Ah, I wonder if John Grisham knows how many writers he’s inspired… Today’s featured debut author is John W. Mefford, a fellow Grisham reader and the author of his own thriller, the first in a planned series.
Name of book: Committed
Book genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Date published: November 1, 2011
What is your day job? Chief Operations Officer for HFAOS (Home, Family and other stuff)
What is your book about? It’s about one man’s quest to discover what is important – who is important – while he struggles to sift through the fog of corruption and deceit to find a killer… before death finds him.
Why did you want to write this book? Why a thriller? At a high level I’ve long wanted to write fiction, and a mystery/thriller was my first choice. My initial desire to write came in my late teens when I read John Grisham’s The Firm. Years later, my first job after college was in journalism, and I learned the craft from the ground up. But I found myself mentally noting the strange and sometimes whimsical traits of people around me. It seemed that every interaction I witnessed lodged deep in my brain somewhere. When I moved into a corporate environment and the stories and interactions grew more outlandish and bizarre, I could tell my brain stored the information like a well-oiled database. So, to answer your question, why did I write this book? Because I had to. I’ve been writing it for almost twenty-five years. I just never put it on a paper until late 2009.
What would you say is the most challenging part of writing a book? Being comfortable and confident enough to start down a plot path without knowing how it will eventually tie back to other characters or sub-plots. It’s like jumping off a bridge with a rubber band around your ankles knowing you’ll bounce back up before you hit the jagged rocks below. Although, I’d never actually jump off anything.
What motivates you to write? I love stories. Hearing stories, watching stories, reading stories. And creating a story that ultimately evokes emotion from another person is the ultimate high. Like I’ve said to others, writing is like oxygen for my soul.
Did you experience writer’s block? While writing novels, I’ve never really had writer’s block. There have been days when the words and phrasing flow like syrup over warm, buttered pancakes. Other days, it’s felt more like a classical staccato piece. But I accept each outpouring of thoughts. We writers are human, and it’s only natural for outside influences to impact our emotions, thus our writing. Nothing stands still.
How long did it take you to write this book? From first word to last edit, it took about sixteen months. Lots of highs and lows along the way, but I learned a great deal about myself. It was worth the roller coaster ride.
Why did you decide to self-publish? To finally take charge of this unfinished creative thing sitting in my lap. The more it sat, the more I wanted to share it. I tried the query path and was met with a few teases, but not enough substantive response. I tried being patient (a tough sell for me). I attempted to get in the mind of agents and edit the book towards their liking. But I realized they weren’t – shouldn’t – be my target audience. I redefined what success meant to me, and I dove into researching the world of self-publishing.
Was the self-publishing process easier or more difficult than you thought it would be? Self-publishing is really the combination of many tasks and talents: writing, editing, managing, cajoling, marketing, public relations. I had prepared myself for the unexpected, which is exactly what I got. I searched and read and saved all sorts of data. I now look back on the early days of my self-publishing process and I chuckle. I didn’t know what I was doing or where I was going, but I was damn sure I was going to get there, somehow, some way.
What is the biggest misconception about writing a book? The attention to detail and the ability to look at your writing critically isn’t on the radar of the average person who talks about writing, but hasn’t actually taken that first step.
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? The first draft. That’s where you take a block of stone and chisel away until a shape begins to develop. Then the shape morphs into a desired form of life, and it begins to think, act, and react in ways you’d never thought about. Besides a loving moment with my wife, this might be the only thing that creates a tingle up my spine. It’s magical.
What tools/methods have you employed to promote your book? What advice would you give to writers regarding promotion? If I told you everything, I’d have to kill you… No, seriously, I’ve developed a growing following on Twitter, where I’ve met a lot of cool writers (Dina included!), avid readers, and interesting people altogether. It’s been a great resource and opened a number of doors for me. I also have a Facebook Author page. I created my own website with an embedded blog (Something Like That). I used a talented photographer for the website photos, my sister-in-law, Kate Mefford, and a very creative soul for my cover art, Jeroen Ten Berge.
A couple pieces of advice for future writers: First, initiate your virtual interaction early on in the creative process. It will give you a sense of confidence to interact with other authors and start to get your name out there. Second, writing is all about the story, but your supporting visuals, content, and layout matter. Your cover art needs to be created by someone who’s actually created book covers, and your website needs to be professional. Look at well-known authors and see how they tie their book themes and genre into the look and feel of their websites. And, when you’re finally ready to establish a publishing date, work, re-work, and re-work again your book description. It all matters.
How has life changed for you since the publication of your book? We’ll see. It just released on November 1. So, I’m still busy with promotional activities. And I try to write as often as possible. I’ll stick my head above the weeds in the next month or so to check the weather.
Do you plan on writing another book? I’ve written a very early draft of Book Two in The Michael Doyle Chronicles (title is TBD). That’s next. Then I might take one of the characters and write a short story, sort of a Book 2A. Book Three will follow. Then, I could start venturing into other areas of interest, both within the mystery/thriller genre and possibly into other genres (romantic suspense, young adult).
My favorite last question: Oprah once famously said that there is no such thing as luck, without preparation and a moment of opportunity. Would you agree or disagree with regard to your own success as a writer? I agree. Without me realizing it, I’ve been preparing for this time of my life for over two decades. But I needed something to shove me into the bustling freeway. Almost two years ago, I saw the three-story, neon flashing signs, and I seized the opportunity before me. Now, it’s all come to fruition.