Interview with John Coon, Author and Sports and Business Journalist
John has possessed a love for writing since age 12 when he typed out his first stories on an old typewriter belonging to his parents. For nearly 15 years, he has worked as a sports and business journalist. His byline has appeared in multiple publications and on multiple websites nationwide and he currently writes for the Associated Press and Athlon Sports. He is a lifelong Utah resident and a graduate of the University of Utah.
John published his debut novel, Pandora re-born, a supernatural/ghost/thriller/ horror story, in 2018
I asked John these questions
What made you start writing?
When I was growing up, my parents owned this old manual typewriter. It had to have been at least 50 years old. I don’t know for sure. Around the time I was 12 years old, one of my older sisters wrote a couple of short stories. I saw her do it and immediately decided I could write some stories too. I went out to that old typewriter set up on a table in the back of the kitchen, put in some orange coloured typing paper, and started writing some stories.
Those early stories focused on a litter of mischievous kittens. The characters were modelled after pet cats our family had at the time. That’s when my love of creating stories and writing them down took root. I always had an active imagination, so bringing new characters and fictional worlds to life came naturally to me. I eventually finished the rough drafts to those early stories in high school and I haven’t stopped writing ever since that time.
Do you consider writing a hobby or a profession?
Writing, in general, is a profession for me since I work as a sports reporter. Fiction writing is still at the stage where I’m doing it when my work schedule allows. I hope to be able to change that at some point and shift over to being a fiction author full-time.
Do you have a writing process/formula, or is it more random?
Creating a story always involves multiple steps for me. When I get an idea, I jot down a paragraph long plot summary and a working title. Then I sketch out character names and bios to get a feel of who will be in my story. From there, I add sketches of important scenes and dialogue. Next, I do a brief outline of each chapter and note key plot points in each chapter. I use these things as a guide for when I write the actual rough draft.
Some writers embrace a random, stream-of-consciousness writing style. I prefer a more organized approach to crafting a story. It helps me stave off writer’s block. It also makes it easier to avoid plot holes and keep the characters consistent. I feel like it lets me become more immersed in the world I’m creating so I can draw out details most relevant to the actual story.
Who are your favourite mainstream authors?
Growing up, I loved classic authors from a wide spectrum of genres. I enjoyed Jack London’s adventure stories. I couldn’t get enough of Edgar Allan Poe’s horror stories or H.G. Wells’ sci-fi tales.
One of my all-time favourites is C.S. Lewis. I read every book in the Chronicles of Narnia multiple times. His world-building is superb and each story has some uniquely compelling characters.
I have a few modern authors that I also like to read. Michael Crichton, Stephen King, John Grisham, Phillip K. Dick, and Ray Bradbury are some of my favourites in this group.
Have you tried other formats like articles/screenplays/plays etc, or do you stick to novels?
I love writing short stories and poetry in addition to novels. I have several finished stories and poems filed away and I do plan to publish most of them at some point in the future. I haven’t written a screenplay yet, but it’s on my writing bucket list.
I’ve probably published thousands of articles over the last 15 years. I work as a sports reporter in my day job and I’m regularly writing game stories and features related to my coverage of the NBA, college football, and college basketball.
Where do your ideas come from?
My ideas are often sparked by some really random things. The initial idea behind Pandora Reborn, for example, took root after hearing about legends involving a lost gold mine in the mountains outside my hometown. The mine was supposedly cursed and when I wondered what could make a mine cursed, the idea of a witch trapped into a chest sprung into my mind. It continued to evolve over two decades before I was finally compelled to start writing it two years ago.
I form ideas from conversations, news stories, experiences, or even random things I see in the world around me. Anything that seems particularly unique or compelling usually blossoms into a story idea in a short time.
When it comes to marketing and promotion, how do you approach this area?
For a new author, I’ve done reasonably well at marketing and promoting my debut novel. It didn’t take long for me to distribute Pandora Reborn worldwide and I’ve had decent sales. So far, I’ve reached Top 100 bestseller status in multiple genre categories on Amazon in Spain, Italy, Canada, and Australia at one point or another since publishing last summer.
The biggest challenge is building an active author platform across multiple social media channels. There are so many new novels published each year and legions of indie authors clamouring for attention. It takes a ton of work to not get lost in the crowd. I had a built-in audience to some extent because of my reporting. Reaching new voices has been a trial and error process. I’ve learned what works as I’ve gone along and what is a time waster. I feel better prepared for what to do and what to expect when I release my second novel later this year.
Marketing can feel like a chore at times. It takes away from writing stories, which is what I actually want to do with my time. It’s also a lonely road. I get some support from family and friends, but the bulk of promoting falls exclusively on my shoulders.
What would you most like to sit down and discuss with your readers?
I have had a chance to talk to some readers who’ve bought and read Pandora Reborn. I always like to get their impressions of the story. What did they enjoy in the story? What were their impressions of the characters? I enjoy answering questions about plot, setting, and characters and showing what I was thinking and why I made the narrative choices I did. It’s so much fun.
What are your greatest writing influences?
That’s a complicated question for me because I strive to be original in my writing and create a unique and distinct style as an author. I think that too many indie authors are eager to jump out there and say “My writing is just like Popular Author X! If you like their writing, you’ll love mine!” I don’t embrace that mentality. I want to stand out from what’s already out there. I want to make a lasting impression with my stories and my writing. What’s the point of reading a novel that’s exactly like dozens of other books out there?
I do look at other authors from specific genres to see how they structure stories and develop characters when I’m writing a story that fits within that genre. When I wrote Pandora Reborn, for example, I looked at how Stephen King and Dean Koontz approached crafting their horror stories. In that sense, they were an influence. Still, I made a point to find my own voice and not simply mimic what I’ve read elsewhere.
Where do you see yourself in five years? What is coming up for you, new book/project wise?
My five-year plan is to be a successful full-time author. I want this to be what I do for a living because I find greater happiness in creating stories than doing just about anything else.
Right now, I am working on my second novel. It is a sci-fi thriller set in an isolated Texas town. I took an earlier unpublished short story I wrote and I’m reworking and expanding it to novel length. I anticipate that it will be ready for publication late spring or early summer.
Why not read his novel for yourself (and leave a review of course!)
Barnes and Noble: https://bit.ly/2KbaaNn
Google Books: https://tinyurl.com/ybtm5vpx
Apple Books: https://lnkd.in/gRfY4Yg
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