Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
My name is John Clark. Actually, it is John Henry Clark III, a name that was a little embarrassing when I was a kid – sounded really corny and country to me – but a name that I now am proud to have. My dad is John Henry Jr., and his dad was John Henry Sr., and both are/were good men.I just turned (gulp) 60 years old. Still can’t quite believe it …
Fiona: Where are you from?
Originally, I’m from Houston, Texas. Lived there for 31 years, then moved 150 miles north to central Texas, about halfway between Austin and Waco, where I live now in a one-traffic-light town with three females: a beautiful calico cat with an eating disorder; a psycho miniature dachshund who is house-trained, but prefers to relieve herself indoors whenever possible, rather than venture outside where butterflies and other dangerous creatures lie in wait; and my lovely wife, who keeps it all together.
Fiona: A little about yourself (i.e., your education, family life, etc.).
Let’s see … I grew up in a family of three kids – me, the oldest – a major overachiever, playing sports and making straight As until I got to high school, where my interests shifted to partying and having money in my pocket. I got married a year after graduation, worked eight years as an engineering draftsman for what was then called Brown & Root, Inc. Got tired of both working and the responsibility of marriage, which did not sit well with the wife, so wound up divorced and back in school at San Jacinto Junior College and then the University of Houston, where I graduated with a degree in journalism.
I wrote for the campus newspaper, a statewide golf magazine, the now-defunct Houston Post newspaper, and then the Temple Daily Telegram in central Texas. Spent 15 years in journalism, then decided to change careers once again and become a public school teacher. That was 15 years ago, and I’m about ready to move on once again, so I think my limit to doing the same thing for a living seems to be a maximum 15 years.
I do a lot of freelance newspaper writing now, and of course there are my books, which provide a modest monthly amount of pocket change, but not enough to quit my day job – yet.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Well, my latest news is something I’m not yet at liberty to disclose, but it involves a major book project that will be a year in the making. It’s going to be pretty cool, and will also involve writing my first-ever screenplay.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
When I went back to school to study journalism, my intention was to become a sportswriter. I thought combining my love for writing and my love for sports was a win-win situation. I wound up becoming a news reporter, but I also covered a lot of high school football games throughout central Texas.
I don’t really know when I first fell in love with writing, but I’ve always loved words: reading, writing, crossword puzzles. There is a picture of me, still in diapers, kicked back in an easy chair, feet crossed, holding a little book.
I went to a high school reunion years ago, and when I told one of my old buddies about going to work as a newspaper reporter, he said, “That’s great! You always did love to write.” That surprised me, since I don’t remember any particular fondness for writing back in high school.
While I worked at Brown and Root, I took a couple of night classes at Houston Community College, and one of them was English Composition 101 or something. The instructor had us write an essay about ‘A Day I Will Never Forget,’ andI remember her raving about that, and other students asking me to help them write their papers. Same thing happened during a creative writing class at the University of Houston.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Good question. When I worked in the newspaper business, I think I considered myself a reporter, although I was a good writer, as well. Editors loved me because my copy was always clean, and required very little, if any, editing. I won an award from Associated Press for my coverage of the October 1991 massshooting at Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen. I guess maybe it was when my first book, ‘Finding God: An Exploration of Spiritual Diversity in America’s Heartland,’ was published that I considered myself a real writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I’ve always been a bit confused by religion and the things I was taught in Sunday school. I grew up going to church, but my family was not particularly devout, by any means. When I was younger, I always thought God was out to get me, and I was going to face some serious wrath on Judgment Day.
I quit going to church when I was 15, and although that fire and brimstone fear that was drummed into my head for all those years stayed with me, I started to have a lot of doubt and questions.
So, after I started working as a school teacher, I decided to spend part of my first summer vacation driving across Texas and interviewing people about their beliefs – in God, life after death, heaven and hell, all that stuff. It turned out great. One thing led to another, and now I have a dozen books out there.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
That’s kind of a funny story. At first, the title was, “Finding God in Texas.” And that was the title when it was first published. Had a beautiful cover of a sunset and a cowboy twirling a rope in silhouette. I was absolutely thrilled.
Then, my publisher decided he didn’t like the title because it gave the book too narrow a scope and audience. He told me he wanted to redesign and reissue the whole thing, and explained his reasoning this way: “Look, John, if you saw a book called, ‘Finding God in New Hampshire,’ would you want to read it?”
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I guess I’d say I write in a journalism style, if that makes sense. Probably my favorite author is Hemingway, and I read somewhere that he once said something like, ‘Never use a word longer than two syllables.’ I try to keep it simple. I don’t really think people should have to go to a dictionary when they’re reading a book, although there’s also nothing wrong with a book teaching new vocabulary!
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
All my books are non-fiction, including my own experiences and other people’s experiences. That’s what I do. I write about real life. I enjoy interviewing people about various subjects, writing their stories, and then usually including my own, as well.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Back in 2011, I went overseas for the first time in my life to walk the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain. It’s a month-long, 500-mile journey, and I kept a journal all along the way, and also a blog whenever I could find access to a computer. Back then, there were coin-operated computers at bars, albergues (hostels), and various places. Those have since been replaced by wi-fi, since most everyone carries their own electronic devices now.
When I got home from my trip, I turned my journal and blog writings into my second book, and there’s a funny story that goes along with the title to that one. The same publisher was interested, and when I sent in the manuscript, my title was, “Way Outta Texas.”
I thought that was extremely clever, since Camino de Santiago translates in English as The Way of St. James. Well, my publisher told me when he saw that, he started beating his head against his desk, saying, “No, no, no.” So he came up with the title,“Camino,” and I added the subtitle, “Laughter and Tears Along Spain’s 500-mile Camino de Santiago.” It has been my best-selling book, and is probably my favorite.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Archangel Ink designed the covers. They do great work.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I definitely want and expect to see it grow into at least a decent part-time income, part of my retirement plan. It’s a tough business, and I still have a lot to learn. Writing is the easy part. Marketing sucks.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learn something with every book I write. That’s why I love interviewing people, and learning about their lives.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
As a friend told me a long time ago: “Writers write.” Writing is something that feeds my soul. It is how I best express myself. My thoughts and feelings, all that good stuff. I love it. I have to do it. For me, it’s like breathing. I’ll write as long as I live, no matter how much financial success I do or do not have.
People have told me many times that my writing – both in newspaper stories and in my books – has touched them or someone else. Made them think, or look at life in a different way. How great is that?
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Right now, I’m reading, “Miracle Morning,” by Hal Elrod. I’ve just gotten into it, but basically it’s a self-help book about establishing a positive morning ritual to get each day off to a good start, and ultimately to help improve your life. I have a friend who is a gazillionaire, and a major positive thinker. The law of attraction tells us that the energy we put out – positive or negative – is the same as what we will receive. My friend has parlayed his positive outlook on life into millions, and he says many of the same things all the famous, wealthy, self-improvement gurus say. He told me once that he never, ever – never, ever – had a bad day. I asked him how that is possible. He told me, “As soon as I wake up in the morning, the very first thing I do is say out loud, ‘This is going to be a great day.’ I thought he was kidding, but he assured me that he was completely serious.
I’ve started, at various time, trying to establish positive morning rituals, but never followed through for very long. I’m hoping this time it will stick.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Hey, I’m 60 years old, remember?
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
One thing that makes me cry is thinking about my two daughters – how much I love them, and how much I hope they know that, in their heart of hearts. When I’m gone, I want them to be able to honestly say, “He was a good dad.”
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
I would love to meet John Lennon. I read one time that Lennon said, ‘I’ve never done anything that I didn’t want to do.’ I can only imagine – no pun intended – living a life with that much freedom.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I play a lot of golf. When I’m out on the golf course, I feel free and happy. Except for when I hit a bad shot …
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love the Rocky movies. Old westerns are pretty cool – not too old. One of my favorite, somewhat newer movies is “Million Dollar Baby,” with Hillary Swank and Clint Eastwood. Oh, and Eastwood’s “Gran Torino” is a great one. On TV, there’s not much worth watching these days: sports, the news, re-runs of NYPD Blue.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
I grew up near the Gulf of Mexico, and I love seafood. All kinds. I used to go down there and catch a cooler full of blue crab, using kite string and chicken wings, bring it back home, boil ‘em up and chow down. Oh, my …
When I was in Spain the first time, someone offered me a plate of boiled octopus chunks, slathered in olive oil, and dusted with sweet paprika. Absolutely delicious.
Green and purple are my favorite colors, and I’m an old rock-n-roller from way back. Led Zeppelin was always my favorite band, and I never get tired of listening to the Rolling Stones.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I really can’t imagine that.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
He was a good man.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Also see my Facebook pages: https://www.facebook.com/johnclarkbooks/
Author page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00JZGSS9K
Randall Oliver said:
Great interview with Mr John Clark. I find him to be a very interesting fellow. I am excited to read his past projects but mostly his newest one coming. A screen play is right up my alley.