Now in the fourth decade of his publishing career, Wil Mara is one of the most prolific and critically acclaimed authors in the world, with more than 300 books to his credit. He 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 for children includes more than 200 educational and reference titles for school libraries. His books have received excellent reviews not only from consumers but also in respected journals such as 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. There are presently five ‘Twisted’ titles in print, with two more coming in summer of 2021 and several more scheduled for 2022. ‘Twisted’ is also being developed for television, with a pilot 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.
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 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 is also an executive member of the Board of Directors for the New Jersey Center for the Book, which is an affiliate of the US Library of Congress. 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 does a great deal of public speaking beyond the Center 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. Most recently, 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.