Tuesday, December 18, 2012

3 More Days Till It's The End Of The World: An Interview With John Heldt

We have 3 more days till the end of the world, and to help us count down, we are interviewing John Heldt (His Answers are in Red).  

1.         Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am a Montana librarian, a former award-winning newspaper reporter, and a married father of three who enjoys sports, fishing, cooking chili, and making beer. I grew up in Oregon and Washington, the third oldest of six kids.
2.         What do you do when you are not writing?
I read as often as I can, of course. I love watching football and baseball. But I also like going on long walks. Walking the dog is one of my favorite activities.
3.         When you were a kid, did you want to grow up and be a writer?  Or was there something else you wanted to do?
When I was young, what I wanted to be when I grew up changed almost yearly. I first wanted to be a cartographer, then an architect, a diplomat, a lawyer, and finally a sports writer. I made a living in journalism for more than a decade before getting a Master's degree in library science and switching to my current field.
4.         Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I work with an outline. I first outline a novel, then write chapter summaries, and finally turn those summaries into a manuscript. I know how 99-percent of the story is going to go before I write the first word. I can't imagine doing it any other way.
5.         What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
The toughest criticism has come from readers who have dismissed an entire story because they did not like a single character. That's tough to take because characters aren't like typos or formatting errors. They are baked in the cake. They are set. The best compliment, at least forThe Mine, came from an 84-year-old man. He wrote that he had lived in western Washington in 1941 and could relate to the novel. He praised the story's authenticity. That meant a lot to me because I had put a lot of effort into making The Mine historically accurate.
6.         Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
There are two authors I really like: Vince Flynn and Nelson DeMille. The former writes thrillers that keep you on the edge of your seat and the latter writes thrillers that keep you laughing from the first page to the last. Both men are great writers and storytellers.
7.         Can you tell us about your newest book, The Journey?
The Journey is a coming-of-age story told mostly by a woman who has already come of age. When Michelle Preston Richardson, 48, finds herself childless and unfulfilled following the death of her husband in 2010, she seeks to reconnect with her happy childhood at a class reunion in Unionville, Oregon. But when she explores an abandoned mansion with three classmates, she is thrown back in time to 1979. Distraught and nearly penniless, Michelle finds a job as a secretary at Unionville High, where she guides her spirited younger self, Shelly Preston, and childhood friends through their tumultuous senior year. Along the way, she meets a widowed teacher and finds the happiness she had always sought. But that happiness is threatened when history intervenes and Michelle must act quickly to save those she loves from deadly fates.
The Journey has much in common with my first novel. Like The Mine, it is a time travel story set in the 20th century in the Pacific Northwest. It has romance, history, humor, adventure, and a protagonist that is reluctant to share time-traveling secrets with her new acquaintances. But The Journey is also different. It is darker and deeper than The Mine and arguably more poignant. It's a novel that is tailor-made for those pondering major life decisions.
8.         Where do you get your ideas?
I get them from a variety of sources: books, movies, life experience. Several books and movies inspired The Mine, including The Time Traveler's Wife, The Notebook, Back to the Future, A Walk in the Clouds, Yanks, and Racing with the Moon. Inspiration for The Journey came mostly from my experience as a young person growing up in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
9.         Do you ever experience writer’s block?  What do you do when that happens?
I rarely experience writer's block. I often find myself at a loss at how to properly describe a scene that I've mapped out. When I do run out of ideas, I go on a long walk. There is nothing like a walk to clear a mind and find new inspiration.
10.      Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Yes. Don’t give up. Don’t put off your project. And don’t let your inner critic overrule your inner artist. Write the book you want to write.



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