By SARAH CHAIN
Daily Record/Sunday News
Michael A. Wood Jr. didn’t start off as a novelist. As a sergeant with the Baltimore City Police Department, the Shrewsbury resident limited his writing to promotional guides for young officers.
But as he became more comfortable with editing and publishing the material, he started to consider fiction.
“You go through life on patrol and think, wouldn’t that be funny in a movie, wouldn’t that make a good book,” said Wood, 32. “Eventually, those ideas come together.”
He turned his ideas into “Eliot,” the story of a Baltimore policeman who loses his daughter in a hit-and-run shooting. Distraught with grief and filled with anger toward the suspected drug dealer behind the wheel, he turns to systematic murder as he seeks justice for his family.
“I already knew the story before I started writing,” Wood said. “There’s truth sprinkled throughout.”
Eliot and his wife, Jessica Watts, are based loosely on Wood and his wife. The Woods’ 8-year-old daughter, Katlyn, served as inspiration for Sydney Watts. Even a few police officers are based on real-life friends of Wood.
It took Wood about two months of writing to get a first draft, and then additional time for him and his wife to edit the manuscript.
Throughout the story, Wood aimed to keep the action and dialogue as realistic as possible, not shying away from graphic violence or colorful language. While it might limit his audience, he said, it presents a real picture of police interaction.
“One of the cheap motivators I had (in writing a novel) was whenever you watch TV, there are 100 things no cop would ever do,” he said. “For this story, I wouldn’t be true to the idea behind it if I (wrote differently). Baltimore is brutal.”
He began promoting the book this summer, including a book signing in Reisterstown, Md. He uses his website, www.michaelawoodjr.com, to sell copies and share reviews.
But he also has a second website, one he began since releasing “Eliot,” where he reviews the books of other authors.
“When I started the blog to get people to review my book, I thought, ‘I might as well do this,’” Wood said. “You’d be surprised at how many books people send.”
He keeps his reviews honest, hoping it will help him and others to see authors who are doing it right — or are doing it wrong.
“If I ever give somebody five stars, it’s gonna be ‘Huckleberry Finn,’” he said, describing his appreciation for Mark Twain’s writing. “It’s certainly not going to be ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’”
But he tries to keep an open mind and read anything sent to him, including books from writers in Germany and Russia.
And although he has plans in the works for a prequel and sequel to “Eliot,” he’s also working to break away from the cop genre.
His first step was entering a romantic short story contest through Writer’s Digest in September. He plans to try a horror story, too, and perhaps combine them into a collection.
“If I’m willing to grow as a writer, I need to challenge myself,” Wood said.
Lives in: Shrewsbury
Family: Wife, Jessica; daughter, Katlyn, 8
Occupation: Sergeant with the Baltimore City Police Department
Online: www.michaelawoodjr.com, criticalcriticreviews.com. Wood is giving away one free copy of “Eliot.” To enter, follow him on Twitter at @MichaelAWoodJr. A winner will be selected Dec. 1.