Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Interview with thriller author John Walker

Find the complete Dark Retribution quartet and other novels by John Walker at
I recently encountered revenge thriller author John Walker on Goodreads. His body of work (six novels and counting) gets good ratings from readers, and I was intrigued by his long term dedication to writing and his independent business sense. Although he and I do not write the same type of novels, I wanted to know more about this kindred spirit of the writing craft, and John Walker agreed to an interview.

1. You write in the first person, which you use effectively to draw in your readers, but how do you overcome some of the challenges of writing in the first person? For example, revealing thoughts/motivations of other characters.

Through conversations, meetings and by having the central character witness events. Writing through the first person seems the most realistic way to present a story for me as we all live our lives, view the world around us and think in the first person. In writing my stories, as I am viewing the fictional world of my central character(s), I am in effect living vicariously through them.

The only variation I have encountered in real life is when I met some individuals who refer to themselves in the 3rd person. For example: instead of saying “I’m going to do this,” they will state their own name and say something like: “[Jack/Jill] will do this.”

2. With six novels published and another on the way, you obviously have a creative drive to write. Do you find writing therapeutic? fun? personally entertaining? What do you get out of the creative process?

Writing has always been something close to magical for me. I have always been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. There has never been a single period of my life when I haven’t been without a book to read. When I was 12-years-old, rewriting my school homework essays in my spare time, something woke up inside me. From then on there was no doubt that being a writer was everything I’ve ever wanted to be. Other creative people express themselves by composing or playing music, others through drawing, painting, sculpting, others through directing movies. It’s all just different mediums that fuel the magic of creativity. Through writing I can leave this world and enter another, immerse myself in the characters and the situations they are in … all by just sitting at my desk and day dreaming! I’m happiest when I’m working and for me it doesn’t get better than that. When I finally completed God’s Soldiers, the final book in the Dark Retribution Quartet, something happened to me that I hadn’t anticipated: my mood plunged and I couldn’t understand why I was feeling so despondent. After all, I’d managed to complete four books in a series that was important to me. I should have been cheering with joy. Everyone around me noticed the depression I’d sank into and it wasn’t until I began to discuss it with others that I was able to understand the reasons why: the cause was because I was leaving behind characters that had been a part of my life for many years. I’d finished the story and was leaving their world behind. It’s another magical thing about writing that our characters will eventually become so real to us.

3. All your novels receive high ratings at retail and review sites. Your main work so far is the Dark Retribution Quartet. Do you know if a majority of readers of the first book Wrath and Remembrance follow through and complete the series?

There have been some readers who have read the first book, Wrath and Remembrance, and haven’t been able to continue with the other 3 because of the genre and dark, violent themes just aren’t for them. I can appreciate that and I have no problem with it. My books aren’t for everyone. We all like different things. It’s part of what makes us individuals and why our world is so diverse and full of variety. I love getting feedback from readers. It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s positive or negative. My stories run like a movie in my mind and my characters all look a certain way. What intrigues me is how other readers perceive the characters and situations in the books. The German director Wim Wenders made a movie in 1991 called Until the End of the World, starring William Hurt, Solveig Dommartin, Sam Neill, Max von Sydow and Jeanne Moreau. Part of the story involves the invention of a device that can record the characters’ dreams while they sleep and they play them back the following day. I’ve always wished someone would somehow realise this concept, make technology catch up to the idea, and create a device that would record a reader’s imagination. It would be cool to be able to see how others imagine what authors set down on paper. Movies come someway close to that with a director’s cinematic interpretation.

4. The concept for your novel Hank Shank VIII is to set loose the character of Henry VIII in modern times. How did you get the idea and does the modern Hank Shank go through as many wives?

The idea came when another publisher asked me if I was interested in writing a biography on Henry VIII. I’d learned about him at school and always found him a deeply flawed, paranoid, ruthless, but fascinating man. I was already involved with writing God’s Soldiers at the time so I shelved the project for about a year. Although I hadn’t begun writing Hank Shank VIII, I still gave it a lot of thought. I didn’t really want to write yet another conventional bio’. There have been many done and I’d already read Henry VIII: King and Court, by Alison Weir, which is my favorite book on that subject. Then an idea came to me as I wondered how Henry VIII would have lived in our era and inspiration sprang from there. In researching Henry’s story, I made a life-chart, complete with dates and that made it easier to retell his story in a contemporary setting. And, yes, he goes through the same dynamics of life and the same number of wives.

5. Your earliest novel, Wrath and Remembrance, has been published since 1998. Were you originally published by another company or have you always self produced your fiction?

Wrath and Remembrance was a long time in the writing. I began writing it in the mid-1980s. Initially, all 4 books in the quartet were part of one massive volume. I knew back then that the story was too big to tell in one go and I was still getting so many new ideas for the characters and the story, so several rewrites followed.

During the early 90s, one publisher read a different draft version of Wrath and Remembrance and told me they’d only publish it if I completely changed the ending and didn’t kill off one of the characters. Even if I’d complied, it would have meant deleting several chapters of the book and it would have ruined many aspects of the next 3 books in the series. So I refused and didn’t bother with that publisher.

In 2004, I was offered an ebook contract with a different publisher. The concept of ebooks was new to me then and I agreed to let someone else take the reins as it meant freeing up more of my time and making my work available to a world-wide audience. Unfortunately, that particular publisher proved both unreliable and uncommunicative, and I cancelled my contract with them after 3 years. I’m still in touch with many of the other authors who were contracted to the same publisher and they had a similar experience to mine. I was bitter for a long time after that as I’m serious about what I do, have a strong work ethic and I don’t appreciate having others waste my time.

I decided to create my own publishing label and go back to having full control over my work as I enjoy being independent and my own boss.

I would certainly be open to consider an offer of a contract from another publisher if one was offered to me, but sales are going well as things stand now.

6. Any additional comments?

Right now I’m busy with my 7th book, entitled Backlash. It’s a psychological road-chase-thriller set across 8 states in America. I’m still only on the first draft, but very happy with the way the story is developing.

I also have ideas for a future book project on the American Civil War. This subject has interested me for a long time and I’d love to produce a book on that.

Thanks again for the opportunity to do this interview. It’s time I put on some fresh coffee and got back to work. I just had an idea for my book!

Readers interested in John Walker can read the first chapter of Wrath and Remembrance at his website.

Also, see reader reviews and ratings of his all his novels at his Goodreads author page.