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Friday, May 20, 2011

Chatting with John R. Lindermuth about His Book, Fallen from Grace

I have a soft spot for newspaper reporters because when I was nine-years-old, a newspaper reporter by the name of Mr. Roberts took me under his wing and encouraged me to write.  Thank you, John, for bringing back those memories it is a pleasure to have you as a guest.

John R Lindermuth grew up in a small city in Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region. He served in the United States Army and then worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for nearly 40 years. He says that he covered nearly every beat and doing so, he gained a variety of experience, which has proven of value in my fictional writing. Since retiring from the newspaper, He has been the librarian of his county’s historical society and helped patrons with genealogy and historical research.
Tell us about the genre of your work. 
I think of Fallen from Grace as a historical mystery. Publisher Billie Johnson and acquisition editor Sunny Frazier saw it as a Western in style. They selected it for Wild Oak, the new line in that genre for Oak Tree Press.
Why did you choose this genre?
Mysteries are my favorite read and I love history. It is natural for me to combine the two in my writing. As to Westerns, I grew up and now live again in a house said to have been built by a man who rode with Buffalo Bill. My mother said she read pulp Westerns while carrying me and some of the first books I read as a boy were in that genre, both providing additional influence I am sure.
What are some of your books, stories that have been published?
I have published nine novels to date, including four in my Sticks Hetrick mystery series. My short stories and articles have been published in a variety of magazines, both print and on line.
Fallen From Grace, 978-1610090117
Being Someone Else, book four in the Hetrick series, 978-1603138895
Corruption’s Child (Hetrick book three), 978-1593743918
Cruel Cuts (Hetrick book two), 978-1593749101
Something In Common (the first Hetrick book), 978-1593744991
Watch the Hour, 978-1-60313-476-7
Schlussel’s Woman, 978-0595299294
St. Hubert’s Stag, 978-0595328697
Most of my books are available in both print and electronic form. Fallen is available from the publisher
In addition, from Amazon, B&N, other major booksellers, or signed from me:
The Hetrick books and Watch the Hour are available from the publisher, Whiskey Creek Press,, and also on Amazon and from other booksellers.
How do you come up with the names of places and characters in your books?

Arahpot, Tilghman’s town, is a nod to a local Indian. I had used the town previously in Watch the Hour.  In my other life as a genealogist, I compile lists of personal names that strike me as interesting or unique.

My Hetrick mysteries take place in Swatara Creek, a fictional town near Harrisburg PA. I lived in that area for 20 years. There is a creek but no town of that name. My fictional creation is representative of many of the Susquehanna River towns that have become bedroom communities for the more metropolitan areas of the commonwealth.

How did you develop the character of your protagonist in this book?

Tilghman was a character in two earlier short stories. He asserted himself, as characters sometimes do, and demanded a book. Since his father and grandfather had roles in earlier books, I guess he figured I owed him.

What about an antagonist…is there a unique “bad guy” or a recurring nemesis of any kind?

Unless it is horror, I do not think a character should be entirely good or bad. We are all a mix of both and any character will be more believable if depicted with good qualities as well as flaws.

What is your favorite thing about your book?
That I was able to inject a bit more humor than exists in some of my other books. Tilghman likes to eat and he is not above cadging a free meal whenever the opportunity presents itself.
How is writing in the genre you write, different from other genre?
There are certain rules that apply to mysteries, such as playing fair with readers by making clues equally apparent to them and the protagonist. Since I am also dealing with history, it is necessary to strive for accuracy. If you do not, some reader will catch you out.
Why and when did you begin writing?
It was a natural progression. I was an early reader. My father had a good library and encouraged me to read what was available. My grandfather was a grand storyteller. Health problems forced him to early retirement. As the only grandson, I spent a lot of time in his company, listening to his tales. Eventually I began trying to create my own stories. I started sending short stories to magazines when I was in high school—though I received advice and even encouragement from a few kind editors, it was much longer until anything was accepted.  I had a talent for drawing early on and envisioned a career in the art field with writing on the side. When I was drafted, the Army decided I had the makings of a journalist and provided training. After my military service, I worked as a reporter and editor until retiring in 2000.  In the interim, I published articles and some short stories in a variety of magazines but novels were still mainly practice. My first published novel, “Schlussel’s Woman,” a historical mystery, was accepted by an e-publisher who went belly-up shortly after. Frustrated, I brought it out in 2003 with i-Universe.

What is your writing schedule?
I believe it is important to write on a regular basis. I do not think it is necessary to lock yourself into a particular quota. When I am into a project I like to get at least 1,000 words a day, but I do not fret if I miss that figure now and again. I know I will exceed it on some other days.
What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future?
I am always working on several projects at the same time. At the moment, the main focus is on the fifth Hetrick novel. I am also working on a story for an anthology scheduled for next year, some short stories and articles.
What kind of advice or tips to you have for someone who wants to write (especially mystery)?
Read, a little of everything, but especially the type of story or book you want to write. As Dumas put it a long time ago: Writing cannot be taught; it can only be learned.  One learns, initially, by reading. Anything you read will influence your writing style, either consciously or subconsciously. That is why many novelists refrain from reading while working on a book. However, it has been found that reading good writing can provide the impetus for recharging the creative juices when you are stalled or suffering a block. Even junk can be beneficial, but if you want to do creative writing, then you should read the best writing available. You can improve your style, your language and rhythm by the subconscious influence of good literature.
Are there any other comments, advice or tips that you would give to beginning writers?
Be persistent and have patience. It is a given you are going to get rejections. They are a fact of the writing life. But, do not be discouraged by them. Let them be an impetus to try again. And again.  As to patience, there will be delays in hearing the status of a submission. Deal with it. Use the time to advantage by writing and submitting more, rather than just sitting, chewing your fingernails while you wait for the good or bad news.
What do you do when you are not writing? 
I work three days a week as librarian for the historical society, which gets me out and about with people other than family. I spend time with my children and grandsons. I walk. I draw. I read. I have never been one to be bored. There is always more to do than hours in the day.
What “Made It” moments have you experienced in life?
Publication of a first story, article and book were all memorable moments. But, I experience that joy anew whenever someone tells me they have enjoyed something I have written.


margaret blake said...

John has always very interesting responses. I am fascinated by some of the names you come up with, very evocative. I am sure your mystery western will do really well.

jrlindermuth said...

Thank you, Margaret. And thank you, too, Sylvia for providing me this opportunity to talk about my work today.

Kathleen said...

Very interesting interview especially on reading while writing.

Earl Staggs said...

John, you seem to have a good handle on who you are as a writer. I enjoyed learning more about you here, and I've always enjoyed your work. Best regards.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi John,
Great interview. Your journalistic talent certianly comes out in your writing. Good luck with all your projects.



obxwriter said...

Enjoyed the interview. I also enjoy historical mysteries and when I read this book for review a couple of weeks ago, I was not disappointed. In fact, it's the best book I've read so far this year. You can read my review at

Douglas Quinn

Sunny Frazier said...

I was very happy when I saw John's manuscript come across my desk. I've known his short story work for some time and I'm pleased that he kicked off the Wild Oaks line for Oak Tree. It's time the Western genre came back for a new generation of readers and writers.

Jean Henry Mead said...

I agree with Earl that you know who you are as a writer. I look forward to reading your book.

Anonymous said...

As a fellow writer for the Wild Oak line from OTP, I'm looking forward to reading your work. Great interview, John.
Carol Crigger

jack59 said...

Most of everything you say in your
interview is cold honest truth but what I did like was your honesty. It takes many, many days and nights of solitude and quietude to become a writer; touched with a hint of steely determination to finish and succeed. I think you have shown that you have these in abundence John. Many good wishes for the future.

Unknown said...

I really enjoyed the blog and all that Mr. Lindermuth wrote, but I especially like his comment about bad guys and good guys. I love a complex character like that. I love to follow someone who is doing evil and kind of agree with his or her motivations despite myself. The same goes for complicated good characters too, but they're not as much fun of course.

Robert O'Hanneson said...

I enjoyed the interview and John's approach to character development. The good and bad in a character is often overlooked by some authors. I'm looking forward to reading the book.

Holli Castillo said...

I am looking forward to John's book and whatever else Oak Tree publishes in its new western line. I think it's a genre that is overlooked that has a wide appeal and a ready made audience.

John seems like an interesting and insightful guy--I like his advice to write on a regular basis but not tie yourself to a particular number of words. Trying to meet a quota has never worked for me.

Holli Castillo
Gumbo Justice

marta chausée said...

Hi John! Marta Chausée here. I love that you are also a genealogist in your other life. What a great way to snag names!

I also keep a list of potential character names. I often search movie credits and even television show credits for same. Foreign films can be fun name sources.

I also delve into my own history to find names of adults I admired or feared or disliked as a child. I also search historical non-fiction for names.

To me, it feels difficult to find German given names that do not sound silly or stupid. Since one of my mysteries is set in WWII Berlin, i am facing some challenges in this regard.

Thank you for your input. Every thing you said in the interview seems on target, especially the pieces about not reading while writing (that tends to be me) and setting a goal number of words per day but not flogging oneself if one does not meet that goal. As you say, some days a writer is going to be on a roll and exceed that daily goal.

Marta Chausée, Resort to Murder Series

Marja said...

I truly enjoy western mysteries, and there aren't enough of them. I'll be reading your book soon.

I also appreciate your comments about your characters, and keeping them real. Actually, you made serveral comments that I can appreciate. Good job!

WS Gager said...

Great post John. Lots of information. As a former reporter, I agree it is a natural to draw from. You have to be an expert on a little bit of everything and that can carry over to your writing. You also meet all kinds of "real-life" characters you can draw from. It also makes you write to a deadline which is a must. Good luck!
W.S. Gager

Stephen L. Brayton said...

Good interview. As a person interested in family trees, interesting names would surely pop up.