Today’s Indie Interview is with John Howell, whose John J. Cannon trilogy has nothing but positive reviews from its readers. He stopped by to talk about the books, and what inspired him to write them.
Hi, John. Welcome to Read A Lot.
Q: Had you always planned on becoming a published author?
A: Since I was in High School I wanted to write. I tried many outlets. I was on the school paper and yearbook staff. Nothing ever came of my desire until I decided to write a book. I started it in 1993 and finished it in 2003. I was working at the time so had to write on weekends and late nights. I printed the book off to take on a trip so I could edit. After fifty pages,
I was working at the time so had to write on weekends and late nights. I printed the book off to take on a trip so I could edit. After fifty pages, I realised it was the worst thing I had ever read. It is now holding the laundry room door open. I started writing full time in 2012 when I won my freedom from organised commerce.
Q: What inspired you to write this story?
A: The inspiration came while I was visiting the aircraft carrier Lexington. My sister and I wanted to see where our naval aviator dad served during World War II. While standing on the huge deck, it occurred to me that this symbol of American military strength was defenceless to attack.
I took some time to figure out how a terrorist group would attack the Lexington and then how to defend her. My stories are not about the Lexington but other symbols of America. The Lexington experience gave me the inspiration
Q: What made you choose the genre?
A: I write fiction thrillers. I chose the style because I enjoy creating a story that has twists, turns and an element of excitement. I also like the genre because rather than a who-done-it the reader already knows and can be brought into the story more intimately.
Q: What is the story about?
A: The trilogy is about a San Francisco lawyer, John J. Cannon who is a very ordinary person caught up in extraordinary circumstances. He has made an enemy of a wealthy and influential financier of a terrorist group who is hell bent on destroying John. In the first book, My GRL John buys a boat only to find the terrorists want his traditional looking boat to use in the destruction of an American symbol. John wakes up in the hospital and finds out he was unconscious next to the body of the woman who sold him the boat when the police found him.
To make matters worse, he was found laying on the gun that killed her. The other two books His Revenge and Our Justice, John finds himself being manipulated to help the terrorist leader in his quest for revenge on America.
Q: Did you find it easiest to write with a schedule or with no time restrictions?
A: I have a very strict schedule. I write one-thousand words a day. I don’t do much else until reaching the goal. Once done with the thousand, I’m free to do other things like social media and household chores. (Yes there are still chores)
Q: Can you choose a favourite character?
A: I have a great love for several of my characters. I guess my favourite is John J. Cannon himself. He is a regular guy and is not at all typical of a thriller protagonist. He is an accomplished litigation attorney who just wants to pursue a dream. Unfortunately, he is caught in dire circumstances and must use his natural intelligence to figure out a way around the danger. John is slightly OCD which tends to cause him frustration in times of stress. He is usually calm and takes his strength from his sense of humour.
Q: Was there ever a point while you were writing your books when you wanted to give up?
A: There were points where I thought I would never finish the first book. These were dark times when I would come up against the spectre of self-doubt. I never wanted to give up but had a great fear that what I was doing was never going to lead to a finished product. I finally overcame that fear with the understanding that it was not important how good my writing was while doing it. It was more important to keep writing and finish the book. I no longer worry about quality until it is time to edit.
Q: What is the worst part of the writing process for you?
A: My worst moments are spent editing what I have written. It is like looking at a video where you are wearing a lampshade and clearly should be in bed. I don’t enjoy having to correct obvious flaws in my manuscript but know it is necessary. I always wish I could write beautiful prose the first time around, but am resigned to reality. So the direct answer is, editing is the worst part for me.
Q: How much of your stories do you plan, or do you find it easier to make them up as you go along?
A: I am a panster through and through. I will have a story idea in my head and a rough idea of where I want it to go. In fact, I write down what I think will become the first and last lines of the manuscript. After that, I sit at the keyboard and let the story unfold. I have found that my characters play a significant role in how the story eventually takes shape. I give them plenty of leeways and have found them to be a big help in constructing the eventual outcomes.
Q: Do you have a favourite piece of writing advice?
A: My favourite piece of advice is to finish the manuscript before showing it to anyone. Too many potential authors have shown work to others only to be discouraged by the reactions. There is plenty of time to show your work and get reactions after the first draft is complete. That is the proper time to have others comment on what you have written. Doing so before the first draft is complete courts discouragement and unfinished work.
Q: Where can people learn more about your books?
Q: What have you learned since you started writing?
A: The biggest thing I have learned is books do not sell themselves. There is no way a reader is going to find out about the work unless you seek them out and tell your story. It is a difficult job but there is only one person who will do it, and that is the author. Social media is a great help but requires management. Unless an author has unlimited resources, it takes dedication and a lot of hard work to reach your targeted reader. I also learned you can’t give up trying to reach your readers.
Q: What’s next for you?
My fourth book titled Circumstances of Childhood is currently with beta readers, and I expect a launch in September. It is a stand-alone story of two friends who grow up dreaming they will become major NFL American football players. Once it is clear the one friend will not reach his dream the other goes on to fulfil the destiny. Later in life, the friends reunite, and the question is will one friend find a way to help the other out of a bad situation or are the circumstances such that support is impossible to render?
John J. Cannon successful San Francisco lawyer takes a leave of absence from the firm and buys a boat he names My GRL. He is unaware that his newly purchased boat had already been targeted by a terrorist group. John’s first inkling of a problem is when he wakes up in the hospital where he learns he was found unconscious next to the dead body of the young woman who sold him the boat in the first place. Further, John now stands between the terrorists and the success of their mission.
America loves John Cannon, its newest hero, and the President wants to present him with the highest civilian medal for bravery for saving the Annapolis midshipman from a terrorist plot to destroy them. While in Washington for the award ceremony, John unwillingly becomes an accomplice in another plan by the same group to attack the credibility of the US President and the stability of the worldwide oil market. There is no way out as John either becomes a traitor to America or causes thousands of innocent people to die if he refuses.
The terrorist leader and financier Matt Jacobs figured out a plan to eliminate the President. He is relying on John Cannon’s stature as a hero to help him carry it off. John finds himself walking the fine line of pretending to help Matt while trying to formulate a countermeasure to the plan.
The third book in the John J. Cannon Trilogy brings together two strong wills for a showdown. The question to be answered is who will feel the satisfaction that the achievement of justice delivers, John, Matt or neither?