This month, I'm very happy to present J. Alden Hall, a debut author who has an amazing story you won't want to miss!
This is your debut book. Tell us about it?
Connected: From Godfather to God-the-Father begins with Jim “Bobo” Hall facing a federal judge. It ends with his salvation and the miracles he experienced while in prison. I am this Bobo, and the book is my memoir.
My book never would have been interesting, or my life so strange, if it had continued down the ordinary path of the first six years of my childhood–but it didn’t. At the age of seven, the FBI’s search for an escaped convict, and former member of John Dillinger’s gang, brings them to my house looking for my father. When my dad eludes capture, my family and I join him in a lifestyle some describe as outlaw.
From the Italian gangs of Chicago, to my boarding school experiences at a Catholic Seminary, my pre-adult life is marked by so many unusual adventures that it might have been a remarkable read if I had ended it before I started my adult journey. However, as some say, “That’s just the beginning of my story.”
After college I found I had a knack for business, especially dirty business. My chronical follows my days as a wealthy businessman, and how I became involved with the Mafia leadership in Chicago. My story tries to highlight the drama, adventure, and sadness of my life. I include vignettes about various mafia chiefs, Frank Sinatra, skimming Las Vegas casinos, murder, the mob’s possible role in John F. Kennedy’s death, and my time in Federal Prison.
Ultimately, what’s most important, it’s a remarkable story of how only God can bring peace to a life of chaos.
What would you do differently if you were starting your publishing career today?
First, I would have started sooner. Once started, I would have been more disciplined in setting time aside to write.
Share a bit of your journey to publication.
In 1993 I left the business world to join Walk Thru the Bible Ministries. I had shared my testimony many times before then, but this opened up an entirely new set of audiences. Most everywhere I shared my story someone would say, “You’ve got to write a book.” I’d smile and shrug it off. It was many years before I seriously took on the project. Two events set my writing into motion.
First, as many others experienced during the recent great recession, I found myself without a job. With plenty of time available, I began writing. Once started, memories returned and words flowed. As the page numbers grew, the excitement intensified.
The second important moment came when I joined up with a group of writers that gave me the guidance needed to move from being a speaker to being a writer. The group called themselves the Seedwriters because they believed they were formed to “write seeds of God's word into their books,” and to support each other. Maybe they just felt sorry for the lone male in their consortium, but soon they enveloped me with their collective wings. They prodded and encouraged me when I needed it most.
Most importantly, they lovingly explained the difference in being a public speaker with a story, and a writer hoping to bring the tale to life. Without their mentoring, I’m not sure I’d ever be published.
Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy nook?
None of the above.
I have a home office that’s sufficient, but far from nook-like (let alone all that cozy). I’ve had thoughts of aping the authors featured in many movies that go to some mountain cabin in a search for seclusion. However, I’d probably be outhiking and enjoying the surroundings too much. If money allowed, I’d like a month away with my wife in Rome or Florence, Italy. She’d be able to go wandering around during the day, while I wrote. We’d have the nights together. It’s probably more a dream than a possibility. But, nothing wrong with dreaming.
What would you do if you didn't write?
When I began my second book, a suspense story titled Belladonna, I felt a strong calling to write it. My wife, and toughest critic, loved the early writings. I really want to get on with it, but there’s much to be done with the release of my memoir.
The work on a book is far from over when the writing stops. There’s promotional and social marketing, speaking engagements, various articles (promotional) to be written, and so on. Add a full time job to all that, and I find it difficult to continue on my new book.
So, the answer to the question is that I would have more free time, but less purpose in my life.
What issue makes you struggle as an author? How do you handle it?
Get the pattern? It takes time to be a writer. I’m hoping once the current book becomes established, I will be able to set a writing schedule I can manage and obey. For me, I write best when I have dedicated time and no interference.
What are your top 3 recommendations for a new writer?
1. Join a writer’s group. If one isn’t locally available, find one through the internet.
2. Search for honest reviewers for your first three chapters. The emphasis is on honest. You only get one chance at a first impression.
3. Treat the story like it’s alive. Let it grow organically. You might have an outline and a mental picture of your projected story, but don’t be afraid to let the action in it move in an unforeseen direction.
Then what 3 things would recommend not doing?
1. Don’t write too much before you’ve obeyed the first two suggestions above.
2. Don’t decide to become a writer without your family’s support. Time committed to writing will equal time away from those you love.
3. Don’t flash your “I’m an author” badge everywhere you go.
Some say a writer is born and others say anyone can learn. What do you think?
I believe you can be a born storyteller, but being a writer takes more than a good tale. I think anyone can learn to be proficient as a writer. In all art, masterpieces are born from those with great instincts combined with an amazing knowledge of their craft.
What's the strangest or funniest experience you've had in writing?
The strangest experience may have been my mentor’s first book being published the same timeframe as mine. In second place (maybe the funniest), was an agent (unnamed) who aggressively reached out to publishers with my book. The problem was, I had repeatedly told him I wasn’t signing with him.
Do you prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing? How do you feel about research?
The book I am writing now forces me to do much research. I enjoy the process, and have been surprised how much it has helped expand the story. Creativity is the heart of a good story. Smart editing is the brain. You might call me brain dead–I hate editing.
Do you consider yourself a visual writer? If so, what visuals do you use?
If that’s defined as giving a language to the written words, it’s a solid yes. If it means using pictures of how I visualize the characters looked, not so much.
What are your writing rituals?
The closest I get to a ritual is to not read what I’ve written on the day I wrote it. It hurts to see how bad it is after so much work. I save that agony for my next writing session.
Do you work best under pressure or do you write at a leisurely pace?
Pressure. Procrastination and I are soul mates. I think the most intense pressure I get is a deadline, and the second, my wife’s urging to get back writing.
What are your thoughts on critique partners?
From what I’ve already shared, it’s clear I think they’re vital. I know they are for me.
Any final thoughts?
If you want to write, do it. Don’t get discouraged by the lack of an agent or publisher. If it’s good, it’ll find an audience.
Connected: From Godfather to God-the-Father
All rise!” the bailiff commanded.
All rise!” the bailiff commanded.
Frank A. Kaufman, the federal district chief judge, entered the courtroom.
I placed my hands on the desk and forced my quaking legs to stand. Sweat, like a block of ice in a sauna, rained down my pants. Could that grandfatherly man in the flowing black robe really be the man the Chicago mafia and I had plotted mur- dering? Did he know how close we came to being successful?
The FBI’s search for an escaped convict, a former member of John Dil- linger’s gang, brought them to little Bobo’s house as they attempted to unearth his father. Bobo’s dad eluded capture, and the seven-year old joined his father, embarking on life as a fugitive. Searching for happiness through his Catholic boarding school years and success as a businessman, Jim Hall became entrenched in the mafia. With riveting tales of Frank Sinatra, Las Vegas casinos, and a possible connection to JFK’s death, this is the miraculous true story of a boy connected to the godfather who finds his way to peace with God the Father.
J. Alden (Jim) Hall was a successful businessman for many years before committing to full-time Christian Ministry in 1992. Jim’s businesses were diverse and included the popular Carlos McGee’s restaurant chain. His involvement and close connections with members of the Chicago Mafia brought his name and businesses up before a special “Organized Crime Task Force” (OCTF). He became a target of the OCTF, and in 1982 was sentenced to 3 1⁄2 years in federal prison. It was there that his life changed.
After his release, Jim owned a marketing and sales consulting business when Bruce Wilkinson, the founder of Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, persuaded him to work with his organization. For fifteen years Jim served in their Seminar Division and when he left was Vice President of Seminars and Training, as well as Interim Vice President of Publishing. He currently is a marketing and business consultant and a popular speaker in both Christian and non-Christian settings. Jim is active with his church and leads two large monthly Bible studies in Atlanta. He lives in the Atlanta suburbs with his wife Judy and is within driving distance of their three daughters and eight grandchildren.
A native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, author Pamela S. Meyers lives with her two rescue cats in suburban Chicago, an hour's drive away from her Wisconsin hometown where she visits often to dig into its historical legacy. Her novels include Thyme for Love, and Love Will Find a Way, contemporary romantic mysteries and her 1933 historical romance, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. She can often be found nosing around Wisconsin and other Midwestern spots for new story ideas. She's currently working on a contemporary romance that involves rodeo, bulls, and cowboys.