Handbags, Books...Whatever

Handbags, Books...Whatever (http://www.vickibatman.blogspot.com) is the website of Vicki Batman, sassy writer of sexy and funny fiction. Handbag lover. Avid Jazzerciser. Mah jong player. Yoga practioner. Movie fan. Book devourer. Choc-aholic. Best Mom ever. And adores Handsome.



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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Author Interview with John Foxjohn

Good morning, John, and thank you for blogging today and congratulations on your new book, Tattered Justice.
You have a varied career. Talk about that and how you found your way to a writing career.
In your bio, you speak to your "addiction" to Louis L'Amour. I confess -- I have saved one of his books for a long time which isn't a western, Last of the Breed. Do you favor reading western? How did Louis L'Amour's books affect your writing?


52 comments:

chris k said...

my husband is a major louie lamour fan - we even have most of his books in one of those pretty leather bound hardcover collections- lol.

My hubby keeps waiting for someone to step up and carry the torch of Louie's great western storytelling.

I have to admit I'm curious to hear what influence if any Louie's books may have had on you.

Anonymous said...

Hey Vicki,

I actually began wanting to write a book when I was twelve. I read something and made up my mind that I would write a book about Crazy Horse. It took me about forty years, but the first book I wrote was a historical fiction about Crazy Horse.

WOW, Last of a Breed is a good, good book—one of my favorites. However, To The Far Blue Mountains is my all time favorite.

I’m not sure Louis L’Amour had much of an affect on my writing, but that is difficult to say. I have read his books over and over. Who’s to say that in the deeper layers of what little brain I have, he doesn’t lurk there.

Anonymous said...

Hey Chris,

I think he might have had more influence on the marketing aspect. This is something most people don’t realize, but he was a master at promoting.

I’ve had a few people who read Journey of the Spirit tell me they could see his influence in it, but I write romance and murder mysteries.

Susan said...

John, I am dying to get my hands on Tattered Justice. Can I order it from your book store at your web site?

Merissa said...

Hi John,
What was the first book you wrote all the way to the end? Has it been published, or is it in abox under your bed? :)
What was the most helpful learning experience for you as an author when you were just starting out? Any advice for other authors who are just now entering the world of publishing?

Merissa
(waves hello)

Vicki Batman said...

Can you talk about your background and how it has influenced your writing?

Judy Dawn said...

Hey Viki, John,
I happen to know Tatter Justice is written in a female perspective.
What did you do to get into your main character's head?
What was the biggest challenge you faced in writing from a woman's perspective?
Sometimes authors publish a behind the scenes novel about the characters they've developed. John, you've mentioned a number of times that you often do extensive character studies.
Any future plans of publishing a book of your character studies?

Donna O'Brien said...

Hello John and Vicki!

John, congrats on the new book! I've read the excerpt and can't wait for the release.

After having written the entire book from a woman's perspective: A) Do you plan to ever do that again? B) Did you love it or hate it? and C) Do you believe you understand women any better? LOL ;-)

Donna O'Brien
(Lethaladies member - Feb 2010)

John Foxjohn said...

Susan,

It just so happens that I now have the books. I haven’t updated my web site yet, or the bookstore, but yes, you can order them from me. I will still use paypal, but I also take checks, too.

You can fin that information on my web site.

Now, if you are near or want to be near Lufkin, Texas this Saturday, March 6, 2010, my book launch is at Kurth Memorial Library from 11:00-1:00PM.

Everyone is invited.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
www.johnfoxjohnhome.com
2008 Author of the year
Star Award winner
Author of Cold Tears
Coming in March 2010-TATTERED JUSTICE
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Vicki Batman said...

Hi, Chris, I had no idea about your husband and L L'A. That's cool.

Thank you, Susan and Merissa, for posting.

John Foxjohn said...

Hey Marissa,

Waving back at you.

The first book I attempted was Journey of the Spirit. That was the book I decided to write when I was twelve. I finished it and then started the publishing process. As you might know, that is so much fun.

No one wanted the book—no one. As it turned out, all the people who rejected me was right. When I finished the book, it was awful. I just didn’t know enough to know it was that bad.

I found out that it is almost impossible to publish a historical fiction without being published. What I didn’t know, it’s even harder when the book is really bad.

Someone told me I should write what I know. I knew history and no one wanted that, so I decided to write a murder mystery. Hey, I knew a bunch about homicides.

My intent was to write the murder mystery, publish it, and then publish my historical. Obviously, at the time I didn’t realize how difficult it is to publish a book.

Making a long story short, that is exactly what happened.

My most helpful learning experience is when I went to my first conference. I had my manuscript for Code of Deceit, my first published book and a one-on-one with an agent for a huge agency.

We sat down for our fifteen-minute session and boy did we hit it off. Later, I met her in the bar and we spent a couple of hours talking. She asked me to send her the full and I left knowing I had me an agent, but not just any agent, a BIG one.

About six weeks later, she sent me a rejection. It floored me.

Along with the rejection, she sent me a five-page critique of my novel. Now, this is obviously something she didn’t have to do, and few agents take the time.

Now, this didn’t floor me, it ticked me off royally. The problem was, I really had no idea what this woman was saying in the critique—seriously, I didn’t know. It was like reading a foreign language. She was talking about POV’s and I thought that meant privately owned vehicle—seriously.

Al this head hopping stuff I had no clue.

Since I was mad, I set out doing research to prove she was wrong. The more I learned, the smarter she seemed. As it turned out, she was exactly right about everything.

Because of this, I set out on a campaign to learn all I could about writing.

This is the advice I give to writers all the time—learn.

This is a business where there are no absolutes—learn and apply that to how you want to tell your story. Also, don’t let any one tell you that you have to do it one specific way.

John Foxjohn said...

Vicki,

That’s a good question—a hard one, and I’m not all that sure it helps a lot in writing besides the fact that I know people and how they react. But it gives me a different perspective that others may not have. I know that sounds egotistical and I don’t mean it that way.

The old say is you don’t know a person unless you have walked a mile in their shoes. Well, I have walked a bunch of miles—too many.

I think it is easier for me to get into some of these people’s heads.

Writers tell me all the time that I am great at characterization and I think this might help.

Vicki Batman said...

Hi, Donna. Thank you so much for posting.

John, regarding the question on how our past influences our writing, I believe it does. I agree, we're allowed into our characters' heads and that makes them better. You didn't sound egotistical at all.


You've had a variety of careers -- homicide detective, for instance -- and as you've said, this showed in your writing.

So has any other career shown in your writing?

John Foxjohn said...

Hey Judy,

WOW! A bunch of great questions. First, to get into my protagonist’s head, I just asked myself what I would do, how I would handle it, or what I would think, then I wrote the opposite….. :)

Just kidding, I just created a woman who had some of the same values that I do, some of the values I wished I had, and some of the things I respect in people. In some ways Kayla is like me, but in some, thank goodness for her, she is totally opposite of me.

The biggest obstacle I faced in writing with a female protagonist is to actually convince myself that I could so it.

Some people think I am overboard on my character charts. For instance, I had forty pages of notes just on Kayla. Kayla isn’t a fictional character to me—she is real. I know more about Kayla than any human I have, or will ever encounter.

LOL, no, I have no plans to publish my character studies. I won’t say no, just haven’t planned it.

I do have a nonfiction book in the works on writing, though.

Vicki Batman said...

I'm dying here about really knowing a woman, John. Wouldn't that be loverly?

I really think you could do a character class. I'd like to see how your 40 page study works.

John Foxjohn said...

Thanks Donna,

I don’t think Tattered Justice will disappoint you.

Actually, yes, I am in the process of writing the sequel to Tattered Justice that I have titled Poetic Justice.

I absolutely loved writing Tattered Justice. There are times when writers get something in their heads and they have to write—simply can’t stop. If you haven’t experienced this, just wait, you will. When you do, you will know what I mean.

It is almost like an athlete in a zone.

That was how I was with Tattered Justice. I loved writing it, and Poetic Justice is going to be the same. It has taken me a ton of research, but I am at the point of needing to stop the research and write the damn book.

Research is great and needed, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the story and it has done that for me.

What I am about to say, if you repeat it, I will fully deny it, or plead insanity—but I thought I pretty much understood women before I wrote it.

I have never thought there was this great bridge between men and women. Men sometimes react to things differently than women, but I think that has more to do with society than a difference in sex.

I think men and women have basically the same goals, desires, faults, strengths, and emotions. Some women exhibit the emotions differently from some men, but that is on the outside.

Some men have a need to exhibit this macho stuff—that is how they respond, but this isn’t all men, and trust me, men don’t have the patent on this. I have known women who could out-macho most men.

I hate it when I hear things like a woman wouldn’t say or do that, or a man wouldn’t say or do that—if it is in that character’s nature to say or do it, then that character needs to say or do it.

I don’t believe there all males are the same, and I know for a fact all women aren’t the same.

I think to stereotype either one is doing that character a great injustice.

John Foxjohn said...

Vicki,

I think the thing that influences me the most is the army. I was a kid when I went in. I only spent six-years there, but I grew up during that time.

As I look back on it, I would rather have grown up some other way, but this forced me to do it in a hurry. I have t think this has some influence not only in me, but my characters.

Vicki Batman said...

I LOVE the title Poetic Justice. Good luck with this!

Why don't you tell us about Tattered Justice? How did you get the title, the idea?

John Foxjohn said...

Vicki,

I start out with set questions that I want to know about my character. I have about two hundred of them. The problem that I usually run into as I get to know my characters, these questions lead to other questions, or things I think I should know about my character.

Try to imagine a person that you know everything about. You know how that character will think or react before the character does. This is how close I am to Kayla.

We can get to know the people in our lives, but I don’t think we can truly know everything about a person. That isn’t the case with my characters.

Vicki Batman said...

RE character worksheet -- I use one I found long ago, even pictures of cars, clothing, whatever I need.

Where as a detective you had a murder book. I created a notebook for my books. Included is the character worksheets for a lot of the characters, a timeline, map, and more.

John Foxjohn said...

Tattered Justice is different from any book I have written. With the exception of Journey of the Spirit, all my novels involve a male protagonist who investigates homicides—something I happen to know a lot about.

Tattered Justice isn’t a homicide investigation type romance or mystery. It’s a legal thriller in the vein of John Grisham, but mine has a frmale protag and his doesn’t.

That’s how I came up with the Justice in the title and why I am carrying it on to the sequel.

Now, Tattered Justice is really about people who attempt to rip justice apart for personal gain and other reasons. I started out with ripped justice and kept looking for words until I came across tattered. When I found it, I knew it was perfect….. :-)

John Foxjohn said...

LOL, I guess you could think of my character charts as a murder book.... :-)

Kathy said...

I like to ask you if have romance in your books, and does it conform with what other females writers do?

Vicki Batman said...

Let's talk about your writing.

What is the appeal of writing romance and murder books?

What stops you from writing? What kind of writing turns you off?

How have you shocked your readers?

What is your writing day like?

John Foxjohn said...

Yes Kathy,

I have romance in my books. I am a member of RWA, the NWHRWA, KOD, Elements of Romance, and heck, probably more. I am even presenting at the National conference in Nashville this year.

Now, I realize it might be that they just need a token male, but I’ll take it….. :-)

I think it would be a better statement that I have elements of romance in my novels.

Here is the truth—I don’t get too caught up in what genre my books are. I could care less what anyone calls it as long as they are reading it and like it. That’s my goal.

Tattered Justice is listed as a mystery/suspense/romance and it is all that.

I do not write true formula romance.

When I plot my novels, I don’t make sure that my hero and heroine meet in the first chapter or in the first three chapters. To be honest, I don’t think there are any set guidelines on that, and I get this from contests.

Contest judges have told me that the hero and the heroine have to meet in the first three chapters, the first chapter, at least by the second chapter, and my all time favorite, the first male mentioned has to be the hero.

I have romantic interests in all of mine and the romance does conform somewhat to what romance should be. Heck, I love a happy ending as much as anyone does, but I let my readers judge my work.

SO far, I’ve made a lot of them happy.

Vicki Batman said...

John, I like your stance on when h/h meet in a romance.

John Foxjohn said...

First, murder is what I know. I am sure you know this but many reading this may not, but in a former life, I was a homicide detective and have investigated over three hundred of them.

Besides that, they sell. People love to read and watch them on TV.

My first novel, Code of Deceit was a police procedural. LOL, I thought it was a romance, but I wrote it before I knew what a romance was. I later learned that having sex in a book doesn’t make it romance.

Opps, maybe that is where men and women are different—just kidding.

But Code of Deceit had a lot of police procedurals, homicide investigations, CSI stuff, and that was when CSI was beginning to become popular.

I still have some of that in all my books, just not as much as the first one.

Formula characters turn me off. I love Louis L’Amour, but he only created one protagonist in his life. They are all the same size, act and think a like. They all have the same goals and motivations.

There’s another female author who has gained a lot of acclaim writing mysteries that do the same thing. I read their books, but I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that this bothers me.

I want to entertain my readers, but I also attempt to educate them. I try to find things to put in my books that TV and movies have distorted from reality. The Miranda warnings and judges releasing people on technicalities are the easy things.

In Tattered Justice, I showed evoking the rule in the courtroom. Because of TV and movies, most people have no idea that witnesses aren’t allowed to sit in the courtroom and hear other witnesses testify.

I want as much realism as possible in mine without getting in the way of the story.

Many writers have set regiments they go by, and I have two that I do not wander away from. I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night.

I teach too many classes and advise too many writers to have a set schedule. That just wouldn’t work for me. I receive about six hundred e-mails today.

Now, I seldom look at my mail before nine in the morning. One of my habits that doesn’t change, when I am at home, I get up in the morning, get a carafe of coffee and head to the hot tub.

Sometimes if there is something on TV or the internet I want to hear, I plug in my wireless headsets and listen as I relax.

If not, I write in my head. I often take a small recorder and tape what I am thinking about as far as my novels go. I think my way through entire scenes and record them.

Then I come in, listen, and write it.

I seldom say it is this time I have got to write. When I am ready I am going to write.

John said...

Vicki,

I can understand why they want them to come together soon—it’ll confuse the reader if the writer tries to bring them together in chapter ten or so, but this inflexible belief that it has to be a certain way and a certain time is what bothers me.

Besides that, you ask ten people on when it is and you might get ten different answers.

Vicki Batman said...

I agree with what you say about h/h, but it still bugs me. As a reader, I'm more open to something different; yet, we have to remember everyone is not us. Somtimes, the story has to unfold.

Melissa Adams said...

John,

in all you novels, who is your favorite support character?

Vicki Batman said...

Hi, Melissa. Excellent question. And to add to hers, John, why is that character your favorite?

John said...

LOL, yes that was a darn good question and that is what I would expect from Melissa.

My favorite support character used to be Henry, David’s homicide partner. He even made me laugh.

Henry was my favorite because he helped so much in characterizing David and I just like him, and he is easy to like. Here is two little known facts—first my wife is the first to read my manuscripts, and second, I killed Henry off in Cold Tears.

My wife made me let him live, LOL.

Of course, you have read all my books except Tattered Justice so you won’t know who my favorite is now, but it is without a doubt, Lester.

I can guarantee you, if any of my critique partners are reading this—they are going to be saying “YES.”

They absolutely loved Lester and so do I.

My entire writing career, I start out with a mental picture of the character. Yep, I know what they look like. My goal has always been to create a character, give a very minimum of description, and have readers come up with the exact same mental picture of that character that I have.

I have succeeded with one character—Lester.

Vicki Batman said...

John, do you have three top writing tips you can share?

Veronica said...

Hi John! Just popping in to say hello! Loved Tattered Justice when I had the honor and pleasure to critique! Congrats, KUDOS and wish you the best on your success! Break a quill!

Cheers, ~V

John said...

Vicki, these are a couple and keep in mind, this is my opinion.

Plan your work and work you plan

Never stop learning the craft

In my opinion, writing fiction is about characterization. Great characters who the readers can root for, identify with, can hide a multitude of writing sins. I don’t believe there is such a thing as plot driven fiction.

Conflict is the key creating great characters and a novel that is hard to put down. I say this all the time, but I do because I think it is so important. People don’t judge others because something knocks them down.

People judge others by what they do once someone or something knocks them down. I personally don’t think anyone can truly develop a character without conflict.

Vicki Batman said...

How nice of Veronica to stop by, John. You have fans.

John said...

Yes it was nice of her. It's good to know that I have at least one.

Actually, though, I am one of the most fortunate people alive. I not only have great friends, but great fans as well.

Vicki Batman said...

You do have fans!

Finally from me (but latecomers feel free to post your questions because we'll get to them)...

Fill in the blank... Your ideal fictional heroine would think you amazing if you____________.

And what is your dream car? (Mine is an Austin Healey 3000).

John said...

Fill in the blank... Your ideal fictional heroine would think you amazing if you_ TRUSTED HER JUDGMENT EXPLICITLY___________.

And what is your dream car? (Mine is an Austin Healey 3000).

Mine was a Bradley GT….. :-)

Teresa Reasor said...

John:
Very good interview and I think everyone has grilled you pretty well. I hope Tattered Justice sells a million copies. You can count on mine to be one of the first.

Write on,
Teresa
Reasor

Vicki Batman said...

Thank you, John, for chatting with me today. I know we all greatly benefited from your comments.

Major congratulations on Tattered Justice. May your booksigning be a happy one!

And I'll see you for sure at RWA and on the loops.

Vicki Batman said...

Thank you, Theresa, for supporting John and me.

John said...

Thanks Teresa,

You are a very good friend and I hope you are right--Tattered Justice sells a million copies.

It is a good book and a lot of that goes to you.

Vicki,

It is I who should be thanking you. I really appreciate you having me on.

Incase any one is interested my web site is www.johnfoxjohnhome.com

Susan Whitfield said...

Wow! What a super interview followed by great questions to keep John on his toes. Congrats to John, a fellow Dreamspell author, and to a wonderful interviewer.

Vicki Batman said...

Thanks, Susan. It's hard to keep John on his toes. I appreciate the compliment.

John said...

Hey Susan,

Thanks, and yes, Vicki is fantastic—except for that keeping John on his toes remark, from you and her….. :-)

Caroline Clemmons said...

John, Thanks for the interesting writing tips. I'm sorry I won't be able to attend the Nashville conference. I hope you'll give the session locally so I can hear it. As for Louis L'Amour, my husband and I love his books and have all of them. You've intrigued me, and I will definitely get a copy of your books. Best of success in the future.

Vicki Batman said...

Caroline! I haven't seen you in so long. I hope all is well with you and you are writing. Thank you so much for your comment.

John said...

Hey Caroline,

Thanks for your comments. I’ve heard some good things about you, too.

LOL, must have done something right if I got you interested. But that’s what we try to do, isn’t it.

I do appreciate your comments and I speak to groups all over. Just have them contact me.

Melanie Cartwright said...

John,

I’m sorry I am late in responding but just got around to reading everything. I found your interview absolutely fascinating. How does someone get you to speak to their group and how much do you charge?

We would love to hear you.

jessi said...

Wow, this really turned into quite the Q & A. I laughed at John's comment about not getting caught up in what genre his books are. That's one of the biggest mistakes I made when I began to learn about the business of writing.
Wishing you much success with Tattered Justice, John!

John Foxjohn said...

It did, didn’t it, and I love it…… :-)

Thanks Jessi, I appreciate you stopping by.

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