Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Guest Author: John Lindermuth

Someone once said to me that the best writers were once newspaper editors or journalists. I'm not sure that I would go that far (after all, I'm not one) but it's certainly true for John Lindermuth. Perhaps it's the ability to dig down to the truth, do the research, and pick out the elements that appeal to our emotions and natural curiosity.

Whatever it is, I'm fortunate to have John with us, today.

John Lindermuth
Why did you decide to write?
Like many writers, I was an early reader. Our community had no library until I was in high school. Fortunately, my dad had books ranging from the classics to mysteries and Westerns. As I got older, I started emulating some of the writers I admired. Eventually it became something I ‘had’ to do. When I entered the Army they recognized I had some ability and sent me to J-school. That provided a career which paid the bills as I learned to write fiction.
How much research do you do?
It depends on the project. For a modern mystery I’ll look into necessary aspects of police procedure, forensics, etc. I want enough information to be reasonably accurate, though I prefer not to bog down the story flow by getting too technical.

What’s your favorite method for researching?
The Internet has made it so much easier for most research. For historical subjects, though, I still like to explore sources like newspapers, magazines of the period. You can’t beat those for getting a feel for the period.

When do you write/what is your writing day like?
I try and write something every day. Life sometimes gets in the way but it’s like dieting or exercising—you can’t let excuses gain the upper hand or the battle is lost. Even if it’s no more than a few paragraphs, it’s important to keep up the flow.

What is the best advice someone has given you about writing? The worst advice?
The best advice I ever got came, indirectly, from an artist. My initial goal as a youth was to be an artist. I wrote Thomas Hart Benton and asked his advice. His reply was one word: “Paint.” I think the same formula applies to writing. I’m an empiricist. I believe the only way to learn anything is by doing it. I definitely agree with Charles Nodier who wrote—“A writer should read until he is filled to the brim and like a pitcher which is over-filled over flows. And then he should write.”

How do you approach a new book? Outlines? Just an idea?
My stories generally begin with an image in my mind of a character in a situation and grow from there. I’m not much of an outliner. My outlines, if they can even be termed as such, are a few mere jottings—hieroglyphs that would be meaningless to anyone else. I usually know where it’s going to end up, but I don’t want to have everything planned out in advance or I run the risk of getting bored.

How do you develop your characters?
They have a tendency to create themselves. I may think I know them, but they have a way of surprising me.

Who are your favorite authors? Have any authors inspired you or influenced your work?
I can’t really name one favorite writer; there are too many I admire and love reading. I’m sure I’ve been influenced to some degree by all. Some classic favorites include Poe, Melville, Emily Bronte, Twain, Dumas, Cervantes, Robert Louis Stevenson and Jack London--the list goes on. Among modern writers I’d name Peter Matthiessen, John Fowles, Nabokov, Jim Harrison, and mystery writers like Charles Williford, Ruth Rendell and James Lee Burke—again the list goes on and I’m always discovering new writers (including many who aren’t famous) who make me envious.

Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?
Ray Bradbury once advised a person who wanted to write to stay away from college. In his opinion the only way to learn to write was to do it—everyday. His second bit of advice was to believe in oneself.

Where do you see yourself as an author in five years?
A best seller, film, fame and riches might be nice to imagine, and I’d be lying if I claimed to not want any of those things. Few of us write fiction because we expect to get rich. We don’t write because of lack of ability to do something else. We write because we want to—and that doesn’t demean it to the limit of a hobby. Not that there’s anything wrong with hobbies. But a hobby is something we do primarily for entertainment; a diversion from the trials and cares of every day life. Anyone who tries it will soon learn writing fiction is not always entertaining. It’s hard work and anything but a diversion.

My hope is to continue writing stories someone will want to read.

Brief Bio
A retired newspaper editor, J. R. Lindermuth lives and writes in central Pennsylvania. Since retirement, he has served as librarian of his county historical society where he assists patrons with research and genealogy. He has published nine novels, including four in his Sticks Hetrick mystery series. Three other mysteries are under contract for 2012. His articles and short stories have appeared in a variety of magazines, both print and on line. He is the father of two children and has four grandsons.

Amazon page:

Blurb for The Limping Dog, a mystery coming from Whiskey Creek Press in March 2012

Gavin Cutter, an artist living in an isolated village on the New England coast, witnesses the crash of a sailing ship onto a reef. The first aboard the wreck, Cutter rescues a dog, the only living creature on the vessel. Ron Myers, wealthy owner of a growing computer firm, and the ship’s crew have disappeared without a trace.

Myers is alleged to have developed a radical new microprocessor system. Some assert the system was lost with its creator. Others believe it exists and have devious plans to profit from the invention.

When TJ Flood, an insurance investigator, questions Cutter and others, he learns a sheriff’s deputy has concealed knowledge of a woman who also witnessed the wreck. Flood is attracted to Dee, Cutter’s daughter, a newspaper reporter. They join forces in investigating the ship incident and strange coincidences surrounding it, including a break-in at Cutter’s house and mysterious concerns about the dog. The result is threats, danger and, ultimately, several murders before the case is resolved.

* * * * *
Thank you John!


J. R. Lindermuth said...

Thank you, Amy. It's a pleasure being here today.

Jennifer Wilck said...

Hi John, I love the Charles Nodier quote. New book sounds great. Good luck!

Theresa Varela said...

Thanks Amy and John. What a great post. I agree with the importance of attending to writing just as we do exercise and diet. These are all life sustaining processes, not to be treated as occasional events.

Earl Staggs said...

Excellent points, John. Several lines resonated with me, such as this one:

"We don’t write because of lack of ability to do something else. We write because we want to..."

Best wishes for continued success in your writing career.

Patricia Gligor's Writers Forum said...

I enjoyed reading this interview. Thanks!
I hope you know that "Fallen From Grace" is on my must read list!

James R. (Jim) Callan said...

Thanks for a great interview, John. I like the advice the artist gave you. "Paint." Same for writers. "Write." I look forward to The Limping Dog.

James (Jim) R. Callan!/pages/Murder-A-Cappella/137962582978645

J. R. Lindermuth said...

Thanks all. Appreciate the input.

Amy said...

Thank you all so much for visiting! I really appreciate all the comments.

Hope everyone has a wonderful New Year!

john M. Daniel said...

John, I enjoy getting to know you by reading posts such as these. You clearly take writing seriously, and I agree with you that sometimes it's plain hard work. But I also feel, and think you'd agree, that writing can also make the spirits soar. You writing seems to confirm that positive feeling. I'm glad to know you admire the classics. So do I!

Sunny Frazier said...

I wanted to go to journalism school in the Navy, but women didn't get many choices in the early '70's. They made me a dental tech! But, I do agree that a background in journalism is an edge over other writers. We are geared to meet deadlines and discount writers block.

Terrific interview!

Rob Walker said...

John - sage advice and good words! I learned of this via facebook. Always a pleasure, man!


pauline holyoak said...

Intresting post as usual John. Happy New Year!!

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your post, John, especially the part about writing not being a hobby. How many people do you know who want a hobby so demanding, so burdensome, so comprehensive that they can barely think of anything else? No, if you want a hobby, go hook a rug. If you want to be a writer, that's something else.

William Doonan

Paula Martin said...

Great interview, John. I especially like your comment about writing not being a 'hobby'. As you say, it is hard work most of the time!
Best of luck with your 2012 releases.

Augie said...

John and Amy, I really enjoyed this interview. I agree that characters do have a tendency to creep in from places that you did not expect them to appear, they can take on a life of their own and become more prevalent than the character you first envisioned them to be. Great fortunes in 2012. Augie

Eileen Obser said...

Great interview, John. As a writer who also teaches, and edits, I like how you describe your work routine: write every day, even if it's just a few paragraphs. This seems so simple but, like the exercising and dieting, can easily be pushed aside by life's other demands on our time.

Happy New Year!

Marja said...

Very good interview, John. Your insights into you and your writing intrigue me, as does the description of your book.

Debbie Kump said...

I enjoyed reading your interview, John, especially the part about not planning everything in advance so the characters can toss in a few surprises as the plot unfolds. Best of luck with your books!

Stephen L. Brayton said...

Very good interview. You learn a little about an author with each interview.