FAQ’S

How can I find out if you’re going to be doing any book signings or appearances?
Keep checking this site!

What is your email address?
John@JohnFenzel.com

How does a Green Beret end up working in the White House?
I’ve been very fortunate.  Looking back over the past three decades, I was able to serve our nation around the world during extraordinary times of peace and war.  With every deployment I made abroad, I realized that I was missing something important. Acquiring an intimate understanding of our government, I realized, can only be gained through active service at all levels, and it led me to the White House Fellowship program. It’s a remarkable program available to Americans of all professions, and I found it interesting that as a young Army Lieutenant Colonel, Colin Powell had been a White House Fellow!  I was selected as a White House Fellow in the 2000-2001 Class.  I served in the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and then in the Vice President’s Office. When the Fellowship year concluded, I stayed on as Governor Ridge’s Staff Director in the Office of Homeland Security.

What did serving in the White House teach you?
That one person can make a difference in our government!

How can I get you to speak at my convention/event? Who do I contact?
Send a query through this website (Contact), with the title “Appearance” or “Event” in the subject line. Mention that you want me to appear at your event.

Where do you get your ideas?
I often get my ideas from my own experiences, past and present—from working in the White House, in the Pentagon, in international crises spots, and then connecting the dots through the characters who make the story come alive. Asking the question “What if?” is always a key consideration for any novelist, and I am no exception. What if the Vatican had its own elite commando force to protect itself, like other governments have? What if one of the great Western Christian religions was able to be hijacked by extremists? How could that happen?

The genesis of The Sterling Forest, came to me on a walk when I saw an elderly man walking his two dogs. I found myself wondering about his life—his challenges, failures and triumphs.

Why did you become a writer?
I started writing nonfiction articles early on in my career in the Army. They were mostly professional articles that dealt with military strategy and international strategy. Writing novels isn’t that much of a leap, when you consider that if it’s done properly, it can reenact the same dynamics and facts and make them more easily understood, albeit in a fictional venue. I have always been an avid reader of authors like Alan Furst, Brian Moore and Graham Greene. You just don’t get any better when it comes to international suspense than these great novelists!  My belief is that the best fiction instructs as well as entertains.

Can you describe your writing day?
I wake up by 5:00 in the morning (sometimes earlier), work my way downstairs to brew a cup of coffee, climb back upstairs and write for a few hours until it’s time to go to work. I try to get a few hours of exercise in during the day to clear my mind.  Normally, I’ll start writing again by 8 or 9 PM when I get back home.

How much research do you do?
The majority of the time I spend on a novel is spent on research. I believe research is crucial to establishing realism and plausibility in a novel.  Interviews, visiting the setting locations, and identifying the best methods to weave story, plot, theme and characters are all part of that process. I’ve found, though, the best “research” is my own life experience: having gone to war, working in the White House, jumping out of airplanes with a full battle gear onto a darkened drop zone, pulling bodies out of mass graves, hammering out national policy, seeing the terrible aftermath of war, firing foreign weapons, traveling around the world, testifying at The Hague…all of it provides a foundation for what I write and for the raw human emotions found in my writing. To the extent I can, my goal is to put you “there” with me. For what I haven’t been exposed to, and for those issues I’m not an expert in, I talk exhaustively to friends (or strangers!) who are doctors, veterinarians, pilots, naval officers, policemen so that I can get it right. Plausibility and realism are critical to good suspense and drama. I enjoy learning about many topics, so I’ll often pick a subject that I find intriguing but never have been exposed to. It all adds authenticity, and from my own experience as a frustrated reader of novels, I know my readers want to know the inside story…what you won’t read in the papers or see on television. My pledge is to offer you precisely that insider’s view!