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The Big Thrill Discusses THE DAO with J.W. Bell

Stan, an intelligence officer in the US Army, and Doc, his psychiatrist wife, help make up a Taskforce commanded by a woman named Carbonella, Homeland Security. All three are capable of the dark world of intrigue. Kim Jong-un is determined to fire his secret missile, but his number one scientist changed something, and in the effort to find out what he switched, the scientist died. Now, only his missing child knows. General Mac’s orders to The Task-force—get the child and stop the missile from flying. But Stan has this bothersome problem—several of his past-life personalities live inside of him, and they are more than fleeting glimpses. They talk to him and argue amongst themselves. No one knows about it except Doc and him. Although those inner beings get him out of scrapes, they also make terrific trouble.

J.W. Bell recently spent time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest military thriller, THE DAO.

J.W. Bell

When you first created your protagonist for this book, did you see an empty space in crime lit that you wanted to fill? What can you share about the inspiration for that character?

My protagonist, Stan, was not created for this book. I originally developed him for my book Recall, the first book in the Sigma Chronicles. I envisioned him as a new wrinkle in the traditional hero during his creation. He is not particularly handsome and rather unremarkable, except that he has a host of personalities inside of him. These are not multi-personalities, as in dissociative identity disorder. They are memories from his past lives that found their way inside of him and are not protection against trauma; instead, they create internal problems and bring him stress. However, they each have some special skill that they bring to the table. These skills flesh him out into a well-suited soldier and spy.

In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?

First of all, entertainment, but there is a close second that the readers should realize how dangerous world leaders can be.

A novel is such a major undertaking; there’s the writing of it, of course, then you’re spending months and months revising, polishing, and then promoting it. How did you know this was the book you wanted to spend the next couple of years on?

I first knew this book was worth spending time on when I kept reading about the world’s difficulty trusting the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)—the negotiations about weaponizing their missile program. The Army sent me to Korea for a year, and I gained firsthand knowledge of their culture and how different it is from what we in the U.S. consider ordinary. Korea is a wonderful place with an intriguing culture. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to write about Korea. The plot unfolding in my mind was solid, and the characters became real. It just blossomed.

Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?

Upon taking up my position as a soldier in Korea, I watched The Sand Pebbles. The similarities of the Boxer Rebellion and the still unresolved Korean War presented honest fear in me, almost terror. I knew it was unreasonable, but the fear was real because I was amid it. As I wrote, I wanted to instill the kind of concern and trepidation within my readers that I felt during and after I watched that movie.

What can you share about what you’re working on next?

My next project, The Mission, is the third in the Sigma Chronicles. It is the continuation of the story about Stan and the task force. That book has the task force working in the Caribbean. What they uncover is a sick conspiracy directed by a mysterious Frenchman. That conspiracy demands corrective action. Stan and the task force women are determined to deliver that action. The Mission is nearly complete and ready to send to my editor for polishing.


J.W. Bell’s life reads like an adventure story. He was a Field Artillery Officer in the Army for ten years, is well-versed in long-range and large-caliber weapons, and is an expert with small arms—handguns, rifles, machine guns, and, oh yes, he trained in explosives and is excellent with hand grenades. His military thrillers use actual terminology, weapons, and military courtesy. He traveled extensively throughout Europe, Asia, and the U.S., living in Hawaii for several years. He coached gymnastics for a time and worked for years as a roughneck in the oilfields of Oklahoma. He became a teacher and holds a lifetime teaching license to teach music and drama. He composed his first symphony and now has a good start on his second. Currently, he lives in Arkansas by himself in a house on a small acreage where his estranged wife and eight of their children live nearby: three boys ages seven to fourteen and five girls ages seven years to seventeen. Two boys nineteen live in town on their own and two older daughters who live in Little Rock with their own families. There are also four dogs and cats, one pony, and two pet pigs on the acreage along with two goats.

To learn more about the author and his work, please visit his website.


THE DAO with J.W. Bell