Sunday, August 01, 2010
A small amount, perhaps. Most of my characters are an amalgamation of relatives and acquaintances I knew growing up in the South. I wrote these individuals just the way I saw them: triumphs and failures, foibles and flaws, petty bigotries and soaring selflessness and all.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Most of them were back in my B.C. days, so don’t bear repeating here, but several years ago I was involved in a clown ministry, and one time at a children’s service the other clown and I both forgot our lines right in the middle of a skit. We improvised and kept going, and when it finally came to its ragged end I think we were both laughing harder than the kids.
I was a professional clown for much of my adult life. When did you first discover that you were a writer?
The seventh grade. My English teacher that year decided to have us all write a one-page short story a week, and turn it in for a grade. From the very first one I did (a satire about a giant robot running amok in New York City), I was hooked. One of my tales, a dystopian short about the last man on earth, so impressed the teacher she had it placed in a small literary paper the school did. Oddly enough, I still have the tattered green spiral notebook that holds those stories. Childish, clunky, and simplistic as they are, I simply can’t bring myself to toss it.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
For fiction, anything by Dean Koontz, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (the Agent Prendergast series), Carl Hiaason, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, and Robert Crais. For nonfiction ,my favorites are works by P.J. O’Rourke or Ravi Zacharias (now there’s an odd teaming! *G*)
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
First, I have a three-book series, the Joe Box novels. The stories concern a rough-cut private investigator who’s also an alcoholic Vietnam. Through a set of odd circumstances he finally realizes his life is out of control, and accepts the Lord. Now the trick is trying to balance his new walk of faith against his dark and sometimes violent profession. The titles are Until the Last Dog Dies, When Skylarks Fall, and To Skin a Cat, all out through Cook/RiverOak. The tales were a kick to write, full of action and side-of-the-mouth humor, and got nice reviews. I may return to that series one day.
Next up is Heading Home, which we’ll talk about in a minute.
And then next year I have two more novels coming out, Relentless and The Radiance. The first is the kickoff of my new Mac Ryan series. Mac’s a wounded Iraqi war vet turned soldier of fortune, whose mission in life now is to help people out when they have nowhere else to turn. Like Joe, he’s a great character.
The next novel, The Radiance, is a first for me, a science fiction story. It deals with the aftermath of a mysterious global event that’s causing intelligence worldwide to start rising, with no end in sight. Its scope is the most ambitious thing I’ve done to date, focusing on how the phenomenon impacts two individuals. One of them is the richest man the world, and the other is his brother, a former Army Ranger and fallen-away pastor. How these two handle the economic, military, spiritual, and moral changes the Radiance is inflicting on the Earth is the backbone of the story.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I read a lot, and listen to music. I have eclectic tastes, so on any given day I may pop in CDs by Plumb, Crystal Lewis, Rez Band, King Crimson, Frank Sinatra, Tchaikovsky, or Jethro Tull.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
With my wife Barb’s help, rearing our two sons, and watching them both turn into fine Christian men.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
A chimp, no question. They’re nature’s dark clowns: funny, sassy, zany, but with a bit of an edge. What’s not to like? *G*
What is your favorite food?
Oh, that’s an easy one. It’s a three-way tie between spoon bread, green beans with fatback, and country ham.
The three together would make a really good meal. What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
I have dyslexia, which frequently causes me to reverse words when I write. My wife Barb helps me with this, spotting my errors and gently showing me what needs fixing. In truth, she’s a terrific beta reader and an editor-for-hire, and has helped immeasurably with fleshing out my books. Most of the kudos should go to her!
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
Several things. First, write every day; even if it’s just a few lines, but hopefully it would be more. Mystery writer Lawrence Block in his riotous but oh-so-helpful book, Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, recommends writing one page a day; do that, he says, and by the end of the year you’ll have written a novel. He’s right; it works! Next, research the publishing world heavily before querying houses or agents. Unless God himself intervenes, you have one chance with your story, and then first rights are gone forever. You don’t want to blow it. Last, shut off your internal critic. It may be the voice of a friend, relative, or former teacher, but that voice will do its utmost to stymie you. Don’t let it.
Tell us about the featured book.
Heading Home is a story about possible end-time events, but told in a way and with a spin that I don’t think has never been done before (I could be wrong, though). Novelist Eric Wiggin says it’s like Left Behind on steroids. That sounds funny, but he may be right.
I guess the best way to describe it would be to give you the back cover copy:
The Bible makes it clear no one knows the day or the hour of Christ's return. But it doesn't say we won't know the month.
Or the week.
When every Christian simultaneously receives a message that Christ will return sometime in the coming week, the world is thrown into stark panic. Two old friends, hardened combat veterans from the closing days of the Vietnam War, set out on a suspenseful quest to redeem that time. What they don't know is that they and their entire church have been targeted for satanic annihilation.
Please give us the first page of the book.
The savage thunder crashed like cannon, rattling the metal Quonset hut. Nick Castle shook his head to clear it and looked back at the large man seated before him. “Say again, sir?”
Colonel Rugg’s sigh was deep and heartfelt. “Corporal Castle. I'm growing mighty tired of repeating myself. You’ve been in-country for almost a year, as near as makes never-mind, and you’re telling me you’re still having a problem ignoring our little summer storms?”
Little summer storms? Nick bit back a caustic reply. Cincinnati had little summer storms. This rotten monsoon had been raging unchecked for nearly five weeks, and he'd never been so wet in his life. The moisture seemed to have a mind of its own as it seeped its way into nearly everything; even the boxes of cereal in the company mess tent were soggy. To make it worse Nick’s olive-drab socks and underwear had gone black and slick with mildew, and the oil-soaked sweat covering his face and body made him feel gummy night and day.
Reigning in his thoughts, he returned to the matter at hand. “Sorry, sir. I’ll do better. You were saying—?”
“I was saying, corporal, that I just now got off the phone with General Mannon. Things may be on the mend here. Finally. Turns out he’s cooked up a scheme that just might help us with our funding problems.”
“That sounds good.”
Rugg gave a devilish grin. “It seems he’s been in contact with the editor of some newspaper in London. The general persuaded them to send a reporter over here to write a story about our unit. A real human-interest piece. When it’s finished they plan to syndicate the thing back to the States. Maybe it’ll stir up a little home front passion for our poor cause.”
How can readers find you on the Internet?
The best place would be my website, which also contains my blog: http://www.johnrobinsonbooks.com/
I hope to have a lot of visitors there. I also hope people enjoy my writing.
Thanks so much for having me, Lena! I appreciate it!
My pleasure, John.
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