Q&A: Wil Mara (Frame 232)
Q: The premise of this novel, Frame 232, is
incredibly fascinating: finally solving one of America’s biggest mysteries—what
really happened the day JFK died. What inspired this particular take on
the events of that day?
I’ve been intrigued by the Kennedy assassination all my life. I cannot remember a time when it didn’t loom over America with that long shadow. It was one incident on one day that occurred within a few seconds—and yet nothing in this country (or, really, the world) has been the same. I still find that staggering.
As for what inspired the particular angle I decided to write about, the initial bolt came in 2003 while I was watching a documentary on the assassination (on the History Channel, of course—around early November of each year, they should really change the name to the JFK Assassination Channel) and I first heard about this mysterious figure in Dealey Plaza called “the Babushka Lady”—someone who was standing very close to the limousine when the president was struck and who possibly filmed the shooting. And yet, to this day, she has never been identified, and her film has never been seen. Once I’d heard about that, the second part of the inspirational tandem followed: What if her film turned up today? What if it contained something that made us look at the assassination in a whole new light? Something that started us down the road, at last, to the answers that have been sought by a generation? And, perhaps most important, what if there were still people alive—powerful, ruthless, and plainly evil people—who wanted to make sure those answers remained buried?
That’s how this book got started.
Q: Most people have never heard of the Babushka Lady,
who is an important character in your book and was also a real-life witness to
the JFK assassination. How did you hear about her, and did you immediately
know you wanted to write that story?
I’ve answered the gist of this question in my response to the last one, but I’m so glad you pointed out the crucial fact that the Babushka Lady was a real person. Some readers may go through Frame 232 believing that she is merely a product of the imagination—but, in fact, she was as real as you or I, and for all I know, she may still be alive and well. It’s important to note that this story is a blend of fact and fiction and that I haven’t altered any of the established facts concerning the assassination. What I did here, and what I plan to do with all the books in this series, is honor the truths as we know them, then fill in the gaps with fiction. And not just any fiction, but plausible fiction—fiction that has been extrapolated from the facts and therefore offers the reader a realistic and more emotionally powerful impact.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about your main character,
Jason Hammond? Why is he a good character for a series?
Jason is, at his core, a good-hearted and morally conscientious individual who experienced a horrific tragedy that resulted in massive personal losses, and he’s now trying to make sense of it all. He was raised to be a devoted Christian and is still as much of a believer as ever, but now he struggles to make sense of his faith in light of his suffering. His personal story arc is a huge one—it will span many books—and this makes him not only a fascinating character but also a touchstone for the average reader. His fundamental struggle is very relatable. Who among us has not asked the Lord, “Why? Why did this happen? How could you permit this to be?” Questioning God’s actions does not make you a nonbeliever; it simply makes you a human being. Jason’s reactions to his situation are wholly and patently human, and I hope readers gain some insight into the epic challenge of retaining our beliefs in the face of grim reality by following him in his quest. He will travel around the world in search of answers to the greatest mysteries of our time—that’s the adventurous, suspenseful part of these books—but his biggest trials will occur in his heart and soul.
Q: What can we expect for the future of the Jason
The next book in the group, The Nevada Testament, picks up about six weeks after the events of Frame 232 and, at least on the surface, concerns the lost will of Howard Hughes. But, of course, there is much more to it than that. I’m writing it now and am quite pleased with the way it’s rolling out. After that, I’ll be putting together the third one, which will probably be called Gardner Island. What makes that story interesting is that it takes place before the events of Frame 232 and will thus give us a firsthand look at some of Hammond’s darker and more harrowing days. Beyond all that, I have partially developed ideas for several other stories, including the follow-up to The Nevada Testament, which looks as though it’ll begin almost immediately after Nevada closes. So this is very exciting stuff.
Q: Since this book has a strong historical platform,
what sort of research did you conduct?
As I said before, the initial inspiration for Frame 232 came in 2003. That, then, is ten years, on and off, that I’ve been putting this accursed thing together! In that time, I can’t tell you how many books and articles I read, how many photographs I pored over, and how many assassination experts I spoke with. Again, it’s important to honor the established facts in all of these books, so extensive research is critical. When you go to leave a building, you don’t walk to a wall; you walk to a door. That’s what I need to know in this series: where the walls are and where the doors are. That is what will afford me the opportunity to give readers the most realistic, and thus most exciting, stories possible.