Highly popular multi-genre author John Tucker is our guest on Author CenterStage for a round of questions on his writing experience. John has published titles ranging from action-adventure, erotica, mystery, suspense, young adult, thrillers, and maybe a couple in between. His versatile fiction has entertained readers through many nights! John, thanks for joining us and answering questions!
John: Thanks for having me, Candi.
Candi: I’ve gathered several frequently asked questions from readers to share with you. So, let’s begin with a couple of key ones: How did you arrive one day with pen, ink and paper in your hands as you began your first novel? What tipped the balance scales of your motivation to write the first word, the first page?
John: I’d written several things in high school, mostly short stories, but stopped when a new wife and a couple of kids kept me focused on life rather than literary pursuits. Two wives and 25 years later, I was bored and needed an outlet to entertain me. So, I started on a novel that had skimmed the edges of my mind for all those lost years. After being told I had a good story but awful mechanics, I took a few community college classes and bought a few English textbooks to refresh my brain about proper grammar and the differences between an adverb and a gerund. Now, five years later, I’ve just finished my twelfth book.
Candi: John, there are many authors who will relate to your determined and inspiring writing journey. What was your first novel, and what were the early challenges you faced in writing and publishing it? What were your feelings the day you published it?
John: My first novel was Romancing the Fox – a bloated 500,000 word magnum opus that was a literary mess. After I took the aforementioned classes, I put ‘Fox’ aside and started a murder mystery with a charming sociopath who loved destroying matriarchal families with dysfunctional issues. That was Divisive. My first published novel. The day I published it I was so stressed, mostly about the marketing aspects of having a book. Now, I’m just as stressed but with a dozen babies to take care of.
Candi: A dozen published books is a problem envied by many authors, John. LOL. How far back does your history go with books and reading? How old were you when you first noticed your desire to put words on paper to tell a story? What were early influencers, books, people?
John: I’ve read books as far back as I can remember. My mother bought me a series of literary classics that were offered by a grocery store every other week – Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, Call of the Wild, and so on. I wrote short stories from the age of twelve and up but really had no early mentors other than the books themselves.
Candi: Currently you have 12 published titles listed on your Amazon Author Page. What are the details that led you to write and publish in multiple categories or genres? Do you have a favorite genre?
John: I’ve always been a chameleon when it comes to life and people. I like all kinds of music, most book genres, and movies ranging from comedies to documentaries. I’m the same way when I write. My first book was a thriller, my second a YA Mystery, the third an adult contemporary romance. Since then I’ve penned three eroticas, three more thrillers, and a series of Celestial Romances featuring Muses, Sirens, and the mortal caught between them. Something for everyone!
Candi: How many of your books are set in your home state of Georgia, USA? Have you experienced any particular backlash from local citizens? (I’m thinking of Thomas Wolfe and his novel, Look Homeward Angel, that was set in his hometown, Asheville, North Carolina.) I’ve read your explosive Splits in The Skin. How does that novel figure with this question?
John: The majority of my books are based in Georgia, mostly in small towns but several take place in Atlanta. I’ve had one alternate between Los Angeles and Manhattan, and another take place in Bel Air, California. It stems from a love I have for my state, the people in it, and the misconception that most of us are tobacco-spitting rednecks. My novels are also graced with characters who have deep accents, especially in The Little Girl You Kiss Goodnight. Splits in the Skin is a mixture of action and romance with a healthy helping of James Dickey’s Deliverance. A hunky bounty hunter, looking for a bail-jumper, comes across a small village who has been inbreeding since the Civil War. While I only skim the consensual incest the village accepts as natural, I took the opportunity to explore the differences between the religious and sexual mores represented by the villain’s relatives and the ‘normal’ people trying to capture him.
Candi: John, I admire authors who are proud to craft stories from their geographical roots! I read Splits in The Skin and I’m familiar with Georgia. Your writing is authentic! One of the most popular fiction genres today is the thriller category. I’ve also read the very powerful Divisive, which I believe you have planned as a trilogy. What are the ingredients or elements that turn a plain vanilla thriller into a mystery suspense thriller?
John: As in any novel, you have to have a good plot, a balls-to-the-wall villain, and the gritty hero who tries to make sure good triumphs. Like real life, sometimes the bad guy wins in my novels. Divisive introduced Dennis Rask as a charming sociopath with an amped-up sex drive and a mission to kill particular people. In the second book, The Fifth Game, he has a young woman who survived his wrath in the first book helping him destroy a wealthy family. While the book relates Rask’s evil doings, the sub-plot takes a look at the woman’s compliance and her difficulties in assisting the man she loves. The third novel – The Eighth Family – will be started by the end of the year.
Candi: I never give away an author’s plot; I’ll just say Divisive is boiling hot with conflicting characters and agendas. Excellent! What is a typical writing day like for you? When does it begin and end? And do you use a lot of expensive equipment or materials in writing your novels? Can you write with background noise or do you prefer quiet?
John: I spend 4-5 hours a day writing, mostly at night. I’m comfortable using Microsoft Word 97/2000 and the internet for any research purposes. I play music while I write or edit, usually seventies classics or easy-listening from today.
Candi: A frequently asked question for authors is: Have you experienced writer’s block, and how do you deal with it or prevent it?
John: I deal with bouts of depression from time to time that curtails a novel or two. I usually start another book if that happens. If I get too down, I’ll take a week off to refresh my mind, usually watching comedies or action-driven movies to take my mind off the bad feelings.
Candi: Your writing journey is remarkable! To what extent do your story characters shape your novels? What do they add? Isn’t it enough to just tell the story sort of like a newspaper article? You know, just lay the facts out? What distinctions do characters bring to a story?
John: I like ‘gray’ characters. No out-and-out heroes or villains. In Divisive, Rask is a charming guy, protects the young daughter of a woman he wants to kill, and romances her almost eighteen-year-old daughter. He also chases off a pedophile intent on molesting the little girl, and does a very bad thing to a cute, cuddly animal. My characters have faults, merits, vices, and plaudits. To me, there’s nothing more boring than a cookie-cutter guy or girl with enough redeeming qualities to make you sick.
Candi: How do you conceptualize or layout the plan or your approach to the plot for a novel you’re about to write? What’s the time sequence like? Is it scribbled on a napkin over a cup of coffee or over a period of days or weeks? And what are the particular challenges of the process of solidifying and nailing down the plot? What are the challenges facing an author when doing research for writing the book?
John: Once I have the plot in mind I’ll map out each chapter of a book in a notebook (usually over a few weeks) and include the plot points I want to happen in each. It changes over the course of writing, but essentially sticks to the path. Then I create the characters – physical description, attitudes, quirks, goals. I never start a novel without a beginning and an end. You gotta know where to start and where it ends up. I cringe just thinking about how writers had to do research before the internet. Haunting libraries for several hours a day must have been tedious. Thanks to computers, research for a novel is a breeze.
Candi: How long does it take you to write and publish a book, from start to finish? It must be easy and simple with all the advanced technology available today. Are there any major ups and downs during that process?
John: Two Days to Passion took 60 days. Vergene’s taken a year. Divisive three months. I never know how long my books will take to finish. Outside difficulties play a part, extra thinking about the plot is a factor, and mechanical issues like a crashed hard drive are just obstacles to avoid and get over.
Candi: So you’re saying writing and publishing are not confined to a particular model or framework? So, what advice do you have for a person, let’s say my neighbor down the street, who says she wants to write a book? She’s got this great idea for a bestselling novel. Should she enroll in the nearest college writing class, buy 10 books on writing, or what?
John: College writing class absolutely. Hone your skills, familiarize yourself with the mechanics of literature. Then join a critique group to vet your work. Get Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’. That’s the only how-to book you need. One last thing – grow a thick skin. You’ll need it. Trust me.
Candi: I’m glad you mentioned the thick skin. Rhino skin is definitely the first requirement for a writer. Since the advent of digital capabilities and technology related to publishing and the rapid changes within the publishing arena, what do you see as the top two or three challenges facing writers today, and how are they to overcome them?
John: Discovering which new technology helps you create a novel, market, and enhance it. Also the financial difficulties in keeping up with new literary tools. Your mind and your money.
Candi: Another entertaining novel of yours is Twelve Doors to Ecstasy which is your first entry into the erotica genre. What were the challenges in writing that novel? In general, do men and women have different views or perceptions of erotica, and how so?
John: Before Twelve Doors, my sex scenes were usually the start of the sweet lovemaking, then cut to or open with the aftermath. Breaking a sexual encounter down into its sensual bits was equally embarrassing and enlightening. Things you don’t think twice about when you’re with a significant other – touching them, their scent, the way they look during the experience – it’s remarkable. Most of my reviews have been from women and they’ve been well-received. Surprisingly the three men who have read and reviewed my book didn’t like it as much. Since women are the majority of erotica readers, I haven’t really taken the time to dissect the male’s opinions.
Candi: It’s been reported that Amazon has over ten million titles (books) listed on their website. What are the challenges for readers in selecting “goodreads” from that many choices? What’s your best advice for readers on how to choose an entertaining/interesting book?
John: I try to include out-of-the-box plot-lines in all my books. Everyone will have a moment that is guaranteed to drop a reader’s jaw. When I advertise on Facebook, I concentrate on these things, insert an excerpt, and try to include a catchy picture with the post. Lastly, don’t publish a book unless you have it edited. If your book has great characters, an awesome plot, and several mistakes in the first five paragraphs, people will drop your book like a hot potato.
Candi: If you could start your writing career over what two or three things would you do differently and why?
John: Save up plenty of money for tools and advertising. Just because you write ‘The End’ on a novel, doesn’t mean you’re finished with it. Read the Chicago Manual of Style once. Take what you like from it, and screw the rest. Don’t change your style to mimic other writers.
Candi: From what I gather, many years ago (think post early printing presses) authors and readers rarely connected or communicated. A reader was lucky to just read the written book. But today the Internet is one huge gathering place where authors and readers communicate freely. How do you feel about those dynamics and how do both authors and readers benefit from that kind of environment? How do you enjoy making and keeping in contact with your readers?
John: The internet has definitely opened up the world to writers, especially with research and promotion. Your book is accessible to people in France, India, Japan, and small towns in Georgia and Alabama. You can chat with readers, get their thoughts, battle trolls, and organize small groups of people who love your work.
Candi: What are the advantages of the Kindle, Nook, and other e-reader devices? Isn’t there something to be said about a real paper and ink book in hand as one sits by the fireside of home and reads?
John: Either one is fine with me. But you can fit a few hundred books on your Kindle and free up several bookshelves for other important things. Some people use both. Others are paper and ink purists. I’m slowly leaning toward the electronic book.
Candi: Another challenge question: According to various surveys the average American reads less than 10 books per year. Which of your books would you recommend they read next, and why that book?
John: My most accessible book is The Little Girl You Kiss Goodnight. A mystery novel with a linear plot, a likable heroine, and a happy ending. That being said, it’s probably my most ‘innocent’ novel. No cursing, alluding to sex, but a feel-good relationship with the book’s main characters. The rest of my books, other than the Bemused and Bedeviled series, are dark and disturbing reads.
Candi: What can readers look forward to from the writing studio of John Tucker in the next 12 months?
John: I’m about to publish an erotic thriller called Vergene. After that an erotic paranormal book titled Violetta’s Voyeur, eTernalMates – an adult-contemporary romance, and the final book in the Rask Trilogy.
Candi: John, thank you for taking time to share your interesting thoughts and giving us an inside look at your fascinating and inspiring writing world.
John: Thanks for having me, Candi. We should have drinks in the future.
Candi: Sounds great; let’s celebrate writing and reading with the South’s iconic drink, sweet iced tea, and we’ll spike at will. LOL!
Here’s how you can experience the entertaining writing of John Tucker, author of multi-genres.
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