Thriller Writer Tj O'Connor

The Consultant: Hunter and Me – Who’s In Charge?

Sep 3, 2018

I have been writing since I was in the fifth grade. First, it was short stories about my friends and my adventures—fictitious of course. I never would have survived grade school if I’d done the things I wrote about back then. Over the years, I played with characters and stories and wrote my first full novel right out of high school. The character—the first appearance of a Jonathan Hunter character in that story—struck a kindship with me and a couple survived over the years and made it into The Consultant. Back then, Hunter’s adventures were largely page after page of made-up plots and characters. Today, after all these years teasing out my own life as an anti-terrorism consultant, the plots are a bit more realistic—perhaps premonitions of a possible future—and the characters come from my world. In the end, after thirty-something years, Jonathan Hunter will finally seek his audience from bookstore shelves everywhere. He’s been waiting a long time. And, lord, I’ve been hearing about it forever!

A lot of authors will tell you that once they start writing, the characters take over and write the story themselves. We, as authors, are there for the ride. I’m no different. For Hunter and me, it’s a love/hate relationship. He needs me to tell his stories—The Consultant is the just first in the Jonathan Hunter Thrillers. I need him to relive a little of my youth and perhaps even a few adventures I’d never really had. The trouble is, we both want things our own way. Hunter demands his story be told his way—action, thrills, and laughs all included. He doesn’t like me talking about his flaws, like bad judgment of people now and then, his unluckiness with the ladies, and his flawed story-performance. He’ll tell you those are all in my head.

Maybe they are. But it’s my head and my story, not his. Wow, do I sound a little insane here?

For me, I have rules—well, not really, but my agent, the brilliant Kimberley Cameron and my publisher, Oceanview Publishing, sure do. Silly rules like not too many adverbs (okay, like none if they get their way), and limited foul language. That’s a problem for Hunter. He tends to get “colorful” when he gets excited or pissed-off. Oops, I mean when he gets angry. Other rules like I can’t turn in 150-thousand words—Kimberley rolls her eyes and says, “Wow, a big book” if I near 110-thousand. Does she know how difficult it is to get Hunter to play out a story in under 110-thousand words? I mean, come on! And not a lot of exclamation points. Have you read The Consultant? Hunter needs exclamation points! There’s his commentary about every character, his reflections from his past about this missions or lost-loves, his constant whining about Oscar LaRue (that’s his mentor and CIA boss) who grouses about everything Hunter does. Hunter even has to chase every damn lead down every damn rabbit hole—and most of them are minefields! (Note the exclamation point.)

So, my first draft of Hunter’s adventures are always long—oh, say 120-thousand words long. By the time I type “The End,” Hunter wants a vacation and I need therapy. Then we begin the arduous task of editing down to near 100-thousand words, knowing full well that Hunter will pout and complain and antagonize me into putting a few more “moments” of his back into the story and round it out at around 110-thousand words.

Do you have any idea what it’s like to argue with a fictional hero like him? First, he was a Green Beret. Me, I was a lonely OSI agent and then a consultant the rest of my life. He can take me nine out of ten times. Second, if I cut too much of “his” story, he digs in his heels and screws up my ending. In his first sequel, I edited the first draft down six chapters or more, and when I reread the ending, Hunter had snookered me. The ending was perfect—except how I got there was missing a couple
chapters of action and subplot that I’d taken out. So naturally, I could find a less-than-fulfilling ending, or just put those chapters back in. I wanted to keep them out and try a different ending. Hunter wanted it his way.

Who do you think won?

There is one thing, though, that’s great about my relationship with Hunter. I can live vicariously through him. Can you imagine what you would do if you could re-live some fun vignette of your life? Or maybe make that vignette sexier and more exciting? Oh, hell yeah! I do it all the time.
Now, I’ve been very fortunate to have had an exciting life at times. No, I was never a real Jonathan Hunter (oh, brother, he’ll never let me live that one down)! But I had many adventures over the years in places like Greece, Turkey, Europe, South America, and all over North America. I’ve seen my share of dead bodies, bombings and other terror attacks, and too many outrageous crimes to count. Now, don’t get me wrong. I was never a Green Beret or CIA operative. Nope. I was a military federal agent with OSI and afterward an international security consultant roaming the globe looking for adventure. I’ve been fortunate to have adventured in places and done things most people read about in books. Not Jonathan Hunter-style, but I’ve had a great time. Along the way, I’ve wished for more of those adventures. Some a bit more worldly and sexier, too. In my Jonathan Hunter Thrillers, I steal from those adventures and, well, pad the books a little. Sure, sure, I change the names and places, and often times turn a mole hill into a mountain, but hey, it’s a novel!

Fact is, Hunter is the one who needs therapy. He has this idea these stories are true and based on his past. He seems to “re-remember” adventures almost as much as I rewrite my own. Sure, his are more exciting and daring and “the world is ending” sometimes. But if I’d done what he does in my books, I wouldn’t be writing them. I’d be dead a dozen times over—or worse. Maybe with a grin on our faces, though.

Alas, Jonathan Hunter and I have this love-hate thing going. He wants me to tell you his life’s stories and show him to be the crazy adventurer he thinks he is. Me, I need him to have those adventures and allow me some fond memories—the real and the imaginary.

So, follow Hunter and me in The Consultant and the future Jonathan Hunter Thrillers. Try and sort out who’s telling the story and what’s real or imagination. I dare you.


This Post was originally written for Lori’s Reading Corner on July 22, 2018 at


I first fell in love with writing while in grade school and over the years continued to dabble with characters and stories whenever life allowed. Lately, I've focused my energy on pursuing this dream—interrupted only by life as a security consultant and the demands of two Labrador retrievers.

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