JLS: Jeff Salter [J.L. Salter]
JLS: Same as Jack Benny … 39.
Fiona: Where are you from?
JLS: Born in Mississippi, raised mostly in Louisiana … though I’d also lived in IL, GA, and IA before I went to college. Stationed in TX, NM, and CA … plus an overseas tour of duty at Thule AB in northwest Greenland (inside the Arctic Circle). Retired from a 30-year library career in LA; currently living in KY.
Fiona: A little about yourself (i.e., your education, family life, etc)
JLS: B.A. in English (with minors in history and speech) from SLU (Hammond LA); M.L.S. from LSU (Baton Rouge LA). Worked in newspapers and librarianship; served in the U.S. Air Force (active duty) plus AF Reserve and U.S. Army National Guard. I’m a husband, father, and grandfather. At church, I help with the children’s programming.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
JLS: One novel and two novellas released during 2015 — with three different royalty publishers. Working on submissions for 2016 and hoping for three more contracts.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
JLS: I can’t recall a time when I was NOT writing. Certainly as far back as grade school. My writing became more serious during high school. Never stopped and never wanted to.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
JLS: As a senior in high school, I won a First Place in a division of a significant regional contest, the Deep South Writers and Artists Conference (held at USL in Lafayette LA) … and my winning entry (a poem) was published on the front page of my hometown newspaper.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
JLS: I’m co-author of two hardcover non-fiction monographs about aspects of librarianship which were published by one of the top three publishers of library resources at that time. My inspiration was to try to help others in the library profession deal with the issues of problem patrons and literacy.
My inspiration for writing my first novel manuscript came out of the blue — I never imagined writing full-length fiction. Poetry had always been my primary means of creative expression.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
JLS: Not certain you’d call this ‘style’ but I tend to reveal more thru dialog than through narrative. I don’t decorate my stories with a lot of description, so it’s mainly dialog and action, I suppose. I think I have a comedic touch with many of my manuscripts.
Fiona: How did you come up with the titles?
JLS: Of my eight novels, four novellas, and one short story published so far, all the titles have gone through a transition process. Looking at all my completed works (so far) sometimes the final title comes to me after I’ve already done considerable writing, but I’ve also had titles hit me before I began writing anything else. In a few cases, my manuscript will have perhaps half a dozen title possibilities up through the third or fourth complete draft.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novels / novellas that you want readers to grasp?
JLS: Not really. Other than: “Enjoy my story and characters … and look for more stories from me.”
Fiona: How much of your books are realistic?
JLS: Three of my published titles (and others not yet published) are set in the real-world city of Somerset KY, which is where I currently live. In this real setting, I’ve tried to incorporate a considerable amount of actual historical and geographic detail.
However, at least eleven of my completed titles are set in a fictional town named Verdeville, which I’ve placed in fictional Greene County, which I placed just east of real-life Nashville TN. On an actual map, it would be the approximate location of Lebanon TN.
One of my published titles – and at least one not yet complete – is set in the fictional town of Magnolia AL. Several of the Clean Reads authors got together and “created” this town, each of us adding buildings, layout, characters, and “history”.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
JLS: I’ve incorporated several real-life experiences in my writing. Some have happened to me or a member of my extended family. Some I’ve been told about by the persons they happened to.
Most of what I write is a matter of what I refer to as “following my characters and taking notes.” But some of the things which happen to my characters are based on actual experiences. The two primary ‘cold case’ plot elements of Hid Wounded Reb are closely based on real-life events which directly involved my wife’s ancestors. The entire novel, Overnighter’s Secrets, was inspired by my examination of a small suitcase containing the belongings of a silent movie star.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
JLS: As a Christian, certainly the Bible. As a college English major, many recognizable classics. As a kid growing up, I read all the titles I could get my hands on in a huge series called “Childhood of Famous Americans” (Bobbs-Merrill). Though somewhat fictionalized and at times romanticized, these books went back to the formative years of men and women who later became famous. Those biographies made me understand that most individuals (who later made significant contributions) actually began life rather humbly and had the range of normal childhood experiences; reading them made me believe I had as good a chance of making a significant contribution as any one else.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
JLS: If he were still living, Walker Percy might be surprised to see his name here. But he was an award-winning novelist with international acclaim when I was growing up in the same town with him. He and his wife were friends of my parents. Walker was initially in the local writers group which my dad was also a member of. He was always very cordial and quite down to earth.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
JLS: Gosh … several. I always have at least one book in progress that I read when I visit my mom. Here at my house, I’ll have at least one more and perhaps two going at all times. By the time this interview is posted, I’ll likely have some of these finished and others started.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
JLS: To begin listing authors would leave out many others who ought to be mentioned. Let me just say that I was especially delighted at the entertaining novels of Duffy Brown.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
JLS: I have over seven dozen ‘starts’ for new novels or novellas. On some I have little more than a few notes … but others have several thousand words. Most are a few handwritten pages or a couple thousand typed words. Actively, I’m revising a novel I wrote in 2013 to get it ready to submit. And then I’ll return to a completed novella for its third or fourth draft so I can submit that one. In the meantime, I’m also actively working – through weekly sprints – on a new title.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
JLS: Not sure you’d call this an ‘entity’ but I was very fortunate to have many wonderful teachers through most of my first 12 grades. The ones who most directly supported my writing were Mrs. Theresa Fleming, Mrs. Rosalie Sherman, and Mrs. Erlene Howser.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
JLS: Definitely. Having taken an early retirement from librarianship, writing – and networking with other authors and friends (and readers) – is my primary activity.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
JLS: [See a related question above — I don’t recall ever NOT writing.] But if you’re asking what may have nudged me into writing as a form of creative expression, I can respond to that. My father was a hobby writer and both my parents enthusiastically encouraged all my creative efforts, whether drawing, or sculpting, or writing. My older brother wrote his first short novel while still in high school.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
JLS: Sometimes I have a pet scene or dialog block which I really like and want to keep, but I realize – whether because of word count or plot flow – that it really needs to GO. It’s very difficult to cut them away.
First drafts tend to flow nicely, and the revisions / editing phases of third and fourth drafts are manageable. But, in my writing M.O., the second drafts tend to be killers. This is where I have to plug the plot holes, fix the narrative’s timeline, and nail down a lot of other things which I just let slide in the first draft (for the sake of expediency). It can be agonizing, confusing, and tediously slow.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
JLS: To treat this question properly, I’d need to lay out several different categories of fiction. Since this interview is already pretty long, let me just highlight two categories. A new favorite writer of humor is Bill Bryson; a long time favorite of action/intrigue is Jack Higgins. But I have many favorite authors of action/intrigue.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
JLS: Fortunately, no. And I say “fortunately” because travel is difficult for me these days. It used to not bother me – and I’ve done a lot of travel – but now it does.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
JLS: Six of my fiction covers were created by the marvelous Elaina Lee. Two others were by Amanda Matthews. One is by Cora Graphics, one by Gunnar Grey, and one by Colbie Myles.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your books?
JLS: For Called to Arms Again, hacking away some 50,000 words or more, because (at 165,000 words) my ms. was too long for my publisher. For Scratching the Seven Month Itch, my editor found some 29,000 words that the story didn’t need — I likened it to a bone marrow transplant.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your books and what was it?
JLS: I’ve learned that (1) completing a novel is a lot harder than it sounds when people talk about writing… and it takes a whole lot longer than you’d ever imagined. (2) Consistency and continuity issues can make you crazy. (3) Your novels are NOT as perfect and wonderful as you think they are [they’re more like babies & toddlers … a lot more precious to you than to everybody else].
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
JLS: So many other authors have said: “keep writing”. That’s good advice as far as it goes. But I kinda like the advice that I got from my Dad right before I left for Basic Training in the U.S. Air Force. He said (basically): “Unless you take it seriously and do your best, you’re going to have a really rough time of it. But if you DO take it seriously and do your best, then you’ll probably do just fine.”
Other than that, let me suggest: “approach your writing with discipline and dedication … and a willingness to revise, revise, revise.”
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
JLS: Buy my books! Enjoy them … and (if you do), please tell others about them. And please leave REVIEWS!
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
JLS: Not by title, but (in kindergarten) I read book about a large bird and a woman with a feather in her hat. Or something like that. Later, I remember an illustrated book by Robert Lawson and I read some of the early Curious George titles.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
JLS: Depends a lot on my mood at the time. Sometimes, jokes that have everybody else in stitches just fall flat with me. Other times, some seemingly inconsequential observation makes me LOL. As I get older, it’s easier to find myself teary eyed about something that would not have phased me a few decades ago.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
JLS: Several historic figures (like Tom Jefferson, Abe Lincoln, Ben Franklin. But closer to home, so to speak, would be my Grandfather Robinson… who died a few months before I was born. He knew I was on the way but we never got a chance to meet. I’ve always keenly felt that missed connection.
Fiona: What do you want written on your headstone and why?
JLS: “He was kind to other people and tried to make them feel better.”
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
JLS: Used to enjoy golf, but haven’t been able to play for many years because of physical limitations. I collect – and used to display – military memorabilia.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
JLS: I used to be addicted to TV and watched too much of it. After I retired and started writing “full-time”, I decided to go cold turkey on TV watching. For the past 9 years or so, I’ll typically watch maybe one or two shows per week — usually something on PBS. Most of what I see on TV is while I’m exercising at the local ‘Y’ three times a week… and that’s often an old film on Turner Classic Movies.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
JLS: I love chocolate, especially M&M Peanuts. I like various types of military camo… along with blues and grays and tans. I’m a big fan of Golden Oldies — music from the late 1950s through early 1970s… especially the Beatles.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
JLS: I spent nearly 30 years in librarianship and enjoyed parts of that. Worked as a newspaper photo-journalist and editor for several years and I enjoyed parts of that. Both of those professions involved writing, publications, and reading … so full-time authorship was a logical step.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My FB Author page is:
My Amazon Author Page is:
My Twitter link is:
I’m currently a ‘resident guest’ at a joint website:
And there I have my own blog Write By Salter:
Plus, I’m the Thursday Hound at Four Foxes One Hound (group blog):