The book resonated with me in many ways, including developing a strange fascination with my name, as simple as it is. I was drawn to people whose name was John, especially athletes. I strived to learn more about them, what made them tick. My favorite golfer, Johnny Miller. One of my favorite basketball players, John Kuester (a guard on the North Carolina basketball team that included four other players from the 1976 Olympic Team). One of my favorite folk heroes, Johnny Appleseed.
Growing up, I often emulated my favorite athletes: Roger Staubach or Drew Pearson of the Dallas Cowboys, Walt Frazier or Bill Bradley of the New York Knicks, and Don Mattingly of the New York Yankees. When Bruce Jenner won the Decathlon gold medal at the Olympic Games in Montreal in the summer of 1976, my brother and I used picnic benches for hurdles, sticks for javelins, and set up a long jump pit in our yard.
Fast forward about fifteen years. I picked up a book by a new author, John Grisham. (Yes, his name actually made me curious.) It was paperback – never enjoyed holding open a paperback. I’m strange, I know. The book was titled The Firm. With my feet actually touching the floor, I read every chance I got and finished it in four days, a record time for me. I then found A Time to Kill and I read it. Both books made me think and feel differently, but both took me on an emotional roller coaster.
I then took a step back and asked myself why did the books draw me in? How did Grisham do it? How did he appeal to me and so many other readers? Deep down, I believed I’d never uncover the magic ingredient without trying it myself. At different milestones in my life I’d flirt with the crazy thought: Did I have it in me to write a compelling story long enough to take up an entire book? To create a fictional plot and characters that would resonate with readers?
Two weeks after I quit my job, I set a goal to write a book, purposely ignoring all of the negative data that strongly suggested I’d have better odds at striking gold at the concrete washout down the street than publishing a novel. Out of sight, out of mind.
About three months later, I typed the last word of my first manuscript. Of course, that was only the last word of the first draft, a process that I’ve repeated several times, like peeling an onion, and nearly as emotional when carving off pieces and parts of my original recipe. As I’ve learned, that’s the writing business.
Since then, I’ve written a second manuscript, a sequel to the first, learning more about writing and myself in the process. It’s been humbling, but exhilarating.
I no longer imagine I’m Roger Staubach dodging a defender to toss a TD pass, or imitating Don Mattingly’s batting stance. I couldn’t hit a curve ball, I’m sure. And, I don’t pretend to be John Grisham. I am someone who gets a kick out of writing cool mystery and thriller novels, painting the blank canvas in my own unique fashion. My interest with my name faded long ago, but thanks to some good DNA, I have a propensity to study people from all walks of life, a healthy attribute when searching for plot and character ideas.
I invite you to tag along for the ride. I’ll try to make it as cool and interesting and fascinating as I can.
As John Kleese once said: “If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play.” I just cracked my knuckles. Back to playing.
Or something like that.