Please welcome John M. Persinger to the blog today. He's here to talk about his debut novel, The Saint Joseph Plot.
1. Tell us a bit about your writing background. When did you first start to write?
The first writing class I ever took was a summer course while in grade school. Creative writing wasn’t offered as a course during the normal school year. It wasn’t until high school that I started to write creatively again.
For my senior year arts elective, I chose creative writing, but nearly dropped out after a few days. The first part of the class focused on poetry. I was, and still am, terrible at writing poetry. It was very discouraging. Fortunately, the teacher encouraged me to stick with it. As we moved on to short stories and plays, I enjoyed it more.
In college, I decided to major in history, which provided lots of opportunities to write. I found that writing history can be like writing stories. With history, it is just that your writing is grounded in true facts, events and people, as opposed to a fictional world.
After college, I had the opportunity to write professionally. I drafted speeches for my bosses – the White House Counsel and the U.S. Ambassador to Australia. It was a challenge to write the speeches from my bosses’ voices and not from mine.
Going through law school and now as a practicing attorney, I am writing all the time. Sometimes the topics can be very dry. I challenge myself to make it as interesting as possible to the reader.
All of this background is to say that I have been writing for a long time, even if it hasn’t always been creative writing.
2. Who would you say has inspired you most as a writer? (Another writer, a colleague, a family member…)
My parents initially inspired me the most as a writer. They placed a big emphasis on reading. Going to the library to check out books seemed like a weekly occurrence when I was growing up. My father would bring home multiple newspapers each night and share articles with my sisters and me.
My parents also enjoy a great story. They are big movie goers. I think this appreciation for good stories wore off on me.
Today, my wife inspires me the most as a writer. She is a former journalist – she worked both in the Middle East as a freelance journalist and in Australia as a political reporter for one of its biggest newspapers. She is an excellent writer and her insights and critiques motivate me to become a better writer.
3. What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
In this debut novel, The Saint Joseph Plot, the final chapters were the most enjoyable for a couple of reasons.
First, the final chapters are the fastest in the book. By fastest, I mean that people read them so quickly because there they are action-packed and reveal several of the mysteries contained in the book. In that sense, they were fun to write.
Second, the final chapters are the ending of my debut novel. It was immensely gratifying to know that I could not only write a novel, but write one in which all of the issues in the book were resolved by these final chapters.
4. How did you come up with the title?
The title reflects my desire to brand this book as one in a series.
Before writing this initial novel, I kicked around several ideas for novels. Even though I didn’t write about those issues this time around, I knew that I would get to them eventually. With this in mind, I decided that the title of this first book should have some features to it that could be replicated several times in a series.
Since the book featured the intersection of religion, politics, and foreign affairs, I thought the title should reflect some religious influence. Hence, the idea for The Saint Joseph Plot. The title of each subsequent book will feature a different saint.
5. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I appreciate all of the constructive criticism because it helps me to become a better writer.
On that note, the toughest criticism came from a review in my hometown newspaper, Erie Times-News, in which the reviewer offered no constructive criticism. One of takeaways was that the reviewer suggested that the book should have more sex. The reviewer missed the point of not having any sex or gratuitous violence in the book. It was tough because I felt that I failed in my goal of writing an entertaining book without sex or gratuitous violence.
The best compliment that I have received is simply when people say that “they enjoyed it.” I wrote it to entertain people. I know people have very busy lives, so any time someone says that they took the time to read the book and that they enjoyed it, I appreciate it.
6. How does your writing process look? Consistent with regular amounts of word counts daily/weekly… or more sporadic with a gush of words all at once and then a dry bed for a while?
Because I have a young family and a day job as an attorney, I try to be methodical in my writing. I get up each morning by 4:30 a.m., and I write until 7:00 a.m. I do this every day of the week. Some days I write more words than others. But I don’t adhere to any particular amount of word counts that I need to meet by any particular deadline.
7. What is best writing advice you can give?
Just write. Worry about revising after you have a story done, but just get the book done. There will always be room for improvement. The revising and editing process never ends, even after a book has been published. But unless you get a first draft of the book done, too many distractions might prevent that from ever happening.
8. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I outline an entire book before writing. I outline chapter-by-chapter what will happen and what I want to achieve. I complete character sketches (bios/backgrounds) before writing as well. I even jot down potential quotes.
9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I decided to self-publish the novel after much research and even after obtaining an agent. In my day job as a lawyer, I do transactional work, including reviewing contracts. In reviewing various publishing industry contracts, I found them to be not very advantageous to a writer in my position. Additionally, I felt comfortable finding and hiring an editor, cover designer, and printer. I figured it was worth the risk to self-publish.
10. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
The writing process and, more importantly, the editing and revising process never end. There are definitely things that I would have done differently regarding the book. But, again, if you delay finishing a book simply, you may never finish it at all.
11. What’s next? Do you have any works in progress or other contracted work?
I have a number of projects coming out in 2014. I have a short follow up and a separate prologue to The Saint Joseph Plot. My second novel, The Saint Francis Revelation, will also be released, as well as a short follow up and a separate prologue to this novel. I’m also working on a number of other creative projects, including a radio show and a children’s series. It makes life busy, but I’m enjoying it all!
The Saint Joseph Plot can be found on Amazon.