Interview with author Bill Powers
Today our guest is Bill Powers, a Suspense/Thriller author. He lives in New Jersey and has two novels out - "The Pharm House" and "The Torch is Passed". We have conducted an interview with him about his upcoming third novel "The Lost Codicil"
When did you debut your first suspense-thriller novel?
My first novel, The Pharm House: A Harding Family Story debuted in 2013. My background is in pharmaceutical research and development, about as non-fiction as you can get. I have a Ph.D. in Toxicology. (In fact a lot of my R&D friends still tell me they don’t get what I do now, but that’s okay.) I have always had a love of books, words and stories. I grew up in a small town in North Carolina with not much to do during my free time. My dad was a school principal and gave me free run of his school library. I read everything I could get my hands on, fiction and non-fiction. When I was in grad school, I started thinking, “I can do this” – write a fictional novel. I had gotten hooked on thrillers with Robert Ludlum. My first try was pretty horrible, but the idea wouldn’t go away.
Several years later, I tried again and the outcome was my first novel, “The Pharm House”, which was a medical suspense/thriller set in a fictional international pharmaceutical company. But the story was really about family and I decided to make a trilogy of thrillers about the Harding Family.
The Pharm House is a foreboding and darkly suspenseful medical thriller set in the hidden underworld of the global pharmaceutical business. Even though The Pharm House is set in a pharmaceutical company, it is really a story about family. Nicholas is a regular guy—a single dad trying to raise a precocious 11-year-old daughter while clawing his way up that ever so slippery middle-management ladder. But unknown to Nicholas, there are dark forces inside Marshall Pharmaceutical; he is about to be drawn into their plans, finding himself fighting for his career, his family and perhaps even his life.
Do you ever wonder how drugs get in those little brown bottles? Read The Pharm House and you may give it a second thought.
What is the story about and who inspires you to write it?
Story: What if a young scientist working in a pharmaceutical company is just trying to take care of his family but gets caught up in an international plot?
This is the basis for my story – a thriller set in a NJ pharmaceutical company.
The Pharm House, is a suspense/thriller from debut novelist Bill Powers; an awe-inspiring cover advents this title in the newest print edition. As a debut author, Bill Powers introduces a foreboding and darkly suspenseful story in The Pharm House.
Even though The Pharm House is set in a pharmaceutical company, it is really a story about family. It’s about Nicholas Harding, a young scientist/executive at Marshall Pharmaceutical. Nicholas is a regular guy – a single Dad trying to raise a precocious 11-year-old daughter while clawing his way up that ever so slippery middle management ladder. But unknown to Nicholas, there are dark forces inside Marshall Pharmaceutical and he is about to be drawn into their plans and finds himself fighting for his career, his family and perhaps even his life. The Pharm House was originally released the Fall of 2013 and a re-edited version was released through Bookbaby.
It’s been a little over six months since Paula, Dr. Nicholas Harding’s wife, was killed in a car accident. He’s starting to get a rhythm of normalcy back. Nicholas is a mid-level executive in Research & Development at Marshall Pharmaceutical Company in Morristown, New Jersey. Nicholas lives with his daughter Andrea, her Maine Coon tabby cat named Rasputin who she claims can respond to her commands in Klingon and his mother Dorothy. When Paula died, Dorothy, a retired teacher who writes children’s books, came from her home in Carrington, a small farm town in N.C., to help Nicholas with Andrea.
Andrea is an 11-year old, only child, 5th grader at Charring Cross School, far more mature than her age suggest. She and Nicholas are very close. Andrea is adjusting to her mother’s death, probably better than Nicholas. But Nicholas and Andrea were getting back to a normal routine. Nicholas was putting more of his attention back into his work. He was eyeing and in line for a vice-presidency in the near future.
Nicholas had recently been assigned as team leader for a high profile new developmental drug, MR-548, a potent anti-viral compound. Marshall Pharmaceutical has licensed MR-548 from Tanaka Pharmaceutical, a Japanese company.
Then, Nicholas receives a visit from a deputy U.S. Marshall and a Food and Drug Administration Field Investigator who imply that Marshall Pharmaceutical and Tanaka are under investigation and that perhaps some of the evidence suggests wrongdoing by several high-level executives, including Nicholas himself.
The Pharm House is set in the present with the main portion of the story taking place in western New Jersey, the Morristown area. A lot of folks who have never visited New Jersey may have a rather jaded view based on what they see on television (think The Sopranos) or in movies (think Wise Guys). When they think of NJ, they may think of Newark or the Turnpike, but there’s a reason that Jersey is called “The Garden State”.
New Jersey is rich in history; in the winter of 1779/1780, George Washington encamped the Continental Army at Jockey Hollow, near Morristown. As an amateur history buff, Bill has sprinkled several Civil War references throughout The Pharm House.
Western New Jersey is known for its rolling hills of farmland and horse country; a well-hidden secret. After the Civil War, the US industrial boom created a new class of wealthy industrialist working out of New York. Many of these industrialists and financiers amassed great fortunes and looked to build large estates mimicking European aristocracy. The open spaces of western New Jersey were a perfect locale.
Railroad lines took these captains of industry into New York, while their families remained on their estates in the small towns of western New Jersey, e.g., Morristown, Bernardsville, Peapack, Mendham, Florham Park, etc. Many of the manor houses of these estates, which ranged in size from 50 to 500 acres, have been lost to time and development, however several remain even today.
In The Pharm House, Marshall Pharmaceutical is located in the middle of Marshall Farms, now a sprawling private industrial park, but once the home of a manor house and estate at the end of the 19th century.
Parts of The Pharm House also take place in Manhattan, Washington, D.C. (with a few more historical tidbits), London and Tokyo.
How important is writing 'what you know'?
‘Write what you know’ is critically important for my genre – suspense/thrillers. Yes, it’s fiction, but you’re asking the reader to invest their time in reading a story that they know is not true. Therefore you have to make the story credible and believable. It’s what we refer to as ‘the willing suspension of disbelief’. As a reader, you are well aware that the story and the people in the story are not real, but it’s believable enough for them to spend their valuable time inside the story.
As a writer, if I don’t ‘know it’, enough to make the story believable, that means I have to ‘learn it’, i.e., do the research.
This is the primary reason that I set my first novel, The Pharm House inside a fictional international pharmaceutical company. I spent 26 years working inside a real international pharmaceutical company.
When I first decided to write a novel, I knew I wanted to write a suspense/thriller novel. However, I did not have the time to go out and do research for a novel concept. So I decided to set my story inside the world of the pharmaceutical business, which I already knew. I’m also an amateur history buff and sprinkle real historical tidbits in my stories.
I have had readers go into great detail asking me what aspects of my story are real vs made up, which I consider a compliment because they often cannot tell. I had a reader tell me that she read my books with her cell phone in hand so she can fact-check my information.
So, even for a suspense/thriller genre author, ‘write what you know’ is important and if you don’t know it – go out and do the research to learn it. Which for me is not an issue, because I love research – but that’s another story.
Do you always write based on your background as a toxicologist?
No, I do not. As I mentioned above, I used a pharmaceutical company setting and my background as a toxicologist in my first novel, The Pharm House, to give it a realistic setting.
“The Torch is Passed” is the second thriller in the Harding Family trilogy. I think for my first and second thrillers, they came out pretty good (based on the reviews), but I still have a lot to learn and plan to write at least one more in the Harding Family stories and to spinoff one of the characters in the Torch into her own set of stories.
The basic theme of the Harding Family stories is family; Nicholas Harding and his daughter Andrea and their assorted family and friends. “The Torch is Passed” opens with young Andrea Harding having just graduated college and her world being turned upside down when her father, Nicholas, and her uncle, Michael, are shot in a surprising and puzzling attack. As the only family other than her paternal grandmother, it falls to Andrea to not only investigate who would want to kill her father and uncle, but also to oversee Harding Industries, the family company - and navigate an often dangerous fast-track to adulthood.
The youngest Harding soon finds herself surrounded by a bevy of intriguing new friends and helpers after she is also violently attacked, forcing her to kill both would-be assassins. Suspicion is cast on a short list of family friends and colleagues, and longstanding relationships are put to the test. Along with her new allies, Andrea urgently seeks answers to why anyone would want to kill her entire family – growing up along the way – and seeking her revenge.
Brimming with plot twists, unexpected decisions, and recurring threats to relationships, The Torch is Passed is a tantalizing read with historical references including a subplot involving an old land deal setup by John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company over one hundred years ago that involves the Harding family. “The Torch is Passed” and other books in The Harding Family series carry the basic theme of “family” and what people may be driven to do to protect their family,”
In The Pharm House, Nicholas Harding’s career, life and family were threatened and the question was what was he willing to do to protect them. In The Torch is Passed, a young, now adult Andrea Harding’s life and family are threatened and she is now the protector.
What is the link in "The Torch is Passed" that makes readers want more?
In emerging American author Bill Powers’ debut medical thriller, The Pharm House – which was the Finalist in the Medical Thriller category of the 2014 National Indie Excellence Awards – readers were introduced to Nicholas Harding and his daughter, Andrea.
The Torch is Passed picks up ten years after the ending of The Pharm House, with young new college graduate Andrea Harding preparing to go off to law school.
Now comes the second Harding family story, The Torch is Passed, winner of the 2016 Pinnacle Book Achievement Award and Finalist in the 2016 Beverly Hills International Book Awards. A suspenseful and plot-twisting story, The Torch is Passed finds Andrea’s world turned upside down when her father, Nicholas, and her uncle, Michael, are shot in a shocking and puzzling attack. With only her paternal grandmother left, it falls to Andrea – a recent college graduate – to not only investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding the murder attempt on her father and uncle, but also to oversee Harding Industries – and navigate an often dangerous fast-track to adulthood.
The youngest Harding soon finds herself surrounded by a bevy of intriguing new friends and helpers after she is also violently attacked, forcing her to take drastic actions. Suspicion is cast on a short list of family friends and colleagues, and longstanding relationships are put to the test. Along with her new allies, Andrea urgently seeks answers to why anyone would want to kill her entire family – growing up along the way – and seeking her revenge.
Brimming with plot twists, unexpected decisions, and recurring threats to relationships, The Torch is Passed is a tantalizing read with historical references including a subplot involving an old land deal setup by John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company over one hundred years ago that involves the Harding family.
When will the third novel, "The Lost Codicil" be released?
I’m currently busy writing The Lost Codicil, which will be the third installment of the Harding Family Stories. It will be released in mid-late 2017.
In the Lost Codicil, Nicholas and his friend Don Marshall get entangled in an international plot dating from the 1940’s while Andrea is fighting to save Harding Industries.
About Bill and where can we find his books?
Bill Powers is an emerging American fiction writer who worked in pharmaceutical Research & Development (Johnson & Johnson) for 26 years. Bill has a Ph.D. in Toxicology from the University of Cincinnati and is a Diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology. Bill’s love of words and books started in childhood, stimulated by parents who were both teachers. A voracious reader, he enjoys both fiction and biographies. Now that he has moved away from his industrial career, he plans to aggressively pursue his passion of being a fictional author. Bill’s first novel, The Pharm House: A Harding Family Story, was named a Finalist in the Medical Thriller category of the 2014 National Indie Excellence Awards. Bill’s second novel, The Torch is Passed: A Harding Family Story, was named Best Book in the Category of Thriller of the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award for Winter 2016 and Finalist in the 2016 Beverly Hills International Book Awards.
Connect with Bill Powers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads and at www.authorbillpowers.com
The Pharm House and The Torch is Passed are available in both paperback and e-book formats via Bookbaby, Amazon and Barnes and Noble
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