Interview with John Roth

Describe your desk
My writing desk is usually a clutter. I am interested in many different subjects and usually I have a stack of books close at hand reflecting my current interest. Right now I am reading books about the history of the Negro leagues in professional baseball, 17th century Dutch painting and, always, books on religion, philosophy and mythology. Besides my stack of books, I have a very old computer that I use to write, plus many scraps of paper scribbled over with ideas and images that come to me at times when I can't be at my desk. My wife says my desk is a mess, but it is an organized mess.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Sandusky, Ohio. I guess you would call me a Midwestern writer in the sense that I find the values of the American heartland always get referenced one way or another in my stories. I had a very Roman Catholic childhood. I don't consider myself a Catholic or Christian writer, but those idea and experiences often furnish a starting point for my writing. Just as a quick example, a friend of mine was taking a class in Bible studies about thirty years ago. One of the questions they discussed was why Jesus wept after he resurrected Lazarus. I have had an ongoing conversation about that question with my friend for the past thirty years. The result of it was my latest book, The Claw of the Dove.
When did you first start writing?
I started writing when I was ten years old. I went to a Catholic grade school when they were still taught by nuns. The first thing I ever wrote were dreadful plays based on stories from the book of Genesis. I love Genesis, but my plays were not of Biblical quality.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The story behind my latest book is very simple in outline. I have been fascinated about why Lazarus disappears from the Bible after his resurrection. I had intended to only write a short story, but once I began I found I couldn't let the story go. The story begins with the resurrection of Lazarus. The next chapter deals with Lazarus as he might have lived in ancient times. Then the story moves on to Lazarus in the Middle Ages, on to Lazarus dealing with the 'death' of God in modern times then finally Lazarus at an imagined Second Coming in the 21st century.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I've been writing for the past fifty years. The problem with writing nowadays is access to publication. To be published, you need an agent. To get an agent, you need to be already published. It's a very vicious Catch-22 situation. I discovered indie publishing about six years ago. A friend of my son's wrote a book that was published on Smashwords. The world of independent e-book publication was something I had not heard of before that time. I think indie publishing is a great way for people who might not fit into mainstream publishing to have a voice.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
That is a question whose answer is pending. The book I just uploaded to Smashwords is my first foray into the world of indie publishing. I'm looking forward to publishing other books in the future. What I like about Smashwords is their professional attitude. They want the writer to become an author, and they want the author to succeed. I like their belief that indie publishing gives control to the writer but that publication is, so to speak, a joint venture. You're not alone with Smashwords.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
It's that moment when a story or novel is finished. I get a tremendous sense that something important, to me at least, has fallen into place. Writing is a way of discovering things that you know but aren't consciously aware that you know. Writing is a voyage of self-discovery. Of course, you always have to keep in the back of your mind who you hope your audience is or will be. I always want to write clearly. I think clarity of thought is one of the great joys of writing.
What do your fans mean to you?
I'm not sure I have any fans yet. It's a difficult question. Someone once told me that being a writer is like being a stripper, you have to be willing to expose yourself totally in public and hazard the reaction. I hope that the people who read this book will want to read other books I have written, and will write in the future. A reader, or fan if you prefer, is your silent partner in the process of creation.
What are you working on next?
I have several books at various stages of completion. I have several books of short stories that I am working on to convert to e-book format. I have a book on the Trojan War that I am currently working on. I have always been fascinated by Greek myths and the stories I am writing are a kind of modern retelling. I also have a novel about the collapse of the automobile industry in my hometown in the 1980's. I wrote the first draft about thirty years ago and ran into a wall. I'm pulling it back out. It's a very long book and a real challenge to work out a complex plot.
Who are your favorite authors?
Tough question, as that is like trying to hit a moving target. Kafka is always close to my heart, along with Herman Melville. I have always been a sci-fi fan and Harry Turtledove is my favorite. But I also read a lot of poetry. I think my Favorite poets would have to be Stevie Smith, Emily Dickenson, Thomas Hardy, Robert Frost, C.P. Cavafy and my friend Mike Waldecki, who has done most of his publishing in the small press world. I also have a great interest in mythology, so I have most of Joseph Campbell's and Tolkien's books. Who are my favorite authors? Tough question. I have very seldom met a book I didn't like.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My dog inspires me to get out of bed. He jumps up on top of me and starts whacking me on the face with his front paws. He has me on a very strict schedule. And then, of course, I still have to go to my day job.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I cruise Plus, I like to look at the Smashwords catalog. I'm an old fart now, and most of writer friends are old, too. Most of them still cling to that old fashioned format called books. But seriously, I get a lot of leads on books from wife, who is also a great reader, and from my friends.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, if by story you mean the first piece of conscious writing I ever did. It was a play I wrote in 5th grade about Noah and the Flood.
What is your writing process?
I usually think about a story for a long time before I commit words to the page. I often will start with just a line. Once I wrote a story because the last line kept going through my head over and over. I had to write a story to explain it. But often it will be just an image, more like the way I imagine poets write. Every story is different and I can't give you a set answer.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I don't remember the first story exactly. But my grandparents gave me a books of children' stories in 1959 when I was four years old. I think that was probably the most influential book I ever read as a writer because that was when I first began to think that I could be a writer. It's been a long road, but I still have that book.
How do you approach cover design?
I have a friend who is an artist. She designed most of the covers for the small press books I published. I also have a cousin who is a professor of art. He did the illustrations for the current book. I hired a professional designer for the Smashwords book I just published. I will probably go that route in the future, along with art work from my friend and cousin.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
1. The Bible, especially the Book of Job. Job asks the most important question in life: why do humans suffer. Everything else is just commentary on that question. 2. Lord of the Rings, Tolkien wrote something no other modern author has done, he wrote an old-style heroic epic. 3. Moby Dick, the great American novel. 4. The collected stories of Franz Kafka, man adrift in the modern world. 5. The Oxford English Dictionary, if you haven't encountered the OED, I can't explain it. It is the archaeology of our language.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read everything for pleasure. I'm an omnivorous reader. I've never met a book I didn't like. Every book, like every experience, has its own lesson to teach.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
My home computer. I'm really not into mobile devices.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I am just starting to do e-book publication. I've been reading the Smashwords marketing guide. My son works in the world of computer generated special video effects. He's been helping me figure this out slowly. I'm open to suggestions.
What would I like for Christmas?
I'd like to win the lottery so my wife and I could travel more and I'd have more time to write. I'd also like to spend more time with my dog. He is a great listener.
What would I like for Christmas?
I'd like to win the lottery so my wife and I could travel more and I'd have more time to write. I'd also like to spend more time with my dog. He is a great listener.
Published 2018-01-14.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Claw of the Dove
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 71,240. Language: English. Published: January 14, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Visionary & metaphysical
The Claw of the Dove is a novel which tries to imagine the life of Lazarus after his resurrection.