Saturday, November 20, 2010

Interview: John Herrick

Please join me in welcoming John Herrick to Debbie's Book Bag, today. John is here to talk about his new book, From the Dead. Check out my review of From the Dead HERE!

DEB: John can you tell us a little about yourself?
JOHN: I'm a guy with a varied background, from computer work to marketing and a bunch of oddball stuff in between. I started writing at age eight, fell in love with it, and never stopped. It's remained one of the few constants in my life.

DEB: Tell us a little about your book, From the Dead? I love the cover, by the way, did you get the opportunity to have any input on it?
JOHN: From the Dead is a story of second chances. It traces a year in the life of a preacher's son who seeks an identity apart from public expectations. The first part of the novel traces his downward spiral into the dark depths of the human experience. The second portion traces his upward spiral into victory.

About the cover - thanks very much. Yes, the because the publisher isn't one of the huge houses, I had the opportunity to provide direct input into the creative direction of the cover. In fact, I selected the cover photo of the guy on the bench because it resonated with me immediately. Looking at it now, I realized many aspects of the photo symbolize facets of the story itself.

DEB: What was your inspiration for this book? Have you always written stories about the human condition? I thought Jesse's story was very powerful.
JOHN: Driving home from work one evening, Dusty Springfield's "Son of a Preacher Man" came on the radio. I never cared much for the song, but for the first time I paid attention to the lyrics about a straight-laced preacher's son who falls in love with a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Questions rose up inside me. "What if it were the opposite situation? What if the preacher's son had hit rock bottom?" Details started to pour forth, and by the time I got home, I spent 30 minutes trying to get them on paper. The story grew from there, usually with scene ideas coming to me in the car. Obviously, the story and song ended up with nothing in common.

Something about the inner workings of the human heart draws me in as a writer. I love to explore our internal growth, longings and and conflicts that occur in response to extreme circumstances. When you think about it, we all experience the same basic emotions; our personalities and circumstances piece them together in unique ways.

DEB: What type of research did you do for your book?
JOHN: Fortunately, having lived in Ohio and having a brother who lives in L.A. helped minimize location research. In fact, my brother got married in L.A. six weeks before I wrote the first draft, so many details of L.A. remained fresh in my mind, including the Ferris's wheels burned-out bulb at the Santa Monica Pier!

Jesse's hobby is photography - he captures life the way he wishes it could be. So I researched photography basics: how to set up a shot, filter types, chemicals, equipment. For the medical aspect of the novel, I studied bone-marrow treatments. I also researched different blood-based illnesses and discovered how they resemble and differ from one another. I modeled Jesse's illness after these. By coincidence, I had undergone surgery about a year earlier and knew I'd need to include such a scene in an upcoming novel, so I documented every detail. This helped fuel Chapter 63.

DEB: What is your normal writing day like? Do you have things that have to be in place to write comfortably?
JOHN: Oh, routine is key! I sketch an outline of the novel by hand, then let my fingers do the walking on my laptop to write the manuscript. Usually I write at my kitchen table with a mug of hot herbal tea. I kid you not, my cupboard is filled with about 20 boxes of herbal tea. Hey, whatever works!

DEB: What was it like when you got the word that your first novel would be published?
JOHN: I waited 25 years to see my first book hit the shelve. It's a dream come true, and words can't suffice! I'm so grateful.

DEB: Do you have advice for new writers?
JOHN: Never give up! The best things in life take much longer than you think, so hang in there.

DEB: When you're not writing what types of books do you like to read? Do you have a favorite author?
JOHN: I'd like to impress you and say I focus on the classics, but it would be a lie. I try to read a wide variety of contemporary novels and biographies/memoirs. Although I love to write human-heart novels, as a reader I prefer suspense. My favorite author is John Grisham. He's a master storyteller, but the "favorite" status is due more the inspiration he provided - reading The Firm and The Client years ago stirred a fresh desire to become a novelist.

DEB: What are you working on right now?
JOHN: I'm gearing up to outline my next novel, a love story with depth.

DEB: Tell us one thing that people may not know about you?
JOHN: I was turned down for every professional writing position I ever applied for! I'm living proof that you never need to give up.


justine said...

I'm working with Dublin based band Preachers Son and this interview came up on Google Alerts. Really enjoyed reading it and following John's experiences. We covered Son of a Preacher Man, similar story I was in a supermarket and heard Dusty. Ours is dark. If anyone is curious since it's on the same vibe -