Complementing my interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the three hundred and eighty-ninth, is of mystery novelist John J Hohn. If you would like to take part in an author spotlight, take a look at author-spotlights.
John J. Hohn is the author of two five-star literary mysteries, Deadly Portfolio: A Killing in Hedge Funds, 2011 and a sequel, Breached, 2014. As I Was Passing By, a collection of poems, was published in 2000. His prize-winning poetry appears frequently on his web site along with articles on a variety of subjects. He plans to publish a book of selected works later in 2017.
He contributes to various web sites dedicated to writing and publishing. His own website, www.jjhohn.com, features articles on a wide range of topics including book and drama reviews, autobiographical sketches, financial planning, and civil rights.
Born and raised in Yankton, South Dakota, USA, John graduated from St. John’s University in 1961 with a degree in English.
He is the father of four sons and a daughter, a stepfather to a son, and has resided in North Carolina since 1978.
He and his wife Melinda divide their time each year between their home in Winston-Salem, NC and a cabin near West Jefferson, NC.
And now from the author himself:
Self-publishing has become affordable through automation. Any writer who can design and format a cover and the interior of a book can get published without straining the family budget. Lacking design and layout skills, writers can hire specialists who are masters in these crafts and get a book in print for less than $1,000. Where once several hundred books entered the market each month, now tens of thousands get dumped out to the reading public. Few sell as much as 100 copies. Yet writers keep looking for their creative efforts to be rewarded. Fame and fortune lie just one more review away.
I have posted several articles critical of the self-publishing industry and the disappointments that await the unwary and idealistic. That is not my purpose here. I applaud the rush to print. Writing is a good thing. A literate society hopefully becomes a more enlightened one. What I want to suggest is that most aspiring authors are looking in the wrong place for gratification and fulfillment.
… time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by my by the shadow of my hand.
The poet describes a passage that happens to all us. We ascend, as if unaware, out of the carefree days of childhood and into adult life with all its distractions – disorienting distractions that can send a person scrambling wildly off course in life.
Writing has been the sextant and compass for me throughout my life. It has kept me on course. When I have wandered – and I charged wildly of track at times – writing brought me back to myself, to those I love and to my life as I felt it was intended for me to live it.
My journey began early. My boyhood was joyful. I got caught up in the games and the play, but I also realized I had an ear for the wind and the sounds of the day. A robin chirping in the dusk. The street sweeper passing under the hackberry tress in front of our home in the morning. I felt the mud between my toes when I waded in the lake and the hot dust when I ran barefoot along paths on shore. I could lie down at night with my head on the bedroom window sill and look up at the moon and the stars and feel the cool night air brush against my face. I treasured the sights and sounds of my days as much as my pals did their stash of marbles or bottle caps.
I began writing almost as soon as I could spell. I specialized in short stories. I wrote them on postcard size tablets that came with varied colored pages. My subjects ranged from fishing with my dad to exploring along the banks of the creek near my home. My parents praised my efforts, Mother especially. The affirmation I received set me free for the rest of the life to enjoy my creative pursuits and to be at home with my imagination.
During adolescence, the loft became a frenzy. I ducked and dogged as I tried to make my way, but my interest in writing held steadfast. I wrote for the school paper and the university literary quarterly. I decided upon an English major and took several courses in writing. I remember agonized struggles to get my thoughts on paper for my classes. My college days and the years that followed taught me the most valuable lesson about writing – that writing is a tool for self-discovery. Whether it was an idea that I could not tease out into understandable form or a painful personal dilemma that I wanted to resolve, the discipline of writing helped me to think more clearly. It helped me mature.
As I move among my friends, golfing buddies, and neighbors, I can see that a lot of folks rely almost exclusively on oral communication. When people converse, there is always room for a speaker to correct a misinterpretation on the part of listener. I fear that people who do not write, and this is all the more true for those who do not read, live broadly unexamined lives. They fail to equip themselves with the tools for rational exploration of what is going on within themselves and the world around them. Rather than reasoning and compassion, they rely too readily on prejudice and beliefs to guide them, both of which serve all too frequently as a means to avoid analysis and reflection.
Writing is always between me as the author and the idea or situation that is my subject. What I write must stand distinct and complete. I need to make the subject clear in my own mind before I can present it on paper. Writing is like having dozens of small parts of a fine watch spread on a table. The object is to assemble the pieces to create an efficient, reliable timepiece. That same challenge is rarely confronted in oral communication. The serious writer faces it every time he or she sits down and gains from the experience again and again.
After I graduated and began teaching English at the high school level, I published several poems in literary quarterlies. Raising a family of five did not leave much room for writing. I concentrated on short stories and poems. The shorter pieces gave me the satisfaction of completing a work from time to time. When I didn’t have time to write, I thought as a writer. Stories swirled around in my head. Characters popped up in my mind like toadstools after a rain. My file cabinet almost bulges with novels on which I had written only the first several chapters. Folders are stuffed with all kinds of poetry; some of them problem starts; some of them, inspired beginnings that need more work.
I retired from my working career but never from writing. At last I had the free time to concentrate on longer pieces and getting published. Not quite seven years have passed since I quit going to the office. Those years produced two full novels, several award winning poems, and more than 160 non-fiction articles published on the internet or my own web site. I always have a project or two going.
I find that writing enables me to undertake a disciplined journey in discovering the self. It is the pick and shovel for mining into my life. As I work at my writing, I realize that the deepest sense of my uniqueness to myself and to others is ultimately immutable. It is there to approach, to know, to respect and to love. It remains always just beyond my deepest introspection. The finding I remains the seeker, always greater than the found me. My self-knowledge and my self-respect have deepened. Introspection while I write strips away the artificial in life that block my yearning to connect with my inner self. That connection, regardless of incomplete or tenuous, helps me achieve a better understanding of human nature and of those who I choose to draw closer to me. Writing also leave a trail, intellectual bread crumbs along the way, and I can go back and see how my view of life has changed and I with it. I can see how my knowledge of my craft has changed over the years.
Fame and fortune may always elude the best in any trade or artistic pursuit. Destiny makes its inscrutable choices. My urging to others new to the craft of writing is that they find the joys in self-discovering reward enough. Further, that we enjoy the technology that enables us to span the world in search of kindred spirits. The community of writers is welcoming, gracious, generous and affirming for those who enter.
The swallows, to be sure, will forever swoop and dart about. But writers, I submit, have a better chance than most at finding their rightful place, and therefore a measure of peace, among them.
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