We are definitely not at a loss for talent today, folks! A while back when I posted a Call to Writers, asking my fellow author bloggers to allow me to interview them, I was elated with the responses I received. (And if you would like to participate, please feel free to contact me.) I asked thirty-five questions and gave the interviewee the freedom to answer only what they wanted. My friend and fellow-blogger, John Rogers, had some very fascinating responses which I’m sure you will find as captivating as I did. When you’re done reading the interview, please hop on over to his blog and make sure you follow him for more entertaining tales. And now, heeeeere’s John…
1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:
My name is John Baird Rogers. I have thought of myself as a writer for most of my adult life. In 2011, I became a fiction writer full time. I majored in English at Dartmouth College, where I took creative writing over several terms. Then came family and career. I worked in finance as CFO of a public company, on and off in Vienna, then founded two biotech startups. Now, I have the opportunity to use my real world experience as the substrate for stories that have been rolling around in my head. The first takes on the world of Big Data and the very timely issue of cyber war. The second uses the manipulation of financial derivatives as impetus for attempted murder during a trip from Vienna to Budapest on the Danube. The third, only sketched, is a thriller involving genes, ‘junk’ DNA and the aspirations of an arrogant scientist.
2. Please provide the link to your blog (and website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.):
http://johnbairdrogers.com : A blog on words and music and the making of them.
Twitter: @johnrootsmusic https://twitter.com/johnrootsmusic
3. How many books have you written?
One complete, one drafted
4. Has any of your work been published yet? If so, please share the link(s) to purchase it:
No publication that can be purchased. Short Story at http://www.scribd.com/doc/150588742/The-Cle-eland-Travel-Inn
5. If you have been published, did you self-publish or use traditional publishing? Why? If you have not been published yet, what are your plans for the future?
I am currently querying agents, about ready to query small presses. If I don’t get published that way, self-publishing.
6. How old were you when you started writing? When did you know you wanted to be an author?
I started creative writing seriously in college. Always wanted to be an author, but didn’t commit to the pain and financial misery until recently.
7. What would you say motivates you to keep writing?
I want to find out more about the people in my stories. I have always loved telling a good story and have done so as part of being a musician and storyteller.
8. Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?
I like the classics, Chaucer and Shakespeare in particular. James Joyce. Modern authors. Jillian Flynn, William Kent Krueger (current Edgar nominee). Reading Bret Anthony Johnston Remember Me Like This (just out), Steve Ulfelder’s Wolverine Bros. Freight & Storage when it comes out soon. Many writing books … E.M. Forster, Steven King. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (Browne & King) particularly interesting because I’m about to enter rewrite on my second novel.
9. What is your preferred reading method? (i.e., Kindle, Nook, paperback, hardback, etc.) Why?
I like real books best, and they are the only way to go for reference books. I use Kindle most often because I have limited library space and a great deal of the mystery/thriller fiction I read deserves a silent, electronic burial.
10. Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?
All. Depends on the situation. The thriller genre leads me most often to 3rd present.
11. Do you “always read” or do you take breaks between reading books?
12. How many books would you say you read in a year? How many at any one time?
40-50 annually; usually only one fiction at a time; up to 5 non-fiction simultaneously.
ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BOOK::
13. What is the title of your current work in progress of the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?
Skins and Bone is almost completely drafted. Hack the Yak is completed through several rewrites, and I am querying it to agents.
14. What is your novel’s genre? Would you say there is a sub-genre? What makes yours different than other books in the same genre?
Both books are thrillers (larger problem discovered by individual, bad guys known or suspected early in plot). Both have strong literary content.
15. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?
The basis for the story I’m writing now is trading in financial derivatives, which I know about from my former day job. The inspiration is the devolution of the financial trade into the cesspit of moral relativity in the last couple of decades.
The basis of the completed novel (last rewrite March 2014) is the immediate future of health care and the ubiquity of the grid of wi-fi, streaming audio/video/information.
16. What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?
General adult reading population.
17. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your story?
Hack The Yak is a thriller about big data, old-fashioned greed and the cruel reality of future medical care. An ordinary guy, Joe Mayfield, unwittingly challenges malevolent software embedded in the most secure database in the world, goes off the grid pursued by a couple of bad guys and a very good gal named Weezy. Joe and Weezy end up in a singlewide trailer in Panacea-by-God Florida, from which they expose the fraud designed to steal millions at the cost of thousands of lives, but not before the bad guys come up with a whole new take on burn the evidence.
Skins and Bone is a thriller about financial markets and manipulation. In the world of finance, if you can foresee the worst-case scenario, you can protect against it. If you can then make the worst case happen, you can profit enormously. That is the proposition behind Skins and Bone. The story is set a few years from now, following the end of the prior novel, Hack the Yak.
The protagonists are Joe Mayfield, a self-proclaimed ‘ordinary guy’ and Louise Napolitani (Weezy), a brilliant ‘tracker’ for the IACC database (the Yak).
In Hack the Yak , Joe exposed a massive fraud in the Yak and in so doing, met Weezy. They are a pair now. To quote a country music song, “If it ain’t love, it ain’t bad.”
Joe is hired by the investment banking firm ZCG, which specializes in Skins, financial derivatives intended to protect against political risk. The story carries Joe and Weezy through murder, a trip to Vienna and Budapest and finally to the comeuppance for the high-flying banker who is managing to make very bad things happen and to profit from them.
ABOUT HOW YOU WRITE::
18. How often do you write?
I pretend that I write daily. In reality, it’s about every other day.
19. Approximately how many words do you write at each sitting?
Varies a lot. The least, when I’m working on specific passages in rewrite, maybe 300 words. The most, when I’m rolling on a draft, 3,000 or more.
20. Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?
I have not yet used a professional editor. I am in three writing groups that include seven or eight published authors and an editor. I have been relying on their critique so far.
21. What is your method of writing? (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes? Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters? Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)
Generally, I want to write a draft of the entire story first. That said, I do moderate rewriting as I go along. For instance, a plot change in Chapter 10 may require adjustment of Chapter 3. I do that kind of stuff as I go. I work from a general outline … really, a synopsis of a couple of pages … and let the characters behave as they would in the situations they get into, which often alters the plot.
22. Do you have a muse? If so, please elaborate. If not, what inspires you?
I don’t have a single muse who comes to me bringing inspiration. My cousin, Gamble Rogers, was a fine guitar player and story teller, and his stories and language inspire me. The blues music I play and the people who came before inspire me. Those influences give me the voices of my characters. And then there’s the beach (see http://wp.me/p2Muv2-83). The plots are built mainly from musings and frustrations growing out of my (former) professional life.
23. How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?
Hack the Yak took about a year to draft, and Skins and Bone should have taken 6-8 months, but has drug on for 18 months.
24. Do you give yourself a word limit for each day or a time limit to finish your novel? If so, please elaborate.
No on word limit, though I try not to stop at a natural stopping point (on the advice of Bret Anthony Johnston, a great teacher).
25. How do you come up with your character names and geographic location / business names?
Character names are partly based on people I’ve known, partly on internet searches (particularly for ‘foreign’ names. Major locations are places I’ve been … there are some things you can’t easily get in a Google search, such as odors, the feel of North Florida heat, the way people walk in Vienna and the like. But those Google maps help a lot, particularly Street View.
26. How long (or how detailed) are the notes you take before you start writing?
I take a lot of notes on technical stuff … how a hacker would operate, standard terminology used in derivatives, city and country maps. In other words, a lot of stuff that I have to know but which doesn’t get into the book.
27. Do you have any “must haves” to help you write? (i.e., a full cup of coffee, a view of the ocean, etc.)
I like a cup of coffee or tea. There’s nothing like a walk on the beach for plot development (see http://wp.me/p2Muv2-83)
28. Do you only write during a certain time of day or in a certain location? If so, do you make yourself stop after a certain time?
I write when I have time. I like morning, and I like my writing desk in Minnesota.
29. Does your real life ever neglected because of your writing? If so, how do you feel about that?
After many years of ‘real life’ trumping all other activities, I feel as if ‘real life’ interrupts my writing too often.
30.What is the quirkiest thing you do or have ever done when writing?
Unanswered, considering the perfectly legal prohibition against self-incrimination.
ABOUT YOUR WORK::
31. If you have written more than one novel, which is your favorite and why?
Can’t answer yet. The second is not finished. From the point of view of marketability, the second will be better, but I like the broader cast of characters in the first.
32. If you could be one of your own characters for a day, who would it be and why?
My initial answer is the male protagonist, Joe, because I know him so well and he’s such a fundamentally good man. But Big Al, the 6’4” auto salesman in New Orleans … well, it’s be fun to be Big Al for a day.
33. If one of your books became a movie, who would you choose for the “perfect cast” of main characters?
It’s embarrassing, but I know so little about movies that my opinion is probably not so great. Maybe Kevin Spacey for Joe Mayfield and the actress who played Lisbeth in the Swedish version of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”.
34. What is the oddest thing you have ever researched for one of your books?
South African voortrekker derogatory slang. Also, the depth and temperature of the Danube in June near Hainberg and der Donau (available on the Internet) and the wake pattern of a 200’ riverboat going over that same place (available from a ferry boat captain.)
35. What is the most difficult thing you have ever researched for one your books and why?
The trading process for financial derivatives and the terminology and slang that go with the trading. Difficult because it is detailed and currently largely opaque. Very difficult because I wanted to project the near future and had to pass the current complex process through the filter of the abject incompetence of the current political system.
Thank you, John, for allowing me to interview you. I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your work as much as I have.