He has spent his professional career solving problems, even his hobbies involve finding solutions to problems. So it seems only natural that his first book involves characters who are solving problems.

Charles O’Donnell, a 1973 graduate of Ballard High School and Slater native, recently finished his first fictional novel, "The Girlfriend Experience." The book is about a group of technology developers who are trying to create a new program. The program’s success hinges on main character, Matt Bugatti, sticking with the program. When Matt’s boss becomes worried that Matt might leave, he hires a call girl to pose as Matt’s girlfriend. All the while, the Chinese secret service is spying on Matt.

Parts of the book take place in China at locations O’Donnell has traveled to for work. He said this helps make the book "seem very realistic," but the story itself is authentic.

While the first two chapters of the book deal with the very technical aspects of the project the characters are working on, O’Donnell said the remainder of the thriller-suspense novel is much easier to read.

"It’s a fast-moving story, but it takes a while to get started," O’Donnell said.

When asked why he decided to write a book, considering he has spent 30 years in product development, O’Donnell said the story was waiting to come out.

"Everyone has a book inside them. I just had to let mine out," O’Donnell said.

According to O’Donnell, there are two types of authors - gardeners and architects. Gardener-type authors plant an idea and see what comes of it, while architect-type authors carry out a plan and modify the plan as they work on it. O’Donnell said he is more of an architect-type author.

It took him three years to finish writing the book, from the time he got the idea to the time he completed the last sentence. He said he spent the first year talking himself into actually writing it. Since he is not a writer, O’Donnell had to learn how to use not only words, but voice, to tell the story in a way that readers would be able to understand.

"It’s a difficult process," O’Donnell said. "It’s one of the hardest things I’ve done, but it’s intensely rewarding."

Several of O’Donnell’s friends and family members are journalists or authors and were able to help him during the writing process. Without their encouragement, O’Donnell said he probably would not have completed the book.

"Having their encouragement was very important to me," O’Donnell said.

O’Donnell often attends the annual Writer’s Conference held at Columbus State Community College. While there, he and other authors attend workshops where they can learn how to become better writers and hear from experts. His attendance at the conference also helped him finish his first book.

With the positive responses he has received about "The Girlfriend Experience," he already has plans for a sequel to the book. The latest book will take place a couple years later, when a character similar to Matt Bugatti is asked to serve on an investigative committee. When a national crisis arises, he is called upon for his assistance.

O’Donnell said his goal is to become a better writer. Reading books by authors Dan Brown, Vince Flynn and Ken Follett inspired him to begin writing. He said those authors made it seem like it did not take much to write a book. He soon found out there is more involved than he originally thought.

"There’s a craft to it. Is it difficult? Yeah, but understanding all of the elements that makes a good book is what motivates me now," O’Donnell said.