Who are your influences?
My biggest influences are John Grisham, Michael Connelly, and James Patterson. Each one for different reasons. With Grisham, I enjoy the variety of stories he weaves into his books. With Connelly, it’s the way he develops his characters in such a way that they can grow throughout a series of novels. And Patterson, for his style of writing each chapter as if it were a scene in a move. With my background as an Executive Producer and Director, I find that my writing style is a mix of all three.

When did you begin writing?
I remember when I was eight years old picking up a copy of Treasure Island, and then spending the next two or three days lost in the story. I didn’t know then that my passion was writing, but I did know that story telling was in my veins. It wasn’t until about five years ago that I sat down and decided to write my first novel, The Disillusioned. I finished the manuscript without telling a soul what I had done. Then I shared it with a few friends to get their honest opinion, and went through the painstaking process of finding an agent and publisher. In fact, my wife didn’t read the book until I received my author copies from the publisher. After finishing a 15-city book signing tour with Barnes & Noble, I’ve been humbled by the response of the story. My hope is that Waking Lazarus will build on the characters and story while growing an audience who enjoys the series.

How do you come up with your stories, characters, character names, POV, etc.?
I’ve tried several different methods. Sitting down and outlining every chapter, character development, and a long list of story ideas. What I discovered about myself was that I could spend all of my time doing this and never write a single word. So my style is to begin with a main character, decide on the POV, and the beginning of a story. Then I write, and write, and write until the story begins to take shape. I push through a first draft, and then rewrite. During the rewrite I look for the characters that stand out, the story lines that are the most interesting, and then add another layer to the overall book that keeps readers guessing.

If you could actually meet one of your characters, who would it be?  Why?
I think the one character would be Stella Adams. In The Disillusioned, she was the mystery, and the payoff of finding her has fueled what I have planned in the rest of the Guardian novels. She’s someone who is willing to put it all on the line for justice. I only hope that I could be half as brave as she is in the story.

Can you tell us a little about your writing philosophy? 
My philosophy on writing is that I want my stories to make a difference, to cause readers to think about the world around them in a different way. While some authors write for pure entertainment, I believe there is an underlying message in my books that goes deeper than an action adventure or suspense novel. At least that’s my hope. I figure if I’m going to spend 6-8 months writing then I want there to be purpose behind it. In The Disillusioned, it was to raise awareness about human trafficking. And now in Waking Lazarus, it is a deeper look into good versus evil, and how those lines are often times hard to define in the world we live in.

Have you ever tried writing in any other genres?
Honestly, I don’t think about what genre I’m writing. I think more about the characters and how the story unfolds. In the future, I’m sure I’ll write stories that are outside of the mystery/action adventure genre, but for now that’s what keeps me writing. I’ve got big plans for the Guardian novels that will keep me busy for the next few years.

Do you listen to music as you write?
Yes. I always write with a soundtrack blasting in my ears. It helps me to focus, to grab the emotion in a scene, and the imagine what it is I’m trying to reveal. In fact, with Waking Lazarus we’re taking it a step further. We’ve actually recorded a soundtrack that will accompany the book. I haven’t seen this done before and am so excited for readers to have this as an enhancement to their reading experience.

writersjourney2I sat across from Michael Connelly’s agent and wondered how I ended up there. To say that Connelly was an influence in my pursuit to be a storyteller would be an understatement. Along with Grisham and Patterson, he is in the top three of my favorite authors. Connelly’s agent had read my first novel, The Disillusioned, or at least enough of it to request a meeting. I listened as he shared how they had built Connelly’s career culminating with finalizing the Amazon deal for Bosch. I shared with him a story idea that had been resonating for a few years and knew from his response that I had something unique.

When I left his office I knew that The Disillusioned was only the first novel in the Guardian series. But what was next? As I thought about my story idea and my conversation with Connelly’s agent, I had a moment of inspiration. To move the series ahead, a story from the 1920’s would become an underlying mystery revealed throughout the series. It wasn’t enough on it’s own. The challenge was to bridge the gap between these two eras. Eight months later I had a first draft of Waking Lazarus, an epic global adventure filled with riveting characters and page turning twists and turns. While I had written a first draft of Waking Lazarus in less than a year, it took months of rewriting and editing to cross the finish line.
I write in this genre because I love mysteries filled with suspense. I love the rush of diving into a scene and seeing what happens next. And I love writing stories that go beyond entertainment. As you’ll find in the first two novels of the Guardian series there are key themes of light versus darkness, religion versus faith, and power versus innocence that drives the characters forward. You’ll also find that there are strong female characters and colorful settings throughout to keep readers on edge.
One month ago, Waking Lazarus was released worldwide. Once again I’ve been humbled to capture the attention of industry veterans including Peter Anderson, Oscar Winner/Cinematographer, who has endorsed this latest adventure, “Waking Lazarus is a captivating visual story with a colorful narrative. Once I started reading, it was hard to put down.”
I will always remember those few hours being taught a master class in how to build a series that could potentially go the distance. Thank you Michael Connelly’s agent for imparting your words of wisdom!

Go behind the scenes as we share about the journey to bring the next novel in the Guardian series to life both on the page and beyond. In this clip, Jené Nicole Johnson talks about the challenges of creating the soundtrack.

After the June 3rd release, I’ll share more about writing the story, and what’s next in the Guardian series. For now, I’m trying hard to keep quiet and not give away any spoilers!

Pre-Order Book and Soundtrack

Note: If you’re going to the release event, no need to pre-order your copy. You’ll be the first to get the book in your hands that night.


I am so excited to introduce you to composer, Jené Nicole Johnson, who will be scoring a soundtrack to go with my new novel, Waking Lazarus. Many of you will recognize her for her parody arrangement of a song from Disney’s Frozen titled, “Do You Wanna Go to Starbucks?” which went viral with over 4.8 million hits on YouTube. She’s been reviewed in Huffington Post, Broadway World, People Magazine, and The Today Show.


As part of my writing process, music has always been instrumental in helping to capture those moments that bring the story to life. So, I dreamed of doing something that I haven’t seen done before with a novel. I wanted to enhance your reading experience by taking you deeper into the story through a soundtrack that captures the essence of Waking Lazarus. And after meeting with Jené, I knew she was the perfect person to make that dream a reality. What she has planned is going to blow you away!

“When D.J. came to me with this idea, I couldn’t have been more thrilled. I think the wheels in my head started turning right away. One of the most exciting things about this project is it’s not only a new and different concept for me as a composer, but it’s a new and different concept in the realms of both music and books. We’re breaking ground on creative territory, and to be a part of a challenge like this is truly remarkable. Music has the power to transform the world around you, and this soundtrack will allow you to be submersed deeper into the captivating world D.J. has created in ‘Waking Lazarus’ as the words seem to jump off the page, lifted by the emotive music that matches what you are reading. It’s going to be an incredible experience getting to partner with D.J. to create this soundtrack to accompany ‘Waking Lazarus.’ Trust me… this book is one you won’t be able to set down!”

We’re also working on a few other surprises that we’ll share with you over the next few months, including details for the release night in Los Angeles. I’ve also started writing the next novel in the series!

As a TV producer/director and writer, most of my days are spent working against the clock with production schedules, story lines, and constant deadlines. While some might believe creativity strikes like a flash of lightening, the truth is that creativity is a learned discipline especially when you’re up against the clock.

Creativity is a learned discipline.

When I’m in the editing room cutting a TV episode, on location filming, or alone writing in my office, this remains true. If I waited for creativity to strike, then I’d spend most of my time standing around, or staring at a blank screen. The key is learning the discipline of being prepared, so that your creativity can be unlocked. Do the work ahead of time to know the story you are telling. Know the shots that need to be filmed before you’re on location. Spend the time developing characters that resonate before you write the next chapter.

Being prepared is key to creativity.

There are steps you can take to fuel your creativity before you write a single word. Spend time researching the areas of your story that you need to understand better. Whether it is a location, elements of a certain story line, or the unique characteristics of your characters, or the key pieces of your plot. Now, that doesn’t mean you get so bogged down in research that you never find the time to write. Just enough research to get you started, to fill in the holes, and allow you to keep the tension alive in your story.

Creativity forces you to ask yourself, “What is at stake?”

Asking yourself this question is a good way to keep your creative juices flowing. And it will help keep your ideas fresh. Writing. Producing. Directing. All of these avenues require you to keep the tension, to get to the core of the story, and to capture what you want others to see.

If you wait for inspiration, you’ll never write a word.

One way to be inspired is to find a place to write that allows you to be creative. Sometimes that location will change depending on where you are in your story. When I wrote The Disillusioned, most of it was written late at night on an iPad and in coffee shops around L.A. As I started to write my latest novel, Waking Lazarus, I switched it up and wrote most of it on my laptop in my office. About ten chapters from the end, I found myself in a rut. So I spent a few days at a friends home near the beach and wrote the final chapters in a notebook. I learned that the discipline of writing didn’t mean I had to do it the same way every time. What I needed to do was find the right place so that the time I blocked out to write could be creative and productive.

Creativity is fueled by productivity.

The more productive you are, the more the creative process flows. You get into a rhythm. You find the right angle. You see your characters jump off the page and you’re inspired to keep going. The more productive you are during your writing sessions, the more creative you’ll become in the days, months, and years ahead. Creativity fuels inspiration. Inspiration fuels productivity. And the result is more creativity.

How can you be more prepared? What do you need to know before you start? What is at stake? What inspires your creativity? What place allows you to be creative and productive?

Everyone has their own creative process, and the key is to find the one that works for you.