If you’re in downtown Boston and see a young man, earbuds in, walking and typing furiously on his iPhone, he could be firing off an email or posting a Snap. Or he could be writing a novel.
UMass Boston graduate John Ward ’10 used this unorthodox walk-and-write approach to develop his debut novel The Citadel, released last week from Vine Leaves Press.
Ward, who earned a bachelor’s in political science from UMass Boston, works as director of government affairs for Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins. With a demanding day job and a growing family at home, he realized that completing The Citadel would require some creative time management. So the East Boston resident began writing initial drafts on his phone during the long walk from his MBTA stop to his office.
Ward says he’s always been creative—he was a hip-hop artist and producer years ago—but never envisioned himself writing a novel.
“I never had an ambition necessarily to write fiction. I’ve always been a reader and I’ve always loved fiction,” Ward said. “I had always thought about the novel as a terribly daunting thing—it’s like composing a symphony.”
But Ward had an idea he couldn’t shake. On their honeymoon, Ward and his wife visited Granada, an ancient city in southern Spain with a centuries-long history of war and conquest.
“When I got back, it was just kind of haunting me, and I thought, ‘Wow, what an interesting place for a story to be told about the continuation of history,'” he said.
The Citadel follows Amir Omar Duran, a detective in a near-future Granada that has been retaken by the British and provides most of that country’s food. When an African migrant turns up dead in a work camp, Duran must work with British intelligence to uncover the truth.
Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has praised the book, calling it "a richly textured mystery that invites us to explore the blurred lines between faith and politics."
Ward secured a publishing deal for three novels featuring Duran; he says the next two installments are already complete. He’s now at work on a mystery novel set in Boston.
Balancing a full-time job, a family, and a writing career may seem impossible, but Ward says UMass Boston gave him the multifaceted skills he needed to perfect this juggling act.
“UMass Boston gave me the intellectual skills to pursue multiple things. It kind of prepared me to engage in every pursuit with a level of rigor,” he said. “I credit my experience at UMass Boston for preparing me to fully pursue literature while at the same time working in criminal justice and making an impact.”
The Citadel is available online and in brick-and-mortar bookstores. To find a copy visit Ward’s website at www.johnward.ink.