Name: John R. Lindermuth. I write primarily as J. R., but am also known to family/friends as Jack.
Age: I’ll be 79 on my next birthday. Age is just another number. It’s experience that counts.
Where are you from: I grew up in the Pennsylvania coal region and have now gone full circle and returned there in retirement after a career as a newspaper writer/editor. I should amend that to say I’m not really retired as I continue to write, do a weekly history column for the local newspaper and serve as librarian for my county historical society.
I have a son, soon-to-be daughter-in-law; a daughter and son-in-law, and four grandsons. There are also three grand-dogs.
Fiona: Tell us your latest new.
J.R.: My most recent novel is Shares The Darkness, seventh in my Sticks Hetrick Crime series. I’m currently finishing up the eighth in the series. Geronimo Must Die, a Western novel, is scheduled for release in March 2017.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
J.R.: My paternal grandfather was a story teller and, if genes have anything to do with it, launched me on the same path. I was an early reader and developed a desire create stories of my own. I remember writing some stories before high school but that’s where it really got started. The draft (Vietnam era) interrupted college but the Army sent me to a military version of J-school and I worked on a variety of Army papers ending as editor of a division newspaper in Korea. Paraphrasing Melville I might say the Army was my Harvard and Korea my Yale. After the Army, I worked first as a reporter on a small weekly, then on to several dailies covering every conceivable beat and editing slot (except sports) and finally to the small daily where I retired in 2000.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
J.R.: I believe it’s necessary–if you’re going to accomplish any of your dreams–to believe in yourself. By this definition you must think of yourself as a writer from the start. It may solidify when you sell your first story or when others identify you as such, but it is important for you to have faith in your ability from the beginning.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
J.R.: The desire to emulate stories of writers I admired and that sparked my imagination. I don’t mean to say I stole their ideas or wanted to write in their style. But when you first start you do tend to imitate writers you like and Robert Louis Stevenson (one of those I admire) says that isn’t a bad thing. It’s part of the learning process and first novels are seldom published.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
J.R.: Since I write in more than one genre, style may vary from one book to another. Style is one of those things we recognize when we see it but can’t easily define.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
J.R.: Shares The Darkness is from a line in a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay. I often turn to poetry for titles, a practice not uncommon to writers.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
J.R.: I suppose all novels do have a message. You might say Shares The Darkness is about relationships and the judging of people. But, more to the point, it’s about a crime and its solution. Writing messages–political or otherwise–is not something I set out to do, though. I hope I write a story that will entertain the reader. If it teaches him/her something as well, that’s to the good.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
J.R.: I strive to accurately portray police work and make my characters and their environs realistic. To a certain extent, all writers do mine their own experiences and those of people they know, though it’s all reworked via the imagination.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
J.R.: I was early influenced by the writings of Emerson and Thoreau. A book I found inspiring as a young man was Gilbert Highet’s “Man’s Unconquerable Mind,” which is about potential and the joy of learning. Then I might add, every novel a writer reads is an influence to one degree or another.
I believe we have many mentors throughout life, though we don’t always recognize them as such at the time. They are the people who sometimes provide advice through the spoken word but more often show us examples via their own lives, as well as those who allow us to be ourselves and give us the freedom to find our own way.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
J.R.: I’m constantly finding new authors to admire. As to favorites, we all have those. Mentioning them all would take up too much space here. In the crime field I’d mention James Lee Burke, Ruth Rendell, Elmore Leonard, Kate Atkinson, Ian Rankin and Charles Willeford among my favorites. I’ve recently ‘discovered’ Ann Cleeves and have been enjoying her Vera Stanhope series.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
J.R.: The public library. We didn’t have one in my town until I was in high school. Fortunately, my dad had a good collection of books and I was introduced to the joy of reading before then. I’ve been a member and supporter of libraries everywhere I’ve lived and they’ve succored me in return.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
J.R.: Writers are always inclined to revise. But you reach a point where you’ve got to let it go and move on to the next project.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
J.R.: Here’s a short excerpt:
“She didn’t come home last night.”
Flora Vastine hesitated. She knew Mrs. Kepler as the type of overly protective mother who wouldn’t take kindly to a suggestion her daughter might be sleeping around. “Maybe she stayed with a friend,” Flora said without specifying gender.
Mrs. Kepler shook her head. “She didn’t have an overnight bag or even a toothbrush. Besides, I’m sure Jan would have told me if she was going to do that.”
The woman had shown up just as Flora was preparing to leave for her shift. Mrs. Kepler had come down the street in her nightgown and robe, fuzzy slippers on her feet, sans makeup and without even having run a brush through her sleep-knotted gray hair. Obviously she was distraught and Flora had no choice but to invite her in. Besides, as a police officer she had a responsibility to those who sought her assistance–no matter how tenuous the situation might seem.
Flora’s father was still at the table, having a second cup of coffee. He looked up in surprise as the two women entered the kitchen. “Jan didn’t come home last night. Mrs. Kepler is worried,” Flora quickly explained.
“Oh,” her father said. “Of course you’re worried. What can we do to help? Have a seat. Would you like some coffee, Sylvia?”
“No. Thank you, but no,” Mrs. Kepler said, sliding onto a chair next to him. “My stomach is acidic enough. Coffee would definitely not help.”
Sneaking a quick glance at the clock, Flora saw she was going to be late. “Sorry,” she said, drawing out her mobile, “I’ve got to call in.”
“Oh, I don’t want you to be late.”
“It’s okay. I just have to let them know.” She made her call, told dispatch she was delayed and would explain on arrival.
Mrs. Kepler drew a hand across her face. “I hope I’m not getting you in trouble, Flora.”
Flora leaned on a chair on the opposite side of the table. “Not a problem. Do you know where Jan was going when she left the house yesterday?” Jan Kepler was a high school biology teacher who still lived with her widowed mother. When not working, she helped her friend Peg Peabody conduct birding tours spring and fall. As far as Flora knew, neither woman had a boyfriend.
“She had her binoculars and her bag. She didn’t say, but it was obvious she was going birding.”
“With Miss Peabody?”
“No. I called Peg last night. She said she hadn’t seen Jan since Tuesday.”
“Does she often go by herself?” Bill Vastine asked.
“Oh, yes. When she isn’t helping Peg she loves to go out alone. She says it’s better that way. No crowds of people making noise and scaring off the birds before you can find them.”
“Dangerous, isn’t it? What if she fell or something?”
“I’ve said the same thing myself. That’s why I got so worried when she didn’t come home.”
Some other dangers came to mind for Flora, but she didn’t mention them. The woman was agitated enough. “Did she have her phone?”
“Yes. At least I didn’t see it at the house.”
“Did she give any idea where she was going?”
“No. But probably out to the Preserve. That’s one of her favorite places.”
“Did you say anything to Fred?” Officer Fred Drumheiser was Mrs. Kepler’s next door neighbor and also her brother. While Flora had been a police officer for several years now and proven herself on numerous occasions some members of the Swatara Creek squad—most notably Fred Drumheiser—still considered her a rookie.
“No. I thought of you first, dear, since you and Jan have always been friends.”
Though they’d lived on the same street all their lives and gone through school together, Flora had never considered Jan Kepler and herself as friends. Acquaintances. But never friends.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
J.R.: Every book is a fresh challenge and learning experience. I’ve learned from every one of them.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
J.R.: I’ve traveled and been inspired by it, but it hasn’t been necessary for most of my writing.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
J.R.: A talented artist named Kelly Martin did the cover for Shares The Darkness.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
J.R.: Unlike the eighth in the series, which has given me some problems, Shares The Darkness flowed easily from the start to finish.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead.
J.R.: Books and film are two vastly different mediums. I would be pleased to have one of my novels made into a film (particularly for the money and recognition it might offer), but I’ve never written with that particular goal in mind. I’d leave the casting up to the director and team. I don’t write with any actors in mind when I think of Sticks Hetrick or Flora Vastine.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
J.R.: The best advice has been offered by many–read a lot and write a lot. That’s the only way to learn.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
J.R.: I appreciate/value every one of them. If they enjoy my work I hope they will recommend it to others.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
J.R.: Currently reading Davis Grubb’s The Night of the Hunter, C. Hope Clark’s Lowcountry Bribe and Christopher Stevens’ Written In Stone.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
J.R.: Probably Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination or Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
J.R.: I laugh at good times with family, children at play, the beauty of nature and good comedy. I cry over man’s inhumanity to man.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
J.R.: There are numerous historic persons, artists and writers I’d love to meet. But I’d probably be too much in awe and tongue-tied to ask the questions I’d like to ask.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
J.R.: “A man who did the best he could.”
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
J.R.: Obviously, I like to read. I also like to spend time with family, draw, walk (especially in the woods), explore book and antique shops, do genealogy, cook, listen to music and watch films.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
J.R.: My TV watching is mainly restricted to crime shows, films, documentaries, Bizarre Foods and the like. Films–mysteries, Westerns, good drama and comedy.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
J.R.: I love seafood and Italian cuisine, though I’ll try most anything once. Color–green and yellow. Music–classical, folk and blues.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
J.R.: Either an artist or archaeologist.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/jrlindermuth
FB author page: https://www.facebook.com/John-Lindermuth-175253187537/?fref=ts
In addition to Torrid http://torridbooks.com/ and Amazon, my books are also available from:
Barnes & Noble and from other fine bookstores.