeake Bay. Dr. Roberts' connection to Jill reveals a past that involves a tour in Iraq, a secretive cybernetic experiment, and a conspiracy that involves a native son. Can Jill solve the case while still keeping her secret? Will her partners at the Seventh Precinct find out what she's so desperate to hide? What was Dr. Roberts looking into that led to his murder? And perhaps the biggest question of all... Who is Bounty? Buy Now Blood Ties: For as long as Jill Andersen could remember, her father was a hero. But heroes don’t commit murder, do they? The state of Maryland said Paul Andersen did just that, three times over, and was set to execute him for it. But Jill and the rest of her colleagues at the Baltimore Police Department come across the murder of a law student that leaves her hopeful that she can clear her father’s name. While Jill and her colleagues work against the clock to clear her father’s name, new players emerge, hinting to a deeper, darker conspiracy than what was previously known. An enigmatic faction known as The Order reveals itself, and the mystery surrounding Paul’s alleged duplicity leaves more questions than answers. Along the way, Jill must not only face the possibility that her father was not who she thought he was, but she must also face the prospect of her secret being revealed. The stakes are higher than ever in Blood Ties, the intense follow-up to J.D. Cunegan’s debut mystery Bounty. Can Jill save her father before it’s too late? Will she even want to? Buy Now Behind the Badge: For Jill Andersen, being part of the Baltimore Police Department has always been both a tremendous honor and a serious responsibility. Her father, before his fall from grace, had instilled in her a great respect for police and the work they do day-to-day. But when a teenage boy winds up dead on the outskirts of downtown Baltimore, Jill finds herself once again faced with those who would abuse their badges to fulfill personal agendas and uphold biases. Jill still has a job to do, but she soon finds that not everyone is in her corner. For the first time in almost four years working Homicide, Jill finds herself at odds with people who claim to be on her side. From other cops to suits downtown all the way to the Mayor’s office, it becomes increasingly clear that Jill will need to rely on more than just her badge if she’s to solve this case. But even if she finds justice, what’s the price? Behind the Badge, the gripping, hard-hitting third novel in the Jill Andersen series (Bounty, Blood Ties), gives readers another taste of author J.D. Cunegan’s comic book-inspired brand of fast-paced prose, with chapters that fly by and plot twists that will leave readers constantly guessing and waiting for more. Buy Now Boundless (digital short, prequel): A little more than two years before the events of Bounty, Jill Andersen makes a life-altering decision. But this decision comes with consequences she didn’t foresee, and her first night as the vigilante Bounty winds up being something for which she was wholly unprepared. A crisis of faith eventually gives way to certainty: both in terms of discovering who killed a young man named Johnny Ruiz and in terms of coping with the latest change in her own life. Along the way, Jill defies death and discovers just how deep the city’s corruption runs. But will she survive the experience long enough to decide if a life of vigilantism is for her? Buy Now I had the opportunity to as J.D. Cunegan a few question. I hope you enjoy the answers as much as I did. Question: What genre would you say the book falls into? Answer: Right now, I’m writing murder mysteries that also have thriller and sci-fi elements to them. With Jill being a cybernetically-enhanced superhero, this series goes beyond what one might expect from a typical murder mystery and sometimes delves into more of a comic book, serialized story arc. In addition to the Jill Andersen series, I have a number of manuscripts in the works spanning other genres; I have a fantasy epic called Notna in the works, as well as an occult book called The Keeper and a political thriller called The Pen is Mighty. I hope to have all of those out sometime within the next two years. Question: Are there any trigger warnings and/or explicit content readers should know about? Answer: Violence is probably the biggest thing; some of the murder victims in my books have been killed in pretty graphic ways, and sometimes my fight scenes can get quite violent. I try to stay away from certain topics, like sexual assault, and there is nothing explicitly sexual in my books (partly because my protagonist is asexual, but I just don’t feel like that sort of thing fits in my writing). I don’t know if I would consider the violence in my work triggering, but if it is for some, the warning is warranted. Question: Do you have any upcoming events? Feel free to elaborate. Answer: On Saturday, Oct. 15, I will be at Hampton Comicon in Hampton, Virginia. I will have copies of all three of my novels available for purchase, and I also want to use the opportunity to spread the word about some of the works other NaNo authors have written. For example, I still have a stack of bookmarks R.R. Virdi sent me that I’ll have on display, and I know a few other authors have agreed to send me stuff to hand out. I wanna get the word out not just about my work, but for others as well. Question: What is next for you? Do you have anything in the works? Answer: In addition to the three books I mentioned in my first answer, I’m also busy writing the next two books in the Jill Andersen series. Behind the Mask, the fourth book, will hopefully release in January, and I’m looking to have book five, Betrayed, out sometime next summer. Between all of those and my editing, I keep quite busy. Question: Are there any Easter eggs in your book(s)? Answer: Pop culture references are my Easter eggs. There have been plenty of Batman references in my work so far, and each of my first two novels included references to the TV show Castle as well. It’s part of how I make sure the story and the characters don’t take themselves too seriously, and it’s a window into the sort of things that have influenced by writing over the years. Question: What was your favourite book when you were growing up? Answer: Being a comic book geek, I was a huge X-Men fan. For the longest time, if it wasn’t X-Men, I wouldn’t read it. Fortunately, as I’ve gotten older, my tastes have broadened considerably. I still read comic books and graphic novels, but I’m also reading far more novels than I ever did when I was younger. I guess writing my own has given me a greater appreciation for them. Question: What piece of advice from other authors do you hear the most but choose to ignore? Answer: “Write what you know.” Because a) we never know as much as we think we know, and b) sticking to just what we know is how we get bland, uninspired storytelling. Branching out, increasing our knowledge base, that’s what inspires us and leads us down narrative roads we never considered. If we don’t learn something new, we don’t grow, and our art suffers for it. Question: What's your favourite food? Have you ever mentioned it in your book(s)? Answer: Lately, I’ve been partial to chicken wing and BBQ ribs. Don’t think they’ve made it into my work yet, though. Question: If your life was a book, what would be the tag line? Answer: “He doesn’t know what he’s doing, yet he keeps plugging along.” Question: What advice would you give new writers? Answer: There are only two ways to improve: write and read. The more you write, the better you get. The more you read, the better you get. Even if you only manage to put down a few sentences one day, you still wrote. You still have more than what you started with. Writing is like everything else in art: only constant practice will yield improvement. Question: What has been the worst mistake you have made in your writing career? Answer: Publishing my debut novel, Bounty, without putting effort and thought into the cover. I didn’t realize at the time just how important a book’s cover is, but I definitely learned that lesson. Question: What is the best moment you have had with a fan? Answer: Whenever one of them sends me a tweet or text or Facebook post asking when the next book’s coming out. It’s rare, but when it does happen, I get momentarily giddy at the thought of someone liking my work so much that they outright ask me for more of it (politely, of course). Question: If you could change the date to any year past or future, what date would you change it to and why? Answer: The year 2024… just in a case a certain orange-tinted “billionaire” actually happens to become president, I won’t have to actually live through it. Thank you for your time! You can find out more about J.D. Cunegan using the following links. Website / Amazon / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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