Now in the fourth decade of his publishing career, Wil Mara has written both fiction and nonfiction, for children as well as adults. According to LibraryThing, he is the only living author with at least one book in all ten of the Dewey Decimal system categories. His work has received excellent reviews not only from consumers but also in respected journals such as Publishers Weekly, SLJ, Kirkus Reviews, Horn Book, Children’s Literature, and many others.
His first novel for adults, 2005’s Wave, won the New Jersey Notable Book Award and sold through its first printing in less than six weeks. His 2013 hit thriller Frame 232—the first in a series to feature billionaire sleuth Jason Hammond—reached the #1 spot in its category on Amazon, won the Lime Award for Excellence in Fiction, and was a finalist for the national Christy Award. Wil’s 2012 pandemic novel The Gemini Virus, from Macmillian Publishing, remained on Amazon’s list of ‘Top 20 Bestselling Medical Thrillers’ for more than three months. And the 2014 feature film Draft Day, starring Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner, was based on his novel The Draft, published by St. Martin’s Press. His most recent disaster novel, 2017’s Fallout, was a contender for the Edgar Award for Novel of the Year.
More recently, he launched the new supernatural series for middle-grade readers known as ‘Twisted’. The ‘Twisted’ books were an immediate hit with librarians and kids alike, noted particularly for their easy readability and tremendous popularity with the most challenging of all students—the reluctant readers. ‘Twisted’ has since gone on to become the most successful fiction series in its publisher’s history. The second title, House of a Million Rooms, was picked by the Junior Library Guild as a Main Selection title only two weeks after its release, and later that year received the JLG’s Gold Standard Award. ‘Twisted’ books have individually earned glowing reviews in School Library Journal, Booklist, and other trade publications. There are presently eight ‘Twisted’ titles in print, with two more coming in 2024 (including one that covers the red-hot topic of banned books). ‘Twisted’ is also being developed for television, with a pilot and next two episodes already written by Wil.
He has two other new series for young readers—‘Izzy Jeen the Big Mouth Queen’ and ‘Logan Lewis: The Kid from Planet 27’. Both are early chapter books meant for about a third-grade audience, are also noted for their readability among reluctant readers, and are being developed for television; in this case as animated programs. Their original release dates were forestalled due to the Covid outbreak, but the first titles in each series are now available and have enjoyed excellent early reviews. It’s also worth noting that he has ghostwritten five of the popular ‘Boxcar Children’ mysteries. Lastly on this front, Wil has another new series, ‘The Mattie Madison Mysteries’ due out next year.
Beyond writing, Wil worked on the inside of the publishing business for more than twenty years. He functioned primarily as an editor for high-profile houses such as Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill, Scholastic, and Marshall Cavendish. He also handled manuscript acquisitions, production tasks like page composition and cover design, and executive matters such as personnel management, budgeting, and contract negotiation.
Outside the business, Wil is the current Chairman and Director for the New Jersey Center for the Book—an affiliate of the US Library of Congress—following ten years on their Executive Board. His duties for the Center have included the creation of new stories, original writing, and original artwork for their popular ongoing ‘Jersey Trackers’ online serial. He has also acted as emcee for many of the Center’s public events. He is an associate member of the New Jersey Association of School Librarians, the creator and facilitator of the ‘Myth of the Reluctant Reader’ lecture series, a charter member of the Literacy Alliance of New Jersey, and the host of the ‘Voice of American Libraries’ podcast. He does a great deal of public speaking as well—in 2019, he was the keynote for the New Jersey Librarians Assocation’s annual conference, and he has several educational presentations on writing, general communication, and reluctant readership that he’s brought to hundreds of schools over the years.
Wil has been honored with numerous awards and citations. He was the recipient of the 2019 Literary Lion Award—whose past winners include Gus Friedrich, Dean Emeritus of Rutgers University, and Joyce Carol Oates, National Book Award winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist—and, in 2020, became the New Jersey Author of the Year. Most recently, he was interviewed on both News12 New Jersey and PBS to discuss the increasingly controversial topic of book banning.
For the most up-to-date news about Wil and his work, check him out on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.