It’s that time again! Meet another one of Solstice Publishing’s fantastic authors. Today, we meet John DeBoer.
Hi John! Thanks for stopping by! As you know, I’m always interested in what brings people into this field. What was your journey?
I enjoyed writing term papers in high school and college English classes. Thanks to an old-school teacher in the ninth grade who drilled the rules of grammar into me, and two literate parents, both of whom published non-fiction books, I did pretty well. But writing a book never occurred to me then. My focus was on medical school and then surgical training. During that time I wrote a few scientific articles for surgical journals, but the rules regarding their formats were strict; and they obviously weren’t fictional stories. Later on, when I was engaged in my surgical career, our annual Christmas letter gave me the opportunity to let my imagination loose in humorous takes on recaps of our family’s doings during the year and comments on world events. Friends and family enjoyed these letters. “You should write a book!” some of them said. So I did. And the bug that lay hidden deep within me for decades became an active infection!
What are your genres, and what led you to choose them?
That one’s easy. I’ve always been an active reader, especially of fiction, and my favorite class of stories has been the thriller. So that’s what I chose to write. And that’s all I write, though there are elements of mystery and romance in all of my novels.
What would you like to tell us about your books? How can we find them?
My novels involve conflicts between the good guys and bad guys. (“Guys” here is generic; my stories also have strong female characters.) And in all of my books, the good guys win. I’m never ambiguous about the conflict resolution! I’ve noticed some authors leave their stories open-ended, presumably to set up sequels, but to me, that cheats the reader. If I want to do a sequel (and I’ve done that), I’ll have a totally new plot involving those characters.
We have to love thoroughly satisfying resolutions! 🙂
All of my books can be seen on my website, www.novelsbyjohnldeboer.com and are available for purchase on Amazon.
Did you find writing a challenge at first? Do you still, or not?
I’m always challenged to come up with a compelling idea for a story. My first book relied on the axiom of, “Write what you know,” fictionalizing parts of my own life. The actual writing of it, though, other than deciding what would happen to my characters and how, was not an issue for me. I have learned a number of dos and don’ts of story composition along the way, however, thanks to editors and reviewers in my online critique group.
How would you classify yourself – as an organized writer or an intuitive one, or a mixture of both? Why?
I’d have to say I’m an intuitive writer. During my surgical career, I had to be both organized and intuitive. But writing my stories is never organized! I start with a vague idea of a plot, but I never know how it will end (other than the good guys win, of course). I may write down bullet points for what I want included in a chapter, but I don’t outline the whole novel. I saw this quote from E.L. Doctorow that applies to me: “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the entire journey that way.” Yes! That’s how I write my books. I also don’t set a daily schedule – so many minutes, so many words. When the muse hits me, I write until she leaves or life gets in the way. This could be all day or less than an hour. Truth be told, most days I don’t write a lick. But a day doesn’t go by when I’m not thinking about how my plot will proceed. Mostly when I’m in the shower or trying to get to sleep at night!
I can’t answer the why part of the question. It’s just the way I am.
Has there been anything about getting published that surprised you? Or anything about the process?
I was surprised to learn how hard it was to get published! I had just written my first book – a super story, to my mind. “Let’s get this puppy published.” At the time, I was unaware of such independent publishers as Solstice and thought one needed an agent to pitch the book to a Big 5 publisher. I wasted a year trying to get agents to even respond to my queries, let alone sign me. I gave up and self-published it. And I thought that was what my publishing future would be thereafter. But then, through Preditors & Editors, I think, I came across a publisher that didn’t require an agent intermediary. Lo and behold, they offered me a contract! I was on cloud nine. A real publisher! It took two books to realize this press was not for me. They weren’t author-friendly and not really helpful at all. So I went looking for an alternative and found one for my next book. Again, it wasn’t a major publisher, but I could actually talk to the owner on the phone, and she was very helpful regarding marketing. Problems developed, though, that I won’t go into, and that’s when I found Solstice.
Another thing that surprised me along the way of this journey was the importance – no, necessity – of marketing. In the beginning, I naively thought once my book was out there, readers would eat it up. I didn’t even consider using social media, getting reviewers, or having a website. Sounds really stupid now, but I was uncomfortable having to be a salesman for my own wares.
Do you have anything you would like to share with aspiring writers?
Count me among those aspiring writers. I’m always aspiring! But I get your meaning, and I have eight novels published, so I do have some experience I can share. Bear in mind, these are my personal opinions; take them for what they’re worth.
First of all, aspiring writers, don’t go into writing with the idea this is a path to fame and fortune, or at the very least, to providing a living, though it can happen. If the money comes rolling in, you become a NYT bestselling author, and an A-list actor will play your protagonist in a film, great. The odds are stacked heavily against you, though.
Secondly, and it follows the first, you have to love writing, because that love may be all you get out of it. And let’s be frank. What drives that love is ego. A sense of accomplishment. If you plan to write your stories only for yourself to enjoy, that’s fine, but then you won’t need any advice from me, and this entire post will be a waste of your time. I’ll assume, though, you want your novels to be available to the public to like as well as you do, and to like you in the process. Ego projected! Regardless of financial reward – and as I suggested, that is likely to be relatively small – recognition of a job well done by unknown readers is very satisfying. Ego massaged!
My third bit of counsel is associated with the first two. You’ve written a book; a book you think deserves, if not widespread praise, at least a favorable reception. You’ve self-published it or landed a publisher. You’ve hyped it on Facebook and Twitter and have even garnered some five-star reviews. But the sales are terrible. Don’t give up! I know that advice is trite and usually given by those who have already made their mark in the literary world. Easy for them to say. But some of those writers toiled for years in the wilderness before being “discovered.” So that advice applies even for those who have yet to publish their first book, let alone worry about sales ranking. Your book is one among thousands of books published every week. It’s a crowded field, but that doesn’t mean you should follow Yogi Berra’s words of wisdom: “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.”
Okay, let’s assume you won’t give up being discovered. Besides optimism (and my encouragement), though, is there a good reason for you to persevere? Do you know your writing is sound, your stories attractive? That brings me to my fourth – and last (You thought it would never come, right?) – piece of advice: Get objective opinions of your creations before offering them for publication. I’m not talking friends and family here, obviously, but input from other writers and/or editors. Editors cost money, and you’re only getting one critique at a time, but a good one knows their way around competent storytelling. More bang for your buck would be a writing community, either in-person or online. I’ve workshopped all my novels in such a venue before presenting them for publication, and it’s been an extremely rewarding experience. I’ve become a much better writer because of it.
Keep writing, keep perfecting your craft, and keep getting your stories – and name – out there. Who knows? Your next novel could be the one that has Hollywood producers beating a path to your door.
Where can we find your books?
Books of mine published by Solstice Publishing:
Get the Picture? https://www.amazon.com/Get-Picture-John-L-DeBoer-ebook/dp/B00VKYI2VY
The Sincerest Form of Flattery https://www.amazon.com/Sincerest-Form-Flattery-John-DeBoer-ebook/dp/B00W23X3CK
How Little We Know https://www.amazon.com/How-Little-Know-John-DeBoer-ebook/dp/B01CO4618O
When the Reaper Comes https://www.amazon.com/When-Reaper-Comes-John-DeBoer-ebook/dp/B01M9JQVO2
Social Media Links:
Amazon author page www.amazon.com/author/johnldeboer
Thank you John, and continued success!