Today’s NiFtY Author features writer John Lindermuth, author of the Sticks Hetrick mystery series. In addition to the Sticks Hetrick series, he’s written four other novels, three of those historical fiction.
BH: What’s your one-paragraph pitch for the latest novel in your Sticks Hetrick series, Being Someone Else?
JL: When an out-of-state reporter is found murdered at a disreputable bar the tendency to violence spirals and the investigative trail keeps bringing Hetrick and his team back to the family of a wealthy doctor who has retired in his hometown.
BH: Dan “Sticks” Hetrick is a retired police chief who acts as a consultant to his successor. What are some of the challenges he faces due to his less-than-official standing?
JL: He has no ‘official’ status and constantly clashes with a town official who is an old enemy. In this novel there’s also Police Chief Aaron Brubaker’s fear Hetrick wants his job back.
BH: The setting of your series is a fictionalized town in rural Pennsylvania. How big of a role does the setting play in your mysteries? Would you describe it as a character in itself, or is it more of a backdrop highlighting the actions and personalities of your characters?
JL: I do see the town as a character. Its rural nature and attitude of the inhabitants is often juxtaposed to that of the ‘big city’ of Harrisburg. The nature of the small community is also constantly exposed to change which impacts on the residents.
BH: I am thinking of turning my work-in-progress into a series. What recommendations do you have for developing a far-reaching character arc? The idea is we want our heroes to grow…but not too much in one book, right? Do you have any advice or tips on how to accomplish this?
JL: It’s a gradual process. Hetrick was a widower and retired in the first novel. His offer to assist Brubaker wasn’t altogether altruistic. He was bored and irked over having been forced into retirement. In subsequent novels, he and Brubaker have become closer. Hetrick’s protégés Harry Minnich and Flora Vastine also became more important members of the cast. In the latest novel I’ve introduced Brubaker’s suspicion and a new love interest for Hetrick.
BH: Tell us about your path to publication.
JL: It has been a long road. Throughout my career as a newspaper reporter and editor I wrote and submitted and garnered enough rejections to paper a room. My first novel, Schlussel’s Woman, was accepted after my retirement in 2000 by a publisher who shortly went bust. Frustrated, I published it through iUniverse. After more submissions and rejections, Whiskey Creek Press (www.whiskeycreekpress.com) offered me a contract for Something In Common, first of the Hetrick novels, in 2005. I now have five novels with WCP. I published another historical novel, The Accidental Spy, with Lachesis Publishing (www.lachesispublishing.com) in 2007 and just signed a contract with Oak Tree Press (www.oaktreebooks.com) for Fallen From Grace in their new Western line.
BH: What does your workspace look like?
JL: Usually a mess—sticky notes, stacks of paper, reference volumes, etc., crowding the space. As the mood takes me, I move between my desktop and the laptop (which may be in use anywhere in the house).
BH: What is your favorite book on the craft of writing?
BH: What is the best writing advice anyone has given you?
JL: The best advice I ever had actually came from a painter. When I was in high school I had hopes of becoming a painter. I wrote Thomas Hart Benton, one of my idols, for advice of succeeding. His reply was one word: paint.
I think the suggestion is equally applicable to writing. If you want to succeed, write. We learn best by experience. Write, read and persevere.
BH: Thank you, John, for joining us today and sharing your insights into your books and writing!
For more information on John and his writing, you can visit these sites: