Friday 17 November 2017

Interview: John Herrick

It's time for another author interview on The Writing Greyhound! Today, I'm sitting down for a chat with the charming John Herrick as he releases his novel Beautiful Mess.

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.
I earned my degree in mass communication, with a desire to write for large audiences. I started my career in the IT world - yes, a creative guy implementing software and developing computer code! But that’s where I developed discipline, troubleshooting skills, and project management experience. The key to writing my first novel was treating the book was a 9-month software implementation project, complete with a project plan, time estimates, and milestones. Hey, whatever works! The weird thing is, despite a love for writing, I never took a creative writing course.
How did you first become interested in writing?
At eight years old, after completing a class assignment, I looked over at what a friend was doing to pass the time. She was writing a short story. It looked like fun, so I decided to give it a try...and fell in love with it. I’ve been a writer ever since. I've never forgotten that day.
beautiful-mess, john-herrick, book

Tell me about Beautiful Mess.
Del Corwyn hasn’t had a hit film since his Academy Award nomination 40 years ago. He’s desperate to return to the spotlight but teeters on bankruptcy. Del is a forgotten legend - until, while combing through personal memorabilia, he discovers an original screenplay written by his once-close friend, Marilyn Monroe, who named Del as its legal guardian. The news goes viral. Suddenly, Del skyrockets to the A-list and has a chance to revive his career - if he’s willing to sacrifice his friend’s memory and reputation along the way. 
Beautiful Mess is a humorous coming-of-age story about a 78-year-old man who lives in his own fictional world. The novel incorporates lesser-known facts about Marilyn Monroe and imagines the further impact she might have made on pop culture if her life hadn’t reached an abrupt end.
What’s the best thing about writing fiction?
The creative liberty. Rather than documenting what happened, fiction writers have the opportunity to document what could happen. That said, fiction readers expect the story to be plausible. So research is still important. Identifying the balance between fact and fiction is an art form.
How do you get inspiration?
My stories tend to begin with “What if?” questions. Oftentimes, it starts with my reading a news article and asking, “What if Person X hadn’t followed their hunch, or crossed paths with Person Y in a different environment? How would that have altered their interaction and, thus, tend result?” Or if I hear that a key piece of evidence enabled authorities to solve a crime, I’ll wonder, “Instead of finding Evidence X, what if they found Evidence Y? How would that have changed the course of their investigation, but still led to the same result?” Same plot, same resolution—but how we get there is a completely different. One small detail, one choice, can change the course of our lives.
Do you think it’s important for rom-coms to have a happy ending?
Most people expect a happy ending, and anytime you evade the norm, your risk increases. But as with any other profession, once you understand the rules and why they work, once you recognise their strengths and understand what readers seek from the experience, you can attempt new ways to meet those needs. So if you can find a way to fulfil readers’ expectations without a happy ending, you might provide an unexpected, satisfying experience for them. The mistake people make is an unwillingness to research the industry standards and develop those basic skills first.
john-herrick, author

What’s the single biggest influence on your own creative writing?
For me, character development is a critical element. I want to draw readers into the story, but more importantly, I want to give them protagonists to which they can relate. I love to dig into the psychological aspects of my characters and try to let them drive their own stories.
What’s your writing process?
Most of my stories begin with a 50-100 page sketch, a miniature version of the novel. In fact, it’s so detailed, I lift some dialogue blocks from it and plant them into my first draft, verbatim! But I’ve found a road map is the only way I can complete a project. That’s where my years working in the IT world proved invaluable.
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
Confronting the fear of failure and pressing past it. Regardless of how many books I’ve written, I need to re-establish my confidence with each new book. I’m afraid I’ll let people down.
What do you love most about writing?
If I can impact somebody’s life through my writing, I consider it a privilege. From time to time, I’ll hear from someone who reads one of my books and tells me the characters or content helped them through a struggle. Their messages remind me, “That’s why you’re writing. That’s who you’re here to serve.”
Which authors inspire you?
John Grisham. You see, when I was younger, I always had a book in my hand- when I wasn’t writing, that is! But once I entered high school and college, I stopped reading for pleasure. When they require you to read particular books, you’re more concerned about memorising facts for a test than savouring the beauty of what the author has created. The summer before I started college, I picked up John Grisham’s The Firm, which was only two years old at the time. What a page turner! I tore through it. The next summer, I read The Client. Same thing happened. So John Grisham is the reason I fell back in love with reading. Once college ended - along with all of its required textbooks - I became an avid reader again. 
Beyond Grisham, film writers-directors like Nancy Meyers and Cameron Crowe tend to inspire me the most. My project tones tend to resemble those of Meyers and Crowe.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I never want to stop growing, so that means tackling new genres; developing deeper, unique characters; enhancing my prose style to provide readers with more and more satisfying reads. 
But most of all, I never want to take my readers for granted. If, during the course of my life, I’m known as one of the kindest people in the book world, then I’d consider that a success.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
Long drives on the highway, through rural areas, from one city to another. They refresh my mind and helps me feel as though anything is possible. And being the best uncle I can be—that’s at the top of my interests!
What are you currently working on?
These days, I’m researching and sketching another novel. I can’t mention what it’s about—I’m always so paranoid that something will go wrong after I’ve told everyone what a book is about! 
However, I do have another romantic comedy completed. It’s scheduled for release in 2018.
What are you reading at the moment?
I just finished reading three James Patterson novels: The Black Book, NYPD Red 3, and 14th Deadly Sin. I finished 14th before bed last night - which means I have a big decision to make in a few hours! Any suggestions, readers?
Beautiful Mess is available to buy now. To find out more about John Herrick and his work, you can check out his website or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

What do you think? Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

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