Interview with John Covil

What do you read for pleasure?
I've been going back to some big whiffs on my part lately. I was really late to Harry Potter, ashamedly. When I finally read it, it became my favorite work of fiction of all time. I've been wrapping up the Chronicles of Narnia, and planning on getting to CS Lewis's Space Trilogy. Before that, I read Andrew Peterson's Wingfeather Saga and loved it. So obviously a lot of fantasy, which is very different from my story.

Besides fiction, I read a lot of news and opinion on current events, especially relating to technology, privacy, civil liberties, economics, etc. Writers I pay a lot of attention to are Radley Balko, Tim Carney, Gene Healy, Conor Friedersdorf, and others.

Most importantly, I spend time (though not as much as I probably should) studying the Bible, and I always love accessible theological writings, especially from CS Lewis, who I already mentioned. Getting to see his grave at Holy Trinity Church in Oxford last year, and the pub where he met with Tolkien and the other Inklings, was one of the geekiest, most special moments of my life, and a real blessing.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I read on the iPad a lot. I appreciate the concept of the earlier generation reflective Kindles, or the new Paperwhite Kindles, but I already have the iPad on me when I get home from work, so I'm always keeping it charged.
Describe your desk
If you threw a grenade in an office supply store (without anyone in it), it would look kinda like that, but with a Blue Ridge Parkway calendar hanging on the cube wall.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Shallotte, North Carolina. I often have to explain to people that it's between Wilmington and Myrtle Beach. If that doesn't help place it for you, just pick up a random Nicholas Sparks book, and you might get the idea.

It's a small town hub of a number of beach communities. It's country and southern, but with at least a small mix of people who have moved in from around the nation, and around the world.

It's hard to say how that's influenced my writing. My wife grew up in Wilmington, and is not nearly as laid back as I am. Given how annoying the traffic is there, I'm not surprised.

But as to the question, I'm really not sure I'm consciously aware of the answer.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The beginning of the idea came to me when a friend shared a link to a story about the federal government funding research on underwear that detected when you were smoking (seriously). I started thinking about that very controversial activity, and the way ubiquitous surveillance may start impacting our individual choices in ways that were previously unheard of.

Of course, conspiratorial underwear would only make for a satirical work, and I wanted to touch on much more important issues than smoking. So my book is not a pro-smoking manifesto. Instead, it's about our national security state, and how the incentives created by our drive for absolute security can lead to grievously unjust results. Originally, the DHS agent in the story was going to be an homage to a conspirator in the 2000 PC game Deus Ex. But I realized that my concern was not about conspiracies.

Instead I wanted to tell the story of an honest, hard-working, ambitious agent of the security state pursuing his target, and what happens when we sacrifice privacy, liberty, and ultimately, human dignity for the sake of safety. Frankly, we don't need nefarious actors for our system to grind innocent people into dust.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
My wife has always been a creative writer, at least as long as I've known her. And her bravery in putting her thoughts into words to share with others provided some necessary inspiration. Beyond that, I've been wondering how I might do something in a more public way to try and shine a light on the darkness I see in the world.

Once the story idea popped into my head, in the shower one morning, I decided to just start following that trail where it lead. I've never had concrete expectations about what would become of the process. Writing a work of fiction is tremendously hard, and I worked on it for a while, with a relatively short story to show for it. There were a lot of starts and stops, and it was always after work and on weekends. But I'm very pleased with how it's all ended up.

I don't know where I'll go from here, but I do already have an idea for another book. We'll see.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I'm not writing, there are a handful of things I could be doing. I could be working in my day job. I could be spending time with my wife, cooking a meal, reading a book, watching television, or playing video games. I'm active in our church, and enjoy worshiping there and spending time in fellowship.

One of my greatest passions, though, is as an NC State fan. I grew up that way, and went to school there. And it's always a wild ride of emotions. While we've generally had more success than not lately, it's never been easy. It's the kind of fandom that builds character, like the Cubs, but with at least some hope.
Published 2015-03-17.
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Books by This Author

33 Packs a Day
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 17,080. Language: English. Published: March 12, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » General
Who’s watching you right now? Is it your child’s spaghetti-soaked face? The brown eyes of your pooch? Or is it someone else? In “33 Packs A Day,” a young doctor, Seran Barzani, stages a protest when a new government program goes too far. This catches the attention of an ambitious homeland security agent who brings Seran's darkest fears to fruition in this thriller about government surveillance.