Thank you, Jill for having me on your post today. I believe this idea of setting time aside for guest posts is terrific. I think before I start in on the questions, it might be a good idea to tell your readers a little about myself so they will have some context as to why some of my answers are a little off beat.
I was born in Detroit Michigan and pretty much was on my own from my eighteenth birthday on. I graduated from Michigan State University and went to work for a large consumer packaged goods company. From that beginning, I pretty much stayed close to the consumer business. After about forty-five years as a prisoner of organized commerce, I made a break for it and succeeded in escaping. During the previous ten years before liberty I struggled with writing a novel and it eventually grew to over 100,000 words. I finally printed it off the computer for the purposes of an edit. After about fifty pages I realized it was a piece of crap and it is currently holding the laundry room door open. (Nice and heavy)
I don’t think the ten years were wasted since the time gave me the experience of doing really mediocre work. I found it impossible to write and work full time as well. I gave up writing until I gave up work. I started writing full time in 2012 and finished my first novel titled My GRL in August of that year. I did a round of queries and was picked up by Martin Sisters Publishing. My GRL was published in December of 2013. I also started my blog on WordPress at johnwhowell.com. My next novel is a sequel to My GRL and is temporarily titled His Revenge. The manuscript was submitted to the publisher and I am waiting on news of publication. In the meantime, I am working on the third book in the series and plan to have the first draft finished by September of this year.
So that is a little about me. Jill has asked some interesting questions and here are my responses:
If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you meet?
I would love to meet Kurt Vonnegut. I have loved all his books and would want to ask him several questions about his process. They wouldn’t be deep intellectual questions, but more like: How do you start your day? What was your most difficult story to write and why? Where is the most productive place to write? How long does it take to get a first rough draft that is satisfactory? How much editing do you do on your own and how much does the editor do? What is the dumbest thing said to you by a reader, critic, or educator. What is your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantster?
What do you do for fun? I would also be up for a couple of drinks and a few smokes. I can imagine we would be pretty loose after a while. I would keep asking him questions until he would finally tire of giving answers. All the while, I would hope he would wonder why I keep asking writer type questions. He would finally ask and then I could tell him I am a writer too. He would want to know what I write and I would tell him all about my book. If I’m lucky he will still be awake as I finish my synopsis.
What celebrity do you get mistaken for?
I am never mistaken for a specific celebrity, but constantly am asked by people if they know me. I think I have one of those faces that could be mistaken for everyone and no one. I should have gone to work for the CIA since everyone would think they know me, but won’t know from where. I would have instant street cred no matter where I was. Think Russia. All I would have to do is stand around with a shot of vodka and answer “Da” to any question. It would be assumed, I was who the person asking the question thought I was, and that would be it. The last time I was caught in the doctor’s waiting room with a guy who said he recognized me from TV. When I told him I don’t do TV, he asked about places I’ve been and companies I worked. He even asked if I had played Las Vegas. We did not have anything in common. He left to see the doctor still mystified as to why he thought he knew me. I wanted to say my picture is in the Post-Office, but held my tongue in case he took me serious. I never mentioned my book since I was pretty sure he would not have read it. Besides I hate the picture on the back cover. It looks just like me.
If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
I think it would be really useful if I could learn to type using more than two fingers. I can’t imagine the output produced if I could engage the other eight digits in a more helpful role in producing words. Those guys just loaf along and take credit for all the stuff that rolls off the two who carry the load. I have watched others type using both hands and it not only looks cool, but the keyboard sings like a piano. Whoa. Now there is another thing that would be useful to learn. Picture walking into a grand salon and sitting down at the Steinway. The next thing you realize you are playing Rhapsody in Blue and a crowd has begun to form. How much easier would that be to get attention? I would say a heck of a lot easier than writing a book and doing it with two fingers yet. Speaking of attention, how about learning to play the banjo. Everyone loves the banjo and the song She’ll be Comin’ Round the Mountain. You could just open up your banjo case and start that picky picky pick pick banjo music and before long you would have a crowd. You could even get some guy with a guitar and the two of you could do the Guitar Duel from Deliverance. Speaking of Deliverance how about learning to shoot with a bow and arrow. Imagine if you will, walking around with a quiver of arrows and an actual bow. You could dress up like Burt Reynolds and takeout anyone who makes you squeal like a pig. Speaking of pig, I would like to learn how to make tender pork chops. I have tried a brine, quick cook, slow cook, grill, bake, you name it. Always dry and tough. Okay, that’s my choice for this question. Learn to make great pork chops.
If you could go back in time to change one thing what would it be?
I would go back to the time when Microsoft and Apple stock were selling for about fifteen dollars a share. The change I would make would be to ignore the business advice given at the time, which predicted the failure of the two companies, and buy at least a thousand shares of each. I also would have bought one share of Berkshire Hathaway at one thousand dollars. My final change would be to sneak into the editorial offices of the New Yorker and pullout one of the short stories I have written and place it in the “to be published file.” I figure that if the New Yorker published one of my stories back when Apple was Fifteen bucks a share there would be no way I would have to work like a mule trying to get noticed in the publishing world today. If nothing else I could always put New Yorker contributor on agent query letters which just smells of easy money to an agent. Don’t get me wrong. I am published by a nice indie publisher, but all I’m saying is it would be nice to have Doubleday on my team.
What do you think the greatest invention has been?
The greatest invention has to be the corkscrew. I cannot imagine trying to secure my daily ration of wine without a corkscrew. Imagine the chunks of cork in the bottle if a knife was used. Even worse would be the slivers of glass if it was necessary to break off the top of the bottle. I’ll bet the guy who invented the wine bottle and decided to use cork as the sealer was sure happy the corkscrew came along. I’m pretty sure he got tired of all the complaints about glass and cork in the wine. I have to say the second greatest is the wine glass. I wonder how it would feel to either drink the wine directly from the bottle or be forced to drink it out of a tin cup. Imagine some effete wine connoisseur running his nose over a tin cup and then trying to describe the bouquet as “fruity with a hint of metallic essence.” All of us are spared that vision with the advent of the wine glass.
Thanks John for those interesting answers. John’s book My GRL can be found in Print on Amazon and in e-book format just about everywhere else. Here are the links: