Charles Ambrose: First Mystery Thriller Interview

Charles Ambrose is a new author to me and during the time frame February 12 – 22, 2017 I will be reviewing the three books that he has written:

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Mr. Ambrose has agreed to answer some questions about his life, writing and few other nosey questions that I have asked all of the authors who I have connected with Mystery Thriller Week and my writer’s blog.

1.  How old was I when I wrote my first story/book?

I was 61, and still working for the Department of Justice as a federal prosecutor. The Department’s conflict of interest regulations basically required me to use a pen name, so I chose “Marc Rainer.” The first name is a tribute to my late younger brother, and the last name is my mother’s maiden name. I lost both to cancer far too soon.

2. What was the genre?

Murder mystery/legal thriller. My job gave me plenty of plot lines, and I use real case scenarios and trial events in my books.

3. Do I have another series in mind?

I have at least one more book to write in the Jeff Trask series, maybe more. I graduated from the Air Force Academy back when the earth was cooling, and have been thinking about a book based upon that experience.

4. Do I enjoy sports or other crafts?

Snow skiing – at least as long as my knees will let me. I’m also an amateur musicologist, and used to play drums in a rock group.

5. Where do I write from?

Physically, from home. I’m retired now, and write when the mood hits me.

Emotionally, from experience, influenced by current events. I call my books “contemporary historical novels.” The last one in the series dealt with terrorist cells.

6. What would I be doing if I wasn’t a writer?

I’d probably get back into music. I’d be doing something; not one to be rocking on a porch.

7. Support for my writing?

My wife, a former OSI agent and FBI employee, is my main supporter and has provided lots of encouragement. The hundreds of favorable reader reviews and many great editorial reviews from sources such as Kirkus and Midwest Book  Review have kept me going as well. I’ve been fortunate enough to be approaching the 40,000 sales mark, so it’s a paying hobby, and that never hurts. Not too bad for a self-published author outside the traditional publishing game.

8. Books or blog?

I’ve done the equivalent of political blogs during a couple of publicity campaigns, had articles published by The Hill, other websites and newspapers. Writing novels is a lot more fun, and I can work some current event issues into the books, so I’d pick the novels if I could choose only one.

9. How did I find my niche?

The Air Force sent me to law school, so I guess they found it for me. Being a federal prosecutor for more than 30 years – counting the JAG time – made legal thrillers a natural fit.

10. How much research do I do for the books?

It depends on the book. The first novel, Capital Kill, was a factionalized version of an actual murder case I had already tried, so there wasn’t much research required. The second book, Horns of the Devil, concerned the MS-13 gang based in El Salvador, and the third book, Death’s White Horses, dealt with the infamous Los Zetas cartel in Mexico, so both of those were more research-heavy. The last book, A Winter of Wolves,  required some research into the extreme elements of radical Islam. I always try to be accurate, so thee subject matter and my experience (or the lack thereof) with the subject dictates the amount of research required. I’m frequently appalled by movies, TV shows, and other authors who write about my former career field with no idea of what they’re talking about. FBI agents don’t call each other “Agent,” for example; they can’t wiretap anybody without jumping through two months of red tape; they can’t outrun machine gun bullets,  and their offices actually have lights in them.

11. What surprised me the most about the publishing process?

The favorable nature of self-publishing versus the traditional game. For every $12 book bought in an airport, the author might get fifteen cents. The rest is tied up in production,  advertising,  shipment costs, and inventory. Unless you’re an A-lister like my law school classmate John Grisham, the terms of your royalty contract are dictated by your publisher and your agent. In self-publishing, a decent writer can make an average of about two-dollars even for a bargain paperback or kindle sale. That beats a stick in the eye, even if you’re not getting rich.

12. What do I want my obituary to say?

“He lived and loved a full life.”


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