Guns, shootouts, takedowns, police presence – and that is only the book launch
While there may be some similarities between Miguel Mejia, Ontario author and police officer Michael Walton’s main character in his action-thriller book Apok, there are major differences as well.
“People ask me if I am Miguel. I am not Miguel, I am the model of Miguel. I am the guy on the cover (of the book) holding the gun, I am the guy in the jail cell (on the back)…but we are two different people. But I used a lot of what I have been through to build him, and he’s a lot more embellished, obviously. I never shot any body, let alone killed anybody so right there, obviously, we are not the same person.”
Yet it can be argued that what Walton says makes Miguel one of his favourite characters can also be said of himself: “I think he (Miguel) is the person a lot of people want to be because he never gives up, and they want to see how he is going to continue to survive, and not give up given the obstacles he faces.”
Walton, who was born in Hamilton and raised in Sudbury, moved from home when he was 18. He was taken in by a man who was a police officer, and who offered Walton a look at life he wanted to lead.
“He had a everything I ever wanted,” Walton said. “He had a house, he had cars, he had a family, a normal family, he had food in the cupboards. He never seemed to be stressing about stuff.”
Walton went to college for law and security and started university for English before dropping out to support his family, eventually joining a local police force in 1999.
He has had many jobs within various police forces and has participated in operations that seem to have come straight out of the movies – gang turf war, drug enforcement, murder, firearms trafficking, wiretaps, gunpoint takedowns, house raids and car chases.
But it was his job in internal affairs that was the hardest – due to the bureaucracy of being a police officer in Canada and the work it took to chase down corrupt cops – and the one that set him down his writing path.
While it was just after 9-11 when the story first started bouncing around Walton’s head, it was on New Year’s Day 2011 when Apok was born.
“Shortly after new year’s 2011, I walking through the office and everyone was talking about their New Year’s resolutions, and I started laughing…and someone piped up and said:
“‘You have done everything you have always wanted to do in your life?’
“And for whatever reason, it just rang like a church bell and I couldn’t stop thinking about that comment.”
Walton wrote the first five chapters for Apok within eight months.
But on July 30, 2011, while he was riding his bike in preparation for a triathlon, Walton was T-boned by a car.
“I was in the most pain I ever felt in my life.”
Witnesses said Walton ricocheted off the car, flying like Superman and left a ‘trail of skin’ on the vehicle, was knocked unconscious, had amnesia, a head injury, which caused crippling headaches, a dislocated shoulder and a host of other injuries.
“The severity of headaches have decreased substantially. I used to have headaches from morning to night. They ranged from crippling to where I could do nothing to constantly present so you ended up coping with pain every day. The doctors wanted to give me pain medication, but I said no, I don’t want to take that stuff.”
Instead, Walton said he learned to deal with it, wearing blue-tinted glasses to take out the sharpness of artificial light and exercise.
“It (recovery) was very complicated and very hard to overcome, but everything is doable if you really want to do it.”
Two days after the accident, Walton said he was sitting in a chair and decided if he was just going to sit there, he was going to do something.
And at the beginning of November, when a specialist told him it was unlikely he would ever wear a badge again, he began to think of other possibilities.
“If I can’t be a cop, what options do I have to sustain my life, my family? I have different views on life, destiny, what is to be is to be. I kept writing, and I finished my book about a month and a half later”, and was back at work five months after his accident.
Apok follows the story of Miguel, who makes a split-second decision that affected the country and ruins his life. The story begins with news reporter Carrie Warren being tasked with interviewing Mejia the “killer cop” behind bars. Before Carrie can release her story, extremists trap her into a dark, twisted society. Unable to escape, she watches helplessly while thousands die. As terror grips the world, Apok has no alternative but to escape and take matters into his own two hands.
A number of people read Walton’s book and told him he should get it published. He sent the book to 30 agents, but it wasn’t picked up. He decided to self publish his book and find an agent once those books sold.
Walton hired an editor, who had him rewrite the story.
“The story never changed, but the way the story was told changed dramatically. I ended up re-writing the book from start to finish with this new editor.
“It was quite the process, but it was quite a growth development for me as a writer because I learned to write, essentially, as an entertainer.”
Walton hired FriesenPress, which provided another editor. Walton then hired a copy editor.
“I am happy,” Walton said in regards to his finished book, which came out April 29, 2013. “The only thing I wish I had of done was hired another editor just to go through it again because I can be a perfectionist, and there has been a couple sentence things that people have brought to my attention and I am like “I can’t tell you how many times I have gone through that book and I didn’t even see that. To me, the fact I read it 50 times and I didn’t see drives me crazy.”
After the book was published, Walton created his own book tour, calling up Chapters and Indigo stores in cities he wanted to visit, hosting book signings and readings and visiting three locations in Texas with the goal of having fun and getting his book out there.
He also hosted a book launch in the Simcoe area “that got me in a bit of trouble…within the policing world.”
Understanding that his target audience is police officers, he realized that getting up in front of a crowd and reading from his book was not an option. So he created a skit.
“I outfitted a bunch of friends in tactical gear, I rented it and had some stuff made. They stormed the bar with fireworks and smoke machine going off with lasers on the guns and took down the bar at gunpoint.”
Walton said he had a Suburban pull up in front of the bar. He was playing Miguel, the main character, in shackles and handcuffs and wearing an orange prison suit with a hood over his head.
A “team came out and grabbed me as well as the team operating the vehicle, and dragged me out from the back. There was somewhat of a lead-up in terms of audio cues saying what was happening, that they were transporting a prisoner and they were under fire and were being attacked.”
Apparently they were convincing because a passerby called the local police to tell them an armed robbery was taking place.
“I was supposed to call (the local city police) and tell them what I was doing, but I forgot in the chaos of planning the morning. …So we are standing out back waiting for our…cue to come back in and we hear sirens and everyone looks at me and I look at the horizon and I see lights coming and they said ‘Did you call (the police),’ and I said ‘I forgot to call.'”
His friend, a fellow police officer who owns the bar, went outside to meet the police officers “and they took him down at gunpoint. He was holding his badge and he was wearing takedown gear and they took him down, and they came through the bar and all the people (in the audience said) ‘Oh, wow, they got (the local police) involved, too’. They thought it was part of the skit. So I got in a bit of trouble about that.”
Once Apok was published, Walton started writing the sequel, which can be read as a stand-alone, and finished writing it in January. He said he hopes to have Apok Derailed published in the spring of 2018.
The second book is a continuation of the underground society trying to manipulate the world, to conform it to the way they want it to be.
Walton is in the process of finding an editor and sending the book off to agents in order for it to be published traditionally. He has had one response from a company in London, England, which receives 600 inquiries a week and publishes about five books a year. While they didn’t accept his manuscript, it did give him incentive to keep going.
“Because all the big names, I think John Grisham has the most staggering numbers – 100 denials before he ever got published. If he had quit it, we would never have heard of John Grisham, Time to Kill or any of his masterpieces.
” J.K. Rowling, her number is not quite as big but she received 12 or 15 no’s before she got a yes. It’s very subjective (finding an agent), you have to take it with a grain of salt, and be proud of what you have done.”
And he is.
Walton, who has sold about 2,000 copies of Apok, said he is happy with the response his book has received, particularly within the policing and lawyer communities.
“That (police officers) was one of the focus groups I was most afraid of because I knew they would be extremely critical especially (in regards to) the processes…”
Walton is currently revising his sequel – he is on his 10th revision – has created a prequel video game to the series and has the framework for the third and final book in the Apok trilogy.
“I have many stories I want to get to, I just need more time. I really, really love writing so I want those stories to see the public, and if I can’t that would be a shame.”
He has a vampire story (“I know that has been done and done and done, but the angle I have on it has never been done and I think people would actually enjoy it”) and a children’s book, which he started writing when his youngest of two sons was 11.
“I have six or more stories on the go” including more that are police, law and lawyer related.
Walton’s writing process is similar in style to that of author Stephen King.
“You just sit down. I have an idea where I want to go, but I have no idea how I will get there. And it’s much as a surprise to me as the people who are reading the story. It just plays a movies in my head and all I do is describe the movie. I have control of the movie. If there is a scene that I am not sold on I just reinvent it and the movie plays on.”
Walton said he has an uncle who plans everything out before writing, but Walton finds that process both scary and daunting.
“Not being as structured just brings an element of fun to it, to me any way.”
So without a character map beside him, when Walton simply jots down a name of a character that is easy to remember, and then goes back and changes it later.
What doesn’t seem to change are the types of characters he writes.
“My characters are a compilation of many different people, but I think they are all relatable to some degree because they are people. Like Miguel. Even though he is this ex-military police officer guy who has killed somebody, I think what we forget is that people are people and they have struggles and they have problems and just like anybody.”