Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Author Interview ~ John W. Mefford

Hi everyone,
Mystery Writers Unite is THRILLED to be supporting the work of John W. Mefford, author of the newly released novel COMMITTED; first book in The Michael Doyle Chronicles.
John is a veteran of the corporate wars, former journalist. Although he began wiring his debut novel when he entered the work force twenty-five years ago, he didn’t begin to put words on paper until late 2009.
When John isn’t writing, he chases his three kids around, slaves away in his yard, reads, plays as many sports as time will allow, watches all genre’s of movies, and continues to make mental notes of people and society.
John lives in Frisco, Texas with his beautiful wife, three adorable kids, and a feisty fat cat.
--- Interview
MWU: I know that your book has been brewing in your head for many years (we won’t repeat how many again…lol) but what made you decide to take those thoughts and put them to paper? Have you always been attracted to writing?
John W. Mefford: A couple of years ago I reached the peak of my tolerance level for certain aspects of the corporate world. I took a week off and just started writing, not really intending to create a story that might ultimately turn into a novel. A month later I realized I needed not just a break or a career adjustment, but a life change. After a great deal of soul-searching and discussion with my wife, I quit. Writing became my tool to help me re-establish my priorities. It opened my eyes to a completely different way of thinking, feeling, and expressing myself.  I seized the opportunity and wrote the first draft of my debut novel, Committed!
My desire to write was sparked by two events: first, was my re-introduction to books as an adult, starting with reading The Firm by John Grisham when I was about 19. Second, the invention of the word processor changed the way I write and think. Before iEverything, social networking, the Steve Jobs – Bill Gates battle for supremacy and the Internet , most everyone wrote in long hand on paper. I found it unyielding. I couldn’t move things around or edit to my liking. Finally, when I sat down and wrote in WordPerfect for the first time, I could type my thoughts and hit the backspace key as often as I wanted. I could edit, delete, and move paragraphs. A whole new section of my brain was unsealed and my creative barometer shot way up. The rest is history.
MWU: What made you decide to self-publish your book? What did you / are you finding most challenging about self-publishing? What advice would you give to other authors who are considering the self-publishing route?
John W. Mefford: One particular night I couldn’t sleep, wrestling over what to do with my creative thing, this book I had written. Then, it hit me like a brick upside the head. Why don’t I self-publish? Before taking step one, given my careful nature, I knew I had to dive in and do the research. What was truly going on in the publishing industry? I needed examples and case studies to help me make the conclusive decision. Unless one is comfortable wading around in the bayou searching for a nearly-extinct type of fish, finding reliable information on the Internet can be painful. But I found the evidence I needed and then put together my plan.
Repositioning myself from the corporate world where huge systems and processes are in place to handle the insignificant tasks to the “self-everything” world was another mindset adjustment. And, I couldn’t call one my employees into my office to collaborate on a key issue for three or four hours. Given where I started, completing all the tasks in my plan in a professional manner has only increased my confidence and my desire to take it up another notch in the future.
Depending on your background, the transition into a self-everything way of thinking can be daunting or not very difficult. I really see the entire process as two big piles. In one pile is writing—that’s what most of us are drawn to. We live it, love it, breath it. But the other pile sitting right next to it is just as big. Understanding everything you need to get done in that second pile—and doing it with an attention to detail—is as important as your writing. So, don’t fool yourself. Be realistic, but at the same time, set yourself up for success. Make thoughtful decisions. If it’s your new life, don’t hold back, have no regrets, and enjoy the journey.
MWU: With three kids, a wife and feisty cat I have no doubt the life can be a little distracting at times. How do you make sure that you stay focused to get your writing done?
John W. Mefford: Organization and prioritization. One of the main benefits of me writing was to become our Chief Operating Officer of Home Operations. So, I juggle a lot, but I also have writing goals, and when appropriate (like when I’m releasing a book), marketing / PR goals for the month, week and day. There’s a great deal to fit in, but it’s a labor of love…for my family and my writing.
MWU: It is one thing to approach a first book and successfully complete it but it is another to make your debut novel book one of a series. What made you decide to do that?
John W. Mefford: I got hooked on old James Patterson books and, recently, Michael Connelly books. I also loved the Margaret Truman books based in D.C. The books and stories always came to a conclusion, but you could follow your favorite characters in an entire new novel with the next book in the series. For me, writing a mystery/suspense/thriller as part of a series is natural and logical. And it only motivates me to share a new story, learning more about the characters along the way. Eventually, The Michael Doyle Chronicles will end. But how? And when? Writers can’t give away all of their secrets.
MWU: I know the first book is about to be released on 11.1.11 (yes, I love the numbering!!) but knowing that it is a series I’m sure you must be asked when the next book will be released.
John w. Mefford: A high-level release target for Book Two in The Michael Doyle Chronicles is March / April, 2012. I’ve written a very early draft and have toyed with a few titles, but haven’t decided on one yet. But I’m very excited about the story, where the characters are taken, and even the locations.
MWU: This is a standard question I always ask - what books or authors have influenced your writing?
John W. Mefford:  Many that I have mentioned already, Patterson—old Patterson—Grisham, Connelly, Truman. One of my guilty pleasures years ago was reading the Ayelet Waldman Mommy-Track Mysteries. Loved the sarcasm and way she weaved the mystery plot into a character who simply had no time for it. But it was Grisham’s The Firm that ignited the initial spark.
MWU: Another question I ask every author I interview. Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, how do you cope with it?
John W. Mefford: As a novelist, I had days where the writing comes easy. The ideas flow like a well-choreographed musical. Other days, the thoughts are not as fluid. But I really don’t call anything in the novel world writer’s block. I take it all in and believe I can use every day of writing to enhance my story. Some days I’ll crank out 3,000 words. Other days, it’s only 500, but I might develop the idea for a cool scene. When you’re a self-publishing author, you have control of your own destiny and your own outlook.
MWU: Do you have a favorite character in your book, aside from the male lead? If so, which one and why?
John W. Mefford:  I’m intrigued by two characters. The first is Michael’s boss, Paula. She’s small in stature, but strong and resolute, and shows remarkable restraint in the eye of the corporate coup d'etat. The second is Chuck, CEO of Omaha Gas. I’ve always been intrigued by the traits of people who finally receive the ultimate title in business, Chief Executive Officer. Chuck has his own unique method of operating, but at least he admits his character challenges to himself.
MWU: I always ask a published author what advice he would give to those of us still working away at their first novel, first draft?
John W. Mefford: It depends on where you are in the creative process. If you’ve been plodding away on this book for what seems like (or is) years, I’d first determine the goals of the book.  To create a certain emotion, to end it at a certain place, to have certain characters die off, move from victim to hero? I’d look at the overall story / plot and main characters. Then I would draw a high-level roadmap on how to reach that goal. Make it tangible, but give yourself some wiggle room if you veer off course a bit because of some creative thoughts that take you in a different direction. If so, re-work the roadmap so you know how to reach your goal. Mainly, write if it makes you feel good. The moment it becomes a chore, you might start regretting it. I said it earlier, set yourself up for success.
MWU: Did you learn anything from writing COMMITTED (e.g. writing process, writing style, what not to do, etc.)?
John W. Mefford: I think I could write a novel on what I learned from COMMITTED. At the top of the list is having an open mind to learning and growing. I had a “named” author tell me recently that she wants her next novel to be better than her last. I feel the same way. I think it’s inevitable. I build stairs out of my own self-criticism and feedback I receive from others. Not from everyone, mind you. Part of the creative process is determining what feedback is best to take in. Taking each step can only enhance your growth and confidence as a writer.
MWU: What was the hardest part about writing COMMITTED? How did you overcome it?
John W. Mefford: Early on, I had to learn how to shed my filtered frame of mind. The one that said and did the right thing, because that’s how you succeed in the corporate world. Once I got past that impediment, my mind raced with wild and passionate ideas. After I finished my first draft and my wife read it, she said, “Where did you come up with this s>>>?” I chuckled.
MWU: Where can your fans get a copy of COMMITTED? Is it available in paperback and eBook formats?
John W. Mefford: My eBook can be downloaded at the following sites:
Barnes & Noble: Committed (The Michael Doyle Chronicles)

The synopsis for COMMITTED:
We all have that inner voice, the one who knows all but refuses to let even our closest confidantes inside. The one we must calm when we’re most unsettled, and the one who seeks to understand our path, our destiny.

Michael Doyle lives in emotional anonymity, resistant to fully devote himself to anyone or any cause. Without warning, a technology firm acquires Michael’s company, and he quickly sees through the fog of political posturing: false hope, layoffs, and blatant dishonesty. Then, death reaches up and grabs him.

Shaken to the core, Michael leans on his live-in girlfriend, who has touched his heart like no one else. But her haunting past resurfaces, and she’s pulled into a seedy web by an outside force so cruel it destroys every soul in its path.

Can Michael rise above his greatest fear to uncover the truth about a murder and save the life of the person he loves most? 
Only if he's...COMMITTED.

1 comment:

micheal Rivers said...

Excellent! A must read interview