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Murder is no walk in the park...except for this Oak Harbor author

C.J. Booth holds his first novel, award-winning “Olive Park,” a mystery/thriller. Behind him, his bookcase is filled with authors who inspired him. - Rebecca Olson / Whidbey News-Times
C.J. Booth holds his first novel, award-winning “Olive Park,” a mystery/thriller. Behind him, his bookcase is filled with authors who inspired him.
— image credit: Rebecca Olson / Whidbey News-Times

IT STARTS WITH A BANG and from there, the action never stops: a 13-year-old boy and his sister’s parents are murdered. A cold case involving the brutal murders of three children is reopened. And the killer has chosen the next victim.

C.J. Booth’s first novel doesn’t just open with a bang, it hit shelves with a bang by earning two top honors: The Reader’s Favorite Awards ranked “Olive Park” as one of the Top Five Mysteries of 2012, and the thriller won Best Mystery for 2012 from the Global eBook Awards.

“Just to be in the top five is huge,” Booth said. The Oak Harbor resident traveled to Santa Barbara to accept the Global eBook Award and learned that the mystery/thriller category is the largest category.

“I never thought about anybody reading it or liking it. It was just the story I wanted to tell,” Booth said, adding that it was “gratifying” and “very motivational” to earn the awards.

“Olive Park” pulls readers into the story of detectives investigating a cold case, the Olive Park Murders, and never lets readers up for air.

“It starts out as a missing person case and ends in kind of a gruesome double murder,” Booth said.

Paralleling this mystery is the story of a 13-year-old boy and his sister struggling with the murder of their parents.

“I think they’ll (readers) be able to relate very closely to the protagonist. The protagonist is a 13-year-old boy and everyone has been 13 at some time,” Booth said, adding that writing from a child’s perspective has been successful for best-selling authors like Stephen King.

“These two kids in ‘Olive Park’ are put in a perilous situation right away and it gets worse,” Booth said.

To ramp up the thrill factor, Booth asks what would surprise the character and put them in the most peril.

“And then I try to make it even worse,” he laughed. “That’s fun.”


A new world in publishing

Following careers in broadcasting and film and video production, Booth wrote the ending to “Olive Park” five years ago. Then he wrote the rest of the story and self-published it through Amazon in July.

“I wish I would have started fiction many years ago,” Booth said. However, raising a family and working two or three jobs got in the way. After owning a video production company, getting stuck in the middle of the Sahara Desert with a film crew and recording sound for the World Monopoly Championships in Monte Carlo, Booth said he got tired of traveling and wanted to spend more time with his family. “But maybe I couldn’t have written ‘Olive Park’ many years ago.”

Now, he’s hard at work getting book two of the trilogy, “Crimson Park,” done for a Christmas release date, and he’s writing the screenplay for “Olive Park.”

During the writing process, Booth tries to write 1,000 words every morning then spends the afternoon rewriting and working on short stories, of which he has a number in print or scheduled to be published soon.

“It rarely works but it’s a great goal,” Booth laughed. It’s the rewriting that becomes distracting, he said, but it’s the part that makes the book whole.

“You get the basic story down, then you go back and enhance it,” he said.

Another important part of writing is reading, Booth said. When a reader picks a book from a genre, he or she expects the story to have basic elements. Writers need to understand what genre their story falls into and then read writers from that genre, Booth said. Studying under authors like Judith Guest and Gary Braver, as well as reading top mystery/thriller writers like Michael Connelly and Lee Child and attending writers conferences gave Booth the edge he needed to write “Olive Park.”

Part of the reason Booth chose to self-publish his book is to market his screenplay in the future. While digressing from the traditional road of publishing means a lot more marketing work on Booth’s part, it also means his book is available in every digital format, including Nook, Kindle and more, and as a printed book.

“That’s a great opportunity for writers and a tremendous opportunity for readers,” Booth said of the thriving digital world of literature. His ebook sales have soared to a ratio of eight to one against hardback books.

“It’s a testament to the tenacity of writers and readers finding their own market, thanks to Amazon,” Booth said. He’s even had published authors on Whidbey ask him how to get their books published electronically because their print publishers aren’t helping with marketing.


Page-turning suspense

After accepting his award in California, Booth enjoyed the opportunity to meet the head of the Cold Case Division at the Sacramento Police Department, where “Olive Park” is based.

“It was fun to see in reality what I’d fictionalized,” Booth said.

The entire world of “Olive Park” was exciting for Booth as he wrote the novel and as he re-reads it for the screenplay.

Booth has received a number of reviews saying “Olive Park” is a page-turner. As testament to the fast pace of the book, one of the best compliments Booth said he received was when a friend who had read the book marched up to him and shook a finger in Booth’s face.

“I really needed to sleep on that flight!” the friend told Booth.

Book two, “Crimson Park,” promises more action with a sordid celebrity murder and a quest for revenge and redemption. But the promise of more action than “Olive Park” is a sizable promise as time winds down for the detectives and children and the two stories merge in a suspenseful climax deep in the moonlit woods of Olive Park.

“Olive Park” is available in printed form from amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and www.oliveparkthebook.com. Or download the ebook for Kindle, Nook and Smashwords.

For more information, visit www.oliveparkthebook.com.

 

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