John Robinson

John Robinson

Today’s guest post author is John Robinson. He is a friend and I’m a fan of his writing. In fact, I read Joe Box long before we got to know each other as writers and liked the rough-around-edges hero very much. Last Call is one of those rare books that invites you to take a fresh look at the Rapture. John’s big news is this: Last Call is FREE one day only – tomorrow, Wednesday, August 14, 2013. Click on the book cover below on the 14th to get your free copy!

I’d like to thank Joy for turning over the floor to me; I trust she won’t regret it. With her kind indulgence I’m going to talk a little bit about what it’s like being a hairy-legged man-type male person writing testosterone-filled novels with a Christian slant, a scribe with a mouth much smarter than he is, someone with a deeply bent sense of the absurd that amuses him to no end while he recklessly explores themes that—I think—no one else is.

But first some quick bona fides: I’ve been married forty years to my lovely and longsuffering wife Barb. We have two grown sons (one of them married, a missionary with a family of his own), and a little daughter waiting for us in heaven; by now she’s probably driving Saint Peter to distraction.

My favorite movie is Open Range , my favorite musical is Les Miserables , my favorite band is Yes , my favorite color is blue, and my favorite meal is country ham, greens beans with fatback, cathead biscuits with clover honey, spoon bread, chocolate pie, and good, but not great, coffee. Due to a brain injury when I was nine I’m dyslexic, and can only type with my thumbs and index fingers. I also have syndactyly, giving me webbed toes.

Now, aren’t you glad you’ve read this far? I know I am!

As a boy I was reared in a denominational church, but it never really took. By the time I’d entered high school I’d become a secret, hardcore atheist—the secret part being Southern boys from nice Christian homes outwardly have to show at least the letter of piety, if not the law—wink, wink, nudge nudge. I had no idea as a high school geek my dark mindset would change in just a few years, and in a big way.

In the spring of 1975, and through a set of bizarre circumstances I won’t bore anyone with, I became a born again, spirit filled Christian. Boom. Done. In this I was following my dear wife, who’d made the same decision a few months earlier. Not surprisingly, in short order we lost all our friends and drinking buddies, and set about making new ones … friends that is, not drinking buddies. From there things settled into a routine, although I’ve found to my consternation nothing is routine to God; He delights in the “gotcha!” moments. I was to discover He had quite the rabbit up his sleeve, but wouldn’t reveal it until over two decades later.

I’ve always liked to write, from my early teen years on, and when I was in college I was student affairs editor for the school paper. But the years passed, and with a wife and children and working out my salvation with fear and trembling, that love seemed to fade. But a little over a decade ago it came roaring back, and in an unexpected way.

It was New Years Day, 1999, and I was watching one of the bowl games on TV when suddenly I started seeing something different on the screen. Don’t laugh, but it was almost like I was watching a movie. I was unaware of the passing of time. When at last I roused myself I found only a few minutes had passed, but amazingly I had the entire plot of Last Call completely lined up in my head; it was then just a matter of writing it down and editing it. Now please understand, this waking dream business was new territory for me; my childhood church looks askance at any “weirdo stuff” from God (“ya know, boy, we don’t hold much with that heebie-jeebie junk.”)

That writing process took about a year, but finally it was ready, and I began sending out query letters, waiting for the “good gravy, son, stop the presses, we gotta publish this masterpiece!” phone call which I knew was coming any day now … hah, and hah again. Finding a house that would take such a controversial novel proved to be a challenge, and it wasn’t until 2008 that it was sold to a small Christian publisher, which put it out under the title Heading Home . A year or so ago the rights were returned to me, and I completely revised and re-edited it, putting it up on Kindle as Last Call. During the intervening years I wrote and sold the Joe Box novels, as well as a stand-alone general market SF thriller, The Radiance . Also, my agent, Chip Macgregor, has begun marketing Pitfall , the first of a new general market series featuring a new MC, Cameron Bane..

As an aside, for those who’re interested in the plot of (which is going to be free on Kindle this Wednesday, August 14 th) , the easiest way to describe it is to just quote the back cover copy:

The Bible makes it clear no one knows the day or the hour of Christ’s return. But it doesn’t say we won’t know the month.

Or the week.

When every Christian simultaneously receives a message that Christ will return sometime in the coming week, the world is thrown into stark panic. Two old friends, hardened combat veterans from the closing days of the Vietnam War, set out on a suspenseful quest to redeem that time.

What they don’t know is they and their entire church have been targeted for satanic annihilation.

So far the reviews have been good, and no one’s called me a heretic (yet).

My three Joe Box novels— Until the Last Dog Dies , When Skylarks Fall , and To Skin a Cat —are a little more down to earth, featuring a protagonist who’s a Vietnam vet and former Cincinnati cop, now working as a down-at-the-heels private investigator.

In the first story Joe’s just recently come to the Lord, but given his violent past he’s not really sure how, or if, it’s going to work out for him. He’s a Cincinnati resident, an unwillingly transplanted Southerner with a strong code of honor and an almost pathological need to right wrongs, but he also has a dark side and a sarcastic mouth. To my knowledge Joe’s an anomaly in the CBA, and was a real kick to write. Out of print for a few years, they’re now on Kindle. (Click on the book cover to learn more.)

As I said, in addition to those books I have another series started featuring a modern day soldier-of-fortune named Cameron Bane. Cameron’s a spiritually and physically wounded Army Ranger captain who’s trying to atone for a disastrous mistake that wiped out his entire command in Iraq by performing extraordinary deeds for hopeless people, gratis (the burgeoning Christian elements will be explored bit by bit in each).

With Cameron, I wanted to take a man who was a little like Joe Box, but give him a darker past and take him in different direction. The result is the Christian spirituality is still there, but much more subtle; think the movie Signs , or Dean Koontz’s later works. I knew this approach wouldn’t fly within the CBA parameters, so as I said, my agent is shopping Pitfall , the first in the series, to the general market. The next, Burning River , has a good start but it’s not nearly done yet.

Now bear in mind, when I set out to write these tales I was trying to come up with something new and different for Christian men to read. Because let’s face the truth: the CBA is chock-a-block with romances and relationship treatises and bonnet books, but not a lot of grim, hard-edged action novels, especially ones penned by men. I think I was as shocked as anyone when the distaff side seemed to like them as much as the males. For some reason they struck (and strike) a chord with the ladies, but I’m not complaining.

Because of its rough theme and unconventional main character, Until the Last Dog Dies was, like its brother Last Call , a booger to get published. For months my agent shopped it tirelessly, but kept coming to me back with stuff like “they love your writing, John, but the character of Joe Box scares them to death; they’re afraid women won’t buy it.” To which I would respond, “jeeze Louise, it’s not written for women!”

More months passed, and at last my agent said they’d done all they could, but couldn’t place it with anybody. That was in December of 2002.

Flash forward to July of 2003.

The CBA trade show was in Orlando that that year, and my agent was attending, hoping for a miracle. And it happened. As the story was told to me, one night the head buyer of one of the largest Christian bookstore chains was speaking with one of the marketing directors for Cook Communications, which owns RiverOak Publishing.

They were talking about this and that, and the buyer said in an off-hand way, “Say, I heard you’ve bought a novel featuring a Christian private investigator; that sounds intriguing.” The Cook guy frowned and said no, he’d heard wrong, they took a pass on it. To which the buyer said, “that’s too bad; we could probably move a lot of units of that.” Not needing a board upside his head—as we crackers say—the Cook guy took that info to his people, and they told him, “okay, see if it’s still available.” The Cook guy found my agent and asked if Until the Last Dog Dies was still on the table. Stunned, my agent said yes, and they proceeded to verbally cut the deal on the floor of the CBA. True story!

By now Joy has to be tapping her foot, so in closing I’d like to tell a story I once heard about Winston Churchill. The time was either the late fifties or early sixties, and by then Churchill was quite elderly when he was asked to give the commencement address for a large university.

The day came, and the auditorium was packed with students and alumni wanting to hear strong words of wisdom from the man who’d basically saved Britain during the darkest days the country had ever known. Slowly Sir Winston took the platform. Standing behind the podium, he gazed out at the sea of faces with rheumy eyes..

Then setting his famous bulldog jaw, he ground out these words: “Never give up. Never, never, never, never give up.” He fixed them with a gaze of iron. “Never.”

And then he sat down.

A beat passed, and the place erupted in praise.

That’s what I try to tell people: in today’s times of peril and crazed uncertainty, “never give up.” Just that.

And great is the joy therein.

For anyone who’d like to read my blog or the first chapters of any of my novels, they can do it for free on my website: www.johnrobinsonbooks.com .

Thanks so much for having me, Joy!

John Robinson has been writing professionally for over a decade, with six novels commercially published. These include Sockmonkey Blues, Until the Last Dog Dies , When Skylarks Fall , and To Skin a Cat , all through David C. Cook/RiverOak Publishing; Last Call ; and The Radiance . John is also a member of the Authors Guild, and for three years was on faculty at a nationally ranked writers conference held near Santa Fe. There he taught tracks on plotting, theme, dialogue, and character development.

John has a background in broadcasting and journalism, and so he is very comfortable in dealing with all aspects of the media. He also has an active on-line presence, which includes moderating a large writers website, as well as enjoying a stint as a regular columnist on the blog, Author Culture. In addition, John is a member of such diverse sites as AbsoluteWrite, deCompose, and James Lileks’ blog, who is a popular columnist for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune . Finally, John is close friends with his mentor, writer James Scott Bell, author of the popular Plot and Structure , published by Writers Digest Books.

You are MOST welcome, John – what a great post.

Until Next Time,

Joy

About Joy DeKok

Joy DeKok is a multipublished author. She not only enjoys sharing her writing, but also the writing of friends who write and authors whose writing she enjoys.

Comments

  1. So glad to read more about John! Thanks so much, Joy, for having him be your guest. Loved it!

  2. Thanks so much, folks! And thanks, Joy! I had a blast!

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