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INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR
What initially got you interested in writing?
I have enjoyed writing since grade school, but I did not become seriously drawn to the activity until high school. The editor of the school paper asked me to cover prep sports and eventually take over the position of sports editor. I found I enjoyed writing about people and events and collecting by-lines more than I did sitting through lectures. When I got out of college, I was similarly drawn to the prospect of making a living doing something many people did for fun. I wrote and edited sports articles for small Northwest dailies for more than ten years. But I was strictly a non-fiction guy, as a reader and a writer, until fifteen years ago. When I changed careers and became a reference librarian, my focus shifted to fiction. I began reading novels, mostly thrillers, and started giving serious consideration to writing them.
How did you decide to make the move into becoming a published author?
I was inspired by the success of a college friend, the novelist Maureen Driscoll. When she self-published the first of her Kellington romances in May 2011, I thought, “I can do this.” I saw that Maureen, by publishing ebooks on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and elsewhere, was able to bypass many of the serious, and still formidable, obstacles that face new authors. I saw a quick and relatively painless path to getting a novel to readers and got right to work. Within a few weeks, I had completed the first eight chapters of The Mine.
What do you want readers to take away from reading your works?
First and foremost, I want them to enjoy them. I decided at the start that I did not want to preach or even educate through my books, but rather entertain. I wanted to tell stories that allowed people to escape for a few hours, to laugh and cry and smile. A reader should feel better after finishing a book, not worse. I put humor, romance, and drama in The Mine because I wanted readers to fully experience a wide range of emotions as they went through the story. And because that particular mix worked well in my first novel, I plan to offer it again in my second.
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
Getting it right. Finding the right words for the right situation. Producing something that reads more like poetry than an instruction manual. Reading a passage days, even weeks, after first putting it on paper and knowing that it can’t be improved. Beyond that, I find it very rewarding to produce works that complete strangers will buy, enjoy, and talk about. I know of at least two book clubs that have discussed The Mine. I still get a kick out of that. I’m sure most authors do.
What do you find most challenging about writing?
Finding new and creative ways to depict characters, places, even concepts. Good writers try to mix it up and use different words and phrases to describe the same things. They make heavy use of thesauri and steer clear of clichés. But there are times when the right words just don’t come, times when you have to sacrifice elegance to communicate effectively.
What advice would you give to people wanting to enter the field?
Jump in. Don’t delay writing that first novel, even if the demands on your personal time are considerable. Also, don’t let the critic in you overrule the artist. Write the books you want to write, not the books others tell you to write. And don’t let the barriers facing new novelists dissuade you from even getting started. This is a great time to be an author. The possibilities are endless. Take advantage of them.
Is there anything else besides writing you think people would find interesting about you?
I’m sort of a jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none kind of guy. I have degrees in four disciplines (journalism, history, political science, library science) and have held jobs that cover the employment spectrum, from a paperboy, dishwasher, and salesman to a Census taker, congressional intern, journalist, and librarian. I also have a number of hobbies, such as fishing, beer making, and collecting memorabilia. I am married to a former grade school teacher. All that matters because it allows me to approach many subjects from personal experience. One of the joys of writing The Mine is that I was able to incorporate so much of what I had done, seen, and learned into one book.
What are the best ways to connect with you, or find out more about your work?
I have a blog at johnheldt.blogspot.com and author pages on Amazon, Goodreads, and Shelfari.