My guest today writes during my favorite time period, the American Revolution. Please help me welcome Jerry Aylward to the interview hot seat! A quick peek at his bio and then we’ll find out more about him and his writing process.
Jerry Aylward is a retired police detective with thirty-two years of service with the Nassau County NY Police Department. He served another ten years in federal law enforcement with the United States Department of Homeland Security as a criminal investigator with OCSO (Office of the Chief Security Officer) at a high-level government research facility. Jerry has a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science from NYIT and is a New York State–licensed private investigator.
Jerry authored: Francis “Two Gun” Crowley’s Killings in New York City & Long Island, and a pictorial history of the Nassau County Police Department. Jerry’s first novel The Scarlet Oak was released on July 4th, 2022. Jerry’s genre has been mainly local history and true crime. With his novel The Scarlet Oak, he throws a twist of murder, spies, and spirits into an American Revolution mystery that takes place in Oyster Bay, on the north shore of Nassau County.
Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?
Jerry: A mixture of forgotten American history and real-life events.
Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?
Jerry: I learned quite few as a matter of fact, though mostly, I think it would be developing a character’s voice as the story moved through the POV [point of view].
Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?
Jerry: I didn’t really struggle with any part of the story, as much as I needed to polish the storyline, which is always a bit of a struggle.
Betty: Which character(s) were the easiest to get to know? Why do you think?
Jerry: Finn was the easiest, we share a professional occupation.
Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?
Jerry: Reading a lot of local Long Island, New York American Revolution (Spy) history and visiting historical sites.
Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?
Jerry: I only made one draft…but tons of revisions.
Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?
Jerry: The idea for this story came from a series of real-life (suspicious) human events that occurred from the same household, expanding many years. I took those events and developed it into an historical storyline occurring at an historical 18th-century American Revolution home (museum) located on the north shore of Long Island in Oyster Bay. Overall, it took about three years, which is much longer than other projects I’ve published. Mainly because of the research, all but one or two of the characters in The Scarlet Oak are a fictional account based on real historical people.
Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?
Jerry: One of my required rituals besides lots of coffee, lol, is music. I have a constant thirst for (classical) music to stream my backdrop for all my writings.
Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?
Jerry: At times I must catch myself using words and phrases I find myself overusing, such as the word that, and, and phrases like he said, or she said in dialogue, rather than using an emotional or facial expression to accent a voice.
Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?
Jerry: I don’t have any one role model when it comes to writing if that’s what you’re asking. Though I do like the voices of a few mystery writers like William Kent Krueger, Robert Parker, Agatha Christie, and C.J. Box to name a few.
Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?
Jerry: I have a small, quiet office space tucked away in a corner of the basement of my house, it’s finished, carpeted, and surrounded by items that encourage my thoughts and ideas.
Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?
Jerry: I’m retired. Though I do have a couple of dogs that require a lot of attention.
Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?
Jerry: My greatest achievement in writing has been to be published and recognized with a couple small awards.
Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?
Jerry: I enjoy reading many different genres, mostly for a change of pace. Though my absolute favorite would have to be mysteries, and whodunits.
Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?
Jerry: I would define success in my writings by someone who truly enjoys one of my stories, a win-win for both of us.
In September of 2018 the bodies of two high school sweethearts are discovered beneath a venerable scarlet oak tree in a vacant horse pasture on the posh north shore estate of J. Barrington Cook, a wealthy, but secretive, Oyster Bay, Long Island landowner.
With no forensic evidence to support his suspicions of a double murder, other than a hardened cop’s intuition, Finn embarks on an unsanctioned homicide investigation that soon exposes a long but skeptic thread of unexplained deaths dating back two-hundred and thirty-eight years, mixing with an enigmatic and beguiling apparition of a young woman residing in the same Revolutionary home of all his victims.
Finn is mysteriously transported back to colonial Oyster Bay at the height of the American Revolution to the home of one of General George Washington’s covert Culper spies. It is here he must discover the motive for all the unexplained deaths along with the mystifying reason they have remained undetected.
Finn’s life takes an unexpected turn when he meets the beautiful but cryptic Sally Townsend, forcing him to abandon a self-imposed protective shell of indifference to solve the mystery emanating from her Revolutionary home, while at the same time saving the life of his alluring confidant, and stopping a killer.
Book buy link: Amazon
It seems very appropriate for a former police detective to write murder mysteries, either contemporary or historical. Thanks for sharing with us, Jerry!
Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories
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