Welcome, John Theo
By Jeff Salter
Can’t recall exactly when I first encountered John, but undoubtedly it was sometime this year at the site where several of us Clean Reads authors gather to chew and spit and swap tall tales. Well, at least we gather…
John has an amazing range of writing experience… in more genres than you can count. [Makes me jealous]. Anyway, I was intrigued by his new release, White Mountains’ False Flag, so I invited John to be my Guest Hound today and tell us a bit more about his riveting new novel.
A New Hampshire Park Ranger uncovers a government conspiracy buried deep in the woods.
BACK COVER BLURB:
Ransom Doniphon is a Park Ranger working in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. While on a helicopter search-and-rescue mission he spies a makeshift shelter deep within the woods. When Ransom and his partner investigate there is a shootout leaving three men dead. What at first appears to be a mobile drug lab hidden in the woods turns out to be a home grown terrorist cell with roots that run deep into state and federal government.
The man outside the tent had a bowie knife in his hand and a 1911 handgun in a kydex holster on his right hip. There was a high probability the guy in the tent was armed as well. It was clear that he would need backup. Ransom started to sneak away. His stomach dropped when he turned to face another man. A third man. He was in his fifties and held a bolt-action deer rifle which he pointed directly at Ransom.
- What would it take to get you out of New England? Or could it ever happen?
[ John ] — There is a lot to love about New England, and my roots run deep here. New England plays a backdrop on various levels in all of my stories. After living near the sea for decades though, I have contemplated life out in the country. The Theo’s are a Christian family, so my wife and I would move anywhere if we felt “called”.
- I see you’ve written in numerous formats besides book length fiction. What’s your favorite means of written expression (as the writer)? How about as a reader?
[ John ] — I enjoy writing short stories, novels and screenwriting, but my favorite is book length fiction. Under that umbrella, my favorite format is writing in third person. Other than omniscient point of view I (personally) find third person the most challenging POV to write in, and the most rewarding. My murder mystery novel, Cape Ann, was written in first person, which was fun to write in. For me, it allowed you to jump into a character’s head much easier than third or omniscient. Screenwriting is by far the easiest format to write in. You don’t have to weave a story poetically like you do in prose. You set the scene up with a few lines and jump right into dialogue. Very formula driven.
- From the blurb, it appears your new release features conspiracies… or fears about them. In writing this novel, were you worried that readers might identify YOU (the author) with your characters who seem obsessed with conspiracies?
[ John ] — I wish they were all conspiracy theories, but most of the storylines in White Mountains’ False Flag, are pulled directly from news headlines over the past few years. Yesterday’s conspiracy theory is fast becoming today’s reality. Quantitative easing to infinity, government shutting down monuments and parks to force congress to raise the debt ceiling, spying on citizens using smart technology are just a few. It’s a sad state of affairs the country is in.
- Have you ever encountered people who seem unable / unwilling to comprehend that writing is something you are driven to do?
[ John ] — I think most lay people don’t understand writers and how much work goes into creating a novel. I get a lot of pats on the shoulder from people who say, “Congrats on your new book, how about them Red Sox.” I’m like, “Dude, I just spent two years of my life working on this. Can I get a share on Facebook or something?”
I do feel driven to write, but I make sure it’s not how I am identified. For me, I’m a Christian first, a husband, a father, brother, and son before I’m a writer. It doesn’t mean writing is not a priority, but placing my writing in its place has actually made me better at the craft. Ironically this will help insulate you for when criticism comes along, which is a guarantee.
- If you were not a writer, can you imagine what else you might do to express the creativity within you?
[ John ] — I would probably dabble in film more. I’ve been on television and acted a little. I still have one foot in the door so to speak with my YouTube channel. I started it primarily to talk about my books and the writing process, but have added a myriad of other topics such as American history, apologetics, comedic spoofs and politics.
- If sales (money) and critics (reviews) were immaterial to you, what genre and length would you write?
[ John ] — I’ve been fortunate to have been published in young adult fiction and across different adult genres so I’d continue to “dabble”. I think Y/A holds a special place for me due to stories I read growing up. Y/A novels can speak to both kids and adults about topics that range from humor, grieving, romance and God. Adult fiction doesn’t have that vertical mobility.
- Give us at least one example of someone who has contacted you and expressed how much your writing meant to them.
[ John ] — A New Hampshire teacher read my Y/A book, The Grotto Under the Tree, to her class a few years back. I came in for a visit to read the last chapter to them. There were gasps when I read the last page and heard kids whispering. It was so much fun to see the excitement on their faces. Weeks later the class wrote me thank you notes expressing their love of the book. The cute hand written misspelled notes were so heartwarming. I still have them.
- In the interviews & blog questions you’ve handled over the years, what is one writing question which you’ve WISHED had been asked of you… but never has been asked?
[ John ] — I loved your question #2 which I’ve never received before!
I would add a question like “What advice do you have for writers starting out?”
- What’s your answer to # 8 above?
[ John ] — * I think this is important for writers to have perspective. I tell my students don’t put your life on hold for the “art.” Don’t be that guy/gal who thinks it’s “all about the art.” Art is very important. On some level art could change culture and the world, but it should not be how you identify yourself. Legendary film maker Francis Ford Coppola once said the best thing he did for his film career was to get married. Live your life. Paradoxically, when I placed writing in its correct spot in my life (behind God and family) my writing improved and my novels started getting published.
* Find a mentor. I could have shaved years off my learning curve if I had someone who could have helped me navigate a lot of pitfalls and simply be there to answer questions.
* Stay out of debt as much as possible. This will allow you more time and flexibility to tack left or right when financial bumps in the road come along. With a lot of debt you may have to hold two jobs to make ends meet, which means less time available to write. Kids are leaving school now with a bachelor’s degree owing $100-200k in student loans. The deck is already stacked against them. Don’t add to this if you can help it.
* Try to carve out consistent times to write. It’s different for everyone, but don’t feel like you need two hour window of free time or you can’t write. I wrote the majority of White Mountains’ False Flag in twenty minute increments at lunch.
AUTHOR: John Theo Jr.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
John received an MFA in creative writing from Pine Manor College, in Chestnut Hill MA. He has a long publishing history in non-fiction. White Mountains’ False Flag is his fourth fiction novel. John lives in Massachusetts with his family and teaches screenwriting at Endicott College in Beverly Massachusetts.
BOOK TRAILER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSlKRAvMPqw
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John’s Question for you:
What genre is your favorite to read? What POV is your favorite to read in?
[JLS # 303]