Meet author Aaron Zook
Aaron M. Zook, Jr. is a multiple-award-winning author and speaker. He’s thrilled thousands of readers with his expanding YA Christian mystery/adventure series about two inquisitive boys and their dogs who solve one crisis after another around the world. He’s taught classes in Europe and the U.S. about the Young Adult writing process and offers coaching to aspiring writers. Aaron is a retired U.S. Army Colonel and lives with his wife, Joyce, in Texas.
The Isle of Intrigue’s fast-paced, heart-thumping action takes the reader through an intriguing plot involving a technology power-grab by the Japanese mafia that involves the U.S. military, Okinawan government, and our heroes, Gabe and Alex Zanadu. The two boys with their dogs, Thunder and Lightning, and Okinawan friends struggle to avoid capture, and when they fail, they plunge into frantic activity to free themselves and defeat the criminals. High-speed chases, near misses, and gut-wrenching courage keep the boys and their friends racing to stay ahead of the villains.
What inspired you to write the Thunder and Lightning series?
My inspiration for the entire series, which will be twelve books when completed, is my two sons, Jeremiah and Michael. Watching the joy and excitement of two boys learning to grow and grapple with life changes while we moved according to my military job requirements made writing the books a labor of love. My wife, Joyce, and I experience cultures around the world and watching our two boys get those experiences, grow as young men, and give their lives to Christ in the process made for excellent inspiration to write the books. I used to tell stories to them in Germany while we rode in our van to various castles, swim meets, or other youth adventures. I’ve escalated the intrigue and depth of those stories which has now blossomed into a vibrant series.
What genre do you focus on and why?
I focus on Young Adult Mystery/Adventure stories because I read many mystery and adventure stories when I was a teenager. I found that the stories helped me grow when I was younger and I wanted to pass on a Christian version that still kept the fast pace and tension of a mystery/adventure story, but also tracked two young boys growing into Christian men. The action and mystery focus draws the reader into an incredible story and in the background, the boys learn lessons and grow from their experiences. What young man doesn’t? Not only do the stories provide intense suspense and action, they have their comic relief as well. I like writing about the fast-paced changes of a teenager’s life as they grow into maturity.
Why do you write? What drives you?
The driving force behind my writing comes from watching the developing world around me. To my eyes, I see that worldly values are permeating our society and the biblical worldview roots are being slowly covered or plucked away by senior people with agendas that don’t encompass Christian believers. Some of these people are from different religious backgrounds and some are political organizations. I want to find a way to help young boys and girls understand that the Christian faith is essential for a strong individual and community life. That’s why I am using the principles contained in Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Christ to influence the growth of the two boy-heroes in the story.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing a book?
Most months, I will work on my books by taking a short, secluded writing vacation of four to five days. I travel to a time-share we own, only take care of essential email, and then focus on writing first the outline, then chapter summaries, then the rough draft, and finally an edited draft of my work. When that’s complete, I send it to my writing coach who helps me review the document for editing and theme consistency. When we are finished, I send the final draft to my publisher. The rest of the month I tinker with research and some story ideas, but mostly focus on the business side of writing which includes book sales, signings, and other related work.
What is the hardest part of being an author? Why?
I think the hardest part of being an author is revising chapters and scenes which I have grown fond of but which do not propel the reader into action and adventure. In my desire to provide a full picture of my heroes and the story line, often I will lapse into backstory or non-essential information. To keep the drama fresh and lively, my writing coach and I discuss scaling back certain scenes, ramping up emotional conflict, or sending the protagonist in a completely different direction. Removing a scene or chapter that I’ve loved creating takes emotional strength and fortitude; however, the end result makes the decision worthwhile.
What’s the best part of your author’s life? Why?
The best part of my author’s life is getting to know other authors, editors, agents, and publishers. I enjoy talking with them, listening to their ideas, gaining knowledge and expertise, and finding new revelations that help me and those that I teach how to be better word-wranglers or creative geniuses. I get stimulated by the energy pouring out of a newly published author and someone who finally puts their thoughts on paper for the first time. I enjoy watching others grow!
What’s one unusual fact about you?
An unusual fact about me is that I love to play guitar and sing, especially if I’m leading a congregation in praise and worship. I’ve played for and led churches/chapel services as a Praise and Worship leader for over twenty years while I was serving as an officer in the military.
What is your favorite pastime?
Something I love to do in addition to spending time with my wonderful wife, is playing golf. I’ve recently moved to a home located in a golf community and enjoy learning how to play the game well in addition to meeting and making great friends and neighbors who love the outdoor enjoyment. I try to get in two games a week, but this is often not possible due to book sales, signings, and other activities with family or church. I love the great outdoors, well-kept courses, and the sunny weather.
Do you have other books? We’d love to know.
The first four books of the Thunder and Lightning Series are currently available. These books chronicle the adventures and mystery escapades of Gabe and Alex Zanadu as they grow up from twelve and fourteen-years-of-age by six months in each book. Each self-contained mystery provides another link in the lives of the boys as they mature into Godly men.
I’ve also published a non-fiction book called Our Dad, the Hero, which he authored as a ghost-writer for Robert (Bob) Gosney. The book is a biography of Bob’s life in the Army, his time as a helicopter pilot and commander in Vietnam, and his time as Chief of the Military Mission in Liberia. The book is titled by his daughters who look up to him whole-heartedly.
What are you working on now?
The Crashin’ Coaster Mystery is my newest book and is currently at the publisher for final launch preparation, tentatively scheduled for Fall 2019. The heroes of the story, Gabe and Alex Zanadu, plus their dogs, Thunder and Lightning, and friends literally plunge into a deep mystery about roller coasters crashing, first in Texas, then in other states. The terror of being hung upside down for hours begins an adventure catapulting the two boys into the hot seat as the felon tries to incriminate them in the crashes. The tension ramps up when the FBI gets involved and injuries mount. Can the boys stop the perpetrators? Will the FBI capture the villains? The reader will hang in suspense until the end of the book, wondering the outcome.
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