Thursday, December 12, 2013

Runner Spotlight, Let Me Introduce J.J. Hensley

Today is Spotlight Thursday

This week I'd like to introduce J.J. Hensley. 
I asked J.J. several questions, to tell part of his story and introduce you all to him. 

J.J.  Blogs at
J.J. Hensley


What are your favorite distances to run?

My favorite distance is the half-marathon.  I think it's the perfect test of speed and endurance and is long enough to really get a feeling of satisfaction out of it.  I like the 10K as well, but still prefer the half.

The way I see it, if a 5K is the equivalent of a short story and a Marathon is War and Peace, the Half-Marathon is the perfect mid-sized novel.  It's short enough to keep your interest, but not so long that you can't wait for it to end.

How long have you been running?  What made you want to become a runner?

I've always run some because of sports of my background in law enforcement, but I didn't become serious about it until I suffered a neck injury in 2006.  The injury kept me from lifting weights and performing other exercises, but running didn't seem to bother me.  The next thing I knew, I was cranking out 7 or 8 miles at a time and was totally hooked.

What is the furthest distance or race you have ever run?

The longest I've gone is a full marathon.  While I'm intrigued by the thought of ultra-marathons, I keep thinking back to a magazine interview I read with an ultra competitor.  The journalist asked the runner the question:  "What is the strangest hallucination you've ever had while running."  I stared at the page in disbelief and thought, "strangest"? Is there a norm for hallucinations?  Is seeing your dead uncle okay, but when the twin girls from The Shining show up - it's time to call it quits?

So, I've oped to stay away from the ultras... for now.

What has been your favorite race, and tell us why?

This is a tough one.  I run the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon and the Marshall University Half-Marathon in Huntington, WV nearly every year and I love both of those races.  However, one of my best memories is from the Presque Isle Half Marathon in Erie, PA because I got to watch my wife complete her very first half-marathon.  The conditions were rough, but I have a photo of her crossing the finish line and she looks like The Terminator, but more determined.  It's an awesome photo.

If you could run any race in the entire wold, where would it be and why?

I've been to Krakow, Poland on a couple of occasions, and I love that city.  I would love to run the half-marathon there and take in the amazing scenery.

Are you a runner who runs for fun, to compete, or both?

I run for fun and I run for my physical and mental health.  If I'm competing, it's only against my own times.  for me, it's all about the experience.

Have you experienced any trials/injuries/health issues that you have had to overcome?  Tell us about them.

I used to have a lot of IT band and shin splint issues, but I shortened my stride and have been healthy since.  Now the only thing that slows me down on the roads (which I don't mind in the least) is that I'm the father of little girl.  I know... I know... that's what running strollers are for.  Like everyone else, I've seen the ads where the smiling man or woman is flying along while pushing the seemingly weightless stroller that carries a laughing child.  Yeah... it's still an extra 20 or 30 pounds of weight and you have to stop every time your child drops her Dora the Exploer sippy cup.  I'm calling BS on those ads.

Tell me what crossing the finish line feels like to you.

For me, it's the feeling of appreciating that I have the ability to do something not everyone can.  There are a lot of people out there who would love to be able to run a distance race on two healthy legs, but can't for various reasons.  Finishing a race is taking advantage of the gifts you have.  It doesn't matter if you run a 5 minute per mile pace or a 15 minute per mile pace.

Do you have a specific distance and PR that you are proud of?

I've got a PR of 1:48 for the half-marathon distance.  I'm not going to be going to the Olympic Trials with that time, but I'm pretty happy with that race.

Do you have a funny running story to share?  Or what is the craziest thing that has ever happened to you while out on a run?

For several years I must have held the record for achieving the most "4th place in age group" finishes in 5Ks.  It didn't seem to matter if I ran a PR or if I ran like a wounded snail, I would finish just outside of the age-group medals, which are usually awarded to the top three.  It became kind of a running joke - excuse the pun.  Earlier this April, I got out of bed to go to a local 5K where I was also signing books and a freak snowstorm was slamming the area.  The wind was awful and the snow got deeper and deeper.  Needless to say, not many people showed up for the race.  None of that mattered to me when I got my 2nd place in age group medal.  I just told myself that sometimes the craziest prevail.

You're a writer, does running inspire your writing?  Do you use a good run to come up with new ideas?

I mentally "wrote" most of Resolve while running and still do that as I work on future novels.  I almost never run with anyone, so for me running is therapeutic.  For afew mile, I can think about plotlines and characters and lose myself in the run.  Most of my best ideas for stores have come to me while I'm running down quiet roads.  And probably some really bad ones, but those must have been on the treadmill:)

You wrote a suspense murder mystery using the Pittsburgh Marathon as a plot, how did you come up with the unique idea?

I think some of the best novels are constructed when an author writes what they know.  When I decided to write a book, I knew it would involve criminal investigation since that is in my background.  It only made sense to use distance running as a vehicle to tell the story, since that is something else with which I'm familiar.  I noticed how the chapters of a book are similar to the miles in a distance race - each with their own twists, turns, hills, etc.- so I decided to segment Resolve into 26.2 chapters and have the protagonist tell the story through a series of flashbacks while running the Pittsburgh Marathon.  I had the main character follow the exact 2010 marathon course and worked the race into the overall action.  It all came together well in the end and I think it made for a unique novel.

Did your own running experiences & knowledge help you write Resolve?

Absolutely.  When I runner reads Resolve, they will be able to tell it was written by another runner.  Some of the protagonist's thoughts throughout the race are the same ones we have all had when cranking out the miles.  The only thing I would change about the running content is that I had the main character mention that he runs heel-to-toe, which is what I was doing back then.  I've since adjusted my foot-strike to avoid injury, but the book was already headed to the printer before I could change that part.

Tell us about Resolve, what can we expect when we pick it up?

Readers of Resolve can expect authenticity.  Whether it is in the descriptions of the marathon, the layout of the city, or the aspects of criminal investigation, the content was constructed to ge genuine.  It's a book that breaks a lot of rules, is different in format, and will leave the reader thinking about the book long after they finished the last page.

Do you ever get writers block?  What's your creative method to get past it?

I've been very fortunate to not have had any major episodes of writer's block.  Maybe it's because I didn't start writing until I was in my later 30's, so perhaps I've had some things bottled up.  Usually if I have a moment where I'm stuck, I just walk away from the keyboard for a couple of days and by then something has come to me.

What are your dreams and biggest goals you're working on?

I've got two more novels in the works.  I'd love for them to get published and have some success.  When my daughter grows up, I'd love for her to look over at a bookshelf and see that her daddy was at least semi-literate and could tell a decent story.

What is your favorite kind of running, solo running or running with a friend or group?

I almost always run solo.  On a few occasions I've run with someone during a race, but I enjoy the solitude of running.  

Have you ever run a relay race?

I've run a couple of relays - The Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati and The Pittsburgh Marathon.  I thought each was a great experience.  I loved the excitement of helping out a team and having others depend on you to do your best.  It's quite a rush of adrenaline when you start your leg of a relay.

Do you listen to music or books while you run?  What are your top 2 favorite tunes to put the pavement to?

I'm an iPod shuffle addict.  I generally listen to music and my collection ranges from hard rock songs to movie instrumentals.  Right now, I'd have to say I have two favorite songs when I'm running: "Trenches" by Pop Evil and "Face to the Floor" by Chevelle.  Don't judge... I like my angry music.

A lot of us runners occasionally listen to podcasts and books while we get our long runs in.  Is your book available to purchase, download and listen to?

The audio edition of Resolve is available on iTunes and can also be purchased on Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, Walmart.com and several other locations.  Don't worry - a professional actor dows the reading, so nobody has to listen to me drone on.

When you're not writing or out on a run, what other hobbies/sports do you enjoy?

Between family, my day job as a training supervisor with the government, and everything else, I try to read as much as I can.  I love looking for small press books that many people haven't heard about and discovering hidden gems.

In life what motivates you and pushes you towards success?

Not to be gloomy... but I try to remember it could all be gone tomorrow.  Life is too short.  You have to leave your mark while you can. :)

What is your must have running accessory?

The iPod Shuffle and my old Garmin GPS watch that is large enough to deflect any incoming asteroid.  I know they make new models of the watch, but I can't seem to get myself to put the old one away.  It makes me feel like a knight carrying a shield into battle.

Water or Sports drink?

I like Fruit Punch Powerade.  It has some vitamins that other sports drinks don't and I seem to tolerate it rather well.

Tell us something unique about you.

To my knowledge, I'm one of the only - or likely THE only - former Secret Service agent to have ever written an official report regarding a U.S. Vice President shooting his hunting partner in the face.

Yep.  You read that correctly.

What have been some of the most exciting parts of getting published?

Before the book came out, I wanted to get some nice author quotes, or blurbs, for the book jacket.  I ended up getting some great feedback from James Grady (of Six Days of the Condor fame) and John Verdon (who is a bestselling mystery author).  As a first-time novelist, receiving those quotes was a bit surreal.  For me it was the equivalent of having Kara Goucher or Meb Keflezighi say, "Hey, you run pretty fast!"


Resolve also just won "The BEST OF 2013 Award" from Suspense Magazine

For those interested in buying, what formats does your book come in?

Resolve is available in Hardcover editions, Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and in audiobook formats.  You can visit http://www.hensley-books.com/where_to_buy.html to see where it is sold, or check your local independent bookstore.
Or.  http://www.amazon.com/Resolve-J-J-Hensley/dp/1579623131/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0   


J.J. Hensley's Website is:
Goodreads Page:



4 comments :

  1. Thanks for the spotlight you are amazing!

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  2. Neat spotlight and the book sounds cool - I lived in Pittsburgh for 3 years so it would be fun to read about the marathon as a setting for a mystery.

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