David Eldon Jones is an influential novelist whose stories are filled with experience, wisdom, and heart. Inspired by his illustrious career of service, David began writing the Guardians of Rockport book series upon retirement. David served as a Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI). During his career he conducted hundreds of criminal investigations, counterintelligence, and anti-terrorism operations across the globe. David also served as a Wisconsin Chief of Police, and a University Criminal Justice Program Chair.
After years living a life that few can even imagine nor dream, David took to writing and shaped his stories with real-life experiences. His novels are filled with relatable characters that embody characteristics of those who he has met, served with, and loved. Writing the bestselling Guardians of Rockport series has also allowed David to write the words that can be difficult to say, and heal from his own PTSD from years of service and combat. In addition to the Guardians of Rockport book series, David is also the author of the fascinating and timely historical fiction novel, Abduction of Scorpion 6.
This interview transcription has been edited for length and clarity.
Joe: I’m joined by David Jones the author of the Guardians of Rockport Book Series and Abduction of Scorpion 6. I’m excited to talk to you about your books, your career, and plenty more. Thanks for taking the time to join me.
You have such an impressive background and history – so I’d like to give you the floor to discuss your career and as much as you can share about life as a Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.
David: Sure. I served 20 years with the Air Force. I was assigned as a Special Agent to the OSI. Now, if you’re unfamiliar it’s basically the Air Force version of NCIS. Basically, OSI is the Federal Agency of the Air Force – we investigate everything from counterintelligence to felony crimes to espionage cases. Also on the UFO front, we were the original Men in Black. We were the ones that came up with a 3 letter obscure agency and black suits, asking the questions on what went down. Now, that was before my time (1947-1970s).
But I joined up in the first part of the Gulf War. I did 8 deployments overseas. I did a lot of criminal investigations, but my expertise was anti-terrorism work. I was stationed on 2 different anti-terrorism teams. I was the chief of the European anti-terrorism team. I have 8 combat deployments and I was the first team leader to go into Afghanistan after 911. I retired from the Air Force in 2011 and became a local police officer. I ended up becoming the Chief of Police for the University Police Department at University of Wisconsin.
Today I’m a volunteer firefighter and I retired from police work about a year ago. Since then as you know, I’ve written a few books.
Joe: Yes and when it comes to your books, I speak to a lot of authors whose backgrounds and their lives are such an important part of their stories. Clearly you have such a rich background of experience through your career of service. You incorporate your life into your stories so well.
My question is – can you speak to the way that you utilize real life experience when you’re writing fiction?
David: The Guardians of Rockport series is loosely based off my life. Obviously, it’s fiction but the main character is a retired OSI special agent just like me who served as a team lead of the anti-terrorism team. He also moved to Wisconsin and became a Wisconsin police officer and retired. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic setting where the country collapses. We’re in a war with Russia and China and we suffer from economic collapse and the system falls apart for a number of reasons.
So now, Doug Chapman – the protagonist – and his family (based off my family) bands together with a group of volunteer firefighters and they protect the small town of Rockport. It’s a fictional town, and they stick together as things go bad in the world.
Joe: So both you and the main character live in Wisconsin. Were you always from Wisconsin? How did you get so connected with the community there?
David: I actually grew up in Tempe, Arizona. But while I was in the Air Force, I married a girl from Appleton, Wisconsin. She followed me for 20 years of service and I told her afterwards I’ll go wherever she wanted to go. I incorporate her and a lot of folks in my family in the book series. People have been calling it Jack Reacher for the Air Force.
But there’s much more to the book than just action. Mine is also about family. A big piece of it is my family – and they did so much while I was gone. My wife was a single mother for many of those 20 years. So, a lot of the book series is about the daughter, the son, the wife, the family, and the animals. It’s a family story as well as it is a post-apocalyptic story.
Joe: I read through the first book of the series and absolutely loved it. As an author, what is your process like to write a book series? Is it an evolving process or have you always known exactly how you want it to end from the beginning?
David: I wrote the first book with an intention for it to be a series. Each book has its own ending but comes with a bit of a cliffhanger. But I have it planned to be 5 books and I have an ending in mind. But as I’m getting more into it (my fourth book is almost ready to go), I might extend that to more books. The more I write, the more stories I come up with, most of the stories and minor stories in the book are all based off my friends, my old partners, and people I know. So, almost everybody in the book is associated with some family member or friend.
Joe: It’s always so interesting to see how characters reflect real people from an author’s life. I think that personal connection to a story is what makes it so relevant. And then your series is so unique because you personally have such an interesting background.
David: Yeah, and it’s fun. The main character is my age in his early fifties and his daughter is a schoolteacher. My daughter’s name is Cassie, and the character daughter’s name is Maddie. She’s pregnant at the time of the first book. Then, she has a daughter and Doug becomes a grandfather, just like me. All my grandkids are mentioned in the book. Even though it’s a fiction story, every character in the book allows me to reach out and connect with family members and other people who I have served with over the years.
Joe: Writing a novel is such an intense process, especially when it’s a novel as person as this one. It requires a lot of mental and emotional effort. How do you manage writing the Guardians of Rockport series while also managing other projects – specifically your historical fiction novel, Abduction of Scorpion 6.
David: I wrote the first two Guardians books and then took a break. After I wrote Abduction of Scorpion 6 I went back to the Guardians series. Abduction of Scorpion 6 is a great book too. It’s more localized to Northern Wisconsin or people who are interested in UFOs or the Air Force. My main project is still the Guardians series, though. The series touches on just about every aspect of my life. But once I start investing more time and resources into Scorpion 6, I think it’ll really take off.
Joe: It’s super timely right now as well – especially as so many people are interested in UFOs.
David: It’s based off a real project – Blue Book Project. It is the Air Force’s investigation into UFOs from the late 1940s all the way up to the mid 1970s. Many records are now de-classified. In the book, I’ve taken a real project from the Blue Book Investigations from 1953 in Northern Wisconsin where a Scorpion was an Air Force fighter at the time. In 1953 one was sent to investigate a UFO in the Northern Michigan/Northern Wisconsin area and goes missing. There’s a lot of speculation about what happened – and my book takes place two years later with the same fighter, squadron, and situation.
It’s a fictional story but it’s based off a real investigation which adds a lot of interest to it.
Joe: That’s super neat. I love historical fiction. I’ll be reading that book. So, when I think about and author like you who has recently retired from a very long and stressful career, it’s amazing that you are diving right back into such demanding work. Writing a novel is super demanding – and after decades of public service I imagine most people would want to just go live by the beach.
Instead, you are invested in writing books. So, my question is – what really inspired you to pursue this entirely new career after so many years of service, sacrifice, and hard work?
David: After 30 years I’ve seen a lot of things and I have a lot of stories to tell. Much of it is classified so I can’t write anything non-fiction. But I can put a spin on anything and turn it into fiction. It’s neat and the first ones have turned out to be very therapeutic for me. As a military type of person, there are always so many things you want to say and feelings that you have. But with our male bravado we resist a bit. We make fun of our own buddies and make jokes – but we really have love and affection for our partners and our family. Many things are difficult for me to say, but I can write it in the book. I can write what Doug Chapman is thinking about his wife, his granddaughter, and his partners. So, it’s therapeutic in a way. I could talk about the feelings I have inside.
I am open that I have PTSD. Through writing I’ll talk a lot about the issues I’ve experienced – issues that I don’t feel comfortable talking about in person. But when Doug Chapman is talking, I can share my emotions through characters in the book.
Joe: That’s very relevant and inspiring for other people who are in similar shoes. Anytime you are struggling with mental health and in your case PTSD, it can be really difficult to talk about it. Using fiction as a vessel to express those feelings is really inspiring.
David: A lot of it is survivor’s guilt. I talk about that in the book. But everyone in the book has their own psychological aspect. Like Doug is a veteran and he’s doing things to protect others, but does he leave his family to defend the community?
The book talks about a lot of ethical questions as a counterintelligence officer – I’ve faced a lot of ethical conundrums in my own life. When you are in life-or-death scenarios, everything becomes so complicated. In my life and in the book, there is no right or wrong answer. It’s up to readers to decide what’s the right thing and every reader has a different take on it.
Joe: Your writing does such an effective job expressing these realities. There are a lot of people who are invested in non-fiction and historical accounts – particularly related to United States History and United States War history. For these types of readers who don’t normally read fiction, I really encourage them to read your book. As you convey, there is so much to learn about real life through a fictional story.
David: Yes, and I’m a big history nerd. I love it. I taught a lot of history when I worked as a college professor. So, all of the books have historical perspectives. Abduction of Scorpion 6 has a lot of history, specifically World War II history. You also get the Cold War since it’s during the pre-Vietnam era. It’s a great history book even though it’s fiction. Everything it covers is factual, investigated, and researched.
Joe: Serving for so long must be such a life-changing experience. But also, I speak to many authors who feel like they are never quite the same after writing a book since it is such a vulnerable and emotional process. Have you learned anything about yourself through writing?
David: I’ve learned so much more about my relationships with people. There are things that I’ve put in the book about people I care about, maybe some soldiers lost in combat. I express things I regret or what I would have done differently. But also, when I want to talk to certain people about things that I’m not comfortable to discuss in person, I’ll put it in the book. With the book, I’ve been able to say so many things that I’ve been wanting to say and reflect more on myself and my own shortcomings as a man. I get to reflect so much more on the past and see it through the eyes of a 52-year-old rather than a 25 year old.
I’ve learned a lot more about my life and I reflect quite a bit on the decisions I made as a younger man. There are things I did right, and some I did wrong. But I can reach out to people who I’ve served with and relate to them in new ways that I wasn’t able to emotionally do before. This goes for my family as well.
Joe: It’s amazing. Writing is such a great way to learn more about yourself and other people. When you think about yourself as an author, what is the one takeaway you would like readers to know about you?
David: I’m a father, a husband, a son, and so much of it is wrapped into being just a soldier, an airman, or policer officer. It’s all a part of me, but my wife served along with me for all those years – she may not have been in the foxhole, but she was running the household while I was gone. She was my emotional rock. So the biggest takeaway is I’m a family man. My resume is my resume. But the biggest thing in life is always going to be my family. They gave up a lot over the 30 years I was serving.
Joe: As a reader, one thing that I seek is authenticity. Authenticity is clearly deeply engrained in your work. It reflects in how you write and how you think. In my mind, it makes your books must-read novels and every fiction reader has to dive into them because they’re so real.
David: I appreciate that.
Joe: I want to thank you for your time and before we go, remind me are there any upcoming books/projects for readers and your fans to look out for?
David: Book 4 in the Guardians of Rockport Series is now in its editing stage. It should hopefully be released by November. You can reach me and learn more about my work by visiting my website as well.