Writing Hard Truths And Tips For Writing Non-Fiction With Efren Delgado

How do we write authentic humanity into our books, whether that’s our own experience or a fictional character’s? How can we embrace the challenges of life and the author journey and make the most of the opportunities along the way? Efren Delgado gives his tips in this interview.

In the intro, How to plan and release a second edition of your book [SelfPublishingAdvice]; plus, Kickstarter update; Stone carving a green man; De-Extinction of the Nephilim [JFPennBooks; other stores];


Today’s show is sponsored by ProWritingAid, writing and editing software that goes way beyond just grammar and typo checking. With its detailed reports on how to improve your writing and integration with writing software, ProWritingAid will help you improve your book before you send it to an editor, agent or publisher. Check it out for free or get 15% off the premium edition at www.ProWritingAid.com/joanna

This show is also supported by my Patrons. Join my Community at Patreon.com/thecreativepenn 

Efren Delgado is a former FBI special agent with 25 years of national security, law enforcement, and private protection experience. He’s also a consultant, professional speaker, and the author of The Opposite is True: Discover Your Unexpected Enemies, Allies, and Purpose Through the Eyes of Counterintuitive Psychology.

You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below. 

Show Notes

  • Balancing being authentic while maintaining your boundaries
  • How to take our failures and move on to success
  • Creating a mind map to help during the brainstorming process
  • Fact checking and managing citations when writing nonfiction
  • Writing to deal with trauma while avoiding using it as therapy
  • Uncomfortable truths indie authors need to face about the industry
  • Common misconceptions authors get wrong when writing FBI thrillers

You can find Efren at EfrenDelgado.com.

Transcript of Interview with Efren Delgado

Joanna: Efren Delgado is a former FBI special agent with 25 years of national security, law enforcement, and private protection experience.

He’s also a consultant, professional speaker, and the author of The Opposite is True: Discover Your Unexpected Enemies, Allies, and Purpose Through the Eyes of Counterintuitive Psychology. So welcome to the show, Efren.

Efren: Thank you, Joanna. I’ve been looking forward to this.

Joanna: Yes, it’s very exciting. First off—

Tell us a bit more about you and how you went from FBI agent to author.

Efren: I’m going to backtrack a little bit. It all started from a little bit of minor bullying, relatively minor bullying, when I was a child. That planted a basic seed in me just asking, why would people choose to be mean when they could simply be nice? If you think about that question, it’s the fundamental question of psychology.

Why do people do what they do? More specifically, why do bad people do what they do?

As a child, I had no idea and a legitimate interest. So that seed was there. It did also inspire me to want to protect others if I ever could.

As I grew up throughout school and university, I developed my interest in psychology and, accidentally, my interest in criminology. I decided to pursue a career in protecting people, and I simply thought the best vehicle for that was the FBI.

So I joined the FBI, I implemented my purpose, you could say, in protecting people in the National Security Division of the FBI, and later the Criminal Division, what most people think of when they think of the FBI. Then later in the private sector, protecting people as a bodyguard and a threat assessment consultant.

Now, currently as a writer, author, speaker, I’m just trying to express the observations I’ve made to help encourage the “good guys,” your audience and my reader, that they are actually stronger than the bad guys.

They are not chihuahuas barking at the doorbell presenting this large presentation of how scary they are. Good guys actually have the courage to be vulnerable, to be humble, to be kind. That’s the main message I want to come across, and that’s what brought me to the FBI, and brought me to you today.

Joanna: Yes, and I love the book. We’re going to get into it in a minute. I’m fascinated. So you were bullied, and you became a protector. Obviously, a lot of people listening are fiction writers, and so often when we think about writing antagonists, sometimes they may have been bullied and turn into bullies.

Sometimes people who are abused become abusers, whereas some people who are abused become protectors. So just with all your knowledge of psychology and criminal behavior—

How do you think people become the protector instead of the bully in a situation where you came from?

When does it go one way, not the other?

Efren: So I love this question, not only as a protector, but also as an author. The best antagonists, the best protagonists, have elements of both. It’s just not one or the other.

So in the writing world, you’ll have an antagonist who is this evil villain, but you have these pet the dog moments, and that’s showing their humanity, their motive. Their belief might not be that they’re actually evil, they actually might think they’re doing good, they’re just misguided.

Then the opposite is true with the good guys. They’re the most interesting protagonists, or characters in general. They have some dichotomy there too. They’re not saints, but they show some human vulnerability. So I’ve seen that in the real world too.

The answer is not as complicated as it seems. The trend, the pattern I’ve noticed all of my life, and particularly in the criminal world, is —

Good guys are more selfless, and the bad guys are more selfish.

There’s a reason for both of those. They always bark at the doorbell, like the analogy I was giving you before, not because they’re brave and courageous, but they’re so scared that whatever’s on the other side will actually see their weaknesses. So they selfishly attack, project, and they’re very loud so that nobody dare see what’s on their inside.

On the other side, the good people expose themselves to their weaknesses or imperfections, their mortality. That takes courage. That takes risk of being judged, risk of being ridiculed, risk of exposing your humanity, and that’s all bravery.

The antagonists are jealous of that bravery. They have that envy. What do people do when they’re envious and jealous? They hate. What do you do with things you hate? You attack. That creates your villain.

Joanna: Yes, there’s loads in your book that people can mine for their fiction. Absolutely, and of course, I did psychology as well at various levels in my career. So I loved reading all the psychology stuff.

You did mention there that good people expose themselves. That brought me to a quote in your book. This is from the book,

“Most people should not know everything about you. That is privileged information that should be held by the special ones who have earned your trust.”

I found this really interesting dichotomy in the book between these boundaries and keeping things close to you, don’t give too much away, but also, like you just said, good people expose themselves, they are authentic. You’re having to put yourself out there, and you’re talking about things you’ve done. So how can we balance these things? How are you balancing these things?

Efren: I just think it’s really important to acknowledge that if you’re human, you’re mortal. You have flaws, you have weaknesses, you have insecurities, you have failures. That’s what makes us human.

Instead of shrinking away from all of those imperfections, we should embrace our humanity. Even though it’s difficult to do, anything worthwhile is difficult. So part of that is acknowledging the concept I talk about, that oil and water, emotion and logic, don’t mix. So these insecurities are coming from an emotional place.

So simply acknowledging our imperfections and other people’s imperfections, you have to be careful about who you trust with those insecurities, and your secrets, and your goals, your ambitions, because it’s very easy for the naysayers, the negative nancies of the world, to tear you down and pull you off your path, or at least distract you from your path.

So I suggest to your audience, to my readers, to be truly dispassionate when you’re assessing your associates, your family members, your friends, your colleagues, and be objective.

Recognize the patterns of people who have always been supportive and encouraging, and reward those people with trust in them, with more of your business, your life, your insecurities, your interests, your goals.

Don’t be in denial about people who should be your allies, but are not.

Simply because they’re blood, or you’ve known them for 30 years, or you’ve done business deals with them, if your gut is telling you they’re not truly your allies, listen to that.

It’s hard enough to seek your purpose and climb your mountain to reach your summit, you don’t need to invite other people to pull you down. So I just ask everybody to be truly objective and discerning about who their true wolf pack is, and sometimes you just have to fly alone like an eagle.

Joanna: Just some practicalities, though. Again, with your background and a lot of the details you’ve included in the book, which as you put in the beginning, you have had to run past the FBI. You haven’t shared anything you couldn’t share, but you do really put stuff out there that gives away a lot about you.

I imagine there are people out there who might have some issues with you. So how do you balance putting yourself out there in the world to share what you want to with your own safety and this kind of difficult balance? Now, most of us won’t be in the situation you are, but—

We all feel vulnerable about sharing things about our life with the public in marketing.

So just practically, how are you doing that? How do you balance it? Or is this something you don’t even worry about?

Efren: I do have to worry about it, but it’s just lethal force, when you have to potentially kill a bad person to save other people. In that extreme scenario, you can’t decide when you’re in the moment, you have to decide it early on.

In sharing my private information, or some personal information, or some personal vulnerabilities in a book to the public or on social media, I’ve made a choice already in advance to face any potential backlash before it arrives.

So I contend that true living is worth dying for. That’s hard, but also a good life is difficult. So I just think it’s so important.

We live once in this world so you really have to commit some risk in order to truly live.

One of my biggest regrets would be being on my deathbed and not truly living my life. I’ll sometimes re-engineer what I wish I would have done when I was 30, 40, 50, I’m approaching 50, and just go out and do that. I just mentally time travel and try to do those things.

This book is a classic example of it, or doing an interview with you is a classic example. I’m putting it all out there, anything that is truly beneficial to other people, and facing the backlash.

There’s different motives for being a critic, so if somebody is criticizing your book, your writings, your podcast, you have to know what their motive is. If they haven’t accomplished much, then their motive is probably just a Negative Nancy kind of mode of trying to tear people down who are risking entrepreneurship and living life.

If their motive is constructive, then I would heed those criticisms because they’re not coming from a negative place, and there’s probably some merit to it. Or as an author, when you have a developmental edit, that’s very humbling. That humility is where wisdom is, so you can learn a lot during these developmental edits.

Joanna: Yes, that’s true. It’s actually funny that you mentioned backlash there.

We all worry about what people are going to say or what people are going to think, but the reality is, most people in the world are not going to read our book.

Efren: That’s true.

Joanna: So even if we worry about it, like my mum, when I put out a book called One Day In Budapest years ago now, my mum was really worried that some right-wing fanatics were going to come and attack me. She was like, “You can’t publish this!” and obviously, it was crickets. Like there was literally no response.

Efren: Right. That’s funny.

Joanna: So we always overthink the fear of what will happen when we put ourselves out there.

I do want to come to another quote from the book, which kind of relates to how many of us have fear of failure. You have this quote which says,

“Failures, counter to their common perception, are integral to achieving any success. As the title of the book announces, the opposite is true.”

I wondered about this, how you’re thinking about failure. Like whether that’s failure that’s happened in your career so far, or for authors in particular, it is lower than expected sales.

How can we take our failures and move on to success?

Efren: I think we’ve been taught in working-class, middle-class cultures, in particular, we’ve been taught to be spokes on a wheel, and not to be the wheel, not to be the leader. So we fear getting a bad mark in school or having any kind of imperfect running in a football match.

So people start to fear risking anything at all. So you’re trained, or we’re trained, to be spokes on a wheel. The reality is that failure is a prerequisite to success. You cannot succeed without failure.

The bigger overarching idea is humility is the only path to wisdom. So when you fail, you’re humbled. Just like when we’re little kids and we go from crawling to walk in, and we stumble and scrape our knees, those are difficult moments of getting our knees scrape, and yet they build resilience.

The same is true of becoming an author, or a speaker, or an FBI agent. Whatever that difficult goal happens to be, I guarantee one thing, you will fail and stumble all throughout your journey.

I contend that the only time you actually truly fail, in the conventional sense, is when you give up. Otherwise, it’s just a journey, and you’re growing from that journey. So I suggest for people to embrace failure because you’re always growing. Embrace the humility because that’s where the wisdom is.

Joanna: What specific failure have you faced that led to the success of you finishing this book?

Efren: I failed in everything I’ve done before I’ve succeeded. So that’s my point. So even if your failure is reaching a timeline of when you want to get that vomit draft done, then you just have to reassess and set a new timeline.

Or it means that the bones you’ve been writing, the foundational bones of the book, need more work, and it’s becoming a better book for it.

Then when you start to get into the meat of it, the stories, the anecdotes, the parables, or the research, which I also consider the spice of the book. Then it’s just going to be a better product as you grow from, look, this isn’t working, let me pivot and do that.

Becoming an FBI agent requires a lot of physical training or testing and that sort of thing, and sometimes people don’t pass those on the first round. Getting in the fetal position and giving up is not the path to success.

We’ve got a pastor out here in Southern California that I often quote that says, “Fruit grows in valleys, not on mountaintops.” So when you’re climbing your mountain to reach your summit, you’ll eventually fall in the valley, but that’s where all the fruit is, all the fruit of wisdom.

So you have a choice. You can sulk and give up, or you can embrace that wisdom and stuff your pockets and renourish yourself and resume your climb.

So I’ve faced failure in every aspect of life, but I’ve got a stubborn bone in me that I just want to persist. I’m grateful for that bone, even though it makes other people mad. You only live once, go for it.

Joanna: This is a very ambitious book, and I think it’s excellent. I really enjoyed it. It surprised me. I don’t know why it surprised me. It’s got a lot of great stuff in.

How long did it take you to get this book into the world, from when you thought about it, to finally publishing?

Efren: So I had the bones, the ideas of the book, probably building throughout my career, but I didn’t have the confidence or maybe even the experience yet to back it up. Near the end of my public career in the bureau and in joining the private sector as bodyguard and threat assessment person, I was pretty confident in my idea.

So that’s essentially the bones of the book, the ideas that most truths are counterintuitive and paradoxical, ideas like emotion and logic don’t mix, the only thing to fear is the unknown. Little ideas like this that I knew could benefit my reader, your audience, anybody who wants to live beyond mediocrity.

So that probably took about a year to nail down in an organized format. Then when you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, you get these ideas at three in the morning, or these stories that pop in your head.

Whether they’re experiences from your memories, or from conversations you have from people, or things you observe in the real world that suddenly go, wow, that would be a great illustration of these principles, the bones of my book. So I’ll jot those down, and I start to build the book that way.

At the very end, the spice of the book is the little additional anecdotes, the refinement, the clarifications, the editing, and then the formatting to present this big picture with all those elements together. So overall, it probably took about three years to complete.

Joanna: How did you keep everything organized? There are a lot of different, as you say, a lot of anecdotes, there are different quotes, there are things about your life, there’s bits of memoir.

What tools did you use for researching and the writing process?

So for example, I use Scrivener.

Efren: So what’s funny is I’ve got all these softwares, and what I ended up using was simply Pages on my iPad. I’m just very, I guess, linear that way. I’ll have those bones, which essentially become an outline, but I started out with the mind map.

That was the idea portion of the book, what I wanted the book to be about. What are like five essential points I need the reader to understand? Then I easily converted that mind map into an outline.

As these anecdotes, or stories, or things that need a little bit more due diligence materialized, I would research that, plop it in whatever area of the outline that belongs, or the ongoing manuscript. Then I’ll skip to the next spot that I’m currently motivated to research or explore.

So writing the book was not from page one to the last page, which I think is page 550, it was a lot of skipping around. What really guided me were those bones, the outline.

I think that’s a lot more important in the nonfiction so you have a rough outline to know where you’re going, so I’m not all over the place. I, on purpose, divided the first half of the book to be named Volume One: Foundations and the second half Implementations.

The first half covers a lot of those foundational issues that you just have to get out of the way, but I back those up with stories and biographies.

The second half really gets into the weeds once I’ve got the reader with me and understanding these concepts. Now it’s more about implementation and how things affect the reader, their own communities, and then society overall.

Joanna: Coming back to that mind map, I like mind maps too. I just would tend to do that on a piece of paper, like with my hand. Is that how you did that?

Did you use software for mind mapping?

Efren: No, the mind map was a pen-to-paper, one-page kind of thing. I knew the book I wanted to write. I thought the theme of the book would be empathy because that’s such a vital part of understanding behavior. I just contend that empathy is the active synonym for psychology.

It takes some work to understand other people. It’s not just something you read in a textbook. Then as I wrote the book, I almost started discovering the patterns of these counterintuitive truths.

That kind of took over the role of pointing out these truths to encourage the reader that these truths are on their side. That the good guys actually have a lot of benefits over the bad guys, even though on the surface, it appears that the bad guys are always winning these little battles.

Joanna: Yes. I’m sorry to ask you all the technical questions, but I know how hard it is to write nonfiction. For people listening who are writing nonfiction, these are really important questions.

So as I said, you have a lot of quotes, you have citations. The book is really rich for all of those, but I know how hard it is to wrangle it. If you were just doing it in Pages, like it sounds crazy. So how did you make sure to not plagiarize and make sure all of your quotes had proper quote marks? Did you get fact checking?

How did you manage the citations and quotes?

Efren: Yes, that’s a great question. As I was illustrating the book with parable stories, I’d focus on a certain section that needed further illustration or research. I would dive deep to look for things that are, first of all, interesting.

I had two principles for writing the book, in general. One was reader first, and two, not boring. So part of that mindset of whether I’m writing a fiction or nonfiction, it’s everything has to benefit the reader, and number two, it can’t be boring.

So as I’m researching the points I’m trying to convey, I want them to be corroborated, that’s the education part, but also to be interesting. So these emotional stories about reality, or parables, or whatever it may be, that’s what I honed in on to really illustrate my points and entertain the reader.

So when I finally got to that, I implemented stories, quotes, anything that could serve that purpose.

I could only do so much to make sure those are truthful, so then I hired a company of fact checkers.

I can’t believe they love doing this because it’s such a tedious work, but they fact checked my quotes, my stories, that sort of thing. Then they created roughly a 30-page bibliography for the back of the book.

I did not do most of that work. I did what I could in the beginning, and then I passed on everything I could for them to corroborate it.

Joanna: That’s great. Would you recommend that company? Give their name?Because I know people are like, oh, what’s that?

Efren: Absolutely, I would. Book Launchers is an independent publishing company that allows you to keep 100% of your IP, your intellectual property. In their company, Julie Broad is the owner, and I’ve become friends with her.

She has people who are professional developmental editors, copy editors, formatters, everything you could think of under the sun that could really get the book to a professional level that a traditional publisher would provide.

Joanna: Yes, so that is partnership publishing. That’s what we call partnership publishing. It’s great that you’ve been happy with that because some people have difficult experiences, but it sounds like you had a very good one.

Efren: I did. Frankly, most of the companies I researched, I wasn’t very impressed with them. I got a very salesy vibe from them, and that’s a turn off for me and probably most people. My favorite trait from Book Launchers was, frankly, their authenticity, particularly from the founder, Julie Broad.

Joanna: Oh, that’s great. Coming back to the book because you do cover some difficult situations in it. Again, a quote from the book, you say,

“Trauma does not note its presence lightly. It engraves itself into the stone of our minds.”

Of course, I read that and I was like, okay, I wonder how much trauma is engraved in your mind because of the things you’ve been through.

How can we use our writing to help deal with trauma, but also make sure we’re not using it as therapy?

Efren: Yes, that’s great. I think writing is very therapeutic because it allows you to pause with your issues, and think about them, and digest them.

So in nonfiction book writing, you could truly learn, but as you’re exploring your characters in a fiction book, you could really start to dive in and empathize with your different characters.

So, for nonfiction, writing journals for yourself or memoirs as an actual book, it still has to be reader first, but it really will help the individuals process their own life experiences.

On the fiction side, hashing out your protagonists, and the villains, or the support characters, I just think that helps the individual reflect on their own issues and empathize with their characters. Even if they’re bad, knowing what truly motivates this bad person.

For example, if you’ve got somebody with extreme bullying in their background, and maybe they get in their villainous heart for vengeance. That’s kind of a classic trope that would work, but it would help the individual actually digest their own thoughts. You’re forcing yourself to think and reflect, as opposed to just emote.

Joanna: I can’t remember—

Do you have a trigger warning in the book?

Efren: What do you mean by a trigger warning?

Joanna: Oh, I love that you even asked that question. Okay, so I guess in the last few years, we’ve seen authors told to include this at the beginning of a book. It might be a novel, it might be a nonfiction book. This might include things that will upset you or offend you or will.

If you’re claustrophobic, it might make you feel claustrophobic. If you have been through trauma, it might trigger that. Now, I’m not saying your book does that, it didn’t trigger me. It’s something that’s become trendy in case you upset people. So what do you think about that?

Efren: I think that’s fine, but those people are not my reader who need a trigger warning. So I dedicated my book—like, I love my family, and my wife, and all of that, but I don’t do the traditional dedication to my wife, or my parents, or to a best friend. I dedicated my book to those who want to live beyond mediocrity.

Anybody who really wants to live a great, fantastic life has to face a lot of uncomfortable truths about reality.

The benefit to that is just like exercise, the more you do it, the better you get at it. So when you stop relying on denial for comfort or seeking comfort in everything, you start embracing the difficulty of accomplishing things, and you get good at it. You literally get in shape for it.

Just like tearing muscle for increased strength, you’re getting better with resilience of facing a lot of uncomfortable truths. As somebody from a criminology background, a lot of those uncomfortable truths are that bad guys exist, criminals exists, bad people exist.

There are some not so nice people in your own family, your own bloodline, or your own “friendship circles” that are not good for you. So the proactive, deliberate acceptance of that suggests you should create boundaries for that, but not at the extent of denying it.

A trigger warning for me is almost the antithesis of what my book is all about.

It’s almost like somebody who doesn’t want to face reality, or I guess maybe they just want to know if they’re not my reader.

As I put literally twice in my book, if you are not appreciating some of the truths I’m laying out my book, you would have thrown it across the room by now. I’m talking to the reader, in case they are not my reader.

So that also encourages the person who progresses in my book to know they are my reader, and that they’re willing to face some of these uncomfortable truths that I promise at the end will give you a lot of benefits.

Joanna: I agree, I don’t like trigger warnings. I think you should be able to communicate what’s in the book by the cover, by the description, and people should know whether or not this is something they want to read. For example, if you don’t like horror, don’t pick up a horror book. If you don’t want to know what humans are like, don’t pick up a book like yours.

Efren: Right, exactly. Pretty quickly, I think not just from the covers, but from the early-on parts of the book, that first chapter, you know if something’s for you or not. There’s nothing wrong with closing a book and putting it down or turning off the television or the radio. It’s just a choice.

I’m a big proponent of freedom and free will. So people could not like something and just turn it off, or they should be allowed to have the opportunity to engage in something.

Joanna: On that freedom then, and that you worked with a partnership publisher—

Why did you choose to go the independent author route?

With your background and experience, I imagine you could have pitched a traditional publishing deal.

Efren: Frankly, I just think that in the modern time, it’s a lot easier to independently publish professionally than it used to be.

Also, the whole spirit of my purpose in protecting people from tyrants and encouraging people who have more difficulty protecting themselves from others, it’s almost like the big traditional publishing industry takes advantage of a lot of potentially great authors.

If they do give them a deal, they keep a lot of the IP or a lot of the profits, and I just resent that. So in this day and age, I would encourage people to publish independently.

I’m not criticizing the traditional publishers because they have to make money, but in this day and age we have the internet, we have so many great podcasts like yours, and YouTube trainings. People can really grow independently.

I’m a big fan of independence for an individual and for society because a strong independent person could help other people on their own.

They don’t have to be forced to do it. So I’m just very much of a freedom kind of person and independence kind of person. So in my mind, I had no choice but to publish independently.

Joanna: Yes, it’s interesting. Then coming back to facing uncomfortable truths, which I think you talked about in a different context, but as indie authors we do have to face those things. You’ve now been doing this a while—

What are some of the uncomfortable truths that indie authors really need to face in the industry?

What are things that we might need to tackle?

Efren: I think one of the most fundamental ones, especially for a newer author, is to realize your book is not for everybody. In fact, it’s not for most people. You shouldn’t be disappointed about that, that should not be your goal.

You want to reach your particular audience. Somebody is interested in history of battles or wars is not interested in basket weaving techniques, and vice versa.

If somebody this is not interested in human behavior, or a lot of these uncomfortable realities about the bad guys make them squirm, and they’d rather just enjoy cookbooks or whatever, there’s nothing wrong with that either. They should not read my book because they will be triggered.

So I just think that’s one of the most important things is facing the reality that your book is not for everybody. The other thing is that you’re going to face a difficulty for anything worthwhile, and just stay the course and persist because you’ll grow a lot as you write the book.

The idea you have for your book when you start it definitely evolves into what your book is meant to be.

I just think a good guideline for that, or guidelines, is what I wrote on a little sticky and stuck to my iPad, and it’s still there.

It’s just to remember, number one, reader first, and number two, don’t let it be boring. The way to implement the not be boring part is educational value in an entertaining or emotional way. Emotion is what engages people, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction.

Joanna: Yes, absolutely. It is hard to remember that. Of course, what’s boring for one person is interesting for another, and vice versa. For example, some people absolutely love romances, sweet romances. My mum has written some of those as Penny Appleton, and they’re not my cup of tea as such.

So I guess that is another point, that what might not be boring for some people, might well be for other people. That comes to your point that your books are not for everyone.

Efren: Right, and if you’re writing a technical book, I guess it’s not designed for that. You just have to know what your book is for, what the purpose of your book is.

If you’re writing a book about computer software, it’s going to be very difficult to engage the emotions, but that reader is not interested in the emotions. They want to know the technical things. If you’re writing a romance novel, you better engage that heart, or you will not have any readers.

Joanna: Yes, absolutely. In fact, those authors who engage the emotions the most do the best in terms of book sales. We’ve definitely seen that. I wondered what your plans are next.

Have you got the taste for writing books? Have you already started another one?

Efren: I have, and I’ve expressed it a little bit. I’m excited about the project I’m working on now, and I think your British audience would truly appreciate it.

Remember George Orwell’s 1984, back in 1949? So if you remember the details of the book, it is totally depressing. It’s a great book, but it’s totally depressing. It ends where the protagonist, Winston, and his love or affair interest, Julia, get “reindoctrinated.” They pretty much get tortured to become compliant. The book ends where they’re compliant followers of big brother, and it’s very sad.

So what I’ve done as an optimistic American, is I’ve written a big draft of a sequel to that titled 2084 because Julia got pregnant from their love affair, and their great grandchild is my protagonist in 2084, 100 years later.

This protagonist, just like a fish doesn’t know it’s wet, this protagonist is in a world where big brother is dominating, there is no resistance, there’s zero memory of how it used to be, but his humanity starts to leak out. To vent out these criminal thoughts, these crime thoughts, he starts taking these walks. The walks don’t suffice, so he has to find another outlet, and so on and so forth.

So you can imagine the character arc where he discovers humanity and has a lot of difficulty and resistance to discovering that humanity, but the character arc is very clear. There’s plenty of conflicting characters and supportive characters along the path that will surprise the reader. I’m really excited about all three acts of my 2084, and it’ll complement Orwell’s 1984.

Joanna: That sounds good. Did you know about—and this is not at all like the story you’ve mentioned—but a book called Julia came out last year by an author called Sandra Newman, and it tells Julia’s story in 1984. If you haven’t read that, it might be interesting. It’s set back in 1984 time, so it doesn’t overlap with yours.

Efren: I did not know about that.

Joanna: It’s about Julia. It came up when you said that. I was like, oh, you should put that on your reading list.

Efren: I’m definitely going to read that. Thank you for telling me. I can’t believe I didn’t know that. I’m super excited about it now.

Joanna: That’s fantastic. Now, we’re almost out of time, but I do have to ask you the FBI question because there are so many authors writing FBI thrillers. It’s a very popular genre. There are so many TV shows and films.

Is there anything that really annoys you that people get wrong about the FBI regularly?

Efren: Yes, it’s funny you mentioned that because probably less so in books and more and movies, the thing that gets to me is some of the tactics. Watching actors running around with their fingers on the triggers makes me absolutely crazy because that’s so incredibly dangerous, but they do it all the time.

So we’re trying to keep our finger on the side of the weapon, whether it’s a long gun or a pistol, because just life happens. You trip over a log, or somebody sneaks up behind you, the human reaction is to jerk or defend, and so your finger goes right alongside that.

So if people are running around with their finger on the trigger, they’ll be shooting people all the time. So that makes me crazy.

On the similar lines, when actors are carrying the long guns, they have what we call a chicken wing, that elbow is sticking out in the air. Now you’re never going to unsee this when you watch movies, but we always want to put that elbow down and stay center balanced, as opposed to sticking that elbow up.

I don’t know why people do that, but it’s a tendency with long guns to stick your elbow in the air like a chicken wing. So it’s not so serious, but those things drive me nuts.

More on the serious side, movies and books both always make it seem like the FBI and local police are enemies and in competition, when frankly, the opposite is true. The most professional detectives and police officers have worked alongside the most professional FBI agents like partners.

So the FBI can’t get much done without their local partners. So we actually partner up very well. There’s a lot of resources and overarching reach that the FBI has that the local police don’t have, so it develops a great partnership.

So I’m a huge proponent of task forces. It’s different agencies, local or federal, working together for one common mission. That kind of complements my idea on life in general, not just in combating crime or terrorism.

Just people working together, complementing their own resources, their own ideas, and being mission-oriented like a North Star, as opposed to ego-oriented where not a lot gets done, and there’s a lot of bickering and squabbling.

Joanna: Do you have any recommended resources that authors can go to?

Efren: I’m not too familiar with a lot of quality FBI books because, frankly, I don’t read a lot of FBI books because I’ve done it. It doesn’t interest me so much.

The Michael Connelly books really do a good job of showing the police officers’ life. He does a lot of research with how cops in LA are. I think there’s a lot of accuracy there.

Then once he has those founding cultural principles down, then he branches off into creative storytelling that maybe aren’t so true, but they’re entertaining, which is the whole point of fiction. So Michael Connelly’s books are great for police work in general.

Frankly, not to hoot my own horn, but my book would be excellent not just for understanding some FBI thought processes, but understanding criminals in general.

I think anybody writing fiction, you’re always going to have an antagonist and protagonist to some degree, whether it’s grand or focused on an individual. Truly understanding what motivates good and bad people to do what they do, and how they interact with each other, and the psychological reasoning behind it, my book is a blueprint for understanding all those things.

Where then your audience will have epiphanies for their own characters and for their own lives, and probably the antagonists in their own life, understanding why they’re doing what they’re doing. That knowledge will empower your reader to realize, look, I’m just fine. This person’s a chihuahua barking at the doorbell.

Joanna: Fantastic.

So where can people find you and your book online?

Efren: So I’ve got all my links in one spot. My website EfrenDelgado.com, E-F-R-E-N-delgado.com.

Joanna: Brilliant. Thanks so much for your time, Efren. That was great.

Efren: Thank you so much. It was fun.

The post Writing Hard Truths And Tips For Writing Non-Fiction With Efren Delgado first appeared on The Creative Penn.

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Author: Joanna Penn

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  • June 28, 2024