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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Interview with John O'Dowd

Kerry: Today John O'Dowd has agreed to come on my blog and answer a few questions. I sent him the questions, he has answered them and he will check in to the blog on Wednesday afternoon to address any comments or answer any other questions.
John is the author of the “Mahko's Knife” adventure series. He just released the third book in the Mahko series, “Mahko's Gift.”
He is also the author of “Pale Blue Jesus,” a police mystery with an unusual policeman, an unusual victim, and God as a suspect. 
John, What got you into writing; what was your inspiration?
John: I think that if I had a true inspiration I would be better at it. I've been a voracious reader since the day I opened my first voracious. I think I've always admired and been jealous of a number of writers. I'm jealous of the abilities of Anton Myrer and Cormac McCarthy. In the genres I try to write in: mystery, adventure, and thrillers; John Sandford, Tom Clancy, Ian Fleming, and some of the cop/mystery noir writers of the 50s and 60s like Mickey Spillane keep me entertained. As a kid and adult I read everything I could get my hands on and some books many times. Reading those authors made me want to be one of them. They made me want to join the club.

Kerry: What do you like most about writing and why?
John: I enjoy the exercise and the creation. I enjoy taking an idea, making it work, and making it mine. I also like to talk to people who have read what I've written. It's interesting to see how they perceive the work and how they interpret the things I do. The best example I can give is “Pale Blue Jesus.” It's a story about religion and religious art. It's centered around an investigation into an apparent murder that may well not be a crime. People who have read the book start out with the belief that it is anti-religion and sacrilegious. By the time they finish, they realize that it isn’t either of those things. I admit that it's an adult book, with adult situations, told in adult language. I also admit that it is not a book for everyone, but it is what it is and I am happy for having written it.

Kerry: What do you want to accomplish as a successful writer?
John: First, I’d like to be successful. The Indie Publishing wave has brought thousands of writers out of the closet. We have kicked aside the stacks of publishing house rejection letters and struck out on our own. Amazon has provided a format, through e-books, the Kindle and e-publishing, to give us a means to get our books out on the market. That’s the good part. The fact that there are thousands of new and unknown writers competing for Kindle space is the bad thing. As an Indie author I have to learn how to be better at promoting myself and reaching a wider audience.
One of the few “successful” writers in the Indie wave is Scott Nicholson, author of “The Red Church,” “Liquid Fear” and dozens of other novels and hundreds of short stories. For better or worse, he talked me into going with Amazon and Indie Publishing. He kicked me out the door, but has been available to answer questions and give advice. If he was here, I’d hug him. I’d like to reach his level of success.

Kerry: What is the best part of being a writer?
John: Independence. With that comes the freedom to both succeed and fail.

Kerry: When your first book got published, what was your first reaction and why?
John: It felt great. I was now an official writer. I had a book on the market with my name on it. I spent a number of years writing for a newspaper and I saw my byline on articles on a regular basis; this was different.
Kerry: How was it different?
John: The primary difference was that it was something I created from beginning to end. I used to cover local politics for the paper and a number of the politicians claimed that my stories about them were fiction. “Mahko's Knife” and “Pale Blue Jesus,” my first two books, were actually fiction and they were all mine.

Kerry: What process do you use to write your books?
John: Like most writers I've talked to, it starts with an idea. I got the idea for “Pale Blue Jesus” at a gallery showing of primitive South-Western religious art. Over time, the idea was developed and expanded.
When I write, I use a loose outline to chart where the book is going. At the same time, I have discovered that plots and characters have a habit of taking over and trashing all of my plans and outlines. I've written hundreds of pages only to erase them and start in a new direction because my characters told me that they wouldn't do what I had planned. When you start working with a character or characters they take on lives of their own.
So far I've written three books in the Mahko’s Knife Series. Mahko Anaya is a war hero, escaped convict, bad-ass. He is based, in bits and parts, on a number of very talented and dangerous people I knew during my time in the Army. I find myself talking to him as I write, to work out action and dialogue. I also find myself stopping in mid-sentence saying, “Mahko wouldn’t do that. Mahko wouldn’t say that.” The character takes on its own life. 
You also have to be true to the reader. Readers have written me to object when they don’t like something Mahko has done or said when they think it’s out of character. They become possessive and that’s a good thing.

Kerry:What’s the easiest way to get your book published?
John: I can only speak to E-publishing through Amazon because it’s the only thing I've done. When you've finished your book and are ready to go, follow their style guide and instructions and you can have it up and for sale in minutes. Even if only you, a few cousins, and your mother buy the book, you’re still a published, professional author. From that point you need to work on the success part. There are not a lot of Indie Authors who are supporting themselves with their books. Again, Scott Nicholson gave me good advice: Keep writing, but don't give up your day job.

John O'Dowd
Author: The Mahko's Knife Series and Pale Blue Jesus
Available at in the Kindle Store

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